The Craftsman Building the Noah's Ark
Revolutionary and critical to the survival of Erzgebirgische workman families, the lathe was instrumental in the success of the region’s woodcraft tradition. It allowed quick, inexpensive mass-production of wooded figures that deluged markets, securing the popularity of these toys in the 18th and 19th centuries.
The lathe itself is an ancient invention, dating back at least 3000 years to the Egyptians. Incredibly useful, this tool was used for everything from bowl making to furniture building to carving ornamental pieces. Through the ages, people tapped different sources to power their lathes -- cranked flywheels, hands, feet, horses, water, and later steam. Today, lathes run almost exclusively on electricity.
Riding on the shoulders of industrialization, the lathe made its way to Erzgebirgische toy makers in the mid-1800s where it quickly became a mainstay of the industry. Below, is a picture of one of our craftsmen today, Christian Werner, who still makes his Noah’s Ark animals by hand on the lathe. On top of the stack of wooden rings (at the lower right side of the picture), are cross-sections where you can see clearly the profile of horses, giraffes and other animals cut from the rings.
Craftsman Turning a Lathe