Wood and Craftsmen

Wood is one of the oldest and most widely used building materials in history. It was used extensively throughout Europe, including today’s Czech Republic.

Granary house built of wood beams and stones.
Figure: Granary house built of beams and stones (Zbečno village, Rakovník District, Central Bohemian Region)
  1. Coniferous trees
    • Fir, spruce, pine and larch
  2. Deciduous trees
    • Oak

Felled trees, their branches removed, were worked on a carpentry bench using carpenter’s tools. Such tools mainly included a variety of axes designed to cut, hew or shape wood such as hatchets, broad axes, and so on. Cross-cut, bow, and reciprocal saws began to be used later, as were other tools. Carpenters, joiners, and artistic woodcarvers were the most common craftsmen from the construction and handicraft professions.

Coniferous trees

Most buildings were built from coniferous trees, especially fir and spruce. Firwood prevailed until about the 18th century until spruce wood became widely available in the forests and was used thereafter. Spruce wood is straight and durable in dry surroundings, and it is also light and soft. This allows for easier handling and preparation, including carpenter’s joints. These were the properties that predetermined the use of spruce for the construction of walls and ceilings that made up living and farming spaces.

Fir wood was easy to chop, so it was used for the production of shingles, which in turn were used for structures in the forested mountains and foothills. In the lowlands, covered thatch roofs were predominant while shingles were typically used for more important buildings. Harder and heavier pine or larch was suitable for the production of window frames.

Deciduous trees

The deciduous tree most commonly used was hard and heavy oak. Its durability made it the primary material for lower beams, columns, and doors. Its use has also been documented on the walls of houses or farm buildings. In the central lowland areas of the Elbe River basin, oak was used as massive planks from the 16th century. Oak planks were also used for floorings and ceilings.

Author © Martin Cernansky