The old time woodshop journals #22: Wonders of German Woodcraft!

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Blog entry by jjw5858 posted 08-20-2012 09:42 PM 4280 reads 0 times favorited 7 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 21: Technology and woodwork Part 22 of The old time woodshop journals series Part 23: Why I make spoons »

I always try to be as open as possible to anything that can jut a feeling of inspiration for my impulses of creativity. Recently I was lucky to catch a wonderful episode of Rick Steves. This particular trip he was in Germany and I caught the portion of the show where he was in Rothenburg at the St. James Church. Contained within this massive glorious structure was something that definitely made my jaw drop….the fantastic woodcarving held as the center piece of the church by Tilman Riemenschneider. This amazing work is entitled Holy Blood altarpiece.

If I or anyone of us were to ever get too proud of anything we might achieve in the fine arts of woodcraft I am not sure it could ever begin to be on the same avenue as this structure. Just seeing it for mere seconds was truly something to behold. The beauty of the church in and of itself also is an inspiring vision to any artisan.

Tilman Riemenschneider (c. 1460 – 7 July 1531) was a German sculptor and woodcarver active in Würzburg from 1483. He was one of the most prolific and versatile sculptors of the transition period between late Gothic and Renaissance, a master in stone and limewood. (for more on this please see wikipedia)

Yes things like that have a way of making you go….wow…lol.

My brief studies on amazed me to see how of much of my roots are in fact from Germany (Maybe this explains my stubborn nature and love of beer…lol). This seems so ironic that recently I was also lucky to get my first chance to purchase what else? first German wood plane!

Of course some trials and errors with these wonderful old instruments of handcrafted wood. I praised it, I cursed it, and finally we got shavings after quickly making a new wedge for the one that was missing. I think this is a wonderful feeling and working plane for its age. I definitely am a fan of the style now as the ergonomics of the outfit are a natural fit for doing some handwork.

I found it sort of comical in retrospect working things out with this old plane. It was funny because I pose the question ….do any of you almost get insulted when a blade is as dull as butter? Well I seem to now, since I have learned what a finely sharp blade is….lol. Silly I know….this piece is old and needs treatment and yet that quick trigger was there like a smack to the face….what?......dull!!!!!???

Although the dullness gets repaired with honing the rewards and satisfaction of a freshly sharpened blade are something only a lover of woodcraft can truely appreciate I would say. To test run this relic of German built craftsmanship was a nice moment to see, feel, and get more of an understanding of how much pride was put into it’s production. I respect the age and find myself enjoying the instruments wonderful workings by treating it much like an old classic car, clean it up, tune it up, take it for a few shaves, show it off to some buddies and then put her away with a smile.

With all of this newly found inspiration I also glady add to this blog Roy Underhills episode of
German Woodcraft in Amercia. Great show with lot’s of interesting history on this theme.

I hope this small trip into the world of German woodcraft might inspire your ideas and spark your own search into the various cultures around the world of styles and ideas.

Till then, I think I shall get into thy truck…and purchase a fine bottle of German Hefeweizen!

Great shavings my friends, Auf Wiedersehen!


-- "Always continue to learn, laugh and share!" JJW

7 comments so far

View Monte Pittman's profile

Monte Pittman

29235 posts in 2339 days

#1 posted 08-20-2012 09:53 PM

I wish o had the time & patients to really do some of this type of woodworking.

-- Nature created it, I just assemble it.

View jaykaypur's profile


4017 posts in 2409 days

#2 posted 08-20-2012 10:38 PM

Very informative and humbling piece of info. LOL

-- Use it up, Wear it out --------------- Make it do, Or do without!

View Roger's profile


20928 posts in 2805 days

#3 posted 08-20-2012 10:48 PM

Oh my…. That took me breath away… Holy, ....... well, Wow

-- Roger from KY. Work/Play/Travel Safe. Keep your dust collector fed.

View oldnovice's profile


6855 posts in 3368 days

#4 posted 08-20-2012 11:46 PM


The first time I saw carving like that, I was 12 years old and my grandparents where visiting from Germany. It was in the town of Spillville Iowa at the Bily clock museum! I have no current photographs as they do not allow photography inside the museum but there are life size animated clocks i.e. a blacksmith shop where the blacksmith strikes the time on his anvil etc.!

If you are a subscribing member of Woodcarving Illustrated there are some photos on that site

Clock museum

I doubt that anyone would make a special trip there but if out are in the neighborhood it is worth a stop!

-- "I never met a board I didn't like!"

View Dave's profile


11429 posts in 2841 days

#5 posted 08-21-2012 01:29 AM

Joe an inspiring piece you have written. Well done.

-- Superdav "No matter where you go - there you are."

View Woodwrecker's profile


4149 posts in 3576 days

#6 posted 08-21-2012 03:06 AM

I was actually in that Church in Germany on a trip in high school (IN 1972) and although I remember how spectacular the carvings were, I was too young to be in to woodworking like I am now.
How I would like to go back there now !

-- Eric, central Florida / Utor praemia operibus duris

View Brit's profile


7376 posts in 2843 days

#7 posted 08-22-2012 08:06 PM

I’d love to know how long that took to make. Incredible work. Thanks for bringing it to our attention Joe.

-- - Andy - Old Chinese proverb says: "If you think something can't be done, don't interrupt man who is doing it."

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