Tamás Gyenes’ riven beech chests

I continue to be amazed at the connections we can make so easily these days. Remember way back when I stumbled across references to these chests:

Der Henndorfer Truhenfund


That ultimately connected to another blog post about some visitors to my old shop,


Well, that post brought me a new connection the other day. I got an email from Tamás Gyenes of Hungary. His note said “ I myself build similar chests – from riven beech with medieval methods “  When I asked for photos, he quickly sent some amazing shots.

Untitled attachment 02338

Great, great stuff. I first saw one of these chests at the Brimfield (Massachusetts) Antique show. I passed on buying one for $300 and kicked myself ever after. I had the money and the space then, have neither now.

Tamas & his wife splitting out some beech:


Grooving the framing parts – an ancient method. 


The shaving horse – an indispensable piece of equipment. 


Tamas with a work-in-progress


The decoration: 


a couple of shots of the original chests that Tamas studies for his inspiration: 


These are old ones he owns, from what I understand. 


One of his before color & decoration. 


Tamás’ shots of his working on them are so inspiring – and look timeless, don’t they? Thanks so much for contacting me & sending photos, Tamas. Keep in touch, 

His website is  www.acsoltlada.hu

15 thoughts on “Tamás Gyenes’ riven beech chests

  1. His website mentions the wood is smoked then engraved carving is done. That is what is creating the contrast in color. So it is neither a dye or a chemical stain.

    • I was going to tell you that you would be sorely disappointed, but then I saw that you were across the pond. American beech doesn’t split well radially. I have no experience with European beech, though. It certainly looks nice!

    • The tool is fairly unique to Eastern Europe, but was probable more common in the Middle Ages as examples have been found in France… It has both a LH and RH cutter, sharpened on the inner edge, and is shaped like an English ‘tywbil’ or a French ‘bisague de chaisier’ – the translation of its name (vőgyelő) in Hungarian just means grooving tool. Its most common use seems to be in grooving the edges of wooden roofing shingles, so that the next (tapered) shingle sits in the groove… (Note if spelling it vogyelo i.e. missing all the accents used in Hungarian, then Google cannot find it)

  2. Great Post Peter, thanks!
    Creativity both in method and finished article always amazes.
    People with limited tools and simple materials can create whatever they needed or wanted.
    My father was in a displaced persons camp in Austria during and after WWII. He had a cobbler who was also in the camp make him a pair of Dress Riding boots by hand. I still have those here today. They had no special tools or workbenches, only their personal desire to create and ingenuity.

  3. You gotta love having the wife do the grunt work. Did you notice he was carving beside their bed? What an artist…what a wife!

  4. In the picture of Tamas standing in front of his partially finished chest, there is a very interesting shaving horse in the background. The curved work support is very interesting, looks like it’s made specifically to hold panels horizontal so they can be made flat.

  5. You probably already realize this, but if you open Tamas’ web site in the Chrome web browser and select the translate icon at the top, most of the web site is translated to English.

  6. European beech (fagus sylvatica) splits very nicely. We use it as firewood mostly so one gets to split a lot of it, but it’s also one of the main carpentry woods. Probably also because it’s just simply the most abundant tree around here. We have much, much less species of trees in any given piece of forest than in borthern america. Beech comes up in shady conditions, and creates these as well, so often, it forms monoculture like forests naturally.

  7. […] Ich bin auf einen tollen alten Film aufmerksam gemacht worden der um 1955 herum vom oder für das ethnografische Museum Ungarns gedreht wurde. Er zeigt auf eindrucksvolle Weise den Bau einer Stollentruhe mit einfachsten Mitteln aber unglaublich viel Erfahrung. Übrigens hat Peter Follansbee Kontakt mit Tamás Gyenes der diese Tradition fortführt. Wenn man die Bilder betrachtet meint man fast es ist der selbe Ort. Hier Peters Beitrag: Tamás Gyenes’ riven beech chests […]

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