Friday, December 4, 2009


photo by Garrett Budwine The art of Venetian rowing involves three ingredients:
an oar (which we call a "remo")
a forcola
and of course, a skilled rower.

Two of those ingredients have to be formed out of wood.
The skilled craftsmen who produce these rowing implements are known as "remers", and they, like the objects they create, are unique and traditional. The remer's shop these days is a combination of new and old tools.
And while the advent of electric power-tools has certainly made some of the remer's duties easier, other tasks simply can't be done as well with anything but the original implements.

Introducing the "ascia".
Her name translates to "axe", and while she has a cutting blade attached to a wodden handle, the ascia is different from your favorite wood-chopping axe because the blade is mounted with the edge perpendicular to the handle.

Nereo Zane informs me that while the Italian translation of "axe" is "ascia", this particular tool is known also by the specific Venetian word "manera"

The above photo was taken by Garrett in the shop of Saverio Pastor - one of Venice's few remers.

This ancient hand tool, in the grip of a master craftsman, works perfectly when sculpting forcole.

While this post is primarily about a particular hand tool, it's important to point out that it's not the tools that get the job done so much as it is the person who uses those tools.

1 comment:

Bob Easton said...

The English term for that type of tool is the "adze." While it looks heavy and dangerous, a skilled user can attain great precision.

For any of your readers interested in the craftsmanship, I highly recommend seeking out Saverio Pastor's shop. Go there and stand quietly in the doorway. Don't interrupt the master, but watch and enjoy his expertise. I very thoroughly enjoyed watching him put the finishing shape on a remo one day. At the same time, a colleague was detail shaping a forcola, a bit beyond the stage of using the ascia.

Of course, at the end of such a visit, a small purchase, and especially a few kind words are in order.

As always, Thanks for the pictures.