Re: [MedievalSawdust] Re: Type of joinery in 13th C coffret?
- On Mon, July 5, 2010 8:35 am, Eric wrote:
> I agree with both Conal and Tim. While one should be careful to not dealBeautifully said!
> in absolutes (as Conal said), according to every thing I know about
> extant examples, dovetails were not a common method of joinery in
> Northern Europe or Britain during the early portions of the SCA period
> (as Tim said). Tim also alluded to the fact that rare examples will
> occasionally crop up that would disprove that statement.
> Let me give an example based on our own period. Are flying cars period
> for late 20th century? Basically not, but during my whole life (since
> 1960) there have been different people and companies that have produced
> single or a small number of working flying cars available for sale. I
> even saw one operate as a small child at an airshow and owned a small,
> working, plastic model of that design. So, if someone asked five hundred
> years from now, if flying cars are period for the late 20th century, what
> would your answer be?
It's very much an issue for the history of tools, too. In 1505 a
Nuremberg engineer named Loffelholz designed and drew in his notebook a
startlingly advanced workbench for his day--it's about two-thirds of the
way to the sort of cabinetmaker's bench that became common in the Germanic
world by 1700 or so. It had a twin-screw face vise and a fully enclosed,
moving-dog tail vise, with multiple recesses for a planing stop that seem
to have also served as stops for the tail vise.
The trouble comes in figuring out whether anything came of this. Was Herr
Loffelholz a secretive dreamer like Leonardo, filling notebooks with
clever ideas that made no difference because he kept them so secret?
Half a century later, bench vises show up in half a dozen shops in the
_Standebuch_, also from Nuremberg. _Not one_ of those vises look like the
1505 examples, and not one is in any sort of woodworker's shop! They're
metal, and all used by high-end specialty metalworkers. They look like
the ancestors of a blacksmith's leg vise, not any sort of Loffelholz
Context: The 1500's were a time in which the south German cities led the
world in metal technology, and in particular seemed to be systematically
exploring uses of screw threads. The first bench vises, the first rifled
guns, the first use of a screw press for printing, and the first use of
threaded fasteners, both wood screws and nuts and bolts--all show up first
in the south German cities, in or just before the first half of the
So it's like the flying cars, or like asking if internal-combustion motor
vehicles are period for the 19th Century. Of course they are--the first
IC driven car (which the Swiss inventor even called a "char") actually ran
down Swiss roads in 1803! All through that century, various inventors
built things that a) could run, and b) were such a pain in the ass to run
that they never really caught on.
Old-school craftsmen could be awfully conservative. My guess would be
that Loffelholz made a bench like his drawing, for his own use, and tried
to interest woodworkers in it. He himself was a user and contributor to
the exciting new screw technology, the one that led to the metalworking
vises we see illustrated sixty years later. But the woodworkers were used
to their old ways of holding the work, and held back for a while.
_Eventually_ they got the idea too, but unfortunately we have this gap in
the record between 1505 and around 1700. By 1700 the traditional
cabinetmakers bench with all the trimmings was widely used across Germany
and had spread to Scandinavia. Obviously, it developed in Germany
sometime during those two centuries, but on the evidence of the Standebuch
it had not caught on as early as 1565.
This sort of conservatism persisted--in the late 1700's Roubo could
illustrate a cabinetmakers bench, but said the only workers in France who
used them were German emigres! Nuremberg and Paris are not that far
apart--during the 1700's they were connected by regular stagecoach
service. Those benches were still not widely used in England for much
later, and many English cabinetmakers to this day still have no use for
So yeah, you can drive an 1801 Trevethick or an 1803 Rivaz to your Regency
event, and document it. But to be fair and honest, along with it consider
developing the persona of a cutting-edge engineer or mad scientist. Much
the same sorts who were demonstrating the flying car you saw. To
(finally!) get back to dovetails, how about a cover story to go with them,
about travel and training in Germany or the like? And perhaps put in some
other distinctively German features in the woodwork?