Tag Archives: woodworking techniques

Ancient Woodworking

Screen Shot 2013 06 27 at 10 39 55 AM

I had occasion to visit a wonderful museum called the Oriental Institute on the University of Chicago campus a couple of years ago. They have a vast collection of ancient Egyptian artifacts (mummies anyone ?) including some 4000 year old furniture. Dry Egyptian climate really favors wood preservation since wood rotting fungi depend on moisture. The picture below shows the joinery used by an ancient craftsman in making a bed. Its’ mortice and tenon joinery is similar to what you see today, but it is secured with not so common leather lashings. (I suspect the leather in the picture is not very old, though the placement of the holes sure indicate that lashing was used originally.) Modern homes have climates favorable for wood longevity and I wonder if any of my toys will be around in 100 years. 4000 years is too long to think about.

Old egypt woodworking

A person walking in the woods or along the shore is apt to pick up a stick, break it to length, snap off the twigs, tidy the bark. This is basic woodworking….This is the first tool. But naked wood isn’t much more durable then flesh. Few ancient artifacts of wood have survived, which is probably why the Stone Age is considered so important. But the Wood Age must have come first, and is still with us. Wood is our favorite material, so much so that we try to make acres of plastic laminate look just like it.

Fine Woodworking Biennial Design Book – 1977

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Woodworking technique idea

Making the parts to some of my toys gets pretty tricky. One part I made last week was for my train’s caboose. The walnut cupola atop the cherry caboose requires a precise angle to fit nicely. While a table saw can be used for this part I prefer to use my router as it seems safer and more precise. I use a straight bit mounted in my router table and add a couple of auxiliary fences to guide the stock as I slide it over the bit with push sticks. I think the attached “pictures are worth a thousand words” as they say. Getting the stock to the proper angle for machining involves tacking a couple of thin strips (the walnut strips shown in the left of the photo) along the main fence. Some experimentation is necessary to find what strip thickness results in the proper angle.

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It has ever since been a pleasure to me to see good workmen handle their tools; and it has been useful to me, having learnt so much by it as to be able to do little jobs myself in my house when a workman could not readily be got, and to construct little machines for my experiments, while the intention of making the experiment was fresh and warm in my mind.

The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin 1757

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