Every culture in the world has utilised wood to build practical as well as attractive and ornamental things from ancient times to the present. Ancient Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, and Chinese woodwork are all represented. Woodwork was also performed by many other ancient societies across the world, using a variety of styles and techniques.
Throughout history, primitive weapons for defence and hunting, as well as basic tools for shelter construction, have been utilised. At the Kalambo Falls on the Kalambo River, near the Zambian-Tanzanian border, archaeologists uncovered a wooden club and digging sticks.
Man grew better at killing animals for sustenance, clearing ground with his axe to produce crops, and building boats, houses, and furniture as his woodworking abilities improved. As a result, woodworking became an essential technique in the evolution of civilizations.
Because there is so much information to cover in the history of woodworking, this article will concentrate on woodworking from antiquity through the Middle Ages, with an emphasis on a few of the most notable civilizations. Other civilizations’ woodworking will be removed – not because it is less important, but because of the enormous volume of material.
Beds, chairs, stools, tables, beds, and chests are seen in many ancient Egyptian paintings dating back to 2000 B.C. The fact that many of these wooden artefacts were found well-preserved in tombs due to the country’s dry environment adds to the evidence. Some of the sarcophagi (coffins) discovered in the tombs were made of wood.
Ancient Egyptian woodworkers were known for practising their art on a regular basis and creating ways that would benefit future generations. For example, they developed the technique of veneering, which entails bonding thin pieces of wood together. The oldest evidence of veneering were discovered in Semerkhet’s tomb around 5,000 years ago. Objects with African ebony veneer and ivory inlays were buried with several of the pharaohs.
Some academics claim that Egyptians were the first to varnish, or “finish,”. Their woodwork, however no one knows what these “finishes” were made of. The technique of applying a protective sealer to wood items in order to preserve them is known as finishing.
Axes, adzes, chisels, pull saws, and bow drills were among the instruments employed by ancient Egyptian woodworkers. Mortise and tenon joints were also employed to attach pieces of wood during the pre-dynastic era (approximately 3100 B.C., around the time of the first pharaoh). These connections were reinforced with pegs, dowels, and leather or cord lashings. During the New Kingdom period (1570 – 1069 B.C.), animal glue was utilised.
In a third-dynasty coffin, Egyptologists discovered the world’s oldest piece of plywood. It was built up of six four-millimeter-thick layers of wood fastened together by wooden pegs. The Egyptians built their furniture and other things out of a variety of woods. Native acacias, local sycamore, and tamarisk trees provided the wood. They began importing cedar, Aleppo pine, boxwood, and oak from various regions of the Middle East when deforestation began in the Nile Valley beginning in the Second Dynasty. They also imported ebony from Egyptian colonies, which they used to make funerary goods like inlaid wooden chests.
Noah, one of the Bible’s earliest woodworkers, is mentioned in the Book of Genesis. After God revealed his intention to flood the planet to eliminate a corrupt mankind. He gave Noah a 120-year project to build an ark out of cypress wood that was covered inside and out with pitch. God gave him and his three sons specific instructions and measurements. The dimensions of the ark were 300 cubits length, 50 cubits broad, and 30 cubits tall. We obtain an Ark that is at least 450 feet long, 75 feet broad, and 45 feet tall if we convert cubits to feet using the Hebrew cubit of 17.5 inches (about the size of a 4-story building).
Because wood was a simple material to work with and shape, craftsmen employed it in a variety of ways. Wood was used to make weapons and siege devices. They used local woods to build houses, temples, boats, furniture, ploughs, and even coffins, or imported exquisite, fragrant timbers from other countries for specific purposes. They also carved wood sculptures and other ornamental items. Wood scaffolding was utilised to help in the building of stone constructions by woodworkers.
As civilizations progressed, new tools for cutting and shaping wood were created, or old ones were refined. The majority of the hand tools used by woodworkers today haven’t altered much since ancient times. Many finished products have been ruined due to the failure to monitor the moisture level of a piece of wood and allow it to acclimatise to the surrounding environment before utilising it. It’s one of the reasons why numerous wooden artefacts from previous ages have gone.