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M. Eversberg II




Location: California, Maryland, USA
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PostPosted: Sun 06 Jun, 2010 10:05 pm    Post subject: Customers of the war-smiths?         Reply with quote

A staple of typical fantasy literature is the friendly local sword and armor shop. These places sell items created individually by some smith somewhere with the skills to make it, and sell to the various people who need their wares (generally the adventure types but most typical fantasy places have weapons being toted by nearly everyone).

Of course, when I started reading into things I realized that isn't how it was at all, and that for much of the middle ages blanks were churned out en-mas where possible and then sold (or handed to if in the same complex) to other professionals who do all the finishing work. Cutlers for swords, etc.

However, I was never aware of just -how- these things are sold. I am a weapon maker of some kind, who for simplicity has a complex that can create the weapon from start to finish, bar iron to "shelf ready" item. Who's my customer base and how do they get my goods? Do I sell out of my building to rich enough passer-bys (death knell) or would I normally be living contract to contract with a new client nearly every time? Where does my product go and from what do I derive my life-sustaining income?

M.

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James Head





Joined: 09 Mar 2008

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PostPosted: Mon 07 Jun, 2010 7:44 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Well for starters you would be part of a guild.

All of the various worries and problems that you outlined in your last paragraph are the exact reasons that various trade guilds were formed in the Middle Ages. You wouldn't even be allowed to practice your trade if you were not part of the guild, and likewise you would be (relatively) protected from financial ruin by being part of the guild because everybody interested in having a sword made would need to go through them. There was little to no competition. Capitalism didn't exist back then.
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Bryce Felperin




Location: San Jose, CA
Joined: 16 Feb 2006

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PostPosted: Mon 07 Jun, 2010 10:06 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Also for big projects, like if a duke or king wanted a couple thousand swords and pole arms for his new military campaign, a contract would be made through the guild and the work would be farmed out to all guild shops for equal work on the project. You'd also, as a master weapon smith, have a couple of apprentices who would do the "scut" work for you while you oversaw the finishing.
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M. Eversberg II




Location: California, Maryland, USA
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PostPosted: Mon 07 Jun, 2010 10:32 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

So the "shop" I'd interface with would be the guild hall of weaponmakers and not actual smiths themselves? I guess there are simply so few makers compared to customers (the nobility, urban militia and free-lance groups, depending on era) that there's steady income enough to not starve. Can't imagine guild membership is free.

Are these guilds concentrated in one area (a single town or city) or do they spread to multiple locations? That is, if I was in the "weapon maker guild of some french town", would we also have control over the smiths in some other town, or would we be in control of the (maybe handful) of metal working shops set up for weapon making in this sole location?

M.

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James Head





Joined: 09 Mar 2008

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PostPosted: Mon 07 Jun, 2010 11:15 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Here's a link to a little discussion on the WMAC forums about the translation of a particular 16th century German guild name.

http://www.wmacoalition.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=454

When you get near the bottom you will see that there were many small guilds established for each aspect of making a sword...

Sword smith, sword sharpener, sword polisher, the guys that make the hilt and handle etc...

I'm not an expert on guilds, and it depends on what century you are researching, but most metropolitan cities had a ton of guilds for just about every single craft and job known to man. Some of the larger guilds were often employed by the Duke to serve as guards and militia in their local corner of town as part of their service contract. Sometimes fights broke out between guilds and they would have to pay fines etc...

Although some guilds occasionally fought, it was never due to rivalry because there was not supposed to be multiple guilds of the same craft in any city.

I don't know how things worked in smaller populated areas. Maybe the local craftsmen were still part of the closest city guild in their region.

