Category Archives: English

Boatbuilding tools and planemaking

My friend Peter Helland Hansen, who builds clinker built boats at Hardanger Fartøyvernsenter, is a lover of traditional handtools. He has done extensive research on local tools in Hardanger and made his own tools based on his findings. He uses mostly handtools and traditional workbenches in his work. This winter Kate McMillan, a scholarship student from Yale University, is doing her research in the small boats workshop. As a part of her research she has her own blog where she writes and draws about the work in the workshop and the tools that are used in the different parts of the building process. I think the drawings contains a lot of relevant information about the work and the tools. This is a good example of how you could explain and illustrate rather complex working processes and workshop interiors.

A drawing of the small boats workshop at Hardanger fartøyvernsenter. Drawing by Kate McMillan
A drawing of the small boats workshop at Hardanger fartøyvernsenter. Drawing by Kate McMillan

Kate did also join a 3 days workshop in planemaking earlier this winter. She has made some drawing that explain the different stages in the work and the tools involved. This workshop was led by Jarle Hugstmyr from Norsk Håndverksinstitutt and the drawings illustrate how he tought the participants in this workshop. The drawing below could be followed by a description in text to further explain the different stages of the making of a wooden plane? I do hope Kate and Peter will do some more work on this planemaking instruction. You can  see more drawings from the planemaking workshop on the blog:

http://www.kategmcmillan.com/blog-post-1

Drawings that illustrates how to make your own traditional handplane. Drawing by Kate McMillan
Drawings that illustrates how to make your own traditional handplane. Drawing by Kate McMillan
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Sløyd or snikring as the general term for Norwegian Woodworking?

There has been a while since our last post in English and I might inform new readers that our blog has a category for English posts. Some of you might have tryed to use Google translate to read our Norwegian or Swedish language posts? Then you know that there is some problems with the translation of the woodworking terminology from our Scandinavian languages to English. I frequently use the word “snikkar” that could translate to woodworker. In definite form plural i would write “snikkarane” that means the woodworkers. This was translated by Google translate to “sneaky guys” which have a very different meaning. Recently there have been an update to google translate and “snikkarane” are now translated to carpenters. Despite theese problems I do hope that you non Scandinavian readers are still with us.

The term “snikkar” could be used in several different ways. It could mean a woodworker in general. It could also mean a person with certificate of apprenticeship in the sorts of woodworking that compares to both joinery and cabinetmaking as theese two woodworking diciplines are regarded as one and are both included in the term “snikkar” or “snikring”. To make the confusion total, the term “snikkar” are commonly used to describe the modern day carpenter, however this should be called “tømrar” as this was the traditional Norwegian term for a carpenter. The etymolgy of the word “snikkar” might be from the low German “sniddeker” that means a person who cut (whittle) wood.

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Ripsawing the front of a smoothing plane with a frame saw. Photo from the blog Strilamaksel by Trond Oalann

We also have the term “sløyd” in Norwegian. That could mean woodworking in general and have also been used in that way. We have the modern use of this term from Swedish “slöjd” that are used as a word that could be translated to handicraft. In Norway is Eilert Sundt considered to be the first ethnologist and started to focus on craft and training in craft as an important part of the upbringing of children. This was around 1850-60 and it seems like it was a corresponding conception in the other Nordic countries. This was the basis for the introduction of sløyd as a school subject and also the Swedish school for teachers at Nääs in about 1870. This school was started by Otto Salomon with the financial support by his uncle. Otto Salomon published the important book “The teacher’s hand-book of slöjd, as practised and taught at Nääs; containing explanations and details of each exercise” in 1891. According to Wikipedia: Sloyd (Slöjd), also known as Educational sloyd, is a system of handicraft-based education started by Uno Cygnaeus in Finland in 1865. In Denmark we had a similar way of thinking that resulted in a educatonal system called Dansk Skolesløjd that was established in 1886.

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Trond Oalann are making a dovetailed tool chest based on intstructions in the book “Sløidlære” by Kjennerud-Løvdal, 1922. Photo from the blog Strilamaksel.

