10 Cool Medieval Woodworking Tools (and What Replaced Them)

Ever caught a glimpse of a medieval scene in a painting, TV series, or a film and marveled at the intricate woodwork? Ever pondered what kinds of tools those ancient carpenters wielded to create such masterpieces? Today, we journey back in time to explore the fascinating medieval woodworking tools, and we’ll see how they have evolved or been replaced by modern tools. Let’s dive into this intriguing and historical world of woodworking! ️

Unlock the Past: 10 Medieval Woodworking Marvels & Their Modern Heirs

Medieval craftsmen had an impressive toolkit that included the likes of Adzes, Augers, Braces, Gouges, Groping Irens, Riving Knives, Twybills, Wymbylles, Prykyng Knyves, Hand Saws, and Iron Nails. Many of these tools have now been swapped for contemporary alternatives like drills, routers, and various types of saws.

In this article, we’ll explore 10 medieval woodworking tools, their modern equivalents, and the tools from that era that are still in use. Let’s get rolling!

The Adze

The adze was a chief tool for shaping and carving wood in medieval times, existing in two forms – the hand adze for one-handed use and the foot adze for two-handed operation. In today’s carpentry, adzes have taken a back seat, giving way to power planes and sanding tools.


Augers were the medieval answer to creating holes in wood, with sizes varying for different applications. Modern woodworking says goodbye to the manual labor of augers, embracing a variety of power drills.

The Brace

The brace, an evolution for faster and more efficient drilling, is now a relic of the past, replaced by handheld drills, both battery-powered and corded.

Gouges and Groping Irens

Used for grooving wood, Gouges and the lesser-known Groping Irens are now substituted by tools like plunge routers or rotary tools.

Riving Knife

The riving knife, used mainly with hand and pit saws for cutting timber, has been phased out, with sawmills taking its place in modern woodworking.


The Twybill, resembling a double-bladed pickaxe, was essential for creating mortises. Today, a router or even a jigsaw would do the job efficiently.

Wymbylle or Gimlet

The Wymbylle or Gimlet, another tool for making holes, has been succeeded by the versatile electric drill.

Prykyng Knyfe (Pricking Knife)

Used for marking wood, the Prykyng Knyfe has been replaced by more practical tools like a carpenter’s pencil or a marking gauge.

Hand Saws and Pit Saws

While hand saws are still in use, their design has undergone significant changes. The medieval pit saw, requiring two operators, is now a thing of the past, thanks to electric saws.

Iron Nails

Initially handcrafted by smiths, iron nails have evolved into nails predominantly made of stainless steel.

Medieval Woodworking Tools We Still Use Today

Despite technological advancements, several medieval tools have stood the test of time, albeit with some material modifications. Tools like Saws, Hammers & Mallets, Chisels, Axes, Compasses, Whetstones, Squyre (Carpentry Squares), Rulers, and Planes remain essential in our workshops.

Important Details:

Medieval Tool Modern Equivalent
Adze Power Planes, Sanding Tools
Augers Power Drills
Brace Handheld Drills
Gouges, Groping Irens Plunge Routers, Rotary Tools
Riving Knife Sawmills
Twybill Router, Jigsaw
Wymbylle, Gimlet Electric Drills
Prykyng Knyfe Carpenter’s Pencil, Marking Gauge
Hand Saws, Pit Saws Electric Saws
Iron Nails Stainless Steel Nails

10 Cool Medieval Woodworking Tools (and What Replaced Them)

Complement the information with the following instructional video: