15941Re: [MedievalSawdust] Mastermyr reconstructions:
- Aug 25, 2013I had wondered it it had been stolen (because of the broken locks and hole) and the thief dumped it when pursued. I like your ideas better though. Why no handles?
On 8/24/2013 7:45 PM, conradh@... wrote:
> 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.
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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