In Norway we had Hans Konrad Kjennerud (1837-1921) who is known to have introduced the subject sløyd in the Norwegian schools. He was educated from Nääs in 1880 and was the driving force to introduce sløyd as a subject in the education of teachers. There have been many following Kjennerud and the subject sløyd have been very important for many generations pupils since. This has also resulted in a lot of interesting litterature. When I search for litterature in the subject “snikring” I find that most of the Scandinavian books seems to be written with at theoretical focus more than practical. There are very few instructions in how to do the practical work. I believe this is because of that most of the apprentices in “snikring” had done their training in the “basic skills” in their sløyd lessons in primary school. When I read some of the older sløyd books I am suprised by the level of the work the pupils where supposed to to in primary school. I have come to that we have to search books for both “snikring” and sløyd to find information in writing about the traditional Norwegian woodworking. I have in my last post written about how the autor A. Kjenhaug explains ways of working wood in his book: Arbeidsteknikker i tresløyd. (This link might be only for Norwegian IP adressses?)

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Trond Oalann working in his workshop. Photo from his blog Strilamaksel.

A fellow woodworker and blogger, Trond Oalann, has also got interested in the early Norwegian sløyd books. He has written several blog posts of his woodworking projects based on the instructions in the four books “Sløidlære” av Hans Konrad Kjennerud and Karl Løvdal. The books where probably published in 1922. He posts about making his own horn handeled smoothing plane based on drawings and instructions from the book. He write about how to adjust the sole of your wooden plane. He write about how to flatten and dimension a board with handplanes and a lot more from theese important four books. You should follow his blog Strilamaksel to read his interesting and well illustrated posts about his work.

 

More tools at Skokloster Castle

My last post about the tools at Skokloster had a lot of pictures of very nice tools and the unfinished hall in the Castle. Skokloster has a lot to offer if you are interested in 17th century. Fine furniture, paintings, glass, roof construction or weapons, just name it, and you will find it at Skokloster. That is almost true ;-). I would just like to show some of the lathes and lathe tools at the castle. The first owner, Carl Gustaf Wrangel (1613-1676) where not only rich and powerful, but also a passionate woodworker and had his lathe workshop in his castle. The workshop have later been moved several times and are now arranged in a room in one of the towers, close to the unfinished hall in the castle. Also several of the later owners where woodworkers and supplemented the already large collection of woodworking tools. The tools have been maintained in working condition through the centuries. The Castle are now a museum that are open in the summer, and all year round for group bookings. You can also get a guided tour in English.

There is a lathe in the unfinished hall at Skokloster. This seems to have been used a lot. The more refined lathes are placed in their own room in one of the towers in the castle. Photo: Roald Renmælmo
There is a lathe in the unfinished hall at Skokloster. This seems to have been used a lot. The more refined lathes are placed in their own room in one of the towers in the castle. Photo: Roald Renmælmo

Woodworking where common among the upper class men in Europe in the 17th century and both the tools ordered from Jan Arendtz in 1664 and the lathes and tools at Skokloster  are a part of this. The oldest lathe in the lathe workshop are made around 1670-1675 by Johan Kesmaker and might have been used by Carl Gustaf Wrangel. The lathe tools are from different makers but a large group are made by Johan Kesmaker together with a late in 1673. (Knutsson, Kylsberg 1985) The workbenches and some of the other tools at Skokloster might have been used by the craftsmen working at the castle. I have not found a workbench that I believe to be as old as the tools made by Jan Arendtz. It is still possible that some parts of the workbench that Tomas have posted about can be a lot older than the workbench as it is today? It could be as old as the tools from 1664 and have been used by Wrangel, but we can not find a way to date this bench.

Further reading/ references:

Knutsson, J., Kylsberg, B., & Skoklosters slott. (1985) Verktyg och verkstäder på Skoklosters slott : utställningskatalog

Bengt Kylsberg, ed. (1997). Skokloster – Reflections of a Great Era. Skoklosters slott.

Tools at Skokloster Castle in Sweden

Some of you have been following our blog so long that you might remember that Tomas has posted about an interesting old workbench at Skokloster Castle in Sweden? You might also remember that I have posted some pictures of some of the tools in the collection at Skokloster? Some of the comments on that post asked for more pictures of the tools at Skokloster, and here they come at last. This time I write in English as many of the readers of the last posts about the tools at Skokloster where not reading Norwegian.

