Der Henndorfer Truhenfund

For a woodworker, I have a pretty ideal job. My daytime gig is to make furniture in front of the museum’s visitors. All day, that’s what I do. No pressure to finish/sell, etc. Just make the stuff we use in the re-created village c. 1620s. For 25 years, I have concentrated on 17th-century joiner’s work. English/New England. Totally captivated, still engrossed. I must have five or more pieces underway right now.

BUT….for the past few years, I have been distracted into wanting to build other stuff too. Except I can’t. In my shop, it has to fit that 17th-century context.

I have enough tools to go around, so if I had a shop at home I could tackle what I please. But there’s no room in this tiny house for a shop. Oh, that’s another story. The spoons serve to get me my creative fix at home…


So I compile ideas on stuff I want to build when the time is right. This new books is real high on the fantasy list. Der Henndorfer Truhenfund

Der Henndorfer Truhenfund
Der Henndorfer Truhenfund

I found out about this book from the Regional Furniture Society. (new website for them here: )  Bill & Gerry Cotton have made a few trips to Romania to study old furniture there; and they saw over 100 of these chests stored in a church. The RFS made a study trip there, and the reports were in a recent newsletter.

Regional Furniture Society newsletter
Regional Furniture Society newsletter

And that’s where I got on to the book. Its text is in German, but so what? There are great diagrams, drawings, and photos galore. You could easily build one of the chests from the book, with a little head-scratching. There’s dendrochronolgy reports, exploded drawings – all kinds of great stuff. I love these European books on material culture.

overall diagram chest


3 chests

The chests date from the 15th-19th century. I first heard of them referred to as grain arks. They have an ingenious connection between the lid and a lip that runs around the top edge of the top rails, to seal the closure. They are all the same, and each one is different. I once saw one for sale at the Brimfield Antiques Fair in Massachusetts. Passed on it at $300 and kicked myself ever after.

They’re made of riven beech. Remember this post about the gates in Transylvania? That’s when I learned about that area being one of, if not the, most heavily forested parts of Europe.

I’ve seen these chests in England too. I wonder if they were made there, or brought there from the “east” (i.e. the Baltic) – seems this form was known all over. There might be something like it in the book Woodworking in Estonia too.  Chinnery’s book Oak Furniture: The British Tradition has a few, undecorated. All oak in that case.

I hope to get to build one before too long. I might have to substitute oak for the beech. Our beech is not usually such a good riving wood. Twisty inside.

7 thoughts on “Der Henndorfer Truhenfund

  1. Very Interesting, let me know if you need a German translator… Oh, forgot Google already does that. European Beech is a totally different wood and does Rive extremely well compared to ours. But… you may stumble on that perfect log one day. Go for it!

  2. Thanks. Usually a good read packed with new to me info. I’m wondering what the angled areas are for at the top of the, uh, stiles is it? The pieces, legs, in the corners? Grain storage is the last thing I would have thought of.

  3. You may also like “Die gotischen Truhen der Luneburger Heidekloster” by Karl Heinrich von Stülpnagel. Also German, but out of print. It has very similar drawings of similar arks, plus a broader range of other medieval/rennaisance chests.


  4. There’s a grain ark at East Riddlesden Hall, W Yorkshire, UK. It is pretty massive – about 6 foot long and about 4 feet high, maybe 3 foot deep. This one is made with wedged tenon joints throughout and therefore can be taken completely apart “for washing”. Quite a mystery – the only stick of furniture that came to The National Trust with the building. Supposed to be c1600. Will try to measure and photograph.

  5. While there’s no way to prove it, there may have been such things here. Did you ever go see the huge grain bin in the mill in Scituate, the one that was in Wrought Covenant and I think New England Begins? PP might use one as a communal flour store. All huge oak planks put together with huge spikes, ventilator grooves in lid. I’ve seen those grain arks from time to time and always admired them. Oh boy another book I have to buy. Along with The Chesapeake House.

  6. Peter – thanks for your post – the day after reading it I visited the Museum of Welsh Life at St Fagan’s, Cardiff and spotted one – without your blog I would not have known what it was. It was very similar to the Romanian ones but with the side boards coming through the front frame as a couple of slim tenons.

    I took these pictures (feel free to copy or re-use them if you don’t want links in the comments)

  7. Peter,   This box looks like something a Viking would build. If a church is storing 100 of them would they have just been a box to store cloths and personal stuff in rather than something a woodworker would have stored his tools in??   About what are the basic demintions?   Tom

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