Friday 26 May 2017

The scapradekijn for the Muiderslot, part 4: the iron parts

This post continues with the story of the making of a hanging cupboard for Castle Muiderslot. Part 1 and Part 2 considered the carving of the panels, and Part 3 the construction of the back boards and the shelves. This part will show the ironwork for the scapradekijn.

We wanted the same type of hinges as the scapradekijn from Cologne.

We are woodworkers, not blacksmiths, so all iron parts were made by others for us based on our design. The iron parts needed for the hanging cupboard were a set of hinges and a lock and lockplate. We did have a stock of nails to fix the hinges and lock to the cupboards, so these were not needed from the smith. The Muiderslot choose to have the items made by Klaas Kloosterhuis. A good choice, as he makes excellent medieval replica stuff (e.g. de hinges and lock for my medieval toolbox). However, as he is a commercial blacksmith, he asks normal prices for the items he makes. The budget of the Muiderslot, however, was virtually non-existent, so the lock became only a lock plate instead. We still think this is a missed opportunity - the cupboard would have been more complete and attractive, but the choice was not ours to make.

The hinges and lockplates made by Klaas Kloosterhuis.

Klaas did get a free hand in the design of the lockplate(s).

Having a cupboard showing some valuables (as was the plan of the Muiderslot) without any locking mechanism in a place with a lot of visitors is not such a good idea. Our solution of having something 'lockable' was to make a latch, that could be lifted either by a key through the keyhole or by finger through the open latticework of the panel. The simple latch was made for free by Rob, the blacksmith of Castle Hernen.

Rob working at the open smithy at the courtyard of Castle Hernen.

Adding the hinges, latch and lockplate to the panels needed some consideration. Each lockplate had an L-shape that would go over the side of the panel. Therefore a bit of the side of the panel had to be removed to accommodate the iron. This was done with the help of a chisel and small ground plane.

Left: The space for the lockplate in the side of the panel was created with a small ground plane.Right: The lockplate is now at the same level at the side as the wood. Note that the carving stops where the lockplate begins. Already some holes were drilled for the nails, and the keyhole is opened through the panel.

The nail for the latch on one panel, and the nail where the latch would rest on on the other panel needed to be added first, as the lockplate would 'hide' the nails afterwards. The nail on which the latch would rest needed careful calibration: a too long nail would mean a loose latch, while a too short one would prevent the latch from closing. Holes for the nails were drilled beforehand; the nails themselves were bend and 'stapled' back into the wood. Note that the panels were coated in linseed oil before the iron parts were added.

Left: The nail fixed on which the latch would turn on the front of the panel. Right: A small groove was made for the nail, in order to keep the surface flat for the lockplate.

 Left: The front of the lockplates with one of my own keys in the 'lock'. Right: The back of the 'lock' showing the mechanism of the latch and key. Turning the key would lift the latch and open the door.

Adding the hinges to the panels also needed some extra thought. Hinges need to be positioned at exact the same position to create a functional door. Also a little space is needed between the panels that would be connected to each other by the hinges. First, the hinges were fixed on the door panel with nails, similar to those of the lockplate. Then a small strip of wood (around 1 mm thick) was placed between the panels, which were clamped together. The place for the nails on the second panel was marked and the holes drilled through. The nails for the lower hinge were directly hammered into the bottom shelf. The top shelf, however, was placed higher and the nails appeared just below the top shelf. They had to be hammered back into the panels instead of into the shelf.

The panels clamped together.

Both hinges tested. You can see the small strip of wood between the two panels. The middle panel (the door) is smaller.

 The nails appear just below the top shelf (the scapradekijn is now standing upside down).

 The three front panels with the lockplate and hinges

The final pieces iron needed for the scapradekijn were two staples that were needed to be able to hang the cupboard on the wall of the room of the castle. For this we used two 'antique' ones that we had to de-rust before we could use them. Two holes were drilled for each staple though the back boards, and the ends were bended back into the oak of the (inside of the) backboard.

 The two staples on the back of the scapradekijn.

Tuesday 23 May 2017

Furniture of the nonnenchor of Kloster Wienhausen

The highly painted nuns choir of Kloster Wienhausen. At the far end the seat of the abbess can be seen. Image from internet.

