Ever heard of a pjål? Know where Stiklestad is?

Well, neither had I.  Until I happened to notice an Instagram photo posted by my friend, Roald Remælmo (hyvelbenk.wordpress.com).  The tool is a shave and one might be tempted to think of it as some type of primitive travisher.  But, it’s a lot more than you might think.



After a little more investigation, I realized that Roald’s photo had come from the folk museum at Stiklestad Norway.  The museum is a “living” museum and the craftsman there are engaged in the recreation of Norse culture, especially stuff to do with wood.  Norway’s got a lot of wood and the Norwegians have been ingenious woodworkers and carpenters for centuries.

Here’s the Museum’s facebook page,  www.facebook.com/stiklastadir.  Go to it.  Go to it now!  Scroll down through the timeline and watch the videos.  Definitely watch the videos!  Enjoy it.  It’s a great way to spend some time when it’s too cold to work in the shop, or anytime, for that matter.

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3 Comments on “Ever heard of a pjål? Know where Stiklestad is?”

  1. colinchief Says:

    I seem to recall something very like these in an article about Viking ship building and stave built buildings. They were used as moulding planes might be used.

  2. Hi Dennis
    This is almost correct. My photos on Instagram (@handverkar) are from another museum in the same area, Sverresborg Trøndelag Folkemuseum. I have been teaching at a seminar at the museum and 3 of the craftsmen from Stiklestad (@stiklastadir) did participate on the seminar. We did work on the restauration on Holtålen stavechurch from 1170. Our job was to produce new boards for the roof. We split logs, hew them to boards and used the pjål to flatten the surface.

    I have been studying the pjål a lot. I started to interview old craftsmen in my area, and learn woodworking from them, in about 1992-93. A few of them did use the pjål in their woodworking. Ivar Berglund, Ivar Frostad and Konrad Stenvold, all born from 1900-1908, had pjål and knew how to use it. I also found a couple of old pjål that was made and used by my ancestors at the farm. I soon started to use theese and was impressed by how effective they where.

    I met the blacksmith Jon Dahlmo (http://www.dahlmo.no) in 1996 and soon started to collaborate with him to make copies of old tools. It was not long before he made copies of the irons of both the old pjål I had. (about 15 years ago?) I made handles and started to find out how to make them work. It took some time before we where satisfied with the results. I have used mine at a lot of different seminars and work projects and all the craftsmen who try them are convinced and want one themselves. Jon Dahlmo have a small production and other blacksmiths in Norway and Sweden have followed. Mattias Helje (http://www.heljesmedja.com) and Øystein Myhre (@myhresmeden) are among them.

    In 2005 I made two pjål for Stiklastadir when they started to build their longhouse. They have used the tools more than I could dream of and they soon started to make their own. I belive they have 15-20 pjål in use in their workshop today. The pjål has got a kind of revieval among craftsmen in Norway.

    In archaeological finds there are irons that looks like the pjål irons. I believe the oldest are about 1500 years old. They are common in Scandinivia. In the Mästermyr tool chest there is an pjål iron for making mouldings. What is more interesting is that theese kind of tools where still in use in my area when I started my research.

    I have tried to find the etymology of the word pjål. It is not very easy to find relevant information about this. I think it is a very old word. In myr area we use the word pjål to describe a tool used for shaping a surface flat or smooth. We have some similar tools used for shaving bark for animal feed. Theese tools are called “skavel”, similar to the English shave. The tools can look similar but it is only the use of the tool that is different. Accidental I came across that the Italian word for plane are “pialla”. It can sound similar to to the word “pjål”. Pialla orginates from the Latin “Planus” that means flat. That is also the orgin for the English plane. I think that the word pjål could orginate from Latin and would then be older than the “new” word for plane: “høvel” that originates from German and might have been used 500-600 years in Norway.

    It is very hard to find planes older than 400 years in Scandinavia. I think that different types of pjål where used by woodworkers before that. Tomas Karlsson and Patrick Jarefjäll, my colleges in Mariestad has also done some work on pjål. There is a report coming about their work.

    Kind regards Roald

  3. thanx for the link – the video cleared up what the peg is for

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