This is the famous unfinished hall at Skokloster. The Castle was started in 1654 and this hall was left like this in 1676 when the owner, Wrangel, died. Photo: Roald Renmælmo
This is the famous unfinished hall at Skokloster. The Castle was started in 1654 and this hall was left like this in 1676, when the owner, Wrangel, died. The hall are a very interesting document of how a building project was organized in about 1670. The scaffolding where found dismanteled and what we see on the photo are the origianl material in a reconstructed scaffolding. Photo: Roald Renmælmo

The unfinished hall at Skokloster have some workbenches, a lathe and some tools that all belongs to the castle. In the next room there are a large collection of woodworking tools that have been bought and used by the previus owners. Some of the wooden molding planes  fit with some of the moldings found in different rooms in the castle. I think some of the planes could have been brought by some of the carpenters working at the castle prior to 1676. The largest part of this tool collection are the tools ordered and delivered from the toolmaker Jan Arnendtz in Amsterdam in Holland in the year 1664. Most of the more than 200 tools and even the documenteation of the order are preserved at Skokloster.

Some of the tools ordered from Jan Arendtz in 1664. They are in very good condition. Photo: Roald Renmælmo
Some of the tools ordered from Jan Arendtz in 1664. They are in very good condition. Photo: Roald Renmælmo

It is some planes and tools that sems to be made by different toolmakers than Jan Arendtz. I think some of theese tools might be used by the carpenters in the building period. Most of the tools made by Jan Arendtz have seen very litle use during the more that 350 years at Skokloster. There might have been several different sets of tools and the other sets might be more intended to be used?

The tool collection at Skokloster are a very important reference to tools and toolmaking about 350 years ago. The first owner, Carl Gustaf Wrangel was a high ranking Swedish noble, statesman and military commander. He had the money and power to build this castle in a period in the middle of the 17th century when Sweden expanded to become one of the major powers in Europe. The tools and the craftsmen at Skokloster 350 years ago might have been among the best there was in Europe at the time?

Workbenches around the world, Moravian workbench in Sweden

The BA student Anton Nilsson at the programme for "Bygghantverk" in Mariestad in Sweden has made a workbench for his final thesis. In Sweden this is called  "kandidatexamen. Photo: Anton Nilsson
The student Anton Nilsson at the programme for Building Crafts (Bygghantverk) in Mariestad, Sweden. He made a workbench during the Individual Specialisation Course in Building Craftsmanship. In Sweden this is called “Hantverksfördjupning”. The bench are 88 cm high. Photo: Anton Nilsson

It has been a while since our last post in English here on our blog. We have got a category for English language posts that could make it more easy to read for English speaking readers. I have also made a small introduction for this blog in English. When we started this blog we where expecting only readers from our Nordic countries. Most of our readers so far, are from English speaking countries, but we have had readers from 92 countries around the world. How all theese can get something out of our Norwegian or Swedish texts, are a mystery? I enjoy reading the blogs that you readers are wrinting. There is a lot of interesting and useful stuff about workbenches. Some of this is also important for us so we can understand our own tradition in a better way. In this post I will present a new workbench made after a instruction on an American blog. We where, and still are, mainly interested in workbenches and “snikkarhandverk” as we find it in Norway and Sweden. We are still going to write mainly in Norwegian and Swedish but you are more than welcome to comment and ask questions in English.

Anton Nilsson (you can contact him on FB by clicking his name) is a student at Gothenburg University in Sweden. He is following a  programme called Building crafts “Bygghantverk” in Mariestad and Tomas Karlsson has been his teacher in joinery, “Snickeri”. Anton wanted to build a workbench as his personal study in joinery. He wanted a workbench that where portable and easy to set up and dismantle. He would also like the bench to be as stable as possible without beeing to heavy. The very interesting workbench from Vasa did not fill any of theese requirements and was therefore not an option. Instead he found a description of The Moravian Workbench written by Will Myers. Myers found the original bench in Old Salem, a museum in North Carolina in USA. The bench construction seems to be made so that it easily can be dismantled and possible to transport.

