The master craftsman

The smith, the master craftsman, was often only assisted by a journeyman, who stayed with different master craftsmen for varying lengths of time as part of his journey. The master also employed just one or two boys as pupils or workers who remained with the master until they had learned the trade. While the journeyman assisted the master with the metalwork and actually helped to make the locks, the boys were given all the simpler tasks. In the smithy they had to look after the hearth, work the bellows, clean, and do simple work on the locks, such as riveting, assembling, blackening, and painting.

Two apprentice indentures dated 1792 and 1801 in Eskilstuna Fristad

Apprentice indentures were entered into by the master locksmith Anders Norling and the apprentice Daniel Linngren, and by the master locksmith Lars Lundberg and the boy (aged 13) Nils Fredrik Skiöldberg. The indentures were contracts of five sections. After the end of the apprenticeship (six years), the apprentices were to present an approved test piece: a filed chamber lock. After that, their indentures were shown to the official of the Fristad (which means that it was a tax-exempt town), who entered information about the apprentices into the Fristad’s logbook. The young men then started their journeyman period, which bound them to their master craftsman for another two years of paid work.

Guild rules

The life and work of locksmiths were regulated in the guild rules that authorities had stipulated since the Middle Ages. Locksmiths were first part of the blacksmiths’ guild, but later had a guild of their own. One guild rule was that locksmiths had to set up their business in the towns. While they did enjoy a lack of competition there, the mayors and councils set their prices. In addition, orders had to be completed on time.


The iron used to make locks and keys had a low carbon content and was fairly pure, free of sulfur and phosphorous, with a melting point of 1450ºC. Steel was also used for door locks.

The master locksmith bought iron himself, sometimes directly from country folk, who in many cases produced iron in small blast furnaces on their own land (puddled iron). Another alternative was to buy osmund iron (malleable iron in small pieces) or iron rods from the ironworks. Osmund iron and bar iron were wrought iron derived from cast iron through processing in a puddling furnace.


Lindberg, Folke. Hantverk och skråväsen, under medeltid och äldre vasatid. Finland 1989.

Hellberg, Knut. Järnets och smedernas Eskilstuna. Bidrag till smidesindustriens historia från äldsta tid till storindustrialismens genombrott. Del II. Eskilstuna 1938.