25. The craft of carpentry.
This craft is one of the necessities of civilization. Its material is wood. This is as follows: God made all created things useful for man, so as to supply his necessities and needs. Trees belong among these things. They have innumerable uses known to everybody. One of their uses is their use as wood when they are dry. The first use of wood is as wood for fires, which man needs to live; as sticks for support, protection (of flocks), and other necessities; and as supports for loads that one fears might topple over. After that, wood has other uses, for the inhabitants of the desert as well as for those of settled areas.
Bedouins use wood for tent poles and pegs, for camel litters for their women, and for the lances, bows, and arrows they use for weapons. Sedentary people use wood for the roofs of their houses, for the locks of their doors, and for chairs to sit on. Wood is the raw material for all these things. The particular form needed in each case is the result of craftsmanship. The craft concerned with that and which gives every wooden object its form is carpentry in all its different grades.
The master of (this craft) must first split the wood into smaller pieces or into boards.130 Then, he puts these pieces together in the required form. In this connection, he attempts with the aid of his craft to prepare these pieces by the proper arrangement for (their) becoming parts of the (desired) particular shape. The man in charge of this craft is the carpenter. He is necessary to civilization. Then, when sedentary culture increases and luxury makes its appearance and people want to use elegant types of roofs, doors, chairs, and furniture, these things come to be produced in a most elegant way through mastery of remarkable techniques which are luxuries and in no way necessities. Such (techniques) include, for instance, the use of carvings for doors and chairs. Or, one skillfully turns and shapes pieces of wood in a lathe, and then one puts these pieces together in certain symmetrical arrangements and nails them together, so that they appear to the eye to be of one piece. They consist of different shapes all symmetrically combined. This is done with all the (possible) shapes into which wood may be cut, which turn out to be very elegant things. The same applies to all wooden utensils (alat) of whatever kind. Carpentry is also needed for the construction of ships, which are made of boards and nails. Ships are bodies (constructed with the help) of geometry (engineering), fashioned after the form of a fish and the way a fish swims in the water with its fins and belly. The shape is intended to make it easier for the ship to brave the water. Instead of the animal motion that the fish has, the ship is moved by the winds. It is often supported by the movement of oars, as is the case in (naval) fleets.
In view of its origin, carpentry needs a good deal of .geometry of all kinds. It requires either a general or a specialized knowledge of proportion and measurement, in order to bring the forms (of things) from potentiality into actuality in the proper manner, and for the knowledge of - proportions one must have recourse to the geometrician.
Therefore, the leading Greek geometricians were all master carpenters. Euclid,131 the author of the Book of the Principles, on geometry, was a carpenter and was known as such. The same was the case with Apollonius, the author of the book on Conic Sections, and Menelaus, 132 and others.
It is said that Noah taught carpentry (first) in the world. With its help, he constructed the ship of salvation (the Ark) with which he performed his (prophetical) miracle 133 during the Flood. This story may be possible, that is, (Noah) may have been a carpenter. However, there is no reliable proof that he was the first to practice (carpentry), because (the event) lies so far back in the past. (The story) serves to indicate the great age of carpentry. There is no sound information about its (existence) before the story of Noah. Therefore, he was, in a way, considered the first to learn it. The true secrets (significance) of the crafts in the world should be understood.
God is "the Creator, the Knowing One." 134