Wednesday, 9 October 2019

Thomasguild on local television show 'Buitengewoon'

 The recording crew of Omroep Gelderland busy with camera, sound and lightwhile Bram watches the scene.

Last week Wednesday (2 October) we were at castle Hernen for television recordings by Omroep Gelderland, the local television channel. The weekly television show 'Buitengewoon' on nature and cultural heritage focussed this time on the medieval castle, its gardens and the medieval craftsmen inside the castle. Bram and myself were working on the frame of the tresoor for Castle Hernen, while being filmed and interviewed by Harm Edens, presenter of the program. The recordings with us lasted about 3/4 of an hour, but how many minutes eventually end up in the program remains a question for now.   

Presenter Harm Edens enters the scene in the Kemenade of castle Hernen.

This will be resolved next Saturday 12 October when the program is broadcasted (and repeated several times). Afterwards, the program can also be viewed online at 'Omroep Gelderland - uitzending gemist'.

Some close-ups of the woodworking tools are being recorded.

The frame of the tresoor so far.

Friday, 13 September 2019

Affenmund or Monkey Mouth

Oldest image of the Tegernsee Cloister, in the Landtafeln by Philipp Apian, 1560.

This post concerns a recipe with the curious name 'Affenmund', which can be translated as 'monkey mouth'. The origin is a bit obscure. The recipe is in the collection by H. Juergen Fahrenkamp 'Wie man eyn teutches Mannsbild bey Kräfften halt' (ISBN 3-89996-264-8). Fahrenkamp only occasional mentions his source clearly. The book includes many recipes from the 'Buoch van guoter spise', but the Affenmund is not one of them. The monks from the cloister at Tegernsee are also often mentioned, and the Affenmund recipe only says that the recipe is from a cloister cookbook. Unfortunately, the Tegernsee monastry cookbook is a bit of a mystery. There are some hints that it exists, for instance one website gives a recipe of fish soup from the 'Tegernsee Speisebuch, folio 53r/54r'.

Soviel gibt man auf 40 personen gen kuchl […]
zu der vischsuppen
3 maß wein, 1 semel, gwürz und gibt zu einem gelben scharfen süppel an die visch, 7 maß wein, 1 löffel ymber, 1 leffel pfeffer / wilt du es peßer haben , so reib ein leczelten dazu (53r-54r)

Perhaps it could originate from the 'Aufzeichnungen des Klosterschaffners von Tegernsee - Tegernseer Koch- und Fischbüchlein' from the first half of the 16th century (BSB Cgm 8137). This book seems to contain lists of meals mixed with recipes, but I was unable to identify the Affenmund from the digital edition of this book in the Bayerischen StaatsBilbiothekin München, Germany.  If anyone knows the original source of this recipe or an online readable version of the Tegernsee Cookbook, I would be happy to know.

The finished monkey mouths (without the parsley).

Anyway, the Affenmund tastes good and is a pleasure to make. Below is the recipe:


For the dough:
  • 500 g flour
  • 50 g butter (or lard)
  • 3-4 eggs
  • a bit of salt
For the filling:
  • 500 g pork meat
  • 500 g cow meat
  • some breadcrumbs
  • 2 onions
  • 2 eggs
  • salt and pepper
  • marjoram, thyme, nutmeg
 Other ingredients:
  • salted water for cooking
  • 50 g butter (or lard)
  • parsley

The recipe

The meat filling.

Create a dough from the flour, heated butter, eggs and salt and let it rest for 2 hours under a piece of cloth. Meanwhile, mix the meat with the breadcrumbs and the finely chopped onions and put this though a meat grinder.  Mix it with the eggs and spices and create a smooth filling.

(I used minced meat (50/50 pork/cow) instead, and put all the ingredients in the kitchen robot to create the smooth filling.)

 Left: the rolled-out dough. Right: the triangles containing the filling.

Thinly roll out the dough and cut it in 6 by 6 cm squares. Add some of the filling in the middle and fold the square unto a triangle. Use some water to glue the edges and/or fold these a bit over.

The monkey mouths boiling in the salted water.

Put the triangles in the boiling salted water, and leave them boiling until they raise themselves from the water. Use a skimmer to remove them from the water and drain. Add some butter and parsley before serving.

