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Corey D. Sullivan




Location: Canada
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PostPosted: Fri 07 Mar, 2008 9:56 am    Post subject: Finding 14th century Billhooks and Gisarmes         Reply with quote

Hello. I'm in the process of developing kit for a portrayal of a mid-14th century English Infantryman. The base of the kit is generic enough to be able to portray a longbowman, crossbowman, billman, etc, just by swapping out a few key pieces of kit.

However, I'm stuck as to finding a polearm suitable for the role. Does anyone know where I can find a billhook/gisarme that's of good quality, for the reenactor on a budget, without having to commission a custom piece?

Oh, also, any pictures of these, either reproductions or originals, as well as artwork depicting such, would also be much appreciated.

Thanks in advance.

"He had scantly finyshed his saienge but the one armye espyed the other lord how hastely the souldioures buckled their healmes how quikly the archers bent ther bowes and frushed their feathers how redely the byllmen shoke their bylles and proved their staves redy to appioche and loyne when the terrible trotnpet should sound the blast to victorie or deathe."
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Christopher Gregg




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PostPosted: Fri 07 Mar, 2008 9:59 am    Post subject: Billarm         Reply with quote

Corey, Arms & Armor makes a really nice English Bill and Italian Bill, either for less than $500. I've handled both, and you'll really like them. Check out Armor.com. Big Grin
Christopher Gregg

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Sean Flynt
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PostPosted: Fri 07 Mar, 2008 10:19 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Polearms could be quite crude in that period. Rather than commissioning a custom piece from a top manufacturer, you might want to check online for local metalwork shops or architectural blacksmiths. A bill is about as simple as it gets--a sheet of metal cut to form, with the base bent into a socket around a mandrel, often not even welded closed.

As long as you can supply dimensions, just about anybody with a forge or metal shop will be able to do this for you on the cheap. In fact, you might want to call around to local high schools and junior colleges--you might find an industrial arts teacher who'd be interested in putting students to work on something that would also teach a little history.

I've often considered doing this to acquire a bill or ahlspiess, but just haven't had the time yet.

-Sean

"Everywhere I have searched for peace and nowhere found it, except in a corner with a book"- Thomas a Kempis (d. 1471)
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Corey D. Sullivan




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PostPosted: Fri 07 Mar, 2008 10:23 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I've seen the Arms and Armor pieces, and you're right, they are exceptional polearms. The only problem is that they are both based on 15th and 16th century originals, respectively. Granted, that english bill was in use since the 14th century, but I would expect that that form changed considerably in 130+ years.

Thanks for the suggestion though. Arms and Armour make some wonderful pieces. I'm just looking for ones that are documentable to the 14th century.

I'm also having a hard time finding period images of them. I want to learn more about them, how they were used, how thy performed.

My search-fu is weak. Happy



Sean Flynt wrote:
Polearms could be quite crude in that period. Rather than commissioning a custom piece from a top manufacturer, you might want to check online for local metalwork shops or architectural blacksmiths. A bill is about as simple as it gets--a sheet of metal cut to form, with the base bent into a socket around a mandrel, often not even welded closed.

As long as you can supply dimensions, just about anybody with a forge or metal shop will be able to do this for you on the cheap. In fact, you might want to call around to local high schools and junior colleges--you might find an industrial arts teacher who'd be interested in putting students to work on something that would also teach a little history.

I've often considered doing this to acquire a bill or ahlspiess, but just haven't had the time yet.



Yes, Sean, I've thought about doing that, or making it myself.

"He had scantly finyshed his saienge but the one armye espyed the other lord how hastely the souldioures buckled their healmes how quikly the archers bent ther bowes and frushed their feathers how redely the byllmen shoke their bylles and proved their staves redy to appioche and loyne when the terrible trotnpet should sound the blast to victorie or deathe."
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Chad Arnow
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PostPosted: Fri 07 Mar, 2008 10:32 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Here is a thread that deals with 14th century polearms (and links to another thread that does also): http://www.myArmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.php?t=10540
Happy

ChadA

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Corey D. Sullivan




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PostPosted: Fri 07 Mar, 2008 10:40 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks Chad, I must have missed that one.

I just found a few from the Aurora History Boutique. Anyone had experience with these guys? What do you think?

Here.

I particularly like the look of their gisarme and vouge Gisarme, which looks a bit like that 14th century halberd you posted a picture of, except with a back spike and one socket in stead of rear ones.[/url]

"He had scantly finyshed his saienge but the one armye espyed the other lord how hastely the souldioures buckled their healmes how quikly the archers bent ther bowes and frushed their feathers how redely the byllmen shoke their bylles and proved their staves redy to appioche and loyne when the terrible trotnpet should sound the blast to victorie or deathe."
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Sean Flynt
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PostPosted: Fri 07 Mar, 2008 10:50 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The simple two-eye halberd seems to have been common. The image below is Austrian, ca. 1350.

If you can do some basic work, you could turn this late 15th halberd into a nifty 14th c. long axe or halberd:

http://cgi.ebay.com/Halberd-SCA-LARP-Viking-M...dZViewItem

Only two days left in the auction and no bids yet, so you might get it for a song. Heck, the Buy It Now price is only $90! Most folks will be turned off by the shipping price for the whole piece. See if the seller is willing to cut off the haft below the langets. That'd be a shorter package than a sword, and save you tons of money. Even with the Buy It Now option, you could get this piece for less than $120 without the haft. Then you'd just cut off those distinctive peaks, split and remove the remaining haft, cut the old rivets between the langets and remount as you wish.

