More tools in paintings, 1588

Kaspar Memberger the Elder - Noah's Ark Cycle: 1. Building of the Ark 1588

I’ve been sifting through old paintings looking for tools from pre-1600 and I found another good one. I use this site, the Web Gallery of Art, to find all these paintings by the way, if you’re looking for a way to burn a few hours on the internet, this place is great.  I had an idea to search on Noah’s Ark pictures, since they frequently depict the building of the Ark using tools of the day.  This one is a great example.

The original image can be found here: I pulled the section with the tools, zoomed it  a little, and lightened it up to get more details on the tools. This painting is by

Painting Details:

Painter: Kaspar Memberger the Elder (1555-1618)
Title of Painting: Noah’s Ark Cycle: 1. Building of the Ark
Date: 1588

There are a couple of really interesting things in this one that I liked.

First the tools:

  • Adze
  • Wood bodied planes.  The handled ones look like the Melancholia plane in Albrecht Dürer’s famous print.
  • T handled augers
  • Two axes
  • Workbench, and Saw Bench
  • Pair of Compasses
  • Bow Saw
  • Chisels
  • Screw clamp

That last one is the most intriguing to me, as I’ve not seen a screw clamp in a pre-1600 context before.  I haven’t really gone out of my way to look for it either, but it’s interesting nonetheless.  I wonder what kind of joint they used to make the C on that.  I’m assuming that it’s a jointed clamp, because otherwise it would just snap along the grain I would imagine.  After the holidays I’m going to be ordering a couple screw box sets from Highland Woodworking and I might try making a couple of these just for kicks.

It’s also a great scene of “job site woodworking” where they have a couple benches and box of tools and getting down to work.  The benches look pretty similar to the sawbench idea that floats around the internet, and you can clearly make construction details on one of them.  There are three different styles of bench shown here. On the left it looks like the legs are either set into mortices or bored holes. The middle one is a much nicer bench with what looks like Gothic styling, and some decorative carving.  The one one the right has the legs set into the side of the top, with cross braces much like the sawbench I build a while back based on a Chris Schwarz design.

Fun stuff.


  1. Derek Olson December 13, 2010

    This is a great piece you’ve found! Thanks a ton for sharing. I have to laugh because I imediately enlarged the picture to have a closer look before I finished reading your post and the screw clamp is the item that really jumped out to me. I wasn’t aware of any documentation of this type of device going back this far. The documentation you have here helps me out quite a bit.
    much appreciated.


  2. Badger December 13, 2010

    The screw clamp was the big surprise for me as well. I’ve been trying to figure out type of joint to use to make one, or if it used one at all?

    I know most people are 17th – 18th century focused because of all the great books available from the time period, but I drift a little earlier because of all my time in the SCA (no longer active, but still very interested in the time period).

    I’ll keep trying to find more of these sources if I can, but it is always hard to search for them.


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