Medieval Blacksmiths Were Key in Shaping the Period

Picture of medieval blacksmith
The old saying “a woman’s work is never done” can easily apply as well to medieval blacksmiths. In a time where nearly every handmade item of importance was metal, blacksmiths found their workloads almost never ending.

From swords and armor to keys, nails and tools, if it was made of metal, medieval blacksmiths made it. Inasmuch, the blacksmiths were quite valued by the society for their specialized art and their ability to make or break an economy and an army.

The life of blacksmiths in the middle ages depended a lot on their location in the world, or within their country and also the time frame in question. In the earlier part of the period, with cities less organized, the trade was not quite organized and those living in village settings relied on the person with the best skills to serve as their blacksmith. As organization became more evident, medieval blacksmiths rose in status, creating their own guilds to govern their trade.

Location, as stated, had a lot to do with the kind of life blacksmiths could expect. Those living near or in cities were sometimes members of powerful guilds. They had apprentices to assist in their work and they earned more than a modest living if their craft was true. Medieval blacksmiths in the cities were highly valued as their wares were needed in virtually every household from a serf’s up to a grand king’s. It didn’t pay to upset blacksmiths lest your nails would bend and your sword might break.

Image of medieval blacksmith
When it came to castle life, the medieval blacksmiths generally were afforded the protection of living within the fortified walls. After all, it was the blacksmiths who made and repaired weapons and armor. It would do a good knight absolutely no good if the blacksmiths were taken and their shops burned during the onslaught of a siege.

Medieval blacksmiths, despite their need by society, didn’t necessarily have a live of leisure. The work was hard, hot and gritty. Working iron into steel required specialized equipment and extreme temperatures. It was a true art to work iron into a supple form that could create exemplary swords and lances and more delicate pieces such as daggers. Depending on the actual piece in questions, medieval blacksmiths could spend minutes working an item or hours and even days and weeks perfecting armor and weapons for war.

It literally took years to master the medieval blacksmiths’ trade with many an apprentice failing at the task. Each piece, whether a nail or sword, required specialized working of the hot metals. The exact heating method, working and hammering were necessary to create works of art. Molds sometimes could help in the task, but when it came to the pieces of knightly status, handworking was often necessary, making the life of medieval blacksmiths tedious at best.

Despite the lack of glamour involved with being a medieval blacksmith, the period itself was greatly influenced by their craft. Without their abilities and their experimentation, armor, weapons and common household goods wouldn’t have advanced and the history we read today would be very different.