Forgotten tools: the barking knife

“The Vikings for Dorestad” – old educational poster by J.H. Isings (ca.1920)

I wrote this post almost two years ago, in the early months of this blog. But it went into the background because it needed some extra information. Almost forgot about it, until last week…


My father and I were cleaning up the shed. In the back of my grandfather’s old workbench, next to the head of an old axe, we found a lump of rust. I immediately recognized it as the head of a “schilshop” (literally; “peeling-shovel”). In English they are called a “barking knife”, “barking shovel” or “bark spud”.

A tool used by foresters and loggers to peel the bark from felled trees.

My father told me it was probably used by my great-grandfather and made by the local blacksmith. This places it around 1900.

I decided to remove the rust and attach a new handle. Originally they were rather long, but a shorter model keeps me from knocking over the shelves in my workshop.

And started to use it again. Besides removing the rust and attaching the handle, there was no need to resharpen it.


The history of this tools goes far back. One of the earliest examples I know is from the roman era. But another model was found not far from here. In remnants of Dorestad.

Dorestad was quite important in the early middle ages. Located at the river Rhine, in the middle of the Netherlands, it was a central post in the European trade network.

Over the course of its existence Dorestad suffered multiple viking attacks in the 9th century, although most of the time they traded peacefully with Scandinavia.

To know: Guitar maker and writer Arne Hempenius wrote a thriller about this age; Het lot van Althilt. It will be published in April. Knowing Arne, it will be a very thorough researched and captivating book.

Back to the museum

Last week I visited the museum again, for the first time in years. Between the ages of ten and sixteen you could find me there almost every week. As (local) archaeology was one of my first passions. Even at this young age I was active as a volunteer at excavations and in the museum. But after a dispute with the curator at the time, I left and never came there again.

A couple of months ago I was asked to help with a local event celebrating the painter Dirk van Baburen. He was born in Wijk bij Duurstede (the modern name of Dorestad) but there is nothing that remembers him. The festivities would include an exhibition in the museum… Fortunately much has changed, over the years. The old curator (who was more interested in art than archaeology) was sacked and replaced. Last week we had a meeting with the people involved in the exhibition… at the museum…

As we walked through the galleries it all came back. A feast of recognition started. And it was nice to see that a lot of things we begged for by the old curator were now implemented…

At the 9th of April the event  “Baburen komt thuis” will be held in “Museum Dorestad” and at “Kasteel Duurstede”.

Sandra and I will be there in our re-enactment clothes, with lutes and the dalmatics Sandra is restoring. There are lectures about Baburen’s work, you can meet some of the figures from the paintings. Beside this a lot of friends will attend, like Jaap Bergisch, the medieval tile maker and lutenist Punto Bawono, who will give some lute recitals. The local brewery made a beer after a receipt found in the local archive and the restaurant made food in style. So food, beer art and song… it doesn’t get much better than that…

Hope to meet you there…

This entry was posted in History, Lute, Research, Restorations, Tools, Uncategorized, Woodworking, Workshop and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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