Wednesday 15 November 2023

A painting of the woodworkersshop of (Saint) Joseph


The doubt of Joseph by the Master of du Jardin de Paradis, early 15th century. Musee de l'Oevre Notre Dame, Strassbourg, France.

I have been able to view this painting myself last summer in the museum, which also holds quite some medieval chests and chairs. The painting is impressive as there are many interesting things to see with regards to woodworking. For instance the workbench is the first medieval one that I know of, that actually has a specific shelf for holding tools beneath the benchtop.

Also the tools displayed on the shelf and the benchtop are worth a closer look. On the shelf lies a special chisel, a so-called dog leg chisel. These chisels are used for finsihing rectangular depressions and undercuts, but I have never encountered a medieval one before. The two other tools are a typical medieval push saw - although usually this saw is encountered in larger versions - and a typical medieval hammer.

The woodworking tools on the top of the bench are also interesting. A medium-sized block plane (looking similar to the French one found in Lake Paladru, containing a small blade. Next is something that is either a (large) knife or a mortise chisel. Considering the special chisels shown on the painting, I think a mortise chisel is more likely. The other chisel shown looks like a short firmer chisel. Usually, medieval chisels flare out, like a fish tail, however this one has a short straight broad cutting part -  a bit remiscent of a Japanese chisel. The last tool on the table is a gimlet.

The table next to Maria shows some thin wooden boxes and a band comb used in band weaving. 


  1. I think the tool on the table is a gimlet rather than an awl. If you look closely, you can see the spiral.

    1. Yes of course you are right. I did notice the spiral, but chose the wrong toolname. I fixed it in the text. Thanks for noticing.