Archaeological finds show that wood was one of the first materials that man fashioned for use. He used wood for spears, handles for stone axes, wooden bowls, coffins, chairs, animal sculptures, and hunting fishing and building. Analysis of Neanderthals stone tools show that many of these were used solely as instruments to work wood. The first wooden wheel is credited as an ancient Mesopotamian creation, dating from around 3500 B.C.
Many Egyptian drawings show them using wooden tools for hunting, fishing and warfare. Buried in the tombs are examples of the use of wood in furniture for chairs, beds, boxes, chests baskets and lamps. Common to many tombs were clothing and shoes, fine jewels, perfumes and cosmetics, games, musical instruments, writing materials, heirlooms, fine tableware made of precious metals, pottery and glass. The Egyptians invented varnish, and veneering. The metal they used first was copper, followed by bronze and then iron. Tools include Axes, adze, chisels, saws.
Chinese woodworking is said to date from Lu Ban (between 771-403BC) He invented many things – a mobile counter-weighted siege ladder, grappling hooks, a boat ram for naval warfare, lifting gear and the horse carriage. He brought the Plane, and chalk line, plus other tools to china. He is said to have defined dimensions for the construction of tables, altars and numerous other items. The use of glue-less and nail-less joinery is a tradition of China.
Planes are ancient. Basically they are a block of wood with a slot to hold a metal blade, and a wooden wedge to secure the blade, – hammer to adjust the depth and/or tighten the wedge. In fact a captive chisel or adze. The earliest plane found dates from Roman times. A plane was found in Pompeii, and the evidence from coins shows various designs were around before then The plane, along with other woodworking tools is depicted in many early paintings.
The Mary Rose a warship from the time of King Henry VIII, was built in 1503, and sank in 1545 during a battle. This was found and raised in 1982, and contained a wealth of goods from that period. A main deck cabin had eight chests of carpentry tools needed to maintain this ship – among them, mallet, drill, ruler, plane.
Woodworking represents one of the oldest civilized trades. Wood and the working of wood forms a considerable part of a countries activities. It was not until the Industrial Revolution (1760 -1830 onwards) that the efforts to mechanize the industry began to be realized. One basic fundamental change was due to James Watts invention of the steam engine in 1775. This was a great advance on the water wheel, and the first realistic motive power for operating machinery. America developed these advances and by 1850, North America was producing some of the world’s best woodworking devices. The woodworking industry soon became one of the largest in America.
Like the resentment leading to riots caused by the spinning jenny in the textile industry in England, the introduction of mechanization to wood working sparked unrest. The first sawmill built in 1663 in England near London, was the site of so much rioting that it was abandoned. An attempt in 1768 to open another also failed, but due to government intervention, saw mills were establish soon afterwards.
The Circular saw was patented by Samuel Miller of Southampton in 1777, and the later major improvement of inserted teeth, was invented by Robert Eastman of Maine. There are many versions of the circular saw as a bench saw, designed for various particular jobs. Planing machines. In 1791 Sir Samuel Bentham patented new development in planing, sawing, beveling, moulding, veneer cutting, recessing and boring tools. In 1827 Malcolm Muir of Glasgow invented a machine to produce tongue and groove floor boarding in one machine. In 1847 in America, John Cumberland made many improvements to this design, but fell foul of an existing alternative patent – the battle ended finally in 1856. The feeling against the machines by the carpenters was very strong, and the mills in which these first machines were used had to be watched both day and night for several months. From around 1843 the prejudices of the workmen ceased and the demand for Planing machines increased rapidly.
A interesting ideas was used at this time, to license machines in areas, giving each mill owner the exclusive right for a given amount of territory, for which they paid a royalty.
In 1918 an air-powered hand held planing tool was developed to reduce shipbuilding labor during World War I. The air-driven cutter spun at 8000 to 15000 rpm and allowed one man to do the planing work of twenty men using manual tools. Various improvements were made to the construction and to devices to make the machines easier to adjust. Molding machines were developed from 1848 to 1860 in various designs. Mortising Machines The first practical mortising machines was made in 1807 in England and used in the Portsmouth shipyards. In 1826 A Branch of New York invented the square hollow cutters. Tenoning Machines were first invented in 1840. The Band saw This English invention of 1808 was developed by a Frenchman.
There are many sites on the internet covering the history of woodworking tools. Below are some sites which may be of interest for further reading:
vikinganswerlady.com/wood.shtml/Brilliant Viking stuff.
badgerwoodworks.com/category/woodworking-history/ Detail of tools in painting.
ehow.co.uk/info_7895496_late-19th-century-woodworking-tools.html/ 19th Century Tools.
Source by Paul Hatchley Johnson