woodwork around the world

Though the materials, and even some of the tools may be consistent, woodworking takes on a remarkably different character depending where on this Earth you currently stand. Whilst only the trained eye can identify and envision the various techniques, technologies and other trappings of these oaken and ash masterpieces, even one who's a layman when it comes to planed timber can see the clear cultural signifiers. Saving you the trouble of booking a flight, a boat or a bus, we've gathered examples of amazing woodwork from around the world, focusing on the relics of the following 5 countries:

Japan

Carpentry as whole in the land of the rising sun is distinguished by its advanced joinery and finely-planed wood surfaces. There are actually four schools of carpentry within the country; Miyadaiki 宮大工 (the building of wooden shrines and temples), Sukiya-daiku 数奇屋大工 (teahouse and residential carpenters), Sashimono-shi 指し物師 (furniture makers) and Tateguya 建具屋 (interior finishing carpenters.).

Traditional Japanese tables, houses and tables can be made without the use of a single nail, and the project is often chosen for the wood, giving the whole craft a natural feel. From the sensitive nature of Kumiko to the many types of saws, Japanese woodworking is an encyclopaedic topic well worth exploring.

Morocco

The use of wood as a building material has been a widespread tradition in Morocco since the 7th century; the time of the Idrisid Dynasty. Blending Arabo-Andalusian influence with a mind for fragranced timber, the presence of cedar wood, lemon tree wood, thuja and olive trees in the Moroccon valleys and mountains gives a unique template to build upon, and the woodcarving is an art in of itself.

Moroccan woodwork is so intrinsic to the country's history, that in 2013 several artisanal schools were set up in the country to preserve the heritage of the craft.

oseburg ship woodwork

Norway

Though the iconic Beatles song 'Norwegian Wood' is actually talking about very cheap pine, Norway actually has a noteworthy history when it comes to woodwork and carpentry. The Oseberg ship, still well-preserved to this day in Norway, provided examples of many highly carved  examples of woodwork from the Viking age, such as those in the Borre style, which is characterized by gripping beast depictions, knotwork and ring chain patterns, and Ringerike, which includes plant motifs and curvaceous animals.

In terms of carpentry, the Urnes Stave Church is a notable meeting point for Christian architecture and artforms of the Viking Age, whilst the Gokstad Ship is an excellent archaeological example of early wood-painting.

Slovakia

Slovakian wood work has always had specific roles to play within the lives of the country's people. Primarily a decorative art (e.g. for houses, gates, tomb crosses), some of the more notable of these crafts included special jugs known as črpák, wooden spoons that were often sold at the Radvanský jarmok fair in Banská Bystrica, and decorated hives used for bee-keeping.

Whilst in the past these traits were only a supplement to other crafts, in the era of socialism Slovak folk wood-carving underwent a major development. The outcome of this was an increase in "traditional manufacturing", however like Norway, Slovakia enjoys a rich history in wooden church architecture, notably in articulation-style joints.

Vietnam

Experiencing somewhat of a miracle growth in its furniture industry and still home to one of the largest woodwork festivals in the world, the abundance of resources and time-honoured crafts in Vietnam make it a goldmine for historic carpentry buffs. Woodworking tools can be quite expensive, even to this day, so Vietnamese craftworkers usually just make their own. What's also notable is a near absence of dovetail joints, hence the bevelled bench chisel used so prominently in the west is replaced by what can best be described as a firmer chisel with straight sides.

Vietnanmese woodblock prints, also known as Đông Hồ painting, is a folk art with a huge history. Considered a fine reflection of traditional aesthetic value and humanitarian desires, organic materials are used to make special paints that are applied to the wood and pressed on paper, before the process is repeated with various colours. A single woodcut is used for the image's outline, and several others for each of the printed colours, but all are carefully engraved by hand, so that woodcuts can be preserved throughout each generation.

Of course, these are only a handful of woodwork traditions from around the world. If you are familiar with any styles of global carpentry that you would like featured in a future blog, share them with us over at the Woodshop Direct  Facebook page,Twitter and/or Google+.


Post By Graham Ashton