Roman Tools, Mouldings and Hardware at Saalburg


In our research on Roman workbenches and holdfasts, Suzanne Ellison has turned up some images I’ve not seen before that are a remarkable reminder that our tools, mouldings and hardware haven’t changed all that much in 2,000 years.

Of particular interest has been the Roman fort Saalburg, which was built along the Roman frontier and later abandoned. The fort has been reconstructed and is part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site – check out the fort’s site here.

Saalburg has become a center of research into Roman material culture and houses many artifacts and volumes or research. Several of the artifacts have become the basis for the planing stop that blacksmith Peter Ross has made for my early Roman workbench.

One of the real gems that Suzanne has turned up is a two-volume set of 1897 books called “Das Römerkastell Saalburg” (The Saalburg Romans), which documents the excavation and artifacts found at the fort.

You can download the volumes for yourself. Volume 1 is an overview of Saalburg and a discussion of the architecture and artifacts. The second volume contains supplementary material, including all of the detailed drawings shown here.

I’ve been staring at these for the last couple days and fairly transfixed by the tools, mouldings and hardware in particular. If you’re into planes, definitely check out Vol. 1, which shows planes found at the bottom of a well.

And check out the nails….

— Christopher Schwarz


About Lost Art Press

Publisher of woodworking books and videos specializing in hand tool techniques.
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12 Responses to Roman Tools, Mouldings and Hardware at Saalburg

  1. Perhaps a better translation of “Das Römerkastell Saalburg” might be “The Saalburg Roman castle.”

  2. Alan Garner says:

    Any advice on which file to download to be able to see the pages of the book? Not sure of what the various file options are.

  3. Mariano Kamp says:

    Also. There is Great mountainbiking around the Saalburg 😉

  4. Farmer Greg says:

    What kind of person throws their tools down a well? Those jokers deserved to have their empire crumble around them, if you ask me.

    • Jeff Faulk says:

      Two possibilities: Either the carpenter wanted to save their tools from being looted during an attack (and anybody who has tried to lug a tool chest about will understand their dilemma), or it was some form of sacrifice. Water offerings seem to have been a common feature of European religion during that period.

  5. hgordon4 says:

    Is this the book? It is by “L. Jacobi”. I think I’ll risk $13 and order it to find out.

  6. flatironjoe says:

    Wow. Tool sets really haven’t changed much. Steep angle on those planes! I also like the keys in volume 2, as well as the examples of the graffiti.

  7. senrabc says:

    On page 73 of Volume 2. What is Number 19. It looks holdfasty, but its with a bunch of axe heads and above a froe.

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