The general miserableness of August has been bearing down on me this month. Heat, humidity, everything in the newspapers and mosquitoes have driven me to stay inside. There is a stack of favorite books to reread and stacks more of new books. On the woodworking side, I’ve been dipping into Klaus Zwerger’s ‘Wood and Wood Joints-Building Traditions in Europe, Japan and China’ (available in German or English).

In a section discussing wood joints and aesthetic values he shows how the accomplished woodworker takes a functional element and adds ornamentation as a further display of skill. The log ends for exterior walls and interior partition walls of traditional log buildings offered the woodworkers a canvas for shaping and carving (or in Zwerger’s opinion some craziness). And so, we have the delightful Zierschrot (and Figurenschrot) found in the log buildings of Bavaria and parts of Austria.

The stag in the photo above (from Zwerger’s book) is a masterpiece on a partition wall. The body of the stag is the log end and the head, legs and tail are added inlay. Above and below the stag are the edges of other traditional shapes.

Here are some of some of the more common Zierschrot shapes:

This home has a full complement of traditional Zierschrot shapes.

One more example of the more common shapes.

There is no standard to follow for what combination of shapes to use, or a particular sequence. The same uniform shape was repeated, or the craftsman could produce a highly personal set of figures.The church was a very common shape for the log ends of partition walls.

The church could also be found on the wood joints of an exterior wall.

Zierschrot is not a lost art. This photo is from an Austrian site from about six years ago.

Another common shape seen in the log ends of partion walls is the cat and this one has a painted face (from Zwerger’s book).

Enjoy your Saturday, Samstag or Caturday, as the case may be.

Suzanne Ellison

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22 Responses to Zierschrot

  1. If the client didn’t pay their instalments on time the builder could have a lot of fun with these shapes. I can see them getting progressively more offensive as the house gets taller.


  2. jonfiant says:

    Thanks for another great post!


  3. jenohdit says:

    That is an excellent book and highly recommended.

    Another one to check out is Thomas Herzog’s Timber Construction Manual. It’s not really hand work focused, but a great resource on everything wood construction related. It’s a German technical book aimed at the architecture profession which in typical fashion is extremely thorough and well organized and highly readable at the same time in either German or English like Zwerger’s book.

    For an example of Herzog’s own architectural work in wood, see his amazing Hannover Pavilion (not Herzog & de Meuron, different Herzog)


    • saucyindexer says:

      Of course you have Zwerger’s book! I enjoy how he examines, explains and compares woodworking practices and the huge number of diagrams and photos.


  4. Both the old and new addition belongs on the shelf of anyone that loves this craft…I could recommend it higher. Great post and plug for a wonderful book and the authors work in comparative analysis between cultures…


    • saucyindexer says:

      A favorite comment of Zwerger’s from the section on aesthetic values: “Mankind has intervened in the natural lifecycle by felling the tree. Now mankind must do its utmost to handle the material as carefully as posible and do its utmost to preserve it.”


  5. As Vitruvius asked – Where is the “delight”? Right here. Mercie bien.


  6. Richard Mahler says:

    This makes me think of the countless human faces and fanciful creatures carved in wood and stone in medieval churches, not having religious significance that we are aware of, but purely for the creative satisfaction of the maker, though they may have served to delight or reinforce viewers’ world-views. Illumination of medieval manuscripts is full of strange and intentionally humorous commentary on the human condition, even in religious texts. The builders’ urge to be creative (or entertain themselves and others) while leaving lasting evidence of skill is nearly universal.


  7. NR Hiller says:

    How wonderful! Thank you for sharing this art form. I can’t wait for fall.


  8. Bob Glenn says:

    Stunning! We have lost so much in our rushed and modern world.


    • saucyindexer says:

      I agree. Even on the weekend it can be difficult to slow down and tune out the chaos. I am heartened that so many craftspeople keep traditional arts from being lost.


  9. Eric R says:

    Another great piece.
    Thank you.
    I really enjoy your work.


  10. Bill Beardsley says:

    I feel pretty good about myself when I can do a simple end log joint. And now there’s this.

    As I thought about it, it makes sense. Working alone in the woods 100+ years ago, with nothing to distract you except the thought of doing 75+ more of these joints would lead one to creativity to prevent madness!


  11. fitz says:

    Sigh. There’ a cat. Must learn this skill.


  12. tsstahl says:

    Ya just learned me sumpin. As a lad visiting family, I saw bits and pieces of fancy log ends. I assumed the log came mostly that way and they made it work. It never occurred to me see actual patterns. Then again, how often are we forced to re-evaluate childhood memories. 🙂


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