So far it seems that the bench works as it should and Anton are owner of a portable workbench he can bring to any worksite. I still think that the most important is what he learned along the way. It is very interesting to make your own workbench and think though the details when you work. We have posted lately of portable and smaller workbenches and there is more to come. Some of the recent posts with portable benches:

Låg arbeidsbenk på Sogn Folkemuseum

Høvelbenk på Meldal bygdemuseum

Samanleggbar høvelbenk, eller stavklombre

Roald snikrar høvelbenk, modell Helberg i Bardu

Dutch workbenches again

Werkbank in the workshop of Ernest in Holland. Photo: Ernest Dubois
Werkbank in the workshop of Ernest in Holland. Photo: Ernest Dubois

After my post about Dutch workbenches based on information from the book of Gerrit van der Sterre I got some comments and furter information. Ernest Dubois has the blog Working with axes and live in Holland. He has an interesting workbench in his own workshop that he sent me som photos of. He call it “werkbank” or “timmer werkbank”. It is almost 9 meters long and the work height are about 75 cm. It is built fixed to the wall in the workshop. The benchtop are two long planks of pine, about 40 mm thick. It has leg vices and “bankstooten”.

The bench could have been made to be used by two or more carpenters as it is so long and have several vices. It seems like it could be a good workshop for three men where each has his own window, vice and space for most pieces of wood. This kind of workbench looks similar to workbenches some Norwegian traditional boat builders. They could also be as long as the workshop and are fixed to the wall.

Ernest has also found an Dutch book about carpentry. I found the book on a downloading site and bought a copy. The book are very interesting and show carpenters work in Holland 100 years ago. There are some workbenches that looks similar to our Norwegian Skottbenk that I will write about later. There are also some drawings of different workbenches.

Workbench with a similar vice as the bench Ernest uses. It has also holdfast, or "klemhaak" as the term that is used in the book. It has also a slinding deadman as the bench from Vasa. From "Handboek voor Timmerlieden".  (Groot 1914)
Workbench with a similar vice as the bench Ernest uses. It has also holdfast, or “klemhaak” as the term that is used in the book. It has also a slinding deadman as the bench from Vasa. From “Handboek voor Timmerlieden”. (Groot 1914)

Litterature:

H. J. de Groot, “Handboek voor timmerlieden”. Amsterdam 1914

The Vasa workbench rebuilt

The almost finished workbench of the Vasa model are set up in our improvised workshop in Mariestad. Photo: Roald Renmælmo
The almost finished workbench of the Vasa model are set up in our improvised workshop in Mariestad. Photo: Roald Renmælmo

Vasa is a Swedish warship built 1626-1628. The ship sank after sailing about 1300 meters into her maiden voyage on 10. August 1628. The ship was salvaged in 1961 and its museum are today one of Swedens most popular tourist attractions. Among the extensive amount of relative well preserved artifacts are a Joiners workbench. Tomas and I have examined the original bench at the Vasa Museum and have had support from Fred Hocker and Evelyn Ansel at the museum. The bench is made of oak and some of the parts have been nailed with iron nails. Theese have corroded away during the 333 years on the seabed. There are traces after a bench hook close to the left front leg. There are also a lot of holes in the bench top and the legs. We have interpreted theese as holes for holdfasts. There are also a sliding deadman with holes of the same dimension. There are some traces after nails that would have fixed a crochet left of the left leg. A crochet have not been found yet.

There are some joiners tools from the wreck. Some of the interiour panels of the cabins where still unfinished when the ship sank. We think that the workbench is a Joiners bench and have been used by one or more Joiners making panels and doors for the ship. The bench are 3,3 meters long, 72,3 centimeters (28½”) high and the benchtop 35,8 centimeters (14″) wide. We have made ours about 75 centimeters high after we have discussed how erosion might have made the original bench a bit lower. The average body length of the Joiners in 1628 would also have been slightly less than today. I have made a picture gallery of the last part of the work on our bench. Tomas has also made a similar bench that he has posted about. Click on the miniature pictures to display text and higher resolutions.

The workbench are going to be on display on “Bygningsvernkongressen” in Oslo in the beginning of September. Later we will use the bench and our workshop in Mariestad to do projects on historical joinery. I have some photos of details of the bench and I have made a small gallery of this.

We have done extensive research about this workbench and have posted our work on the blog. We have made categories about this: https://hyvelbenk.wordpress.com/category/snikring-av-hovelbenk/tomas-og-roald-snikrar-hovelbenk-i-mariestad/ and: https://hyvelbenk.wordpress.com/category/snikring-av-hovelbenk/tomas-snikrar-hovelbenk-modell-vasaskipet/ Most of the posts are written in Norwegian or Swedish, but a few posts are written in English. If you have any questions about the workbench from Vasa you are free to comment in English. We will try to ansver.

