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A trip this summer took me to Stein am Rhein in northern Switzerland, where I visited the museum of the abbey of St Georgen – a place both fascinating and frustrating. Fascinating because of the interest of the buildings and their contents. Frustrating because there was so little explanation: no convincing narrative about how or why the place, which ceased to be a religious foundation 500 years ago, still exists.

Even so, it contained several things to interest woodworkers. Here are three: the first was this enormous wine press which, if the carving on the main beam is to be believed, was built in 1711. Maybe it’s an attraction of opposites but, as an instrument maker who has to fuss about tenths of a millimetre, I couldn’t help thinking what fun it would be to chop out mortices and tenons on this sort of scale.

The second was this fine chest decorated with paint and chip carving. It too, had a date carved in it – 1697, just visible bottom right – which seems plausible enough. But what on earth was it doing in an abbey that had stopped functioning as an institution during the reformation in the early 1500s?

The last was this remarkable repair to the bottom of a pine cupboard. Rot and wood worm must have got into it, but someone thought that that it was worth saving and, perhaps inspired by the Alps which aren’t too far away, scarfed in a new footing. I’d never seen anything like it. Please write if you know of other examples or can explain more about the technique.

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