Greetings and Salutations.
Man...does this sound like a world history assignment
in high school or what?
However, I would suggest that your BEST bet would
be to goto the local library and poke through some
archeology and anthropology books. Use several sources
and make sure that they all agree on a point before stating
it as a fact in the paper. Be sure not to plagerise, and
provide a complete bibliography.
Also, there *are* folks online that discuss
the Iron age at length... here, for example:
There was a BBC show on PBS several months ago called something like
"Surviving the Iron Age." One of those new living history type shows
like Frontier House and such, but took place somewhere in the UK at a
rebuilt Celtic village. The people participating in the program lived
as Iron Age Celts for a couple months, partly with a goal of building
a bellows and successfully forging iron. I didn't catch all of it,
but what I saw was pretty cool.
Check out the website for the program at:
Which iron age are you talking about? African? Chinese? Celtic? I
suspect that while there were similarities, the various cultures would have
approached smithing with many detail differences. I don't know, but you may
find that there's more of a similarity between your local welding shop and a
European iron age blacksmith than there is between the European guy and a
Chinese iron age smith.
I found a site that gave pretty good detail on the Greek iron age day when I
was looking for information on heat treating. I never did find detailed
instructions on hardening 4140 or 1050 steel, but I did find out about iron
back when it was the cheap stuff (bronze has much better properties for
weaponry than the early iron -- we needed to figure out how to make steel
before it was the material of choice for swords).
Where was he, and how far back? If you mean a couple thousand years ago,
even then it would depend. An African might be making mostly hoes and
spearheads, with occasional ceremonial pieces. A Celtic smith might be
welding iron tires for chariot wheels--a process they invented IIRC. In
many areas, converting iron scrap and tools into urgently needed items was
important, in areas like the Mediterranean where iron was scarce and
expensive. (This is where the biblical references of beating plowshares
into swords, and swords into plowshares, come from--a typical
peasant/warrior often didn't have enough iron for both farm tools and
weapons, so the smith converted them according to whether the need was
farm work or fending off an invasion.)
In large cities, some smiths might already be specialists, making cutlery
or housewares/hardware or armor. A smith with an army would be mostly
maintaining and repairing armor and weapons, with the occasional job of
hardware for a seige engine or the like. A smith at a mine would spend
most of his days dressing picks and other tools, and occasionally
shackling a slave or fixing something.
That far back, most everyone used charcoal for forge fuel, though green
hardwood and thick bark can be used, and probably was used in some places
back then. Air supply varied greatly, from Malay featherduster-pistons in
bamboo cylinders, to goatskins with a guy's foot over an intake hole and a
strap to hold it in place during the intake stroke (the foot served as a
valve as well as a means of forcing the air out of the tuyere). Or,
simplest of all, a bunch of your buddies standing around blowing through
bamboo tubes, as was done in parts of Africa.
Many of these forges would be simple pits in clay soil, with a pottery
tip on the side or bottom-draft tuyere to take the heat. Sometimes the
mud forge would be raised in a wooden box with legs, or an earthen
platform, to a more comfortable working height. Or built of stone, tile
or brick in an established town.
Iron was _really_ expensive, so metal anvils were extremely rare until the
last few hundred years, and the first ones were quite small. A thousand
years ago, a Viking smith would do his rough forging on a stone anvil, and
have a small anvil (like a modern jeweler's stake) set into a stump for
finishing the surface. I've used stone anvils, and even a tough hard
stone powders away from the heat and pounding in short order, leaving a
rough texture on the work. The Chinese inventors of cast iron used it for
anvils among many other things--they might crack occasionally but far less
often than a stone anvil does! One of the more thrilling moments in
experimental archaeology is when forty pounds of basalt splits off your
anvil without warning and heads for your feet. There are all kinds of
legends about lame blacksmiths, and I have no trouble at all imagining how
Tongs, hammers, files and the like go back at least a thousand years, and
often look quite familiar to us, though regional styles vary. I've seen
photos of pickaxe heads, from the very early Iron Age of three thousand
years ago, that had forge-welded steel tips on wrought-iron heads that
look identical to the pick heads used by the Forty-Niners, so the
essentials of forge welding and the understanding of the virtues of steel
go back a long way.
Because iron was expensive it was endlessly recycled, and finds of
really old tools are rare. We have literary references from Homer, from
the Old Testament, from other old sources that often go back further than
our archaeological evidence, though Pompeii's smithy and lucky finds like
the Mastermyr from Sweden (an whole set of blacksmith's tools, still in his
toolbox, apparently lost when a boat capsized crossing a lake) give us
actual tools, not just products, of working smiths back then.
