While the tools of the Middle Ages may seem ancient and inadequate to modern minds, many of them were quite innovative for their time. During the Middle Ages men and women were forced to rely on the resources they had at hand to create tools to aid them in farming, building, and other daily tasks. Find out more and try some of the tools yourself!
The building tools of the Middle Ages were largely made of wood, though some incorporated iron tips for cutting and sharpening, and most were hand operated.
There did exist, however, some larger tools like the tread wheel crane which utilized a pulley system and required several men to operate.
Auger = this tool is a type of hand-operated drill used to drill holes in wood.
Chisel = often made of metal, the chisel was used to sharpen or cut hard materials like wood and stone.
Hammer = one of the most recognizable tools today, the hammer was also used during the middle ages to pound pegs into wood.
Trowel = this small shovel-like tool was often used to spread mortar onto stone or brick during the construction of buildings.
Adze = slightly resembling a hammer, the adze has a sharp blade positioned at a right angle to the shaft and it used to chip away pieces of wood to smooth or carve lumber.
Agriculture was an important part of everyday life during the Middle Ages and these tools made farming possible. During the middle ages, most farming was done by hand with the help of these tools.
Plough = drawn by a horse or mule, the plough made it possible to turn even forests and swamps into arable land for agriculture.
Pitchfork = the sharp tines on the end of a long shaft made it easy to move hay from the field into a cart or into the stable.
Sickle = a handheld tool with a curved metal blade used for cutting grain.
Scythe = consisting of a long wooden shaft and a thin blade, this tool was used for mowing grass.
There are many other types of tools of the Middle Ages. One of the largest industries during the Middle Ages was cloth making so tools had to be created for this craft. Cloth shears were made using sharpened iron and hand looms were used to make wool and cotton into cloth.
The spindle, a cylindrical apparatus, was used to spin wool and cotton fibers into thread. Mining was also an important industry during the Middle Ages - developments in the production of iron led to new innovations in tools and machinery.
With stronger, iron tools it became easier to plow fields and the agricultural industry blossomed.
Tools of the Middle Ages Children Resources
- Write a story using the information you have learned about the subject. Select a type of craft that was prevalent during the Middle Ages (farming, building, sewing, etc.) and write a story from the perspective of a member of that craft, describing their daily tasks and what tools they used to accomplish these tasks.
- Build Middle Ages tools out of clay or construct paper replicas to hang on a bulletin board in the classroom. Choose one or tool to create a replica of and then brief description of the tool’s function.
- Think about how the tools of the middle ages might have developed into the tools of today. Find pictures of modern tools that look similar or perform a similar function. Draw pictures comparing medieval tools with the tools of today.
The Middle Ages were a time of great growth in industry, agriculture, even astronomy, and without the tools of the Middle Ages we would not have some of the tools we have today. The crude medieval version of the auger made was developed into the power drill and the hand loom and spindle were mechanized in the years following the Middle Ages. The Middle Ages were a rich time in history and the discoveries and developments made during those years continue to influence the world today.
Auger photo by Flickr user Marion Doss
Brick and Mortar photo by Flickr user BinaryApe
Sickle photo by Flickr user Dennis.tang
Sycthe photo by Flickr user d_u_3_n_d_3
Spindle photo by Flickr user hspauldi
“Medieval Tools,” Castles of Britain.com, https://www.castles-of-britain.com/castlezc.htm
“Farming in the Middle Ages,” Middle Ages.uk, https://www.middle-ages.org.uk/farming-middle-ages.htm
This post is part of the series: Life During the Middle Ages
The middle ages were a time of castles, jousting, and innovations in tools. Developments in tools and castles were made out of necessity - tools to facilitate new methods of farming and castles to provide defense against invading armies. Jousting tournaments were held for entertainment.