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Forum Index > Historical Arms Talk > Warhammer vs plate? Reply to topic
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Einar Drønnesund





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PostPosted: Sun 08 Feb, 2004 1:07 am    Post subject: Warhammer vs plate?         Reply with quote

Has anyone here tested a warhammer on plate armour? Is it realistic that the spike could penetrate good plate in combat, or where mainly the hammer part used to knock an opponent down, and then finishing him with the spike? I would appreciate info and teories on both one handed and two handed versions of the warhammer.

PS: I am aware of the HACA video, where they caved in a helmet with a warhammer, but IIRC, it was due to a failure in the helmets weld.
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Russ Thomas
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PostPosted: Sun 08 Feb, 2004 2:09 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Einar,

The war hammer was designed to both puncture and even to shatter plate armour.The hardness of the plate helping to deflect blows from missiles and assorted weapons ,but a direct blow from a war hammer ,or poleaxe ,was probably a quite different thing ! Genuine armour is usually ,surprisingly,quite thin ,and it is quite easy to imagine a war hammer penetrating a helmet or breastplate ,probably with ease.The famous foot combat armour of King Henry VIII (1520) , for example,although the helmet of this harness is actually quite thick,it also still had originally a pate plate ( or volant piece ,to give it its correct name ), fitted onto the brow of the helmet as well ,as blows from this kind of weapon were a very real threat.


Regards,

Russ

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Allan Senefelder
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PostPosted: Sun 08 Feb, 2004 6:05 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The helmet getting stove in and punctured was due to sound hits and the war hammer doing its job . I was present
to see Tim Shettz do this and the seeming ease with which this was accomplished was interesting . The helmet
was however on a pole and immobile so the strikes were landed with optimal force and precsion something that
is much harder to do if the helm were on a body trying real hard not to be hit .
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Felix Wang




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PostPosted: Sun 08 Feb, 2004 7:36 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Russ Thomas raises an excellent point about the efficacy of plate armor: Henry VIII met with Francis I at the Field of the Cloth of Gold. The athletic English monarch proposed bouting with two-handed swords between the two kings.

Francis I declined. He was no coward - he would be taken prisoner at Pavia leading his gendarmes in a heroic but futile action. He refused on the grounds that no armor existed which was strong enough to allow safe bouting with full size/weight two-hander swords.

Of course, a warhammer is specifically designed to take apart armor, unlike two-handed swords.
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Craig Johnson
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PostPosted: Sun 08 Feb, 2004 8:04 pm    Post subject: Armor pierceing         Reply with quote

Excellent Point Felix

The weapons and armor of the day in most periods were always working towards a parody as apposed to any one being superior.

The spike of any hand weapon or pole arm was a fearsome deterrent to almost any armor. If one takes a stout spike of steel or iron it is a heavy, heavy armor that is needed to repell it. I have tested several pieces of armor over the years and other material as well and I am still surprised what a solid 3/4 inch to point 4 inch long spike can pentrate, even unhardened spikes.

The local guild of metalsmiths had a meeting at the shop last year and a fellow who works for a major airline brought a piece of the new balaistic proof door material to the shop after several of his coworker figured little could go through it. He had chimed in that he knew some folk who may have an idea.

Well after setting the material up so it had a bit of give I took an even measured swing with one of our horse axe spikes. The penetartion on the back sid was about an inch and a half. This of course was a composite kevelar material. Balastic resistant in nature. But even some samples of hardened steel armor we have toyed with were a bit better than that as far as spike penetration.

I think if a fellow got a good square hit on you with a spiked weapon you were bound to feel it. But, as in so much in life, it was probably the fellow who had been nicked a few times that had the best chance at standing at the end of a course in the list.

Best

Craig
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Nathan Robinson
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PostPosted: Sun 08 Feb, 2004 9:22 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Well, since you've asked so nicely, I thought I'd put this article on-line for you to read:

The Del Tin 3163 Warhammer vs. a Barrel Helm

Have fun with it!

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Joe M.




