Monday 23 February 2015

(Medieval) moving house

Today Anne and Marijn will be moving house. I have looked if there are any medieval miniatures depicting a similar situation and came up with these two images. Both images use carts to transport military equipment, but I guess the same horse and cart can be used to transport your household stuff and furniture. 

This image is from Bodleian MS 264 folio 83 verso, dating from around 1340 by the Flemish illuminator Jehan de Grise.

This is from an early 14th century manuscript. The cart is being loaded with stuff (booty?)

Friday 20 February 2015

A strange trestle table from 1350

This miniature is from 1350 and shows two trestle tables - one large used by the king for dining (it looks like he is getting a medieval hamburger ... ), and one smaller side table for drinks. What is curious about the trestles is that the legs are placed very central on the bottom rail. The bottom rail on the other hand is very long; even larger than the width of the table board. This is the first time I see an illumination of such trestles, which look a bit unstable to me. I do, however, like the decoration on the bottom rails. Unfortunately, I do not have the source of this illumination.

Friday 6 February 2015

The medieval toolchest: the plane (part 5): moulding planes

Moulding planes are planes that serve a special function: shaving a specific form or mould into the wood, such as a decorative edge or concave or convex forms. Nowadays, the functions of these planes have been taken over by electric routers. During medieval times some moulding planes are thought to have existed; the round and hollow planes. But no such planes, except for some early medieval planes from Funen, have survived from the medieval period. All other evidence is only indirect.

Roman moulding plane irons. Image scanned from 'Die geschichte des hobels' by Joseph Greber.

Many surviving irons from Roman moulding planes, round and hollow planes and rabbet planes have been found in Roman fortresses, like Saalburg (Germany). Some (complete) round and hollow planes were found on the 16th century ship Mary Rose. There is no reason why these planes would not have existed in the time period in between. Also, parchemin and linenfold panels, either in furniture or as wall panels, came into fashion during the 15th century. This type of panel can be carved or scraped, but more likely they were made using hollow and round planes. Planing is not only easier, it is also faster, giving a more reproducible product and a smoother end result. And especially this smooth result is found on the medieval parchemin and linenfold panels.

Some of the moulding planes excavated from the Mary Rose (1545). Photo: Moulding planes 81A1040 (flared wedge) and 81A1039 (pinned wedge), both made from boxwood (image from Mary Rose website). Moulding plane 81A1425 made from oak with a side peg (length 30.8 cm). Both plane drawings are from the book 'Before the Mast - Life and death aboard the Mary Rose' by J. Gardiner (ISBN 9781842175040).

Hollow plane irons from the Nova Zembla expedition (1596) by Willem Barentz. 
Photo copyright by the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

The intarsia panels (1477) in the choir of the San Petronio church in Bologna (Italy) do show two planes that have the same characteristics of the rabbet and moulding planes that were in use during the last century: an open side, where shavings van be ejected. These planes have a single iron held by a wooden peg.

The two planes hanging on the right of the panel look like moulding planes. The top one has the plane iron all through the wooden stock - as with a rabbet plane, while the bottom one shows the typical open side for ejection of the shavings.

Ship-like form planes

The three Vimose planes. Images from the book 'Die geschichte des Hobels' by J. Greber. 

The moulding planes from Vimose on the island Funen (Denmark) have a special ship-like form and date between 300 and 400 AD. One plane is complete and measures 26 cm long with a width between 1.6 and 3.8 cm and a height of 2.7 cm.  The iron was fixed with a bolt and wedge, and was only 15 mm wide. The angle of the iron was around 50 degrees. The two other planes are broken with some parts missing, but have similar dimensions. Also some runic inscription were found on the planes. The planes are thought to have been used for smoothing spear-shafts.

The parts of Vimose planes 2 and 3 have been thought to fit together, but Greber correctly remarked that the bolt holes do not match, and thus they should be two separate planes. On the right part you can see a runic inscription. Image from the Nationalmuseet in Copenhagen, Denmark.

