May 29, 2023


Digital Art Community

A 17th-century Tool Treasury
Fig. 2.29 Published many times over the years, the Stent panel is still an eye-opener for period tool historians. With the turner and joiner working in one shop together, it is clearly not a London product. In that city, these trades were separated by regulation. While the details might be less-than-ideal (are those moulding planes backward?) and the perspective off, the panel still brings us close to stepping into an English shop of the day. Just look at the joiner’s stance for planing.
Courtesy of Dr. J.F. Stent of Shere, Surrey

Excerpted from “Make a Joint Stool from a Tree,” by Jennie Alexander and Peter Follansbee.

One of the best references for studying 17th-century tools is the carving known as the “Stent” panel. It shows a joiner and turner working in a shop, surrounded by the tools of their craft. The joiner is planing a piece of stock at the bench, his fittings are clearly depicted. These include the bench itself, with its holes for the holdfast (which appears underneath the bench) and the bench hook, against which the joiner is planing a board. Hanging behind him are some planes, chisels and a pair of compasses.

The turner in the panel is working a pole lathe, turning a large pillar for a cupboard. This lathe makes use of a springy pole in the ceiling, tied to a foot treadle, to make the workpiece spin on the lathe’s pikes. The cord is wrapped around the workpiece, and as the turner tromps on the treadle, the entire mechanism works to rotate the stock back and forth. The cutting action is on the downward stroke. The pole springs back to return the stock for the next spin downward. The turner’s tools are likewise hanging on the wall behind him: gouges, chisels and his own pair of compasses. Between the two workmen are a hatchet, saw and low bench. Presumably both craftsmen use these tools in roughing out their stock to size.

This panel is the next best thing to being inside a joiner’s and turner’s workshop. It imparts a level of accuracy that greatly enhances our understanding of these trades and their workings. This is primarily because, unlike an engraving, it is cut by a woodworker whose familiarity with the tools provides a first-hand image of the actions in the shop.