I just received an e-mail from Daniel Kretchmar, and he will be bringing
the Mastermyr replica to Warriors & Warlords SCA event again next
summer, middle of July. Those attending can view the replica close up!
It's a hands-on exhibit. That'll be the second year this has been
available at that particular event.
Daniel Dillman wrote:
Cool aren't they? Have you ever done those Norse chest locks with the
twin hasps? They're my favorite--stick a key in the center keyhole, turn
90 degrees and slide, and the hasps pop open on either side.
If you haven't seen it, there's a sort of large pamphlet called _Early
Chests in Wood and Iron_, from Her Majesty's Stationery Office if I
remember right, with photos and descriptions of about a dozen medieval
chests. Cool book, and some of them shown clearly enough to reconstruct.
Christmas present chest (not much smithing though)
(More Christmas, more smithing this time)
No - haven't heard of those. I quite fancy making something with a
complex lock. Got any refs for a picture ?
Haven't seen it - at nearly $4/page from Abebooks I don't think Im
likely to !
Congrats to STBL on his elevation from TLA to ETLA
Andy Dingley firstname.lastname@example.org
wrt Conrad's post
(I make replica chests myself -
I like the open mortise joinery.
Was wondering what Hansa period locking mechanics would have been?
I both like it and hate it ! They're very quick and easy to cut, and
when pegged they're quite strong (although I used bamboo pegs rather
than hardwood). It's a traditional technique for both Japan and Norse
But I only use them when they're hidden. If a woodworker sees them,
they're likely to regard them as a short-cut hack by someone who
didn't want to cut "real" dovetails.
Padlocks are period, but for a real cash strongbox the "Armada Chest"
was more likely. These are rectangular wooden chests with iron
strapping all around, and a complex lock that fills the entire lid.
However the locking mechanism of the period (for both padlocks and
installed locks) would have been barbed bolts and a key that slid
over them to push the barbs inward. Such locks are still made in India
today, and were in traditional use for Japanese tansu throughout their
history, but they disappeared in the West in favour of warded locks
and a simpler bolt. The bolt is prone to manipulation and being slid
back, but it can be bigger and stronger against a sideways
Congrats to STBL on his elevation from TLA to ETLA
Tre Tryckare's _The Viking_ (not actually an author, that's the name of
the publisher, in Gothenburg, Sweden) has illustrations on p.174. The
caption/description is very confusing, until you realize that it's a book
written by a bunch of Scandinavians, in English, and printed in Spain. A
few proofreading errors have crept in. :-)
The illos and captions both make perfect sense, once you realize that the
layout people inverted the drawings. Once I understood that everything
was shown from the point of view of a guy standing on his head inside the
chest, actually building the thing seemed easy by comparison.
The same page has a couple of drawings of a Norse padlock, and those are
clear and right side up. What the book does _not_ show are the positions
of forge welds or (often) fasteners, and they don't show scale either. I
built an oil lamp from this book and it was years before I learned I'd
made it twice the size of the original.
An amazing variety, actually. Their locksmithing wasn't very close in the
tolerances (this is like saying that the Statue of Liberty is a large
bronze casting job) so there were only a limited number of lock/key
variations possible in a given design. This put a premium on using a wide
variety of lock designs, and they did. I've seen pin-and-tumbler locks
made entirely out of carved wood, lots of variations on the sliding key
that compresses locksprings and makes the lockbar small enough to slip
out of the case (the Chinese are still making padlocks on this principle),
the chest lock I mentioned, where the key has sideways prongs that lift
jamming springs over a lip when the key is turned to allow the lockbar to
slide, and various skeleton-key types. The Persians had all those and
added cylindrical keys with square threads that had to be screwed into the
lock (the threads were square rod wrapped around a round shank and brazed
into place, not lathe-turned).
Those are just the types I know about, and I'm quite sure that there are
others, because I've seen pictures of locks that fit none of these
descriptions, but the sources didn't give enough info for me to list them
I am looking for information on the components of a smithy from the late
middle ages through the renaissance. If any one has information on books or
internet sites or anything else on the subjec that might help me it would be
wrt medieval blacksmithing information
Although Georgius Agricola's "De Re Metallica," first published in 1556, is
overall a text on mining, there is much on smithing and smelting, and many,
many illustrations of the old methods of work/power transmission.
Dover had published a translation by former president Herbert Hover and his
brother Lou Hoover. I purchased a copy through the Early American Industries
Association about 20 years ago.