Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Mästermyr tools

In this month's Wooden Boat magazine, an article by Don Weber illustrates making a replica of the Mästermyr tool chest, from 1100 A.D. in Sweden. Discovered in 1936, a farmer was plowing his field and the plow snagged a chain, which was connected to the wooden tool box containing tools from the Viking era. Some speculate that the original tool chest probably belonged to a ship's carpenter and fell from the vessel while at high tide. You can learn more Here, where you can also see photos of the original chest and contents.

Weber's article offers an interesting project that could be accomplished with the same tools that were  found in the box. You could make it with what you may have in your own wood shop. Many of the tools found in the box, hammers, drills, files, saws and the like, are tools that some of us use everyday.

Can you see how work with our hands can connect us to our long term cultural legacy? If you are a member of the hand tribe, you will also understand why that might matter. Tools are the outward expression of human wisdom and intelligence. Just as the mind and hand co-evolved as a behavioral system, tools are the tangible expression of that system upon which human survival and success have been assured. As tools pass from hand to hand, generation to generation, knowledge invested in them  and their capacity to shape human reality is also alive and at hand.

Compare these tools to those we use every day which in less that a decade will be dead, gone and forgotten. Who in their right mind believes that Face Book and Twitter will be a big deal in the next century? And yet, the Mästermyr tools and tool box survived, buried in a bog for nearly a thousand years. The Mästermyr tools have provided inspiration to American artisans. Members of ABANA, The Artist Blacksmith Association of North America have been involved in the making of replicas of the various tools from the Mästermyr find. In replicating these tools or the chest in which they were found, knowledge and human culture are preserved in ways that too few in the Google, facebook, twitter age will ever know. Make, fix, create.
"Have nothing in your homes that you do not believe to be beautiful or know to be useful."--William Morris.

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