5 – Woodwork in Šumava and the Bavarian Forest

Musical instruments were made out of tone wood, which Šumava had more than enough of until a storm hit it in 1870. What was interesting was the use of wood from great fallen trees which, due to being covered by a layer of soil and cut off from air, did not decompose. This wood was a precious treasure, dug up from the ground and used not only for musical instruments but also for sieves. Small products were often made at home. These included the aforementioned sieves, as well as small planks for violin making, piano action mechanisms, rakes, brooms, shoes, kitchen utensils such as wooden spoons, felloes, shutters, or spinning wheels. A traditional Šumavian custom involved laying the dead upon funeral planks. This was done in winter when the earth was too frozen for a burial. Once the weather allowed it, the body was put in the ground and the plank was decorated, had the deceased’s name carved into it, and was placed either at a crossroads or at the deceased’s favourite place. The plank was smoothed out, usually made out of spruce, fir, or even oak. After the funeral, the plank was decorated by carpenters or carvers and painters. The top was adorned with a small roof and the bottom was put into the ground. In areas that had enough wood, shingles were used in roofing. The oldest ones were long and wide and made out of fir. Sometimes they were laid loosely upon the underlying roof laths and weighted down with stones. Later, the shingle was slanted on one side and the wider side of the plank was placed over the slated side. These were secured with nails. Even later, a spring and slot mechanism was incorporated. Due to the transport cost, shingles used to be made on site, often by Šumavians themselves – the better ones could then be sold while the rest was used for their own need. Apart from clog shoes, ‘neyshls’ were also made for everyday use at home. Because most rural inhabitants could not afford leather shoes, ‘neyshls’ were made partly out of wood and partly out of leather. The bottom part of the shoe was made out of fir. In Old Dlouhá Ves, ‘neyshls’ were made by Willibald Müller in house no. 103. Willibald made them during his free time for his family and friends. The wooden part, as long as the foot it was made for and about 10 centimetres thick, was worked on while fastened in a carpentry stool or a workbench. The shape of the foot was drawn directly onto the wood before cutting and the heel was carved out with a small handsaw. The rough shape was cut with a drawknife, a round chisel was used to hollow out the inside of the shoe and a dull knife was used to soften the whole product. Appropriately sized and shaped piece of leather was fastened to it with upholstery nails. The leather edges were reinforced with leather straps. Shoes made wholly out of wood, clogs, could be made out of beech wood. They lasted a longer but were very uncomfortable. Their waterproofness was heightened by smoking the finished clogs in the chimney. In winter, they could be “cold-proofed” by stuffing the insides with hay.