What did the woodworkers toolkit in medieval times consist of? The booklet 'European woodworking tools 600-1660 C.E.' by G.R. Halstead (2003) list the following (conjectural) items for a medieval or renaissance carpenter:
- Hatchet, twybill, felling axe & broad axe
- Gimlet, auger & brace
- Compass, square & ruler
- Grooving iron & twyvette
- Chisel & gouge
- Awl & marking gauge
The inventory for a medieval or renaissance joiner is slightly different, as it has more types of planes and less axe types.
- Set of bench planes
- Three to four dozen moulding planes
- Specialized planes (router, rebate, dado, plough)
- Chisels & gouges
- Mortising chisels
- Mallet & hammer
- Saws (crosscut, rip saw, fret saw)
- Awl, marking gauge
- Brace and bits, gimlet
- Square, compass & ruler
- Broad hatchet
These lists are not complete - for instance whetstones, indispensable for any woodworker to sharpen his tools are not mentioned. But to achieve completeness for a medieval woodworking toolkit is an almost impossible task. A good reconstruction of a woodworkers toolkit relies on four sources,( 1) surviving tools, e.g. those found at archeological sites, (2) artistic evidence, e.g. paintings and miniatures, (3) written evidence, e.g. invoices, testaments, housing inventories, or even poems, and (4) indirect evidence, e.g. toolmarks on surviving furniture and buildings. This is then interpreted with current woodworking knowledge, tradition and common sense.
Well-known archeological toolchest are the Mastermyr chest (12th century), tools found in wrecks of the Mary Rose and Vasa (16th & 17th century) and those of Elector August I of Saxony in Dresden, Germany. A good pictorial overview of woodworkers tools is found in the inventory made by Dr. Frieda Van Tyghem (1966) ‘Op en om een middeleeuwse bouwplaats’.
The tools in my toolchest are based on these sources. I will describe them in detail in future posts.