A brief history of woodworking

A brief look at The history of Woodworking.

historic Japanese woodworking

Woodworking dates back to the dawn of humanity

In an age when technology reigns supreme, wood, as important as it is in the world, is frequently overlooked and discounted. Wood is a valuable natural resource that can be used for a wide range of applications. Woodworking has such a long history that it is nearly identical to human history. Woodworking was critical for survival items such as shelters and hunting objects.

Woodworking assisted early human advancement

Wood, along with animal parts, clay, and stone, was one of the most important materials used by early humanity. The development of woodworking skills was inextricably linked to the advancement of human evolution. 

Even our desire to make children happy through wooden toys dates back thousands of years, with evidence found all over the world.Stone, flint, and fire were all used to shape wood into usable shapes.  

Before civilisation and more industrious methods were devised, wood was also shaped using bones, and also used to chisel wood which is remarkable.

As woodworking advanced, so did civilisation

The ancient Chinese and Egyptian civilisations used woodworking, and the early Egyptians glued wood sheets together to make boat hulls as early as 3000 BC. 

Traditional Chinese woodworkers rarely used adhesives or nails in joinery, which I find amazing given the intricate nature of the palaces, temples, and pagodas built with wood. As people learned new techniques and talents, woodworking evolved alongside humanity, eventually becoming an art form.

In ancient Thailand, highly detailed wood figurines were a prominent feature of temples and palaces. Carpenters were frequently tasked with building or repairing ploughs or threshing sleds (used to separate cereals from their straw), fabricating roofing beams, or shaping a yoke for a new team of oxen in the ancient Middle East. Many skilled woodworkers worked in the Roman Empire, often building spectacular warships and barges used to attack enemy cities, as well as powerful and destructive battering rams and catapults.

Japanese woodworking is more than just a traditional craft; it has persisted for more than a thousand years and will be around well into the future.

There are no screws, glue, or nails used with Japanese joinery. It depends entirely on manipulating wood, and the carpenter must join pieces together using locks and intricate designs. This type of woodwork is more difficult than straightforward modern methods because it must perfectly fit the spaces. The intricate nature of Japanese joinery only serves to inspire both experienced woodworkers and beginners.

To build aqueducts and waterworks, the Romans used timber scaffolding, adzes (an ancient and versatile cutting tool similar to an axe but with the cutting edge perpendicular to the handle rather than parallel), files, planes, saws, and drills, particularly the bow drill.

Woodworkers in the middle ages were highly skilled craftspeople. They cut down trees to create furniture, windows, doors, beams, wooden figurines and statues, some of the statues from this period can still be seen today.

Today’s woodworkers who use traditional oriental techniques take great pride in their mastery of the fitting joint and their ability to hold their parts together without the use of electricity, nails, screws, or glues.