Nationwide Inventory of Intangible Cultural Heritage

Turnery - Traditional technique of mechanical material processing based on rotating workpieces

Turnery craft is a very dynamic and innovative craft. The practice of the traditional craft requires many years of experience, a strong technical understanding as well as fine-motor skills. In Germany, turnery is widely appreciated in professional and private sectors.

Facts & figures

  • Crucial date: throughout the year
  • Inscription: 2018
  • Domains: traditional craftsmanship; oral traditions
  • Where to find: no specific location


Verband des Deutschen Drechsler- und Holzspielzeugmacherhandwerks e.V.
Thomas Mörtel

Turnery belongs to one of the oldest crafts of humanity. Rotating workpieces made of natural materials such as wood, horn or amber are refined with the help of cutting tools to craft and artistic (utility) objects. Due to a large number of raw materials and product specializations used today, the profession is characterized by rare disciplines such as tire turners, amber turners, horn turners and toy makers.

Individual elements such as staircases, columns, bowls, cans or complex articles such as tables, chairs, or coat racks are manufactured by more than 100 different types of wood. Special attention is given to the production of individual pieces in handcrafted objects that adorn churches, monuments or pieces of art. Turnery also supplies carpenters, musical instrument makers, moldmakers or toy manufacturers with craft work.

In the early seventh century, the oldest turned objects were found in Italy. The Etruscans had already developed impressive skills in turning bowls, furniture feet and plates. In medieval times, turnery contributed to the boom years of handcraft and during the baroque period, turnery was even practiced by aristocrats. In the 15th century, Leonardo da Vinci invented a revolutionary tool that made continuous rotation possible and even more diverse figures were created.


Wissen. Können. Weitergeben..
Deutsche UNESCO-Kommission, 2017