Woodworking History

Wood has been shaped by various tradespeople throughout history. But the usage of wood in various ways has also helped to shape cultures. For example, in ancient Egypt acacia wood was used to build furniture and other objects. Later on, the ancient Biblical Hebrews also made great use of this unique wood to design and construct the Ark of the Covenant, which is the encasement of the most holy objects for the Jewish people: Tablets of the Ten Commandments and the first Torah scroll. “One researcher has noted, “This wood is resistant to decay because the tree deposits in the heartwood many waste substances which are preservatives and render the wood unpalatable to insects making the wood dense and difficult to be penetrated by water and other decay agents.”[1]

Throughout the development of various civilizations in the near and far East, wooden objects, such as; chairs and other furniture were connected using mortise and tenons. This unique technological advancement may have its origins in ancient Egypt, but helped to shape wood working in China and Japan. “One reason for Japan’s success in such excellent woodworking was that they developed high-carbon steel tools early in their history.”[2] Is wood as strong as steel? “Pound for pound, wood is stronger than steel.  Unlike steel, it is also resilient.  This combination of strength and resiliency gives wood the ability to absorb the shock of heavy loads providing a greater margin of safety than many other materials.”[3] “…he team from the institute’s Wallenberg Wood Science Center claim that the new fiber could be used as a biodegradable replacement for many filament materials made today from imperishable substances such as fiberglass, plastic, and metal. And all this from a substance that requires only water, wood cellulose, and common table salt to create it.”[4]

Romans further developed the try square, plumb line and chalk line, which were specialized tools utilized by the ancient Egyptians. Each succeeding dynasty of human civilization built upon the trade knowledge of the prior one. During construction of various buildings and other structures, wood was initially utilized for scaffolding, ramps and frames to support arches, until the mortar hardened. Thereafter, the wood was discarded or if it was still usable, then it was incorporated into another project. This initial adaptation of wood for construction of structures made of stone and mortar could possibly explain the building of the ancient Egyptian pyramids.






[1] http://ww2.odu.edu/~lmusselm/plant/bible/acacia.php

[2] http://www.wagnermeters.com/wood-moisture-meter/woodworking-history/

[3] http://www.appalachianwood.org/utilization.htm

[4] http://www.gizmag.com/steel-strong-fibers-wood-cellulose/32432/



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