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15937Mastermyr reconstructions: (was: Antique hand and moulding planes)

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  • conradh@...
    Aug 24, 2013
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      > Cool. I would challenge you to be the first blacksmith to put the handles
      > on the Mastermyr scorp (and other "drawknives") correctly instead of the
      > conjectural drawing of the non-woodworking archaeologist. :) It's funny
      > how everyone copies that wholesale without thinking about it.
      > Guillaume

      You mean the artist who doesn't seem to know a scorp from a spokeshave? :-)

      That's not the only issue with Mastermyr tool handles. Everybody
      describes that chest as a toolbox, as if it was full of usable tools that
      the owner would dig into when he wanted to hew a beam or bore a hole.
      Someone checked it out and found that if those tool heads were all
      restored with reasonable wooden handles, they wouldn't begin to fit in the
      box. Everyone had assumed that the wooden handles had been there and had
      rotted away--and apparently never asked why the bog environment would have
      rotted the tool handles and left the box around them untouched!

      Rural Scandinavian smiths were itinerant in those days; instead of a smith
      having a shop on his farm and the neighbors coming there to get work done,
      apparently the smith would travel from neighbor to neighbor in the slack
      season, carrying his hand tools and using forge, bellows and stone anvil
      that each farm kept for the purpose. The Mastermyr box has always been
      interpreted as the working toolbox of such a smith, lost while crossing
      the lake that later filled in with peat to become the Mastermyr

      But there's all kinds of other metal junk in that box. Also, the owner
      had locks inside, but the lock on the box itself seems to have been long
      broken, and left unrepaired; instead a length of chain had simply been
      wrapped around the box to hold the lid closed. Some archaeologists have
      also suggested that some of the holes in the box were there when it was
      lost, not just gouged out by the plow point that snagged it out of the

      As a working smith, I can testify to the efficiency of keeping projects
      around for times you only have a single paying piece you're working on. I
      have several buckets of such next to my forge right now; they provide
      items that can be heating while the first piece is being hammered or filed
      or bent. My professional opinion is that the Mastermyr chest was not a
      smith's working toolbox at all; but a smith's project box/scrap pile.

      There were no hardware stores back then. The smith, whether at home or on
      the road, _was_ the hardware source. And iron was scarce and expensive;
      in every preindustrial culture that worked iron, smiths are described as
      always taking iron in trade. Worn-out or broken items, if not repaired
      directly, would become the raw material for something else, and the smith
      would allow some credit for the metal brought in when the new item was
      priced, just as is done with a car trade-in today. So a smith would trade
      in scrap as well as make new items and do repairs; and a stash of tools
      with broken handles might be a fine shortcut the next time a customer
      wanted an axe or hammer. No heavy forging--just dress the working
      surfaces, carve a handle and fit it, and the customer has a "new" tool, or
      good as new. I do this today, and every general blacksmith with a walk-in
      trade has done it too.

      If you have a permanent shop, there is no end to how much stuff can pile
      up; look at any smithy today for an example! But an itinerant smith would
      have to choose; the Mastermyr box looks to me like a well-chosen
      assortment of readily restorable tools that could plausibly be in
      occasional demand in a neighborhood of small farmer/handymen. This
      explains very well why a smith with the files and hacksaw for
      locksmithing, who carried locks around, had a long-broken lock on his own
      "toolbox". Or why he bothered carrying a bunch of unhandled tool heads in
      the way of his working tool set!

      So if Mastermyr is not a toolbox, but an itinerant scrap and
      get-to-it-someday collection that includes tools without handles, one
      wonders what became of the _other_ box. The one on the other side of the
      packhorse when it fell through the ice or suffered a harness breakage.
      Did the real toolbox get recovered and make it home? Or is it still down
      there in the peat, sunk just enough deeper that the metal detectors
      deployed by the researchers haven't found it yet?

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