Dutch workbenches

The workbench from the Swedish warship Vasa are from a time where we dont have much information about other workbenches in Sweden and Norway. Few, if any, other workbenches are preserved from that time. The “Vasa workbench” are different than the more recent workbenches from Scandinavia. How does it “relate” to workbenches from other countries? There are many similarities between the workbench from Vasa and the well known French Roubo workbench. There was a lot of Dutch craftsmen working on the building of Vasa and some of the tools found in the wreck seems to be of Dutch orgin.

Gerrit van der Sterre have been researching woodworking planes in the Netherlands and published the book “Four centuries of Dutch planes and planemakers” in 2001. His father was a master carpenter and Gerrit also wrote about the workshop, toolchests and workbenches. “We do not know much about the dimensions of benches in earlier times, but their height must have been just as important then as it is now. ” (Sterre, 2001)

From Van Der Sterre, Gerrit 2001 Four centuries of dutch planes and planemakers. Primavera. G. J. M. Elbers & J. Polling, Werktuigen machines, hulpmaterieel en gereedschappen in het bouwbedrijf, Culemborg/Antwerpenn/ Keulen 1967, 2e druk,
Workbenches, the upper consists of a plank, or an Oak deal, 3 to 4 inches thick, 14 to 16 inches wide and 11 to 20 feet long. Two under-rails hold the legs together and normaly one of them has two freely sliding posts that can be set closer or wider apart. Many similarities to the bench from Vasa. The lower bench is called a Joiners-bench. It consists of a continous beam, 4 x 4 inches and 14 to 16 feet long, and four legs set far apart to allow the bench to stand solidly. This Joiners-bench allows the edges of deals and planks to be worked. Similar to a “Skottbenk”.  From Gerrit van ver Sterre, 2001, “Four centuries of dutch planes and planemakers”. Primavera. His source is: G. J. M. Elbers & J. Polling, Werktuigen machines, hulpmaterieel en gereedschappen in het bouwbedrijf, Culemborg/Antwerpenn/ Keulen 1967, 2e druk.

Gerrits father used wrought iron bench stops that where forged with squared shanks so that they fitted into suitably placed mortises in the bench top. At the top end they where flattened and folded over almost at right angles and their leading edges were serrated so that they bit into the end grain of the work that was being planed.

Blad 1, Sterre
Workbench with a leg vice and a sliding deadman. This is a 20th-century workbench and its accessories. The bench have a lot in common with the Vasa bench and also the bench from Eggagården in Norway. From Gerrit van ver Sterre, 2001, “Four centuries of dutch planes and planemakers”.

The workbench above have a leg vice and a shelf for tools. Most of the other details are similar to details on the Vasa workbench. The workbench from Eggagården does have a leg vice but not the sliding deadman. The dimensions described on the first drawing in this post are also similar as the Vasa workbench and the bench from Helberg in Bardu. The drawing below are showing other 20th-century Dutch workbenches. The shaped wooden hook are known as “stoothaak” in Dutch. The benches seems to be made from two beams  put on top of trestles. Its functions should be similar as on the bench from Helberg.

A 20th-century workbenches and accessories.
A 20th-century workbenches and accessories. From Gerrit van ver Sterre, 2001, “Four centuries of dutch planes and planemakers”.
A planing bench in museu De Timmerwerf, De Lier. From Gerrit van ver Sterre, 2001, "Four centuries of dutch planes and planemakers".
Een schaafbank in museum De Timmerwerf, De Lier. A planing bench in museum De Timmerwerf, De Lier. From Gerrit van ver Sterre, 2001, “Four centuries of dutch planes and planemakers”.

As a Norwegian it is very interesting to read about Dutch workbenches. There are many similarities to the older, and less known, Norwegian and Swedish benches. Theese benches are some places are still used by boatbuilders, but are not common among  carpenters and joiners today. Theese workbenches are called “schaafbank” in Dutch and that is similar to the Norwegian “høvelbenk“, Danish “høvlebænk” and Swedish “hyvelbänk“. All translates to “planing bench”.  There might be other books about Dutch workbenches that could be interesting to read? Our Dutch readers might fill in about this matter?

