Wood-Making Shop

Origins

The wood-making craft has been knownsince ancient times. Even thousands of years ago cave dwellers were familiarwith the basic wood-making skills. Instead of special tools they used shells,teeth and bones of animals, stones. The birthplace the advanced andsophisticate wood-making craft is considered to be Ancient Egypt where the mainwood-processing technologies, tools, basic types of furniture and utensils weredeveloped and made. With time the wood-making craft turned into a real art.

Wood-making craft in Belarus

The wood-making craft was one of themost important businesses for Belarusians. As early as the 11-13th cc.they knew all the wood-processing and making techniques including engraving,joinery, cooperage, turnery.

Wood was used to build not only storagesand houses but religious buildings such as chapels and churches, ramparts,gates and fortifications as well. Every house was full of household articlesand tools made from wood. They included boats, sledges, wagons, carts andcarriages, spindles, distaffs, spinning wheels, reels, different types oftableware, tables, benches and other kinds of furniture.

As researchers believe, in the 10-12thcc. in Belarus wooden articles were made not by craftsmen but by localsthemselves who had basic wood-making skills since childhood.

Usually there was no any specialwood-making shop in a household. Instead, the so-called seni, that is the partof a house similar to a mud room and porch, was used. There opposite theentrance door a workbench stood.

Various tools such as planes,braces, set squares, marking gauges and others were either hung on the wall orput on shelves or a workbench itself.

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Types of wood-making craft

Carpentry, i.e. the construction of permanentbuildings from logs, was a common business. Practically each adult man coulderect a cabin and some household outbuildings on his own. Though, generally he wasassisted by relatives and home folks. Professional carpenters usually wentsomewhere to work and teams of professionals constructed bridges and dams,mills, churches.

Usually in the village anexperienced carpenter was at the same time a joiner who made differentfurniture, household articles, agricultural tools, and some other smallelements of houses and storages such as doors, window frames, ladders, etc.

The so-called stellmach (awheelwright in English) specialized on making both different animal-driventransport, i.e. wagons, carts, sulkies, char-a-bancs, sledges, as well as theirmain parts which are wheels and runners. Basically, wagons and sledges weremade in every village but making of wheels that required special knowledgeusually was performed only by wheelwrights.

A cooper made barrels and otherwooden containers from staves, i.e. narrow long thoroughly planed and shapedstrips of wood. Buckets, churns, vats, washing tubs, dough troughs were orderedto be made by a cooper.

Turners made lathed tableware,distaffs, spindles, parts of furniture, toys, etc. The turning lathe has beenknown in Belarus since the 11th c.

Before people started to turnarticles they had hollowed them out of a large piece of wood. That was the wayhow spoons, bowls, plates, cups, ladles, flasks, mugs, hives and some kinds offurniture were made.


Wood Engraving

Engraving is the oldest way ofdecorating wooden articles. It was used to adorn vessels and buildings,furniture and tableware, turning lathes and spinning wheels. In the past anyornamentation had not only a decorating function but also embodied a hugesystem of various symbols and codes. Thus, for example, the most popular oneswere the so-called solar symbols. The sun embodied the beginning of life andinnocence of a man. Therearealsoknownsomeothersymbols. For instance, the tree is a symbol ofinterconnection of all the things in the world. It is a symbol of a familywhere roots are ancestors; a trunk is a present living generation whereas acrown is a future one. The horse embodies fertility and happiness. Geese, swansand ducks symbolize a good beginning while cocks, peacocks and hens ward offthe evil eye.


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