Location: Rescue, CA (foothills of Sacramento area)
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PostPosted: Sun 08 Feb, 2004 9:31 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Just thought I'd give my *inexperienced* "two-cents". As a kid, I fondly remember drooling over my arms and armour books, especially those glorious swords. And whenever I'd come to a page where some knight or foot soldier was wielding something like a mace or warhammer, I clearly remember thinking - "What the hell - who would carry one of those stupid things into battle, when he could have had a SWORD?!!!". Now, as an adult with a collection of many swords and crushing "tools", I clearly admit that I've never had the "guts" to scratch one of my precious steel babies (swords, axes, warhammers, etc), by attacking anything more ferocious than cardboard. However, my thinking decades later has entirely flip-flopped. When I heft one of my spiked warhammers whose size and weight seem to fit my "perfectly", I *feel* I could destroy virtually any knight's armor with it. I do not feel that way when hefting any of my swords. I now have no doubt that if I had to fight in a Medieval battle, an axe or warhammer - not a sword - would have been my primary weapon.

Now, my "feelings" are hardly scientific, but the much more experienced people in this field surely understand what I'm talking about. Having seen what OTHERS have done to armour using what I *used to* consider a "silly little hammer", I now have the utmost respect for those things. To use one of my incessant analogies, a good warhammer in the hands of a poor foot soldier was surely a near "equalizer" against an armored knight in much the same way that a WW II panzerfaust (bazooka, etc), was for the common soldier who now had the ability to pierce the modern knight - the tank - and take him down.

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Jeff Johnson





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PostPosted: Mon 09 Feb, 2004 10:17 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Bjorn's tests (and Tim's I'd bet) were using Cast tooled steel in a pick-shaped head, optimal (right) angle, against a rigid or staticly mounted flat mild steel surface - of course it'll penetrate.

Try that against a hardened steel helm of proper period curvature & dimensions on a moving person and I'm thinking you'll see something else.

In Period poll-axe combat descriptions, such as Jaques lalange (spelling) you read of minor damage and armor parts being removed in a duel without significant injury to the wearer. Inpact weapons on plate will ring a guy's bell, knock him down, bruise the heck out of him, maybe even break something under the armor by blunt trauma, but until you get past, disable or remove the protecting bit of armor, you're not likely to take the opponent out with a penetration. A REALLY hard, direct hit MIGHT crack a lesser or flawed plate.

Still, it's a whole lot better than blunting your sword on him while he killing you.
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Russ Ellis
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PostPosted: Mon 09 Feb, 2004 1:07 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

It's my understanding that landing that good solid hit on a well made suit of plate is difficult to do as well. The angles of the plate are designed so that you never get more then a glancing blow. It wasn't impact weapons that removed plate from the battlefield after all...
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Joe M.




Location: Rescue, CA (foothills of Sacramento area)
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PostPosted: Mon 09 Feb, 2004 5:42 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I get pretty excited when I think of the pics/videos I've seen of armor being pierced by spiked axes and warhammers......but all this talk has got me thinking. Those devastating hits were indeed all on static targets. I live on 5 acres and have taken down many trees with my "mighty" axes. They never stood a chance. However, if those trees had been "bobbin' and weavin' " like a fighter, I'm quite sure my axes would have seemed marginally effective at best! I have no doubt that a knight *on his back* could have been torn up by a strong arm and a great spiked warhammer, but a knight on his feet coming at me. Hmmmm, "run away, run away"!
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Björn Hellqvist
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PostPosted: Mon 09 Feb, 2004 6:04 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Plese note that my article is rather whimsical, and shouldn't be taken as hard fact. I stress that the test is flawed in several ways, and that it should be read more like entertainment (and a DT3163 review), than a thesis on the effectiveness of armour. In case someone missed the obvious, that is...
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Craig Johnson
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PostPosted: Tue 10 Feb, 2004 7:03 pm    Post subject: Research         Reply with quote

The best article I have found dealing with the subject, in addition to Björn's, is one from a couple of years ago.

Head Protection in England before the First World War, by T. Philip Blackburn, M.B., B.S., F.R.C.S., David A. Edge, B.A., Alan R. Williams, B.Sc., Ph.D., Christopher B.T. Adams, M.A., M.Ch., F.R.C.S. Published in NEUROSURGERY, Dec 2000, Vol 47, #6.

