This summer I bought a new book about Vincent Van Gogh and came across a couple of his sketches of carpenters. Like most artists, when Van Gogh wasn’t painting he was sketching and produced many studies of working people. His carpenters could be journeymen on an obligatory Dutch version of wandergesellen or they may be itinerant craftsmen.
I sent the sketches to Chris and his reply was, “I WANT TO KNOW HOW THAT SAW BACKBACK WORKS.” Thinking there was some static on the email line I figured he meant BACKPACK, checked the Van Gogh sketches again and started searching…and searching. I tried several variations of ‘saw backpacks’, ‘saw back racks’ then threw ‘hand’ in front of ‘saw’ and still found nothing.
Getting creative, and thinking about archery, my next try was ‘handsaw quiver’ and then the pain started. I had found the 34 pages of “Handsaw Quiver Varieties and Finite W-Algebras” by Hiraku Nakajima. I read Hiraku’s paper (because it was there), and thanks to having some semi-advanced mathematics under my belt, I only fainted twice. I understood all the in-between words (and, this, multiple, product, vector) and learned a new term, ‘shifted Yanigan’, which may become a new insult the next time someone cuts me off in traffic.
Taking a closer look at Van Gogh’s carpenters and their saws you can see the one on the right has some type of leather strap or belt slung over his shoulder and his saw is attached to the front. He steadies the saw with one hand. The carpenter to the left also has a leather strap over his shoulder. Is it the handle to the bag he carries to the front or the strap to which his saw is attached? If the saw were attached to a leather strap it should hang at an angle, not straight. Has he fashioned a better means of carrying his saw via some type of rack on his back?
Although I didn’t find any 19th century (or earlier) handsaw backpacks or back racks it doesn’t mean they weren’t made and used by individual craftsmen. Who better to design a better method of carrying tools? Maybe there were even some handsaw quivers of the non-W-algebraic kind.