Der Mollenhauer

I should have paid more attention in my high school German classes.  I do remember singing a song in German about a three-cornered hat or something — and I can still count.  It would be nice to sit and watch this with someone who speaks German well sometime. The good news is, this story is filmed so beautifully that words are hardly necessary.

Watch as this venerable master carves a giant bowl.  He has retained incredible skill with an axe and the technique for removing the core with thin wooden wedges is spectacular.  Consequently, Kristin and I have committed to beer and schnapps at lunch from now on.  Near the end, one can see the variety of smaller bowls that he makes.

I had seen this some time ago, but I could watch it a thousand times.  It is so skillfully filmed, and there is so much to be learned.  Thanks to Peter Follansbee for reminding me of it.  There is a whole series of these “Der Letzte seines Standes?” films on youtube.  I think it translates to something like “The last of their craft?”  And I’m guessing Der Mollenhauer is something like “The trough/bowl hewer.”  Perhaps someone can provide a better translation.

In a similar vein are the films available from Folkstreams.  I wrote this post about them a couple years ago with some links.  Always worth revisiting.



This entry was posted in axe, bowls, finding wood, historical reference, tools, Uncategorized, video and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

26 Responses to Der Mollenhauer

  1. Scott Kinsey says:

    A day-maker of a film… so well made I could smell the chips as they flew. Of course the sausages and beer at the end nearly did me in.
    Thanks for posting, Dave.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. belloeinvincibile says:

    Nice that it found the way to you 🙂 I sent it to Peter yesterday. Yes the translation the last of their craft is perfect. I don’t know if there is a name for this craft in english, but the standard offer of the Mollenhauers were quite big bowls. The biggest for pouring cooking water over pigs on slaughtering day.


  3. myronathon says:

    Thank you David … a fascinating look back into a lost craft. Watching that man do his thing at his age. That’s what I want to still be doing when I get there.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Brian Douglas says:

    I saw this video a yr or so ago and i fell in love with it !! I wonder if anyone could ever find a mortise chisel that big ? or if he would have to make it or have it made? I love the old masters !!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. “Mein Hut der hat drei Ecken”. Must have been mandatory in all German classes.


  6. A “molle” aspiras to be some sort of trough, specifically a “backtrog” or baking trough. Giant dough bowl.


  7. A “molle” appears to be a trough, specifically a baking trough for mixing dough.

    And “Mein Hut der hat drei Ecken” musst have been mandatory in all German classes.


  8. We just happen to have a German friend staying with us for a time and so we watched the film together last night which was great fun. The “trough-maker” made the troughs that farmers used in the butchering process to scald the pigs before scrapping off the hair. I’ll throw in a few other comments. He was 84 at the time of filming. He was the fifth generation of Mollenhauer in his family. But it is ending with him. None of his four sons are following his craft. He never took a vacation. But he did have a way of knowing when to quit for the day and would say, “Done for the day” and go in to the house for his schnapps and beer. What has killed the trade was the introduction of plastics in the 60’s and the fact that so few farmers butcher their own hogs anymore. The great feature of his troughs as compared to a stave or multiple piece trough is that it doesn’t need to be soaked or swelled before use. The big chunk he splits out is used to make increasingly smaller troughs that he sells at a craft’s market. It took a while to figure out the English word for the wood he used for the gluts or wedges to split out the large chunk. My friend kept saying “buchen wood.” And she looked around my wood filled house to see if she saw any. Finally arrived at beech wood. Thanks David for giving us an evening of entertainment.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Don Bentley says:

    Brings to mind the famous line from Crocodile Dundee (paraphrased, of course): “That’s not a bowl…THIS IS A BOWL!” It’s sad that crafts die out because of modernization. I’m encouraged I could be crafting for another 30 years, though!


  10. Paul Anderson says:

    Now that is a bowl to write home about…. I couldn’t help looking at the tools he is using. during the process. What a compass, and the curve on the adze head. I will also have to watch this over and over. Great to hear some more comments from Glenn. I was thinking this bowl was almost big enough to take a bath in, or scald some pigs as we did on the farm back in New Zealand in my younger days.


  11. Tad Cornwell says:

    Boy, after spending a couple of hours on roughing out my first bowl blank yesterday, microscopic in comparison to this gentleman’s, I’m left feeling both inspired and a little inadequate. Thanks for sharing this Dave!


  12. Kalia Kliban says:

    I really enjoyed seeing this, particularly the coring process he used. Cutting the narrow trenches at the ends seemed really labor intensive, but then when he popped out that huge central chunk it all made sense. Thank you for sharing this!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. penelope nicholls says:

    This video has been removed ?


    • Dave Fisher says:

      Wow. I guess it has been. I just checked on Youtube. Many of the videos in the series are still available, but it seems that some have indeed been removed. That is too bad, and I hope that it’s just temporary.


  14. Nick Cory says:

    Agree to everything above regarding translation. A “Mulde” can also be a depression in the earth on a geographical scale or just a small one as shown in the film. It gives us the word “mould”, as in pudding mould. The old chap has quite a dialect and in parts of the film he takes extra trouble to speak high German. He warms to the audience and his role in the film, explaining that he’s making the large scalding trough only for the historian who produces the series, 15 years having passed since the previous order. Economy of materials and not time is the watchword, every removed chip or lump being used elsewhere. Despite this, as a younger man he would require only 10 hours to make a complete trough. Only on turning 80 did he begin to allow himself a beer and a schnapps at lunchtime. The advantage of the one-piece scalding trough typical of the Harz highlands is that unlike other types it never leaks. It is hewn only from “green”, i.e. freshly felled poplar with a high humidity and after initial roughing out, is allowed to dry out for two weeks before final smoothing with the hand scraper. The visit to the museum in Cologne is to see wooden sculptures attributed to the artist Baselitz. In fact the old gent made them to Baselitz’ design and the artist then painted them. He asks the museum attendant what they’re worth but gets no answer … ah well, he says, it doesn’t matter, I got paid my twenty marks.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Dave Fisher says:

    Thanks, Nick! Wonderful to hear all of that detail. Thanks very much for contributing that; it really helps me to understand the context and procedure better. And totally missed out on the situation with the sculpture and his collaboration with the artist. Love the comment about the twenty marks!


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