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Blacksmith Peter Ross recently sent me a link to the video below that shows production nailmaking of shoe nails in a town in Austria. These guys are working at breakneck speed – forget those modern videos you see of amateur smiths working in their garages.

If you’ve never read about pre-industrial nail production, it was a hard life. In the United Kingdom and its colonies, nailmaking was many times a family affair. The man, wife and children were all involved in making nails. And I imagine this is about what it looked like.

At the end of the 18th century, Hugh Bodey estimated that there were tens of thousands of nailmakers in Black County alone in his book “Nailmaking” (Shire). Other regions of the United Kingdom counted 35,000-40,000 nailmakers in 1799.

My German language skills stink, but I believe the film says a nailmaker (or the nailmaking shop) could make 5 million tacks in a year. And when you see the looks on the faces of the smiths, they are intent on making every second count.

— Christopher Schwarz


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Showing 7 comments
  • horta

    Hey,
    spoken language is Czech, as well as the village where the shoe nails are manufactured (http://zajecov.cz/historie/) .
    Hammer weighs is 2.5 kg

  • Tomas

    Dear Chris,

    could you possibly correct the heading of this article? The video comes from Svata Dobrotiva, a village in central Bohemia, Czech Republic and the acompanying, very interesting commentary is spoken in Czech ( only white text is German).

    hope it helps a bit,
    Tomas, Czech Rep.

  • Pedder

    The spoken language isn’t German (nor the austrian idiom).
    Sounds like some east european language.
    Let me try a translation of German subtitles

    Schuhnägel-Erzeugung in Heiligengut.
    Shoe nail making in Heiligengut.

    Einfache Nägel können mit der Maschine gemacht werden.
    Simple nails can be made by maschine

    Sogenannte Zwecken müssen mit der Hand erzeugt werden =
    so called “Zwecken” must be made by hand

    Zur Erzeugung einer Zwecke sind 30 bis 40 Schläge nötig
    It take 30 to 60 hits (beats?) to make one “Zwecke”

    In einem Jahr macht der Zweckenmacher über 5 Milionen Schäge. =
    In one year one worker hits more than 5 milion times.

    Die Zweckenmacher sind wahre Millionäre der Arbeit. =
    The nail makers are true milionaires of work.

    In einer Woche macht der Zweckenmacher 4000 Zwecken.
    In one week one nail maker makes 4000 of these special shoe nails (Zwecken).

    Hope that helps a bit.

  • rdeviney

    If you’re denied access to the Swedish documentary site, it’s also on Youtube
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ual0LgNzKsM

  • rdeviney

    1923, Swedish Nail maker
    https://www.oppetarkiv.se/video/1480735

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