A Workbench from Pompeii

Daedalus and Pasiphae discussing the pantomime cow. Wall mural from Pompeii, 1st century A.D.

The art and artifacts from Pompeii have been much on my mind since the major new excavations have been published the past couple years.  I was looking at this wall mural and noticed the very Roman workbench in the lower left, complete with bench dogs while the young carpenter whacks away with hammer and chisel.

Detail from Daedalus and Pasiphae.

At his feet lies his bow drill and what may be a small adze of some sort.  I have no idea what he’s working on here but it might be germane to the larger legend of Queen Pasiphae of Greek myth (here meeting with Daedalus the artificer who is constructing special hobby cow for her to ride in for special activities).

Of course, I wish there were more details of the carpenter but this looks very much like one of my benches or one of a million others built since Pompeii was buried; a heavy plank, four friction-fitted legs, and placed at a comfortable sitting height.  Standing all day is for suckers.

If you don’t know this story it is a Roman interpretation of a Greek literal interpretation of a Minoan myth about the daughter of the Sun and Ocean who became queen of Minos and did some very weird things.  I suggest you look for it elsewhere in order to keep this page PG-13.

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Of the Hammer, and its Use

Lost Art Press

dutch_toolchest_1696

This Tool was forgot to be deſcribed in Joinery, though they uſe Hammers too, and therefore I bring it in here. Its chief Uſe is for driving Nails into Work, and drawing Nails out of Work.

There is required a pretty skill in driving a Nail; for if (when you ſet the point of a Nail) you be not curious in obſerving to ſtrike the flat face of the Hammer perpendicularly down upon the perpendicular of the Shank, the Nail (unleſs it have good entrance) will ſtart aſide, or bow, or break; and then you will be forced to draw it out again with the Claw of the Hammer. Therefore you may ſee a reaſon when you buy a Hammer, to chuſe one with a true flat Face.

A little trick is ſometimes uſed among ſome (that would be thought cunning Carpenters) privately to touch the…

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