H English 12
18 March 2011
Working with wood is a skill that has been around since man created his first tool. From carpentry’s beginnings, it has developed enormously, but in its essence, the tools and techniques our modern carpenters use today are the same as those used in the Stone Age. The Bureau of Labor Statistics defines carpenters as “people who construct, erect, install and repair structures and fixtures made from wood and other materials.” This trade has an extensive history, an expansive modern field, and with it, I plan to build a tree house, thus making a difference in a kid’s life. The term “carpentry” comes from the Late Latin term “carpentum” which means two-wheeled vehicle. The woodworkers of the Roman Empire built the chariots that allowed the fast travel. They also built the foundation for early highways, between which concrete cement was laid. The innovative ideas of these workers allowed for the Romans to conquer and build such a vast empire. The woodworkers were thus named carpenters. Carpentry began many years ago and emerged from nations all over the world. Early Europeans created long, wooden homes from planks of wood that measured up to one hundred feet. A Stone Age city from nine thousand years ago created their buildings from mud bricks, supported by posts and beams. The remnants of these buildings have allowed modern scholars to study the way carpentry has evolved over years and across the different cultures of the nations. The first known city’s population, who lived until at least 5600 B.C., lived in a unified series of structures that all linked together like a giant fort; they had heavy support beams in the walls and for a roof, smaller beams, reeds and packed mud. About thirty-seven centuries ago, on the island of Crete, in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, the natives used wooden columns with a downward taper (opposite of those later made popular by the Greeks) and stone and mud-brick walls to construct the Palace of Knossos, home of the labyrinth housing the fabled Minotaur. One very notable accomplishment was the early Egyptians of four thousand B.C. who were already using copper and metal tools for woodworking. These people were proficient in some of the modern techniques we use now, such as drilling, dovetailing, which is a tight interlocking joint made by using a fan-shaped tenon fitted into a corresponding mortise, mitering, which is creating a diagonal seam at a corner in order to make a right angle, and mortising, or cutting square or rectangular holes, into the lumber. In the twelfth century, carpenter guilds began to form. There were three kinds of member in the guild: masters, journeymen and apprentices. The master carpenter would have a lot of experience and had the ability to take in an apprentice to whom he could pass on his knowledge. The apprentice would live with the master, train with him and would receive food, clothing, shelter and the master’s wisdom in lieu of a paycheck. After a long enough period of time, anywhere between five and nine years, the apprentice could continue on and become a journeyman. He could then work for payment, start his own shop, and after gaining enough experience would take on an apprentice himself and would thus become a “master.” The carpenter’s guilds were the beginning roots that would eventually grow into our modern labor unions and associations. The first Carpenter unions began in 1724 which helped regulate hours and pay for workers and allow for benefits and assistance for the unemployed member workers. After the first Industrial Revolution, a few modifications were made to the basic carpentry tools for greater efficiency, but they retained many of the same characteristics from the original design, most of which we still use today. Axes, hatchets and other thick blades were common for chopping wood, just as it is now. Chisels, which are tools with a sharp beveled edge,...
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