The Travelling Bronze-Smith’s Kit: Making Your Fortune In The Bronze Age
Bronze-Age Britain and Europe were very different places to the world we know today, but some things never change; and where there is a need for specialist skills and equipment, enterprising people will step up to fill it. The first and most successful of these Bronze-Age businessmen were the craftsmen who travelled around between small groups, families and tribes who couldn’t make their own bronze goods, carrying everything they needed to ply their trade with them.
The picture above shows just some of the items that a travelling bronze craftsman could cast for the communities they traded with. Not pictured are the forks, spoons & other utensils, bronze or copper pins, brooches, talismans, and other useful everyday items that could be made by these artisans. The ability to make incredibly hardy, long-lasting & much more effective tools than local craftsmen could create from natural resources meant that these traders were highly successful – so we even know what they would have carried with them through the wilderness as they searched for their next set of customers.
A few useful things to bring along when you start your travelling bronze tool business included:
A multi-use bronze casting mould
These multifaceted dies were made from soapstone, just like the large bronze sword casting moulds used at Bronze Age Foundry, and could be clamped together in four different ways, to make four different small items. By carrying four-in-one, the smith on the go really cuts down on the weight he needs to carry, and expands the selection of available merchandise. These handy little dies were perfect for making cooking utensils, small tools like sewing equipment or tanner’s scrapers, or even decorative items.
Portable bellows & crucible
A simple bronze-casting furnace could be made in most situations by digging a hole, building a charcoal fire inside and forcing air into the coals with a bellows. The crucible – the container that holds the ingredients for bronze so they can be melted and cast) would then be placed on the fire until everything had liquified and mixed properly. These bellows would usually be made from wood and animal hides, and wouldn’t take up too much space in the traveller’s pack.
Everyday survival equipment
All the bronze in the world won’t help a craftsman who freezes to death in the woods a few miles from the nearest village! Since the Bronze Age was set in a world that was still relatively wild and unsettled, it was important for travellers to carry the equipment they need to meet their everyday survival needs on the road – there wouldn’t be an inn to stay in, and exposure, hunger and wild animals were a real threat.
Some of this survival equipment might have included:
One of the most common tools in human history, not just the bronze age, has been the eating knife. Simply used to cut and prepare food, it’s a must-have when foraging, trapping or hunting. Traded food can also be prepared easily with this tool.
The second-most-important eating tool is a simple spoon – and if that seems unimpressive, try eating a rabbit stew without one. It allowed assorted forage to be combined in soups or stews, getting every last bit of goodness!
An axe was an especially vital tool in bronze-age Britain, since it allowed a traveller to gather firewood, build temporary structures where necessary, clear brush and blockages in the road, and defend himself from attack. Much sharper, much more durable and much faster-acting than stone axes, bronze axes allow full trees to be felled with comparative ease – so processing firewood was a breeze.
Firewood was the key to a lot of bronze-age success – it meant keeping warm, cooking food, keeping the night away and, perhaps most importantly, keeping the furnaces lit!
Looking to learn more about casting bronze? Contact Bronze Age Foundry!
If you want to know more about what life was like in the Bronze Age, or what it’s like to cast bronze tools and weapons, contact Bronze Age Foundry on our Contact Page or drop Dave an email on email@example.com. He’ll be happy to help you set up your own bronze age experience!
A modern bronze-smith working with similar methods and tools to the ancient craftsmen, working in a tent at Bronze Age Foundry.