For generations, the gunsmith´s craft in Ferlach (Carinthia) has lived from collaboration between specialists. Stockmakers shape wood to create the stocks, engravers design the surfaces of the metal parts, and gunsmiths combine the various parts in the necessary form.
The eleven currently active Austrian master gunsmiths employ up to 10 individuals in each of their various businesses, where they pass on skills and knowledge such as the complex technical features of wheellocks to their apprentices. These apprentices are joined by outworkers who practice the abovementioned specialties. After purchases by the Austrian state dried up at the beginning of the 19th century, production here commenced a long and laborious shift toward hunting weapons. These weapons, of high quality as well as high artistic value, are custom-made according to their orderers’ wishes. Customers’ personal measurements are taken in order to determine stock length, and customers also participate in choosing the wood, which comes from walnut tree roots. For centuries, guns from Ferlach have been internationally admired.
1878 witnessed the establishment of a specialised school for gunsmithing—and in 1963, an advanced department was added that provided a five-year course of training. However, students’ hours per week in the workshop are now gradually being reduced in the curriculum. One can also notice a decline in the number of apprentices. This trade school still had 140 apprentice gunsmiths at the close of the 1980s, while just two students were still enrolled at its department for gunsmiths and weapons mechanics in 2005. It was only in 2008 that a gradual increase set in, and the department now has 20 students—of whom four are also doing apprenticeships with a Ferlach-based gunsmith.