3 – Woodwork in Šumava and the Bavarian Forest

To power itself, the sawmill used the flow of Šumavian streams and rivers which had enough water throughout the year. If that was not the case, small ponds were constructed above mills and sawmills and their water could be used to power the mill wheel instead. Planks made up the majority of Šumavian sawmills’ products (the German name die Brettsäge = plank sawmill). In winter, or just as a supplement to the main production, sawmills would also make wooden boxes of various sizes and purposes. The products were then taken from the sawmill to the nearest train station and from there to bigger towns. The carpenter would make half-timbered structures, log structures, wooden ceilings, rafters, doorframes, wooden staircases, and floors. He would also cover the rafters in laths and shingles, make barn doors or build fences. His tools included axes, wedges and a hammer. To work on wooden beams, he needed a hatchet, a straight and a curved adze, a drawknife, pitons, and measuring equipment such as a plumb line or a compass. To build ceilings, either round logs, carved beams, or planks. Woodworking specialisations developed over time. Joiners specialised in furniture, while others focused on building shops and pens. Some were specialised bridgebuilders and shipbuilders, and some drilled wooden pipes for water distribution. Hatchet men built simple mechanisms, such as mills. The trade was usually passed down within families, from one generation to the next. During the Middle Ages, joiners were often called ‘table-makers’ as tables were their main products. Joiners would then specialise further in either common, artistic, or furniture joinery. Some would also specialise in making specific furniture pieces, such as chairs, benches, cradles, or beds. The very skilled ones could become carvers or make musical instruments. Furniture was usually made out of spruce or fir wood, the more expensive pieces from chestnut. Individual parts were fitted into each other using either dovetailed joints or other methods and glued together. The surfaces were then smoothed and evened out by grinding or by using a putty. The joiners also able to make their own varnish, oil, and polish. Wheelers would make not only wheels but whole carriages. In this, they often collaborated with blacksmiths who made the metal parts. Felloes were made mainly from beech, wheel hubs from elm, and wheel spikes from oak. The tongue used to pull the carriage was made out of young elms or maples and the sides from oak or birch. Wooden wire, long thin pieces of wood used in match production, was often made at home and sold to match factories. It was be ‘pulled’ out of spruce wood. The production of wooden wire was fairly simple. It was made using a jack-plane with a modified blade. The jack-plane was fitted onto a sawbuck. The finished wooden wire was left to dry out and then bound into packages of 100 pieces. Later it began to be made using machinery directly in match factories. The wire was cut into ten centimetre long pieces of wood which were then packaged and dipped in melted sulphur and phosphorus. Even round matchboxes were often made at home. Wooden wire was also used to in the production of window shutters.