Retrieving the cooked Affenmunden from the kettle with a skimmer.

Sunday, 1 September 2019

A six-sided tresoor for castle Hernen: part 1

We have recently started with a new large project involving a six-sided tresoor (dressoir or cupboard) for castle Hernen in the Netherlands. These dressoirs started to appear in the 15th century and remained popular throughout the next century. As castle Hernen is focussed on the medieval as well as the  early renaissance period, this furniture piece is a perfect choice as fits both these periods. The tresoor will be loosely based on the one that is on display at Château Langeais in France (shown in a previous blogpost). We decided to make our tresoor six-sided in order to make it a bit more challenging to make. And indeed, this already appeared to be the case when we started working on the frame.

The 15th century six-sided dressoir at castle Langeais, France.

The vertical posts 

The basis of the frame of the tresoor consist of 5 cm square thick vertical posts. However, four of the vertical posts are not square but have a 45 degree angle, due to the fact that the dressoir is six-sided. These four posts have a pentagon-like shape, and the initial thickness of these posts therefore had to be much larger than the 5 cm.

Initially we planned to use recycled industrial 10 cm square oak posts, but these showed too much cracks and contained woodworm, and basically were useless. Luckily, a visit to the timber trade at castle Terhorst in Loenen, the Netherlands yielded a perfect plank. However, in total it was a bit large: 6 m long, 60 cm wide and 8 cm thick, and weighing around 260 kg. The plank was cut at the timber trade in 2 parts by chainsaw and these were lifted onto my car with a forklift truck. At home we had to use four people to lift each individual piece from the car. 

 Left: the two planks on top of the car at the timber trade at Castle Terhorst. Right: the thickness of the planks is more or less similar to the width of my foot.

In front of the workshop, I used a circular saw to cut the plank into more lighter weight/user-friendly parts. However, the maximum cut of the circular sawblade appeared not to be deep enough for the 8 cm, so the plank had to be turned over and sawn from both sides.
It was necessary to make a sawcut from both sides in order to make the complete cut. The two parts were first cut in half, then one quart was cut lengthwise in half. This produced almost flat pieces of timber that needed only a few strokes with the jointer-planer machine.

A similar problem appeared when we wanted to cut the 45 degree angle with the saw table. Setting the saw at an angle automatically reduces the cutting depth, and so no complete saw cut could be made. Also, it was impossible to set the angle for the backside of the post with the saw table. As a result we had to do it by hand, i.e. the medieval way.

The pieces of timber were still heavy - around 30 kg and needed support for the sawtable (I only had one roller stand for the other end of the saw table). A provisional support was made using a Black-and-Decker Workmate and a plank set to the height of the sawtable.

Completing the 45 angle by chisel

The 'waste' of the incompletely cut 45 degree angle was cleared from the post with a chisel. First the length of the 'waste' was sawn into smaller pieces, which were broken of the post using the chisel. The 45 degree angle was then planed flat.

Sawing the 45 degree angle 'waste' into smaller pieces with a frame saw at castle Hernen. 
Photo copyright Ton Rothengatter.

Breaking the parts from the incomplete 45 degree angle with a chisel. Right photo copyright by Ton Rothengatter.

Planing the post flat with a medieval type plane with a toat at castle Hernen. The post is held with a double screw vise, while the complete vise and post were kept in place on the workbench using my weight. Right photo copyright by Ton Rothengatter.

Comparing the frame saw, draw-knife and Roubo saw

We first started to saw the back angle of first post with a frame saw. The sawblade of a frame saw can be turned making it possible to saw along the length of the post. However, the unequal weight distribution of the saw made it difficult for us to saw in a straight line. Sawing also proceeded slowly due to the fact that the teeth of the sawblade were set for cross-cutting.

Left: Two wooden clamps and a double screw vise were use to hold a post at a vertical psoition. Right: Some additional stability was procided by Bram, while his father was using the frame saw.

We then decided to try a draw knife to remove the wood to the correct angle for the second post. This proceeded relatively fast, however more work was necessary afterwards to flatten the back with a plane. Finally, we used  a small pit saw (or Roubo saw) for the third post. We needed to construct this saw first, as shown in the previous post. The Roubo saw worked fast and produced a far more straight line than the frame saw or the draw knife. The weight of the Roubo saw is well balanced and equally distributed to both sides of the blade. In conclusion, the Roubo or medieval pit saw performed best to cut the angle of the vertical posts. 