The nun's choir of Kloster Wienhausen in Germany is famous for the medieval paintings that cover the complete walls and ceiling. They date from thirteenth century. In contrast, the choir stalls look very humble, but they are certainly impressive as well. The choir stalls were dendrochronologically dated to 1277 and are still in use. They are even thought to predate the current choir, and have moved into it when the 'new' medieval building was ready. Indeed, at some places the choir stalls seem ill fitted in the room. The stalls consist of two rows of seats opposite each other at the north and south walls of the choir. There are no misericords present at the stalls. The armrests and backrests of the lower stalls consist of one piece of oak with a thickness of roughly a hands width. On the top of this oak piece at (ir)regular places holes are drilled. A few of them have an additional piece of wood with a drilled hole and some have remaining candle wax in them, providing a clue for their function: adding light at late or early hours of prayer. At some places the wood is darkened; here the candle was directly placed on the wood and burned it.

The armrest/backrest of the lower stalls is very thick and consist of one piece of oak. Image from internet.

The green arrows point to the irregular holes for the candles. The orange arrow shows a wooden candle still in place. The blue arrows show the beams supporting the backrest/armrest as it slightly leans backwards.

The higher stall chairs are all separated from each other by wooden boards - just like the boards that separate public men's urinals. The boards are set in a groove in the arms rests. In the wall behind the stalls small alcoves with a shelve can be found, one for each stall seat. The alcoves can be locked with a door. This provided a space were some personal belongings of the nuns, e.g. prayer books, glasses, etc. could be stored. It was under these storage spaces and choir stalls that many of the cloisters small (lost) treasures were found: several complete medieval glasses with leather and wooden frames, reliquary images, song-texts, weaving tablets and more.
 Left: The front row choir stall seats have been repaired to remain in use - below the seating some modern adaptation has been made. The back of the stall consist of roughly hewn pieces of oak. Image from internet. Right: A drawing of the back stall row with the dividing screen - decorated with a floral leaf. Image scanned from the book Kloster Wienhausen by Horst Appuhn.

The boards and alcoves are 'washed' in dull white and grey, a baroque style, and stands in sharp contrast to the colourful walls and ceiling. Most of the boards have been maimed, their floral decoration sawn off. The stalls next to the stall of the abbess still have their decoration.

The seat of the abbess, also from the same period as the choir stalls. Directly behind it, 
some whitewashed board that still have their floral decoration can be seen.

One of the short sides holds an altarpiece and a woodwork screen with latticework openings to the adjoining church. The nuns were thus able to follow the mass, without being seen by men. The other short end of the choir has a single row of seats. This one includes the high chair of the abbess, with a small armoire next to it. Five years ago this chair stood in a smaller chapel, now it has been restored to its original place. The armoire next to it is newly made, after a 19th century illustration of the original.

The chair of the abbess and the new armoire next to it. The emblem in the chair has been embroidered in klosterstich by Frau Daenicke. Directlty left to the chair of the abbess and above the first stall chair, a small door to a personal alcove can be seen. Each stall chair has such a storage space.

Left: At the back of the seat are two 'mickey mouse' ears, a type of decoration often found in this period on armoires. Right: The roof with a 'light' door in it. On the other side is a similar door.

The top decoration of the abbess chair with pinnacles and foliar leaves.

The stall of the abbess is much more ornate than the other stalls. The sides are decorated with foliar motifs. But most interesting is the 'roof' of the chair. This roof consist of two hinged doors, which can be opened, to allow for more light for liturgical reading. As far as I know, this is a rather unique feature for a abbess/abbots seat.

Left: the eternal lamp. Right: the Eastern lantern in the nonnechor of Kloster Wienhausen. Images scanned from the book Kloster Wienhausen by Horst Appuhn.

The nonnenchor also contains two wooden medieval lantarns - one six-sided dating  and one eight-sided - hanging with an iron chain from the ceiling. Both date from just before 1400. The six-sided lamp is a so-called eternal lamp with images depicting scenes from the resurrection. The octagonal lamp is a processional Eastern lantern. The bottom part shows angels playing various musical instruments painted on a gold background.

Angels playing music at the bottom of the processional Eastern lantern.
Image scanned from the book Kloster Wienhausen by Horst Appuhn.

Sources used:

  • H. Appuhn. 1986. Kloster Wienhausen. Pick Verlag Pfingsten, Celle, Germany. ISBN 3-9801316-0-2.
  • K. Maier. 2001. The convent of Wienahusen. An introduction to its history, architecture and art. Kloster Wienhausen, Germany. ISBN 3-9801316-7-x
  • Website: and