Woodwork in Movies

Movie_ForsakenThere are times when being a woodworker (and editor) has its downside. Case in point: This past weekend my wife and I watched the movie Forsaken with Kiefer Sutherland and Donald Sutherland. It’s a movie set in Wyoming around 1872.

The plot was very transparent, so I spent much of the time checking out the scenery and other things that caught my attention. Where the woodworking part played a role was about 30 minutes into the movie when a wooden casket – also known as a pine box – was shown in a shallow grave. (You can see the shot in the opening photo.) Immediately, I stopped the show to go back and give the box another look.

I counted the boards used to make the top of the casket. There were six boards. What? C’mon. Six boards across a roughly 30″ – 36″ spread. Seriously.

In the late 1800s, big pine trees were in abundance. Finding a 30″ to 36″ board might not have been easy, especially for an undertaker. But two boards that were 15″+ would have done the job. Those should have been easily found. OK. Three boards around 10″ to 12″ would have worked. In fact, later in the movie I thought I caught another casket with a two-board top, or it could have been three.

In addition, according to the University of Vermont, “Between the 1790s and the early 1800s, various machines were invented in the United States for making nails from bars of iron.” Up until that time, each nail was made individually by a blacksmith. As a result, nails were expensive, and pine was not. An undertaker would have saved the nails.

Why, then, would a movie use six boards that were on average 6″ wide to create the top surface of a casket? Whoops. Someone screwed up, big time. My guess is that the person responsible for the wood ran to the local box store and picked up 1 x 6 #2 pine to use.

If you have ever caught woodworking wrongs in a movie, please add it to the comments below.

— Glen D. Huey

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8 thoughts on “Woodwork in Movies

  1. Great post! Tremont Nail started making nails on one of those new fangled cut nail machines in 1819..according to them, the first cut nail machine came about in the late 1700’s and the first machine to both cut and head a nail in one operation came shortly after.

  2. Funny. because I do the same thing.
    I love watching the BBC drama Downton Abbey for the beautiful old furniture.
    A lot of times I forget what the plot is all about, because I’m backing up and pausing to look at the magnificent furniture…

  3. Didn’t know about Downton Abbey; not my cup of tea. :>) But now that I know about the furniture, I’ll check it out. Another movie that came to mind – and one 360 Woodworking members will here more about in a week or two – is “The Patriot” with Mel Gibson. During the movie we get inside, I think, Gibson’s sister-in-laws home just prior to it being burned to the ground. In it there’s a high chest of drawers that, at a quick glance, looks rather nice.

  4. It’s been years since I saw “The Patriot” but I remember a scene early on when Mel was trying to perfect a comb-back Windsor rocker that I thought was totally bogus since there are no known examples of Windsor rockers that early on. Maybe I need to dig it out and watch it again.

  5. I do the same thing. In National Treasure 1 the last reel of the movie shows the heroes hanging from a large wooden platform which was supposedly made during our Revolutionary War. Nicholas Cage is clawing at a board which comes loose and he almost falls. The board has been nailed down with common or box nails. Their silvery round shanks are obvious and they clearly can bend. In reality nails from the 1700s were wroughthead, made from forged iron, and the heads were attached by a blacksmith. The nail would have looked unbending and, being iron, would have been seriously rusted.

    Just a little thing, really, but it caught my eye. Also, the timbers looked suspiciously like rough cedar lumber from a modern lumberyard.

  6. I was watching a documentary in The Forbidden City and they had a dramatisation of the workers building the city. One of the workers was using an eastern style plane with the handles on the side, clearly meant to be pulled. The staged worker was awkwardly holding the plan in a western style pushing the plan and ignoring the handles. Fail.

  7. that was a sharp observations you got there, I used to watch Forsaken and National treasure before but i never noticed those, maybe I need to check it out one more time. LOL,

  8. The TV series “Deadwood” has a great scene of the sherrif and his buddy Sol ripping wood for the Sherrif’s house using a foot powered tablesaw. Roy Underhill has such a saw in his school which is used on occasion, so it was a lot of fun. Also the set master laid out a great selection of bench and molding planes on a shelf in the background.

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