In the crafts working with wood, the compagnons are, or were, present among the carpenters, joiners, cabinet-makers, cartwrights, coopers, clog-makers, turners and basket weavers. The multiple ways of using wood of diverse species result in an array of very different works : roof frames, doors and windows, furniture, wheels and horsedrawn carriages, barrels and casks for wine and spirits, clogs, hampers and baskets. Reception pieces and prestigious works are on display in the Musée du Compagnonnage.
Compagnon stonemasons still enjoy a reputation for excellency in their knowledge of stereotomy and the prestigious buildings they produce. Other masons were admitted into their ranks when reinforced concrete was developed. In this stone section, we include the plasterers and also roof-tilers since they work with slate (although their activity is sometimes shared with carpentry).
Compagnons can be found nowadays among metal workers as blacksmiths, mechanics, locksmiths, farriers, panel-beaters, stove-makers, plumbers and zinc-workers. The diversity of the metals and their alloys (iron, steel, copper, brass, plumb, zinc, bronze) allows the creation of very different works.
This business sector included several compagnons’ brotherhoods in crafts that industrialisation has reduced to next to nothing, e.g. : rope-makers, ferrandine-weavers, hatters, hand weavers, dyers, tailors, cloth-shearers, tanners, chamois-tanners. Nowadays, the compagnonnage is still present among shoemakers, saddle- and harness-makers, fine leather workers and upholsterers.
The crafts engaged in the production of meal courses first established compagnons’ brotherhoods in the 19th century with the compagnon bakers du Devoir in 1811. They were followed by cooks (1900), pastrycooks, confectionners and caterers. Only the works made of pastilled sugar (icing-sugar, water, gelatine and lemon-juice) or in pasta dough can keep through time and so be on show on a long term.
Through continuous handling a craftsman develops an intimate relationship with his/her tools ; they become extensions of his hands. Each craft has its own specific tools : a hammer can come in a wide range of shapes and weights according to its use. The museum displays some tools in the context of each craft or theme.