Tuesday 12 December 2023

Tresoor of castle hernen (part 7): the hanging stiles.

Six-sided medieval dressoirs, like our Hernen Tresoor, often had some free hanging stiles with a decorated end. Also larger four-sided dressoirs could have such a free hanging style in the middle of the front. The decorated ends come in two versions: fifteenth century dressoirs tend to show an upside down pyramidal decoration, whereas later a shift to decorated bulbs (e.g. the Langeais dressoir) and (female) figurine busts occurs. 

A four-sided dressoir with an upended piramid end of the free hanging stile. Oak, late 15th century. Heigth 131 cm, width 126 cm, depth 48 cm. Image scanned from the book Le mobilier Francais du moyen age a la renaissance, by J. Boccador.  

A four-sided dressoir with an upended piramid end of the free hanging stile.  Oak, around 1480-1490. Heigth 145.5 cm, width 99 cm, depth 48.5 cm. Image scanned from the book Le mobilier Francais du moyen age a la renaissance, by J. Boccador.  

A six-sided dressoir with an upside down piramid end on the three free hanging stiles. Oak, around 1490-1500. From the collection Bresset. Image scanned from the book Le mobilier Francais du moyen age a la renaissance, by J. Boccador.  

The six-sided dressoir from Chateau Langeais, France with bulb-headed ends of the free stiles. 

Dressoir with floral decoration. France, first quarter of the 16th century (and parts 19th century). Oak, Height 161.5  cm, width 120 cm, depth 53.5 cm. Louvre Inventory nr. OA 6972. Image from the book by Agnès Bos, 2019.

As we wanted to create a more late medieval look, we chose the upside down pyramid style for the tresoor of Castle Hernen. 

A high six-sided dressoir at chateau Langeais, France, with female buste ends.

Two figures at the end of the stile. Left is one of the ends of the Louvre dressoir above.

Four upended pyramidal forms from the book of J. Boccador.

Creating the upended pyramid

Carving an upended pyramid is easy when you have a square stile to start with. The castle Hernen tresoor, however, has an unequal pentacle, making the planning of the carving a bit more difficult. The pyramid was planned to have two parts, divided by a rim. I started by removing the unnecessary part of the stile by saw at the small pyramidal part (The area X at the schematic drawing). Then the slope of the larger pyramid was carved, taking care of the fact that the rim/ring was to be larger than the top of this part of the pyramid. A groove was made at the bottom of the pyramid and on both sides of the ring/rim. Then the smaller pyramid was similarly carved using a chisel.

Schematic drawing of the decorated stile with an upended pyramid. Before carving the slopes, The area X was sawn out.

The area to be sawn off is marked with a marking gauge.

Then the slope of the large pyramidal part was cut with a chisel.

Grooves were carved at the bottom of the pyramid with chisel and a small gouge.

Fitting of the stile when the first part of the pyramid was carved to check the look and feel. 

The finished carving of the stile ends on the tresoor.

Unfortunately, we miscalculated the length needed for the carving, and there was no oak left on the stile for the final tip. We then decided to glue this tip separately to the end of the stile.

Making the tip

In order to make the tip, first a round stick was needed. I used a square piece of oak and shaved it to an octangular piece, then to a 16 sided piece, and finally rounding it of with a shave. The tip was then roughly formed on a belt sander. Both sides of the stick were used, thereby providing the two necessary tips. The rough tips were smoothed by hand using sandpaper with incrasingly smaller grit-size.

(Left) Creating the round stick. (Right) Rounding the tip using a belt sander.

(Left) The rough tip by the belt sander and (Right) the smooth polished tip using different sandpaper grits.

The tips were sawn off the stick, and then a 1 cm diametre hole was drilled in the middle of the tip using a Forstner bit. A corresponding hole was drilled in the middle of the stile. To connect both tip and stile a 1 cm rod was glued to the tip, and then to the stile. The 1 cm diametre oak rod was created using a dowel plate. Hide glue was used to secure the pieces.

The rod glued to the tip.

The drilled hole in the stile. The square is used as guide for the drill.

The finished stile ends.

The dressoir with the finished stile ends.


  • Agnès Bos, 2019. Mobilier du Moyen Âge et de la Renaissance - La collection du musée du Louvre. Musée du Louvre, Paris, France. ISBN 978-2-35031-639-0. 
  • Jacqueline Boccador, 1988. Le mobilier francais du moyen age a la renaissance. Edition dÁrt Monelle Hayot, St-Just-en-Chaussee, France. ISBN 2-903824-13-4.

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