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Ahmad Tabari





Joined: 15 Jun 2008

Posts: 148

PostPosted: Sun 07 Apr, 2013 10:52 pm    Post subject: Production rate of mail in the Middle Ages         Reply with quote

I have for long been curious about the rate in which mail was produced in the Middle Ages. Today many people estimate the number of man hours required to produce a riveted/solid mail shirt at 500 to 1000 hours depending on the size of the shirt as well as the diameter of the rings. But these are of course modern estimates based on attempts to accurately mimic the production methods used in the middle ages.

We know that there is much information from the Italian city states on the number of workers employed in mail making. My question is, are there any primary sources mentioning the number of mail shirts these workshops produced annually?
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Sean Manning




Location: Austria
Joined: 23 Mar 2008

Posts: 419

PostPosted: Mon 08 Apr, 2013 7:27 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

We know that it varied dramatically over time. The price of mail in England dropped four- to eight-fold between 1200 and 1300 according to chapter 5 of Randall Storey's PhD thesis (link), One factor was the falling price of iron; another was increased specialization in metalworking, He suggests that in the early middle ages, mail was probably made by smiths who made many other things; in the late middle ages we know that each step in making mail (producing wire, cutting links, weaving and closing the links) was a separate trade done by different workers. The later is obviously more efficient, but was probably less fun for the workers.
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Ahmad Tabari





Joined: 15 Jun 2008

Posts: 148

PostPosted: Mon 08 Apr, 2013 6:42 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi Sean,

Very interesting article, thanks for sharing it. So it seems likely that it was only towards the end of the High Middle Ages that mail makers adopted a "Taylorist" approach to the production of mail. I wonder if such production techniques were also applied in the Middle East and the Byzantine empire.
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Mart Shearer




Location: Jackson, MS, USA
Joined: 18 Aug 2012

Posts: 1,276

PostPosted: Mon 08 Apr, 2013 11:27 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Paris had a guild of trefilliers de fer , iron-wire drawers, as early as the mid-13th century. Italian mail production seems to have been organized into large shops, while Germany and others utilized more cottage industry. The growing use of water-powered mills to hammer iron sheet and draw wire certainly lowered the costs of the mailmaker's raw materials.
ferrum ferro acuitur et homo exacuit faciem amici sui
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Johan Gemvik




Location: Stockholm, Sweden
Joined: 10 Nov 2009

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PostPosted: Tue 09 Apr, 2013 5:38 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Wedge riveted maille, especially in combination with flat cross section links are also faster to make with reliable strength in the rivet point than the dome riveted variant. We can see this from modern day reconstruction.

In my opinion, improved ways to make the wire and other raw material combined with new ways to make the maille both sped up the process. Dome riveted was still being made though so it must still have had some advantage.

"The Dwarf sees farther than the Giant when he has the giant's shoulder to mount on" -Coleridge
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Ahmad Tabari





Joined: 15 Jun 2008

Posts: 148

PostPosted: Tue 09 Apr, 2013 10:30 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Mart Shearer wrote:
Paris had a guild of trefilliers de fer , iron-wire drawers, as early as the mid-13th century. Italian mail production seems to have been organized into large shops, while Germany and others utilized more cottage industry. The growing use of water-powered mills to hammer iron sheet and draw wire certainly lowered the costs of the mailmaker's raw materials.

Do you have any figures on how many workers were employed in Paris' wire drawers guild?

Quote:
Wedge riveted maille, especially in combination with flat cross section links are also faster to make with reliable strength in the rivet point than the dome riveted variant. We can see this from modern day reconstruction.

I have always thought that these developments in mail manufacture had much to do with the shortage of labour following the black death. The persistence of dome riveted mail despite the knowledge that there was a more efficient method of riveting is a testament to it's superiority in certain aspects.
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Mart Shearer




Location: Jackson, MS, USA
Joined: 18 Aug 2012

Posts: 1,276

PostPosted: Tue 09 Apr, 2013 11:09 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Le Livre des Metiers, Titre XXIII doesn't give us total numbers as far as I'm aware.

http://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/bpt6k110190t/f235.image

ferrum ferro acuitur et homo exacuit faciem amici sui
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Dan Howard




Location: Maitland, NSW, Australia
Joined: 08 Dec 2004

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PostPosted: Wed 10 Apr, 2013 1:01 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Don't suppose there is an English translation somewhere? I can only read dead languages Worried
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