Litterature:

Gerrit van der Sterre, 2001, “Four centuries of Dutch planes and planemakers”, 2001 

Holdfast in Norway and Sweden

Foto: Tomas Karlsson
This is an old Swedish holdfast from Skåne or Blekinge. From Lund we know the name “fans tumme” in Swedish, that means “devils thumb”. Photo: Tomas Karlsson

Tomas has posted about holdfast in Sweden where he present old original holdfasts from the southern part of Sweden, Skåne or Blekinge. There are two different patterns of holdfast and the one that seems to be the oldest are on the picture above. The blacksmith Mattias Helje in Lima in Sweden have tried to analyze how it could have been made. There are at least three different ways to forge a holdfast. One is to forge it from a single piece of iron with a dimension thick enough to forge the stem and then stretch out the arm. This is the method used by Øystein Myhre that forged the Norwegian patterns of holdfast. The same method is also demonstrated in a video of Peter Ross and Roy Underhill. One other method is to use a similar dimension of iron and forge it from two pieces, one for the stem and one for the arm and forge weld the two pieces together like the one below from Nordmøre in Norway.

Holdfast from Nordmøre in Norway. This seems to have been made from two pieces of iron, one for the stem, and one for the arm, and forge welded together. Photo: Roald Renmælmo

There is also a third way to forge a holdfast. You could start with a dimension that is more like the thickness of the arm and then make the stem by forge welding a piece on to it.

A measured drawing of the old holdfast from Skåne. It seems to be a weld scarf at the upper part of the stem. This indicates that the stem are made of two parts that are forge welded together. Drawing: Tomas Karlsson
A measured drawing of the old holdfast from Skåne. It seems to be a weld scarf at the upper part of the stem. This indicates that the stem are made of two parts that are forge welded together. All measures are in millimetres. Drawing: Tomas Karlsson
The two pieces of iron for the holdfast before being forge welded together. Photo: Mattias Helje
The two pieces of iron for the holdfast before being forge welded together. Photo: Mattias Helje
The stem are forge welded together and forged round in the lower part. It is kept square in the thickest part. You can see the the seam after the welding. Photo: Mattias Helje
The stem are forge welded together and forged round in the lower part. It is kept square in the thickest part. You can see the the seam after the welding. Photo: Mattias Helje
The holdfast has got the right dimensions and shape before it is shaped to the right bend. Photo: Mattias Helje
The holdfast has got the right dimensions and shape before it is shaped to the right bend. Photo: Mattias Helje
Three finished holdfast made with this method with forge welding. Photo: Mattias Helje
Three finished holdfast made with this method with forge welding. Photo: Mattias Helje

This are different patterns and different ways to make holdfasts in Sweden and Norway. Tomas and I has also done some research of what the holdfast are, or was, called in our languages. I have seen the post about this matter on the Lost Art Press blog, How do you say “holdfast”? The Norwegian names I have posted there are these:

Kjellingfot – if translated to English – goat kid foot

Benkehake – bench hook

Hallhake – hold hook

Hake – hook

Hallfast – holdfast

Ronghake – crocked hook.

Bukkefot – rams foot, this word is from Øystein Myhre that uses the holdfast  in his work as  a Norwegian blacksmith.

In Swedish there are the names “bänkhållare” (bench holder) and “knekt” (could translate to bracket or something?) in the book  “Träslöjd”, Hallén & Nordendal (1923).

In inventories in workshops in Stockholm in the early 1700`s there is several mentions of “stämhake”. That could be the same as holdfast. It could translate to “stem hook”.

Tomas has also learnt the word “fans tumme”, that means “devils thumb”. That is a parallell to the Norwegian joiners “killingfot” (goat kid foot) and blacksmiths “bukkefot” (rams foot). Both refer to a goat foot and the goat and the devil are considered as related in folklore. The devil is usually equipped with rams horn.

