A 1510 Joiners Tool Set

The Four Social Conditions- Work by Jean Bourdichon

Details on Painting:
Artist: Jean Bourdichon b. 1457, d. 1521 Tours, France
Title: The Four Social Conditions- Work
Date of painting: 1510 (from “The history of woodworking tools” by W. L Goodman)

I ran across this great picture of a painting dated to 1510 of a Joiner in his workshop. I love these old pictures, because you can get a glimpse of the work and tools from a distant past.

A lot of discussion has happened about tools and work from the 17th century, due to a number of excellent books available in reprint these days, but there really isn’t a lot of resources available for pre-1600’s woodworking.

Here is one of the rare instances that I’ve seen that shows things so very clearly. It also shows a snapshot of life back then. The child on the floor collecting shavings for use in the fireplace presumably, the wife working on something, maybe weaving? But for me the really great part is the tools.

You can clearly see the following tools:

  • Jointer or Try Plane
  • Smoothing Plane
  • Chisels of several types
  • Mallet
  • Square
  • Compass
  • Small axe
  • Bowsaw
  • Piercer or Brace

That’s a pretty solid set of tools.  In the foreground you can see a linenfold carved chest, and the background you can see a gothic style carved chest. What little research I’ve done on this time period says that this is the transition period between those two styles of carving.

Interesting stuff.



  1. Gary Roberts December 9, 2010

    One of the best of the early images depicting our favorite activity! I’ve always felt that the artist knew firsthand of the workings of a woodworkers shop. The details in the tools and the cabinet scream ‘I Know What I Am Talking About!’.

    Thanks for bringing this one to our attention. I’ve seen a black & white version, but not the color.


  2. Badger December 9, 2010

    It’s a great image for sure.

    I looked for quite a while to find this one, as most of the time searches bring the site for Art.com where you can buy the print, which I might do someday.

  3. Jim B December 9, 2010

    Do you have the name of the artist and/or the name of the piece?

  4. Badger December 9, 2010

    Good point Jim, I added the details to the post. I first found the reference to this in Goodman’s book, and dug through the internet to find a copy of it online. Unfortunately most searches send you to a hundred variations of Art.com and want you to buy the print. It pollutes the search so much it’s hard to find details about the painter himself.

  5. Andrew Young May 4, 2011

    I have a pretty extensive collection of period tools from the 16th to 18th century. Ill have to take pics and post them. They are still out there…gotta look under rocks but they are often there, and sometimes even in plain sight.

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