Carpenters have been on the earth since the dawn of time – quite literally. Although woodworking and woodcarving as art wasn’t developed until more recent times, man has long used woodworking for utilitarian purposes.
This included carving weapons for defense and hunting, and tools for building shelter and other structures as well. In this post, I’ll go the two earliest civilizations who adopted the craft of woodworking and who actually employed the use of carpenters as a profession and occupation, beginning with…
The Early Chinese
It is believed that woodworking exploded amongst the early Chinese civilizations as far back as 720 B.C. During this time, many intricacies of woodworking were developed among the Chinese including precise measurements used for making pots, tables, and other pieces of furniture.
Going further, one of the most famous carpenters of the time was Lu Ban, who is credited as one of the originators of woodworking in China. We know today, that Lu wrote a book known as the “Manuscripts of Lu Ban,” which chronicled his work as a carpenter and provided other woodworkers the knowledge they needed to master their craft.
We know about the Egyptians and their vast knowledge and ability when it came to carpentry work because of the many woodcarving pieces unearthed in Egyptian tombs.
According to some scholars, Egyptians were the first to put “finishes” on their artwork. Finishing is basically the art of placing some sort of protective sealant on wooden material in order to enhance its preservation. Common “finishes” used today include wax, drying oils, and paint, and most of these finishes are either brushed or sprayed onto a finished product.
Alongside their use of “finishes”, the Egyptians were also one of the first people to use veneering in their woodwork. For those of you who are not familiar with veneering, its the common term used to denote the practice of gluing thin slices of wood onto core panels in order to produce flat surfaces that become doors and the tops of panels.
The woodworking knowledge that the Chinese and Egyptians possessed most certainly spread to other parts of the civilized world in ancient times as archeological finds have unearthed plenty of woodworking gems and beauties created by the Greeks, Babylonians, Persians, and many other dated civilizations.
Obviously this mastery of the craft of woodworking has been passed on from generation to generation, and has even been enhanced in modern times with the use of machinery and technology.
In ending, its important to note the advances that our forefathers made when it came to arts and crafts, including woodwork. Without their keen knowledge and insights which have been passed on even up until today, who knows if mankind would have the wherewithal and creativity that they now have when it comes to arts and crafts.
This is just another example of why we should be grateful for those who came before us, and for the lessons they’ve taught us throughout history.