Planing stop or bench hook on the Vasa bench

My last post in Norwegian was about bench hooks (planing stops) on older Norwegian workbenches. I have done a study of what they have been called, both in written sources, and what was common language among Norwegian woodworkers about 80 years ago. My main source for this is a survey from about 1934 (it spanned over several years) when 168 woodworkers where questioned about their craft, with a special focus on the workbench (høvelbenk). I found that the terminology from the litterature (benkehake, translates to bench hook) was not so much in use among the craftsmen. Some of the names (høvelbit, tang, klo, kam and bitehest) could indicate that the function or shape of the “bench hook” could be of the type seen on (older) benches without endwise but with a fixed bench hook that “bites” into the stock you are planing. Similar as the planing stop to Christopher Schwarz inspired by Roubo, or the bench hook to Peter Follansbee inspired by Moxon. Some of the answers from the survey did also have drawings to explain the shape of the “bench hook” in question.

On the workbench from Vasa there are a hole of 23 x 25 mm for a bench hook. It is placed close to the left front leg, the leg is seen coming trough the benchtop to the left on the photo. It is a countersunk area for the head of the bench hook. Photo: Roald Renmælmo
On the benchtop of the workbench from Vasa there are a hole of 23 x 25 mm for a bench hook. It is placed close to the left front leg, the leg is seen coming trough the benchtop to the left on the photo. It is a countersunk area for the head of the bench hook. Photo: Roald Renmælmo

There is also another post about the traces of the bench hook from Vasa, the text is in Norwegian. In other posts I write about how the bench was found in the wreck of Vasa that sank in 1628 and was rescued 333 years later. There are a lot of wear on the wood surfaces after all those years on the seabed. All parts of iron on the bench have eroded or rusted away. In the other post about the Vasa bench hook, I have tried to interpret the shape and size of the bench hook that the hole was made for. The hole for the shank seems to be parallel and does not taper. Most of the old bench hooks I have found in Norway and Sweden have a shank that tapers. I think the parallel shank could work a similar way as the bench hooks from Roubo and Moxon where the iron hook is mounted on a block of wood which is mounted in a through-mortise in the benchtop.

I have searched for old bench hooks that could fit in the hole in the Vasa bench. I have not found any in Sweden and Norway yet. I found some references to an interesting bench hook in a blog entry on the blog of Peter Follansbee. He write about a bench hook with 8″ long shank from an archaeological excavation in Virginia. On my question by e-mail he was helpful and sent me a scan from the book he got the information from. It is the Article “The Archaeological Evidence of Tools Used in Seventeenth- and Eighteenth-Century Virginia”, by David Harvey, from the book “Eighteenth-Century Woodworking Tools”, James M. Gaynor, 1997. The bench hook was from the excavations at Flowerdew Hundred in Virginia and is probably  from 1690-1730.

Drawing of the bench hook found in Virginia. From the book: Eighteenth-Century Woodworking Tools. James M. Gaynor, 1997
Drawing of the bench hook found in Virginia. The Moxon bench for comparison. It might match the hole in the Vasa bench but i do not have the exactly measures. When i measure on the drawing I find the lenght to be 9-10″ and the cross section of the shank about 1″ and parallel. From the book: Eighteenth-Century Woodworking Tools. James M. Gaynor, 1997

It is relevant to ask what an, at least 70 years younger, bench hook from Virginia have to do with the Vasa workbench? The only connection could be that the shape and measures make a match? When Vasa was built there was a lot of Dutch carpenters working on the ship. There was also some woodcarvers from the area that today is northern Germany. There was also joiners working on the interior paneling and furniture for the cabins in the stern. The joiner who used the bench hook in Virgina could have been English or Dutch and  working in a northern European tradition. The Vasa bench could also be interpreted to be a part of a northern European tradition of joinery? The connection could be stronger than that the shape and measures match?

With this information, and a glance to other old bench hooks, the blacksmith, Mattias Helje in Lima in Sweden set out to forge a bench hook for the copy of the Vasa bench that Tomas and I are building in Mariestad.

The shank of the bench hook are made parallel and  about 23 x 25 mm cross section. Photo: Mattias Helje
The shank of the bench hook are made parallel and about 23 x 25 mm cross section. It is forged by a solid piece of steel, probably similar as the original bench hook. Photo: Mattias Helje
Two bench hooks forged according to the size of the hole in the Vasa bench. Photo: Mattias Helje
Two bench hooks forged according to the size of the hole in the Vasa bench. Theese where forged today and are not tested yet. Photo: Mattias Helje