The roubo saw at work on the third post in our workshop. The post was secured with several clamps to the workbench.

The backside of all the posts were finally planed to flatness and the correct angle. The third post was then cut in 2 smaller parts for the front of the tresoor.

Left: Planing the backside of the posts flat with a plane. Right: The differnt parts of the frame; the four pentagon shaped posts are in the middle.

Tuesday, 30 July 2019

The medieval toolchest: the pit saw and its cousins

Already some large medieval saws have been discussed in the medieval toolchest. This post features another large saw that does not fit in the chest: the pit-saw. Actually the English name is a bit misleading, as no 'pit' is involved in the sawing process; the names for this saw in other languages are more appropriate, such as the Dutch 'raamzaag' or German 'Rahmensäge' (window-saw) or French scieage de long (long saw). Basically, the saw consists of a rectangular frame with a saw-blade attached in the middle. 

Heintz Seger (before 1423). Folio 39 recto, Hausbücher der Mendelschen Zwölfbrüderhausstiftung, Nurnberg, Germany.

The saw was already in use in Roman times, as evidenced by several mosaics and mural sculptures from that period. During the medieval time period the saw was ubiquitously in use, although wooden planks were also produced by (German) sawmills and exported to neighbouring countries. This saw continued to be in use until last century. I have spoken with someone who used to saw planks from tree logs at his fathers workshop on a sawing scaffold.

 A Roman mural sculpture of a woodworkers shop showing a small pitsaw on the left. 1st century AD, Capitoline Museum (Montemartini), Rome, Italy.

Two men were necessary to work the saw on a scaffold. Here, a distinction between Southern and Northern Europe is found: Northern Europe worked with a log resting on two high scaffolds (see the images from the Mendelschen Hausbücher), while Italy for instance used a low single scaffold with the log resting on side on the ground and the other protruding in the air (e.g. the mosaic from the San Marco in Venice or the fresco in the Camposanto in Pisa, both Italy).  The last method was also used in China in the early 20th century to saw a log.

Two more sawyers from the Hausbuch of the Mendelschen Zwölfbrüderhausstiftung using a pit-saw. It may seem as if the saw is used by one person only, but one has to keep in mind that Hausbuch contained the picture of the retired brother in his craft, i.e. one person. The saws do show handles at both ends. Left: Cuncz Prendel  († 1443), Folio 65 verso; Right: Hans (before 1414),  Folio 1 recto.

Left: Building Noah's ark, mosaic in the San Marco Basilica, Venice, Italy. Right: Mural painting from the Cathedral de Teruel, Spain, XIIIe century.

The main function of the long pitsaw was to cut planks length-wise from a log. The man on top of the scaffold pulled the saw upwards (the handle on top of the saw was to make this easier for him), while the man on the ground performed the sawing  action. To make a long sawing stroke, the handle for him was placed at an 90 degree angle from the sawing frame. In the medieval and renaissance period specialised sawing guilds appeared, for instance in Belgium.

(1) Belgian sawing guild seal from Bruges (14th century); (2)  heraldic sign of the sawing guild in Ghent (16th century), (3) Brussels (16th century) and (4) Liège (16th century). Image scanned from 'Op en om de middeleeuwse bouwplaats' by Frieda van Tychem.

 Sawing with a pit-saw using the medieval Southern European method. Note the use of a wedge to keep the saw-kerf open.
However, also smaller versions of this saw existed that can also be used by one man. Recently, these small saws are becoming popular again. They are now known as the 'Roubo saw', after an engraving of this saw in the 18th century book 'L'art du menusier' by André-Jacob Roubo. The engraving shows the saw in use to cut thin planks for use as veneer, although two men are used here. Roubo also showed the working of the large pit-saw, this engraving is not often shown.

 The Roubo veneer saw, shown in a (commonly found) engraving in Lárt du menusier.

  The Roubo pit-saw, shown in an engraving in Lárt du menusier.

