In 2007 the MOT received a donation from what could be the last pumpmaker in Flanders, Oscar De Wagter from Hansbeke near Nevele. This man not only donated his tools, he also explained how to drill a wooden pump. His story was the start of our pump drilling project.
Our most important set of tools is that donated by Oscar De Wagter in 2007. When he was young he worked with his father Richard as a carpenter, cartwright and pumpmaker for a decade. After that, he was occasionally asked to restore a wooden pump. In 1965 he made and installed a new, wooden water pump for the very last time. As the third generation of pumpmakers in his family, it could be that he was the last living pumpmaker.
A storm in 2017 left us with two straight oak trunks, ideal for making a pump. Nature gave the go-ahead. Both oak trunks were dragged out of the forest with draft horses and placed in the moat of the Prinsenkasteel for two years, to prevent the wood from cracking.
The biggest challenge was drilling out the trunks, something that was never been done before. In order to pass on the technology of pump drilling to the next generation and to help with the heavy drilling work, young carpenter Mathijs Huygebaert was enlisted in the project. The project was granted financial support from the province of Flemish Brabant.
On Heritage Day 2019, the logs were taken out of the water and transported by draft horses to the half-timbered shed of the Tommenmolen. In May 2019, we started the experiment during four demo-weekends. This way the public was able to follow every stage of the process. Luc made a transparent pump model to help explain and visualize the pump mechanism.
This project was experimental in more than one way. Firstly, because for this once we allowed the original hand tools of Oscar De Wagter to be used. It is almost impossible to make exact replica's of these specific examples of blacksmith's craftsmanship. During the experiment we discovered size markings on the drill bits, Roman numerals per foot that may have been used to measure the depth while drilling. The exact age and origin of these tools can no longer be traced. Oscar's grandfather is said to have bought them at a public sale in the 19th century, a clear testimony of their strength and durability.
During filming we were honored by a visit of the De Wagter family in our half-timbered barn. Oscar witnessed his great-grandson operate the crank of our pump model, while we widened the borehole through the oak trunk. Impressed by the size of our oak logs, he gave some additional tips for handling the trunk and locating the drill holes. Much to our regret, Oscar De Wagter passed away in October 2019 at the blessed age of 97.
video: transparent pump model (Dutch spoken)