A nice replica of the Vimose plane has been made by Stewart Would. 
The construction process of his plane can be found on his blog.

Another similar formed plane was found in Nydam Moor, Denmark (200-400 AD), though it is unknown to me if this plane also is a hollow moulding plane. The amount of quivers and spear-shafts found in the bog makes it likely that this plane served a similar function. Another such a ship-form plane, though dating from the 11th century, has been found in Dublin, Ireland. Only half of this plane survived; when doubling the size, the plane would have been around 46 cm long and 5 cm high (the plane is reproduced at scale 1:1 in the article).

This is a similar plane from Nydam Moor, Denmark. Image from the Nationalmuseet in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Half of a ship-form smoothing plane, excavated in Dublin, Ireland. 
Image scanned from 'The High Street Excavations' by B. O'Riordain (1976) - Proceedings of the 7th Viking congress.


Rabbet and rabbet-like planes

One can say that the rabbet (or rebate) plane is derived from the moulding plane or the other way around.  For the rabbet plane the iron is straight, while for the moulding plane it is curved. The blades are held similarly with a wedge and shavings are ejected from the side. Rabbet planes have their iron slightly protruding from the sides of the plane and are used to make grooves in or at the edges of wooden planks. Specialist rabbet planes are the tongue and groove planes and the plow (or plough). A large tongue plane (with the size of a try plane) is found in the illumination of Noah building the ark in the Bedford Hours (1423). The plane shows two irons, while two separate shavings are ejected from the plane, suggesting that the carpenter is shaving a tongue.

Detail of the illumination of Noah building the Ark in the Bedford Hours (1423) showing a large plane with two irons suggesting a tongue type of plane. Note that the wooden board does not yet have a planed tongue. 
British Library, London, UK. Manuscript Add. MS 18850, folio15v.

Finally there is an inventory from a Dutch joiner from the mid 15th century, mentioning a plough. This plane can be seen as an advanced type of rabbet plane, with adjustable width and depth settings. Both examples are indicative that the more simple rabbet planes also must have existed at that time.


Our moulding and rabbet planes

Our moulding planes consists of a set of 17 matching round and hollow planes (one is missing), of increasing width. They date from the early 20th century and were made by Peter Duessing, a German plane manufacturer from Anholt, who also supplied the Dutch market. These round and hollow planes were used to make the parchemin panels for the toolchest, in which they now rest. Our rabbet planes are from different manufacturers and adjusted to the same look of the moulding planes. They have also different widths. All planes are made of beech.

Our set of round and hollow planes. The size (in inches) is given on the head, as well as the mark PD with a crown (for Peter Duessing) and the mark ITH, with the initials of the former (unknown) owner.

The components of a hollow and a round moulding plane.

One of our rabbet planes (this one made by Nooitgedacht) that was decorated in the same style as the moulding planes.

Monday 2 February 2015

Mystery tools

This month (and the previous one) will be a bit meagre in posts from me. I am moving house and most of my attention goes to painting and construction (and installing a workshop), instead of blogging or medieval woodwork. I thought the following image of Noah building the Ark from the Bedford Hours of 1423 (British Library Add. MS 18850) would be appropriate for this situation. 

The illumination shows a lot of woodworkers and their tools. Part of this image is in fact also used in the title of the St. Thomasguild blog. Hammers and mallets are shown most, 4 and 7 times, respectively. But there are also 6 augers, 1 brace, 3 chisels, 2 saws, 3 planes and 4 axes. But there are two other interesting objects shown on this illumination: one man on the roof is nailing wooden boards. He has a special shaped box for holding his nails with a hook that prevents it from sliding down.

The other mysterious object is with the man in the house. What is he doing and what is the black object he is working with? Is it a reel for a (chalk or strait) line or is it his purse? Does anyone have an idea?