Touches on most of the points we have brought up and gives some good forensics evidence from finds and such. Another good area is to watch the research coming out from the Towton digs.

Best
Craig
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Allan Senefelder
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PostPosted: Wed 11 Feb, 2004 7:14 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Neurosurgery AND head protection ! COOL! Thanks Craig , gotta track that one down . There was a good special on
the National Geographic channel a few years ago on the grave pit from the Battle of Towton done forensically
including reconstructing one of the guys who had survived a jaw severing cut years earlier and lived to fight again
Fascinating stuff . There are skulls with perfectly square holes from the picks of hammers or the spike of pole arms
and many of the dead were killed by multiple blade hits drawn through the face . A level of deliberate violence
todays society finds hard to understand . Bone is remarkably hard substance and the top of the human skull is
a little over 1/4" thick on average ( thats what the four i've got miced out at anyway) . Imaging the force routinly
being applied to break through that !
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Alexi Goranov
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PostPosted: Wed 11 Feb, 2004 10:18 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

That is a very interesting article, Craig, but it is a pain in the neck to obtain it. Since I have free access to many on-line science journals I thought it will be easy to obtain, but nooooooo. Even Harvard Hollis catalogue does not have on-line subscription to this journal. So with much digging I was able to purchase the article through the medical department of Boston University (my wife could have gotten it for free, as she works there, but I was too impatient). The $20 I paid for it seem well worth it.

I cannot attach the article for two reasons: the forum settings do not allow the up-load of anything else than pictures. This could be gotten around by simply changing the extension of my file. The more serious problem is that the file comes with security attached,and if I want to move my file on another computer and open it it tells me that I need a plug-in and after I download the the plug-in on the new computer, it tells me that I have to pay for the article---AGAIN Evil Actually I can download the article on 3 different computers after which I DO have to pay again.

I have not given up! I will try again to get a copy which I can freely distribute

Take care

Alexi
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Jeff Johnson





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PostPosted: Wed 11 Feb, 2004 4:39 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Allan Senefelder wrote:
Neurosurgery AND head protection ! COOL! Thanks Craig , gotta track that one down . There was a good special on
the National Geographic channel a few years ago on the grave pit from the Battle of Towton done forensically
including reconstructing one of the guys who had survived a jaw severing cut years earlier and lived to fight again
!


If yo liked that, look for a book entitled "Blood Red Roses" It's got the forensics on all the bodies recovered from that mass grave at Towton. Amazing stuff on wound trauma and period Pysiognomy - like fellows with one arm stouter than the other (archers), dental analysis indicating diet & a mess of other interesting tidbits.
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Allan Senefelder
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PostPosted: Wed 11 Feb, 2004 5:21 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Frightfully groovy ! Thanks Jeff . Does it have the whole thing where they cat scan that fellow Simon something or other
who's shot longbow for the last twenty years and compare his physiology to that of the remains they suspect were
those of longbowmen ? That part was really intersting on the special as they go into how the push-pull required to
draw the bow led to overdevelopment of certain parts of the upperbody .
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Jeff Johnson





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PostPosted: Wed 11 Feb, 2004 7:26 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Most of the comparisons they make are to high single-arm-stress modern atheletes - Baseball pitcher & tennis players
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Craig Johnson
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PostPosted: Wed 11 Feb, 2004 9:28 pm    Post subject: Towton         Reply with quote

Yes that is an excellent book on Towton. Our generations Wisby in a way. The forensics are fascinating. We were asked to do several mockups based on original items for comparison to the wound evidence. Really interesting stuff.

Best
Craig
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Russ Ellis
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PostPosted: Thu 12 Feb, 2004 5:44 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

"Our generations Wisby..." Jeez Craig just how old are you anyway? I'm beginning to wonder why you are so into swords... you don't happen to know some guy named Duncan do you?
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Allan Senefelder
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PostPosted: Thu 12 Feb, 2004 6:31 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Towtons a great find but nothing will top the maille coiffes with the skulls forever locked in the from Visby, they're
jaws frozen for eterity in that grimamcing scream that gives one the impression that that was thier expression
when they died .
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