Cowart 1Kyle CowartMs. BennettBritish Literature9 September 2011 The Evolution of Carpentry Anyone can recount a story about a chair falling apart when sat on and can recognize howimportant good carpentry is. For thousands of years people have worked with wood because ofits availability and malleability. The world of carpentry is split into two major categories: roughand fine carpentry (also known as cabinetry). Rough carpentry is all about the frame andstructure of a house or building. Buildings in the medieval ages were almost completely built ofwood and required more hands-on work of a carpenter. The reason why carpenters mainlyworked on rough carpentry was because for the time, rough carpentry was used to build andassemble homes, whereas fine carpentry was used to personalize and accessorize a home. Unlikemedieval homes, most contemporary houses rely on wooden frames for structural support, toattach siding, build the interior walls, and ultimately finish the house; and fine carpentry hasbecome the standard, building furniture and the overall interior of a home. The manufacturing offine carpentry has ranged from produced and assembled by machines to hand-built by a singleperson. The range of a fine carpenter has become varied in description, from joining molding ortrim to building cabinets, shelves, or desks. Medieval carpentry was entirely handmade usingsimple tools, whereas modern carpentry has become more computerized and machined, whilestill using hand tools. With the evolution of woodworking tools, along with the primary emphasison fine rather than rough carpentry, modern carpentry has become more artistic then industrial.
Cowart 2 During the Middle Ages the size of one’s house and the woodwork in it was a statement ofone’s wealth. In the Middle Ages rough carpentry was used heavily in the construction ofhouses. A home was designed and built by a carpenter and, depending on size and cost of theproject, the carpenter worked with a stone mason to build the home. While stone may have beenadded to some buildings, the biggest part of a building was made with timber wood(“Carpentry”). Rough carpentry was important because the carpenters made the homes, thebuildings, and part of the actual interior (“Carpentry”). Signs of wealth in the medieval age werethe items in one’s house, whether furniture or art. The lower classes had furniture, but it was notof the same structural and artistic quality found in upper class homes. Fine carpenters wouldoften etch intricate designs into their works which often increased the value of the finishedproduct. However, because of such a wide gap between rich and poor, these fine carpenters wererarer and mainly built cabinetry. During the Middle Ages tools and technology advanced carpentry in the building ofbigger and stronger homes. There were primarily two types of tools: edging tools and drilling orboring tools. Edging tools range from percussion tools, such as an axe (“Percussion Tools”), andactual slicing tools, such as a carpenter’s plane (“Plane”). An axe is one of the oldestwoodworking tools; it was originally used with stone axe heads but by the Middle Ages had ironaxe heads (“Percussion Tools”). The reason for the more advanced material is so the headsurvives the kinetic energy that is placed on the wood that it is trying to divide (“PercussionTools”). Usually an axe is used to cut large sections of trees, whereas a saw cuts smaller sectionsof wood and creates cleaner cuts of wood. While a saw is a simple tool, it is more advanced thanan axe, which is a primitive tool. Carpenters in the Middle Ages did not have sandpaper; theyused a carpenter’s plane. A carpenter’s plane is a thin slice of metal that is attached to a handle
Cowart 3and was used to remove excess and rough surfaces (“Plane”). A small bladed tool, called achisel, is used to make ornate designs in furniture. This tool can be used just as an edging toolbut can also be used with a mallet or hammer, to give extra force to the chisel. Another toolcarpenters had access to was a hand drill, which made holes into wooden pieces. One of thesesimple drills is a bow and drill which uses the string of the bow to power the drill bit. By movingthe bow back and forth the string, revolves the drill, speeding up the drill and requiring less work(“Hand Tool”). The holes could be used in conjunction with dowels to increase the strength of ajoint (“Joint.”). Another way to increase the strength of a joint was to use a nail, which is a smallpiece of iron or other metal that was used to connect two pieces of wood together without the useof a bow and drill. The joints helped increase overall strength in a home or carpentry piece.Another way Presently, fine carpentry has replaced rough carpentry in terms of practicality. Todayrough carpentry is just building the structure of a home so that the siding and interior can beadded. Several parts are created offsite and driven to the construction site for assembly. Thereason for offsite assembly is that it is cheaper and more efficient to build the major wood piecesby machine than by hand. Once at the site the parts are assembled and then the siding and theinterior are completed. Larger shops employ large computerized machinery that can speed upcompletion time and reduce the likelihood of errors in a piece in the first place (Panella).However, because of the limited creativity of building houses, many carpenters are moving overto fine carpentry (Panella). The use of computerized machinery is also prevalent with furnituremaking. Machines enable woodworking shops to build their own parts and assemble them fasterthan ordering parts to use with their products. Now there are big carpentry shops designed tobuild large sections of fine carpentry or cabinetry. Also, there are many smaller one to ten man
