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the Status of the medieval blacksmiths



Blacksmiths are an ancient profession. They use iron as raw material and rely on a small hammer to make various production tools and daily necessities to support their families

Blacksmiths usually have their own blacksmith shop. There is a furnace for calcining iron billets. At the connection of the furnace, there is a large manually pulled bellows, which is mainly used to control the temperature and strength of the fire. It is generally called controlling the temperature. The fuels used in the stove are charcoal and coal. The requirements for charcoal and coal are relatively high. Only about ten kilograms of coal in a hundred kilograms of coal can be used to forge iron. The charcoal that can forge iron is called iron charcoal. A blacksmith usually takes one or two apprentices. The main job of the apprentice is to use a big hammer five or six times larger than his master to help the master forge the iron blanks that are burned by the stove to make tools into the desired shape, In the final tool forming stage, there is no apprenticeship.

How high was the status of the medieval blacksmiths ? Now let’s learn about the blacksmiths in the Medieval and see what role they played in the Middle Ages .

Medieval Blacksmiths

Many people’s impression of a blacksmith is that in addition to knocking on the anvil, they also pour molten iron into the mold. But in fact, this technology was popularized very late in Europe. Before the middle of the 15th century, iron and steel in Europe had never been cast.

The reason is very simple, not every civilization has lit a blast furnace. and the ancient European blacksmiths were unable to raise the temperature of iron to its melting point..




They were unable to raise the temperature of the fire to 1536 ℃, which was needed to melt iron. For comparison, the melting temperatures of copper and gold are 1084 ℃ and 1064 ℃ respectively. The temperature of bronze is as low as 800 ℃ – 1000 ℃, depending on the composition.

Build a good fire and blow air into it. It may reach 1100 ℃ through hollow reeds as the ancient Egyptians did. However, if you try your best to blow, it will not rise to 1536 ℃.

So as a native European in the Middle Ages, you can’t get ironware by watering. You can only import iron and steel from India through continuous beating, because ancient Indians can make some very good things, called Uzi steel.

Although there is no way to get a piece of iron by pouring, it is still possible to use hammering. just like what blacksmiths often do in many novels, movies and TV plays.



Wrought iron: It is a kind of ferroalloy with very low carbon content (less than 0.08%), in sharp contrast to cast iron (2.1% to 4%). It is a semi molten iron block containing fibrous slag (no more than 2% by weight).

Forged iron: tough, strong plasticity, good ductility, corrosion resistance, easy to forge and weld, but can not be obtained directly.

Pig iron is the most common plastic iron before effective steelmaking methods are developed and a large number of steels are obtained. The reason why it is called cast iron is that it is hammered, rolled or processed in other ways at high temperature, which is enough to discharge molten slag.

Cast iron was originally produced directly from ores through various smelting processes, and today it is called ‘wrought iron converting process’. The furnace using this process is also known as the wrought iron converting furnace. Until the 19th century, it was widely used by Europeans.

The wrought iron stirring furnace is composed of a pit or chimney, and its heat-resistant wall is made of soil, clay or stone. Near the bottom, one or more pipes (made of clay or metal) enter through the sidewall. These pipes are called tuyeres, which allow air to enter the furnace and can be forced to ventilate by natural ventilation or by bellows or bell shaped air pipes. An opening at the bottom of the furnace can be used to remove slag.

The iron oxide in iron ore is reduced to iron by carbon monoxide produced by incomplete oxidation of charcoal, and the iron block is taken out after cooling. The pig iron is loose and has little practical value.

At this time, the molten slag can be separated by repeated hammering. Remove impurities such as carbon, sulfur and phosphorus. If you are skilled enough, you can get a piece of steel. This is what the ancients said. If the time is too long, you will get a piece of soft iron (wrought iron).

Not everyone can beat out the steel at one time, but the soft iron is too soft. It is OK to make some forks and buttons. It is too easy to damage agricultural tools and weapons.


At this time, blacksmiths can only use limited experience and various metaphysical means to try their luck: since there is no thermometer, they rely on the flame, the color of iron/molten iron to judge whether the temperature is appropriate, and as for the smelting time, they can roughly estimate it by singing a few songs. But even so, the rate of good products was still quite low. Therefore, even in the middle and late Middle Ages, only the noble class could buy really good armor and weapons.

Medieval Blacksmiths Position

According to records, in 1340 in Britain, a sword of average quality cost only 6 pence, but they can only be used to intimidate robbers. As for swords that can really take to the battlefield, the price is often 10 times their price, and some of them even cost more than 1 pound (1 pound=240 pence), which does not include inlaid gems and other decorations. The same situation also applies to armor, especially the plate armor that appeared in the late Middle Ages, which is more valuable. For example, the plate armor worn by Joan of Arc reached the price of 100 Egyptian residences (the currency unit of France at that time). In terms of purchasing power, it is roughly equivalent to 100000 yuan today.

In the Middle Ages, there were few blacksmiths who could make these high-quality equipment. They were often concentrated in big cities in Italy, Germany and France, and were often honored as “masters”. As for their products, they often attracted kings and nobles to spend a lot of money. Over time, these masters and their works have also evolved into legends, and their influence has even extended to today’s game design field

1. In terms of cultural level, the medieval blacksmiths can also be regarded as the leaders. Different from farmers who have been dealing with land all their lives, they have actually entered a complex social network as soon as they enter the industry because they have to deal with various customers.

 At the same time, in order to operate, they will also learn to write and calculate, and master a variety of practical knowledge. In some places, blacksmiths are not only craftsmen, but also dentists, veterinarians, surgeons and business intermediaries.

 It is precisely because of their extensive knowledge that they are often elected to important positions, such as village heads and church directors, which eventually become stepping stones to their success. In addition, blacksmiths also have a considerable position in the civilian class. Generally speaking, their houses are in the best position in the center of villages and towns, and they often act as mediators and notaries in civil disputes.

2. In terms of economic income, medieval blacksmiths were also second to none in medieval occupations, and the income of the best among them could even exceed that of ordinary knights.

 For example, in medieval England, a skilled swordsman could earn 2 pounds a month, which was more than 15 times that of ordinary citizens.Even blacksmiths with poor craftsmanship can use the refined inferior iron to make daily necessities, such as ploughs, nails, door bolts, rims, pots and pans, etc.

 In addition, even the blacksmiths with poor craftsmanship can use the refined inferior iron to make daily necessities, such as ploughs, nails, door bolts, rims, pots and pans, etc.


In the Middle Ages, once war broke out, blacksmiths were also the objects that kings and lords needed to rely on. They sometimes enlist blacksmiths and apprentices in the army to ensure the supply of weapons for the front line and pay them handsomely. In addition, another important job of blacksmiths in the army is to use their mechanical knowledge to help build various siege weapons Such as catapults, counterweight catapults and siege towers

So the medieval blacksmiths was one of the richest professions in the Middle Ages . 

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