How difficult would it be for someone be to get a hold of lots of metal wire in early medieval times?

It doesn't really matter what metal it is or how uniform, just that it's in long lengths (tens to hundreds of meters) and that it's reasonably fine gauge (<1mm diameter)

The character is trying to build a speaker (for shock and awe) and needs lots of (semi)affordable wire to build the speaker coil.

I've heard about wire-wrapped jewellery (presumably really expensive) and some forms of chainmail (only short lengths?) but I've not seen much about long continuous lengths of wire. Could it be done?

  • $\begingroup$ I might answer later, but here's a Wikipedia article to get you going in the right direction. en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/… $\endgroup$ Oct 12 '17 at 23:33
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    $\begingroup$ also en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wire#History $\endgroup$
    – user25818
    Oct 13 '17 at 0:01
  • $\begingroup$ This is more of a history question than a worldbuilding one. $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Oct 13 '17 at 3:10
  • $\begingroup$ @sphennings does it help if it's for a medieval rock concert? :) $\endgroup$
    – Samwise
    Oct 13 '17 at 8:32
  • $\begingroup$ I think this is fine. Medieval rock concerts were probably quite rare in real-life history. $\endgroup$
    – Secespitus
    Oct 13 '17 at 9:04


grumpy monk making wire caption

This grumpy monk from 1389 will whip you up a batch of wire in no time. He already has a fair bit ready. I think some sweet tunes will improve his mood a lot. He will also be pleased if you let him make the wire out of soft copper instead of iron; copper is a lot easier to work with and I suspect will be comparably priced in medieval Europe.

For a speaker you will need to insulate this wire. I think beeswax will serve.

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    $\begingroup$ Wow, I had no idea that the technology was that far developed that long ago, I was surprised by the viking draw plate from the tenth century. Now my medieval rock concert can proceed. $\endgroup$
    – Samwise
    Oct 13 '17 at 8:31

I've only found out how to get the materials to make the wire. Back in the 1300s, your average English labourer earned about 672 grams of sterling per year, or about 2.1 grams per day. That converts to .20 cubic cm, then to 2800 cubic millimeters. Going through some more math, that would be 36 days worth of pay for a wire 100 meters long. Solution: rob a peasant.


I left a comment linking to medieval European metallurgy in the comments, but here's the gist of what's relevant to this question.

If your story takes place in the Early Middle Ages (5th-10th century) metal is going to be really hard to find because of the limitation in mining techniques and difficulty extracting metal from ores.

Increase in metal production and production of copper kicked up more towards the end of this period, but it's the High Middle Ages (11th-13th century) that mining and increased production and quality of metals were at the peak. I'd say this would be the best time for medieval wire making.


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