Cowart 4shops that also produce fine carpentry. The disadvantage of these smaller shops is that they donot always get the newest of technologies and usually have to rely on outdated machines to helpcompete with larger companies. After centuries of building with wood, tools begin to make things easier and make worksmore precise. Today people still use simple tools such as hammers, axes, saws, and chisels. Thebig difference between medieval and contemporary simple tools is the materials of which theyare made. While Middle Age tools were made of iron and wood, advanced technologies havegiven contemporary tools steel and carbon fiber materials which make stronger and better tools(“Percussion Tools”). These advancements allow for more work to be done and the durability ofeach tool is increased. However, with modern materials, come modern technologies and toolsfrom the Middle Ages got a major upgrade in the twentieth century. Bows and drills becamephased out and replaced with electric powered drills, capable of doing the same work in a muchshorter time. In the Middle Ages blacksmiths could make iron nails which could be used toassemble cabinets or other furniture. However, these nails took much longer to make due toproducing workable iron in order to make the nails. While hammers and nails are still in usetoday, screws and screwdrivers are used more frequently because of their ability to hold woodtogether longer. Screws, a more recent invention, use angled spirals to grip the wood tighter andsecure the wood in place and have the ability to be easily removed. Routers have become the toolof choice for drilling holes and designs into wood and are powered by a small motor (“Router”).In the late twentieth and early twentieth-first century, computerized machines are able toaccurately and easily cut sections of wood and carve intricate designs into the sections of wood.A Computerized Numeric Control machine, also known as a CNC, is a router attached to acomputer, controlled by a series of motors synchronized to the computer (Panella). Upon
Cowart 5entering designs into the computer, the CNC machine begins to use the router to etch away at thewood and create an accurate, but rough design (Panella). CNC machines take away much of thelong work of either doing a rough design by hand or by router, and create the design accurately.The remaining work is to sand the piece smooth or run it through the CNC machine with anadditional design. Since the main work is done thanks to a CNC machine this allows awoodworker to put more of his concentration into the actual artistic nature of their project andtruly make it a piece of art by sanding, etching, or staining the piece. Today many largewoodworking shops are investing in CNC machines and people who know how to operate themto help maximize their profit (Panella). By having skilled graphic artists they can create anartistic or even more technical design into the wood or multiple sections of wood to piecetogether thereby increasing the value. The practice of working with wood has been in use for a very long time, starting with thefirst axe in the Stone Age. Since then woodworking has evolved from the use of simple toolsemployed in the Middle Ages to advanced computerized machines. Due to the advancements oftechnologies, the shift from rough to fine carpentry was made. In medieval times people repliedon rough carpentry for their homes and did not see the need for using fine carpentry. They usedsimple tools that they had in order to make the homes in which they lived. By using saws, axes,and drills, carpenters in the medieval age worked to raise the homes that they made for people.However, today, rough carpentry is not nearly the hands-on work it was in the Middle Ages, withparts being assembled offsite. Now fine carpentry is increasingly popular among woodworkersbecause of the job market. After years of evolution in carpentry, the tools and the styles ofcarpentry show that they have moved away from the technical component and artistic nature ismore prevalent. Since today’s carpentry is centered on the artistic nature of the project and the
Cowart 6technology used is becoming more advanced, it is an interesting thought to think about what thefutures holds for carpentry in the twenty-second century.
Cowart 7 Works Cited“Carpentry.” Encyclopaedia Britannica Online. N.p., Aug. 2011. Web. 31 Aug. 2011. <http://www.school.eb.com/eb/article-9020465?query=Wood%20working&ct=eb>.“Furniture Industry.” Encyclopaedia Britannica Online. N.p., n.d. Web. 2 Sept. 2011. <http://www.school.eb.com/eb/article-66835?query=Woodworking&ct=>.“Hand Tool Edged Tools.” Encyclopaedia Britannica Online. N.p., n.d. Web. 1 Sept. 2011. <http://www.school.eb.com/eb/article-39193>.“Hand Tool Drills.” Encyclopaedia Britannica Online. N.p., n.d. Web. 2 Sept. 2011. <http://www.school.eb.com/eb/article-39219?query=biblical%20hand%tools&ct=null>Panella, John. “CNC Skills Help Carpentry Students Snare High-Paying Jobs.” Galileo. N.p., n.d. Web. 1 Sept. 2011. <http://web.ebscohost.com/ehost/detail?sid=787f22da- be2f-48be-a6e8 005f10b434d3%40sessionmgr115&vid=1&hid=125&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2 ZQ%3d%3d#db=a9h&AN=25069585“Percussion Tools.” Encyclopaedia Britannica Online. N.p., Aug. 2011. Web. 31 Aug. 2011. <http://www.school.eb.com/eb/article-39212?query=Wood%20working&ct=>.“Plane.” Encyclopaedia Britannica Online. N.p., n.d. Web. 1 Sept. 2011. <http://www.school.eb.com/eb/article-9060295?query=Carpentry%20tools&ct=>.“Router.” Encyclopaedia Britannica Online. N.p., n.d. Web. 1 Sept. 2011. <http://www.school.eb.com/eb/article-9064233?query=Carpentry%20tools&ct=>.“Joint.” Encyclopaedia Britannica Online. N.p., n.d. Web.2 Sept. 2011. <http://www.school.eb.com/eb/article-9043890?query=carpentry&ct=null.>