Excerpted from “Make a Joint Stool from a Tree,” by Jennie Alexander and Peter Follansbee.
One of the best references for studying 17th-century tools is the carving known as the “Stent” panel. It shows a joiner and turner working in a shop, surrounded by the tools of their craft. The joiner is planing a piece of stock at the bench, his fittings are clearly depicted. These include the bench itself, with its holes for the holdfast (which appears underneath the bench) and the bench hook, against which the joiner is planing a board. Hanging behind him are some planes, chisels and a pair of compasses.
The turner in the panel is working a pole lathe, turning a large pillar for a cupboard. This lathe makes use of a springy pole in the ceiling, tied to a foot treadle, to make the workpiece spin on the lathe’s pikes. The cord is wrapped around the workpiece, and as the turner tromps on the treadle, the entire mechanism works to rotate the stock back and forth. The cutting action is on the downward stroke. The pole springs back to return the stock for the next spin downward. The turner’s tools are likewise hanging on the wall behind him: gouges, chisels and his own pair of compasses. Between the two workmen are a hatchet, saw and low bench. Presumably both craftsmen use these tools in roughing out their stock to size.
This panel is the next best thing to being inside a joiner’s and turner’s workshop. It imparts a level of accuracy that greatly enhances our understanding of these trades and their workings. This is primarily because, unlike an engraving, it is cut by a woodworker whose familiarity with the tools provides a first-hand image of the actions in the shop.
17 thoughts on “A 17th-century Tool Treasury”
The moulding planes all look like everything that I have ever seen … or am I missing something?
Moulding planes are often wider at the bottom than at the top to accommodate the width of the cutter, producing a shoulder which runs down the length of the plane’s body. You can see this shoulder on the examples in the relief. However, that shoulder is typically on the other side of the plane’s body.
Ah … would that not be dependent of whether the user was left or right-handed?
Just a thought.
But this is clearly a right-handed joiner – he is planing from right to left, on a workbench set up for right-handed work (planing stop to the left) with his right hand on the tote and his left on knob of the plane …
Shoot … missed that! 🙁
Thank you Mattias.
(Unless they belong to his left-handed apprentice. :-))
My moulding planes were made by various makers, some dating back to the mid eighteenth century. Every one of them has the shoulder on the same side of the body. I can only assume that both left handed and right handed woodworkers have used them over the generations before they reached me. While it is possible that a left hander who makes his own tools may choose to make his planes the other way, and I have heard of folks preferring such an orientation, it is all but impossible to find antique examples of “left handed moulding planes.” Perhaps this is because left-handedness was discouraged in the old days. Of it may be that folks simply learned to use the planes right-handed regardless of which hand they favored for everything else. Or some other reason… Regardless, the planes on the wall appear backward based upon the surviving examples.
Any chance Mortise and Tenon could print this as a poster?
You’d have to ask them.
It was always Alexander’s favorite scene.
What is your favorite historical woodworking scene/ image?
Well know we definitively know where MC Hammer got his pant style from. You can’t touch this.
Also, they have a mom like mine, always bringing people a pitcher of fresh lemonade when they are working.
Your mom looks like Skeletor, too?
Oof…that hit like a $90 lump hammer.
Are they moulding planes, or rebate planes?
Or grooving planes? Though the plane on the far left does look like a molder to me.
They aren’t too shabby – that saw lying casually on the floor is one of the ‘new’ Dutch (Platz Deutch) one handed saws that start showing up in the 1600’s – as in there are actual surviving examples at Skokloster Castle in Sweden. Before the Dutch made quantities of saw plate readily available everyone used frame saws of various sorts for serious sawing or small saws a bit like a ‘Gent’s Saw’ (Mastermyr and others).
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