I Want to See the Woodworking Parts

I Want to See the Woodworking Parts

- in Art


If I’m granted another lifetime, one of the things I’d like to do is to create audio tours of museums designed for furniture makers.

Yesterday, Lucy and I spent several hours in the British Museum, and I kept thinking: “Dang it, I don’t want to see any more sculptures of battles or boobies. Show me people working.”

If you look close, there’s a wealth of information on furniture, tools and craft in general in almost every room. You just have to look with care and at the right things. For example, instead of looking at the mummies in the display case, check out the corner joinery on the box that held the mummy. Is that a nailed butt joint or something else?

In the Greek sculpture section, you can skip the people reclining with a jug of wine and instead check out the klismos chairs (shown above). These early chairs look insanely contemporary with their curved legs and (in some images) curved backs. The design of this chair rears its head every time classicism makes a comeback in the decorative arts. During the last few thousand years, furniture makers have made the curved legs in a variety of ways – cutting them from solid, steambending and bent laminations. I wonder how the originals were made?


Exhibits of Roman artifacts (every European town has them) always display a wealth of tools and nails. The British Museum calls out this tool as a drawknife used for making barrel staves. They could be right. I think it looks like a scorp, which could be used for hollowing out many objects, including bowls and chair seats.


Even the religious stuff can have woodworking undertones. These small bronze bowsaws (about the side of a quarter) were left as a votive offering at early Christian churches during Roman times. I love how these slightly stylized representations of bowsaws even show which way the teeth cut.

After I finish making audio tours of all the world’s museums, then I’ll compile a book of all the best woodworking scenes in literature. And a film of all the best woodworking parts in movies.

— Christopher Schwarz


About Lost Art Press

Publisher of woodworking books and videos specializing in hand tool techniques.

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