I'm sure some locations were better known for their production quality. Like how at one time many countries were purchasing Italian made armor. How they worked that out is beyond me....
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JG Elmslie
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Location: Scotland
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PostPosted: Mon 07 Jun, 2010 2:18 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

M. Eversberg II wrote:
Can't imagine guild membership is free.

M.


if my memory serves me, I've read that it was often the equivalent of several years' income to pay your way into guild membership (though that was tanners' and leatherworker's guilds I was reading about). Another little helper towards ensuring guild hegemony and preventing competition...
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Toke Krebs Niclasen




Location: Copenhagen
Joined: 31 Jan 2010

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PostPosted: Mon 07 Jun, 2010 2:28 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

As far as I recall from a history book on the town of Aalborg in Denmark, a prospective guild member* had to host a party for the guild.
There were specifics for the menu and amount of beverages, it looked like quite a lot, and something that would keep all but the most prosperous people out.


*I do not recall which guild.
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Toke Krebs Niclasen




Location: Copenhagen
Joined: 31 Jan 2010

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PostPosted: Mon 07 Jun, 2010 3:02 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Found the book, the party specifications are from elsewhere.

In 1613 all guilds in Denmark were banned to combat the problems of entrance fees and/or master pieces restricting the number of masters in a town.

The downsides were lack of education of apprentices and workmen, and that the tradesmen started to meddle in merchant business.

By 1621 the policy were somewhat abandoned and some level of guilds allowed, by 1662 a commission were assigned to investigate the problems and come with recommendations for regulations.
By 1672 there were some royally signed regulations in place, a lot of it similar to the state of affairs pre-1613.


People at the time were not idiots, they they just spoke funny.

They had the same problems we have with different power/interest groups in society and how to balance it.
The idea of street kids and the lack of youth education were known too.
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Sean Manning




Location: Austria
Joined: 23 Mar 2008

Posts: 401

PostPosted: Mon 07 Jun, 2010 6:50 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Francesco Datini is one example of a merchant who dealt in armour (see a book by Iris Origo, "The Merchant of Prato"). He bought up armour and materials from workshops, shipped it to markets like Avignon (where the pope and his chief soldiers lived, and near to France when there was a war there) and sold it out of a general shop.

Another pattern would go something like this: the German emperor starts to plan a campaign, one of his officials decides he needs 1250 cuirasses and 820 pairs of gauntlets, and sends a messenger to one of the big armouring towns in the Germanies. The town council (or the heads of the appropriate guilds) negotiates on prices and divides the work up among the memebers of the appropriate guilds.

Fine armour would usually be a built to order (with problems of the buyer forgetting to pay or failing to come in for a fitting), but ordinary stuff could be built in advance.
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Paul Hansen




Location: The Netherlands
Joined: 17 Mar 2005
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PostPosted: Tue 08 Jun, 2010 11:25 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

M. Eversberg II wrote:
So the "shop" I'd interface with would be the guild hall of weaponmakers and not actual smiths themselves? I guess there are simply so few makers compared to customers (the nobility, urban militia and free-lance groups, depending on era) that there's steady income enough to not starve. Can't imagine guild membership is free.

Are these guilds concentrated in one area (a single town or city) or do they spread to multiple locations? That is, if I was in the "weapon maker guild of some french town", would we also have control over the smiths in some other town, or would we be in control of the (maybe handful) of metal working shops set up for weapon making in this sole location?

M.


I'm not so sure that the guild's control would be that strict. Guilds may have dictated minimum prices and a minimum quality level, but I think that the better craftsman could have charged more for his wares.

Regarding cities, in many regions, especially in the Netherlands and parts of Germany, cities were more or less independent. They may have had control over a few surrounding villages (and it makes sense that any craftsmen living there would join the city's guild), but usually not over other cities. I think that guilds were almost always connected to the city, rather than to a region / county.

James Head wrote:
When you get near the bottom you will see that there were many small guilds established for each aspect of making a sword...

Sword smith, sword sharpener, sword polisher, the guys that make the hilt and handle etc...


That makes you think whether one of these would act as a main contracter... If you would commission a sword, then it would be a bit bothersome to contact each of these guys yourself...

Of course, for larger orders to supply an army, that would be less problematic...
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