|Last August, after having an early lunch of some most excellent chicken curry at the India Day Festival in Madison Square Garden I began to wonder what tools were used for woodworking in India before the British arrived. I have no idea. |
Continental Europeans use slightly different tools than the English but the difference is subtle. Tons of highly specialized tools were used for professional work in all the pre-industrial trades all over Europe, but the tools have died out. Documentation however exists. Very little documentation in English about tools other than English tools exists.
Both Japanese and Vietnamese tools started out in China, although the Japanese took the tools to new designs. Japanese tools of course are very popular in the US but I don't know any book in English on the history of Japanese tools, although Toshio Odate's "Japanese Woodworking Tools" (currently out of print) is the seminal book in English on current Japanese tools.
The only important book in English on indigenous crafts of China is "China at Work", first published in 1937 by Rudolf Hommel it covers dozens of crafts and has never been equaled. I am reliably informed that there are several major historic Chinese works on the subject of woodworking that have never been translated.
Jennie Alexander told me about "Woodworking in Estonia" with the hope I could figure out how to get it reprinted. I failed, the institute in Estonia that originally published the work is still around but they did not reply to my query. The current English edition was translated by the CIA in the early 1960's but the third generation pictures are terrible.
Finally, "The Traditional Crafts of Persia" by Hans E. Wulff was begun before WW2 but only published in 1967. It only peripherally has any information on woodworking. Certainly there should be something somewhere on woodworking in the Persian and Arabian kingdoms but I don't know where to look.
Back to India.
I can pretty much guess that with the British colonization and importation of British goods the native tool makers would have had a greatly reduced market. By the same token there are tons of really fabulous distinctive Indian woodcarving and cabinetry from the all periods. My question is how do you go about making this stuff? And were there special tools used? Are there any books on traditional crafts that I just don't know about - Stuff that hasn't been published in the US. I know on YouTube there are tons of videos made all over the world showing techniques that are unfamiliar in the west.
This is important for several reasons: Globalization has meant that traditional crafts are dying all over the world and knowledge is being lost. In the US with our more and more eclectic tastes, exposure to more design and craft traditions means more options for making interesting stuff.
I leave you with a request. If you know of any books or other material or media, about traditional woodworking crafts, especially tools, from other parts of the world drop me a line. The English Industrial revolution produced great tools, (and in many cases drove other distinctive tools to extinction) but other cultures also did great woodworking and without their specialized tools the work will be lost.
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