  A smaller Roubo veneer saw used by two men, shown in an engraving in Lárt du menusier.

Constructing a small 'Roubo' saw

Our 'Roubo' saw made from oak and fitted with a Japanese saw blade. 

For our project to make a six-sided buffet for Castle Hernen we needed to saw a 1.5 metre beam lengthwise at some angles that were not possible using an electric sawing machine. One of the alternative options was to use a Roubo type saw. However, we had to construct such a saw first. The construction scheme as well as all the necessary metal parts can easily be obtained from internet (e.g. from Blackburn tools), as well as instructional videos (here and here). However, the metal parts for the tool are very expensive and likely the costs of transport to Europe and customs taxes would double the cost. This was not an attractive option for us. Therefore, we chose the cheap option: an 70 cm long Japanese frame saw blade was purchased from Dictum Tools at a fraction of cost for a Blackburn blade. Furthermore, the necessary steel brackets were bought from a local internet blacksmith. We only needed brackets that were 5 cm wide, but the blacksmith only sold them at 2 metres length! Luckily, he offered two free cuts in the steel - so, we received our 5 cm brackets, as well as 1.9 metres 'waste' for only 15 euro (ex transport cost). 

Left: the 5 x 8 x 3 cm steel bracket. A kerf was made in the middle to hold the sawblade. Right: the brass V-shaped rod to secure the sawblade in the bracket. The sawblade itself has a width of 4 cm.

 The Japanese saw blade.

For the wooden frame we used oak, as that was readily available in the appropriate lengths. The handles were formed with help of a bandsaw, spokeshave, chisel and files. The four wooden parts of frame are just connected with mortise and tenons without any pins or glue. The tension of the saw blade is enough to to pull the parts strongly together. The Roubo is 27 cm thick, has a length off 82 cm and a width (max at the handle) 83 cm. The space between the wooden stiles (i.e. the max width of the item to saw) is 41 cm.

Left: The length of the frame stiles is crucial. They should be long enough to be able to provide the tension for the saw blade This photo shows the testing of the correct length. Right: The frame was clamped tightly before the wedges were added.

A double wedge is used to ensure that the bracket stays in a 90 degree position.

A kerf needed to be made in each bracket to hold the ends of the sawblade. A small hacksaw was used for this, but the kerf needed to be widened with help of a thin cutting wheel on a Dremel. A 4 mm V-shaped brass rod was used to secure the saw blade in the bracket. At one end of a bracket a thin wedge was inserted to create tension on the sawblade, and add to the rigidity of the frame. Finally, the wooden frame was covered with a layer of linseed oil.

Our Roubo saw at work on the buffet for castle Hernen. 
The space for the sawing action is limited in the workshop, resulting in the drop of some other tools from the wall ...


  • F. van Tychem. 1966. Op en om de middeleeuwse bouwplaats. Verhandelingen van de koninklijke Vlaamse academie voor wetenschappen, letteren en schone kunsten van België, jaargang XXVIII no. 19.
  • H.T. Schadwinkel and G. Heine. 1999. Das Werkzeug des Zimmermanns. Verlag Th. Schäfer, Hannover, Germany.
  • W.L. Goodman. 1964. The history of woodworking tools. Bell and Hyman Ltd. London, UK.

Monday, 17 June 2019

A milestone for the Thomas tapestry

Anne and Katinka busy with the St. Thomastapestry in the Kemenade of castle Ammersoyen, 10 June 2019

Previous two weekends we have been active with living history at both castle Ammersoyen (together with the re-enactment group Het Woud der Verwachting) and at the Historic open air museum in Eindhoven. The ladies of our group have been very busy working on the recreation of the Thomasteppich (of which the original resides in cloister Wienhausen in Germany). Last Sunday Katinka finalised the first row of the tapestry, which allowed us to see this part of the story of Saint Thomas in its full glory.

The last few stitches by Katinka before this row is finished: five-and-a-half years work.

 Embroidering the last threads of the first row of the St.Thomastapestry in the Historic open air museum in Eindhoven, the Netherlands.

The complete view of the first row of the Thomas tapestry.

 The first row of the Thomasteppich on the table.

Earlier that Sunday, St. Thomas (in the small shrine) clearly blessed that day's work on the tapestry.