A history of woodworking

early references

We know from discoveries made by archaeologists that, long before recorded history, wood was used for shelter, tools, weapons, cooking implements, and even decorative items like jewelry. However, significant advances in craftsmanship and complexity of construction would await the availability of iron as a harder cutting edge than wood. In Biblical times, we know that the technology of tools and work methods were considerably advanced, providing a solid foundation for further development.

medieval woodwork

The Medieval Period and the Renaissance. Woodworking was one of the many arts that flourished and reached a high degree of sophistication during the Renaissance. It was in the early Middle Ages, from the 10th to the 14th century, that carpenters began to specialize and different branches of the trade developed: sawyers, cutters, carpenters, carpenters, and woodcarvers. Additionally, at this time, various artisan guilds were formed to promote the training of new workers and protect their respective disciplines; specific business procedures often became closely guarded information.

How the tools were developed

The role of tools As the woodworking trade advanced, a parallel supporting technology developed: that of tool making. Initially, woodworking tools had a wooden body with metal cutting edges; even today some of the most sought after tools are built this way. The Late Middle Ages ushered in the industrial revolution that eventually made it possible to replace traditional manual operations with machines. This change was opposed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries by a strong arts and crafts movement in England, the United States, and Russia. Proponents of this movement felt that machine-produced woodwork was demeaning to the worker, and sought to emphasize the craftsman’s creativity, dignity, and individuality. Now, in the early part of the 21st century, two divergent paths seem to be emerging. Many woodworking professionals are upgrading or replacing their machines with Computer Numerical Control (CNC) equipment. Among many hobbyists, there is a renewed interest in traditional working methods: hand-cut joinery, decorative inlays, carved embellishments, and manual lathe work.

What does the future hold?

The future. Wood, properly managed, is a “renewable resource”. Fortunately, in recent years, there has been an increased awareness of the need to preserve the world’s equatorial rainforests, where many of the finest hardwoods and specialty exotic woods are found. Woodpeckers are among the most dedicated of these conservationists. A whole sub-category of woodworking is thriving, that of using reclaimed wood taken from old houses, barns, and bridge timbers. Few materials offer the beauty, durability, and utility of wood as a building medium. As any devoted carpenter will proclaim, the pleasure and satisfaction derived from practicing this challenging and rewarding trade is unparalleled.

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