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Ambacht in Beeld Festival
30 & 31 March 2024
Brussels - Tour & Taxis Gare Maritime

| Crane sawing and edging

Het MOT - Museum voor de Oudere Technieken -

During the demos we show how to use axes to make a beam from a log and how to saw planks with a crane saw. This requires muscle strength but above all a lot of technical knowledge and skills.


Ante Corthals started woodworking around 2001 in New Zealand. He worked part-time for a furniture maker for two years, while he built his own yurts and round house. Later he worked for an eco-builder and architect in New Zealand for two years, then he learned to work with straw bales and cover with loam. Then Ante moved to Japan to apprentice with a traditional carpenter for another two years. Besides this he worked for various carpenters for shorter projects. In 2010, Ante worked with a Japanese team in the preparation and construction of a Japanese teahouse, using only hand tools. Since then he has worked alternately in Europe and Japan on his own projects. He learns how to make clay from clay builder Gerrit Van den Dries. In 2013 and 2016, Ante worked on major projects by Axel Weller, a German carpenter who only works with hand tools.


When Mathijs Huyghebaert graduated as a Japanologist in 2010, he moved to Japan. At that time there was a meeting of Japanese and European carpenters who built two small buildings using only hand tools. After his return to Belgium, he was able to work with a vakwerk builder from Limburg on an apprenticeship contract. He then continued to pursue his own path at home and abroad, including internships with carpenters in Japan and France. Mathijs has been working independently as Matisu since 2015.


After a number of international wanderings and training, Andries Saerens discovered that working with wood as traditionally as possible was what appealed to him most. From there he immersed himself in traditional vakwerk construction and other traditional woodworking. Before this, he apprenticed with Ante Corthals, among others, and still works with him a lot. In the meantime, he also has a number of his own creations to his credit.


Vakwerk is a historical predecessor of the current timber frame construction. A vakwerk building is constructed from a wooden construction of vertical posts, horizontal beams and diagonal braces. The walls of this ‘skeleton’ consist of a wickerwork of flexible twigs or split slats covered with a mixture of loam and straw.


For centuries, vakwerk was the most important construction method in Flanders and was technically a good alternative to brick and natural stone. But because it requires more maintenance than a stone structure, vakwerk was hardly used from the beginning of the twentieth century.


Knowledge and skills necessary for the construction of craftsmanship were once widespread. Training took place on site and there are very few manuals for timber framing. When vakwerk construction began to decline, technical knowledge slowly but surely disappeared.


To do something about this, the MOT created the Vakwerk in Beeld project. In this project we constructed vakwerk buildings in a traditional manner, using only natural materials and the use of muscle power. The entire technical process was captured on film and published on and YouTube. The knowledge about vakwerk construction is also passed on through workshops and internships. In this way we want to encourage people to rediscover vakwerk construction based on tradition.

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