What is It?

What is It?
What is It? - Mystery item held in hand

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Medieval tools were often derived from weapons used in battle and this item, when found, certainly caused some raised eyebrows, given its aggressive look. By appearance, this tool was certainly old and had no commonality with any cutting device found in North America. The metal portion was corroded, but the form could be rescued. It featured a slasher cutting end and, on the opposite side, a hook device perhaps used to clear away shavings or chips. The replacement handle was one of the crudest constructs this writer had ever seen on a woodlands tool, yet the finger holds in the handle indicated usage and when gripped gave a comfortable feel. This is a most usable tool despite its crude look. It is clear this was a jobsite tool used to make or alter items. This type of tool usually got tossed aside or left on the ground when the task was finished. It was never meant to be used at the bench.


Woven hazel, willow or elm fences (called wattle hurdles) are part of the rapidly disappearing, unique crafts practiced by those who live in woodlands all over the world. Found primarily on the Continent and England, this type of fence has been constructed for over 3,000 years. It provided a method of restricting livestock, most notably sheep. The fence was constructed in light and easily moved panels that were joined together to form longer sections. For access to a restricted area, the builder usually made a wattle gate where there was a natural barrier such as a stone fence. The gate was much sturdier than the fence. To construct it, small timber was used as compared to the thinner rods (branches) found in the fencing sections.

What is It? - Wooden handle

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For shelter, this type of construction continues to be found in North and South America, Australia and most other parts of the world and is commonly used by indigenous peoples. The wattle panels are used as a base, and either mud or other materials are applied (commonly called wattle and daub) to make the dwelling habitable. It should be noted that this style of fencing and housing could be considered a renewable resource as the vertically positioned branches frequently regenerate themselves.


Often called a twybill, two bill or besaigue, this type of tool is closely associated with the European timber-framing trades. The common twybill usually comes in two sizes, the smaller being used as a chopper tool and the larger (up to 5 feet long) as a paring or clearing tool. The example shown is used much like a hatchet. In fact, it is actually a specialized mortising knife used exclusively by the hurdle maker.

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