I have one of these, acquired the same way I described above, and I really like it.



 Attachment: 142.94 KB
14th.gif


-Sean

"Everywhere I have searched for peace and nowhere found it, except in a corner with a book"- Thomas a Kempis (d. 1471)


Last edited by Sean Flynt on Fri 07 Mar, 2008 11:09 am; edited 1 time in total
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Corey D. Sullivan




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PostPosted: Fri 07 Mar, 2008 10:59 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Oooh, that's quite tempting, even if I were to just leave it as is. Another budget option I'm thinking of is to purchase this GDFB halberd from CasIberia, and grind it down to a shape similar to that of the Arms and Armor piece.

http://www.casiberia.com/product_details.asp?id=XB0098

http://www.arms-n-armor.com/pole030.html


Does anyone have any images of early English bills? Did they maintain the same design throughout their period of use? By that, I mean would a billhook form 1356 look similar to one from the late 15th century?

"He had scantly finyshed his saienge but the one armye espyed the other lord how hastely the souldioures buckled their healmes how quikly the archers bent ther bowes and frushed their feathers how redely the byllmen shoke their bylles and proved their staves redy to appioche and loyne when the terrible trotnpet should sound the blast to victorie or deathe."
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Sean Flynt
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PostPosted: Fri 07 Mar, 2008 11:06 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

IIRC, the basic bill form is seen even in antiquity as a tool. Simpler will cover a longer period. Those with lots of projections are going to be confined to a shorter, later period. The central socket is a later development, by the way, which is why I think the ebay weapon, with its side socket, could be a good 14th c. project. Speaking of which, consider this as an outcome--looks very 14th c. to me:


 Attachment: 64.01 KB
bb42_1.JPG


-Sean

"Everywhere I have searched for peace and nowhere found it, except in a corner with a book"- Thomas a Kempis (d. 1471)
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Corey D. Sullivan




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PostPosted: Fri 07 Mar, 2008 11:14 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Yes, it looks similar to a sparth axe, or a bardiche. I've already asked the seller if he is willing to cut down the shaft. If not, I'll have to see what the shipping would be on a package that large if he were to send it up here to Canada.

Sean Flynt wrote:
The central socket is a later development, by the way, which is why I think the ebay weapon, with its side socket, could be a good 14th c. project.


I've wondered why that is. Spears certainly used central sockets, why not polearms?

"He had scantly finyshed his saienge but the one armye espyed the other lord how hastely the souldioures buckled their healmes how quikly the archers bent ther bowes and frushed their feathers how redely the byllmen shoke their bylles and proved their staves redy to appioche and loyne when the terrible trotnpet should sound the blast to victorie or deathe."
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Sean Flynt
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PostPosted: Fri 07 Mar, 2008 11:31 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Corey D. Sullivan wrote:

Sean Flynt wrote:
The central socket is a later development, by the way, which is why I think the ebay weapon, with its side socket, could be a good 14th c. project.


I've wondered why that is. Spears certainly used central sockets, why not polearms?


Although it is most logical for the haft to be in line with the centerline of a spear head, the halberd is derived from the axe. A side socket is most logical for that weapon. The long-hafted axe was vulnerable to breakage of its haft below the eye. Extending the lower end of the blade and pinning it to the haft distributed the shock a bit better. Wrapping the lower end around the haft further reinforced the axe and created the two-eye form common in the 14th c. Extending the upper end of the blade added thrusting capacity, and as that became more important the axe became more spear-like. Thus it became more logical to move the socket to the center of the blade. By the late 16th century the typical halberd blade was relatively small and secondary to the top spike.

-Sean

"Everywhere I have searched for peace and nowhere found it, except in a corner with a book"- Thomas a Kempis (d. 1471)
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Corey D. Sullivan




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PostPosted: Fri 07 Mar, 2008 11:57 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

You know, the more I read about the bill and billmen, the less it seems that it was used during the 14th century.

For example, this thread states that the concept of an English billman alongside longbowmen is a myth.

Could this be the reason for the lack of proper examples of 14th century polearms?

"He had scantly finyshed his saienge but the one armye espyed the other lord how hastely the souldioures buckled their healmes how quikly the archers bent ther bowes and frushed their feathers how redely the byllmen shoke their bylles and proved their staves redy to appioche and loyne when the terrible trotnpet should sound the blast to victorie or deathe."
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Sean Flynt
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PostPosted: Fri 07 Mar, 2008 12:15 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Corey D. Sullivan wrote:
You know, the more I read about the bill and billmen, the less it seems that it was used during the 14th century.


I think that thread is referring more to the idea of billmen as a separate category. Men apparently did take bills to war, whether or not they used them in organized ways or were categorized as "billmen".

Could be that the bill hadn't fully made the jump from tool to purpose-made weapon by 1350, whereas the long-hafted axe and early halberd were well-established. Either way, spears presumably would have been much more common.

-Sean

"Everywhere I have searched for peace and nowhere found it, except in a corner with a book"- Thomas a Kempis (d. 1471)
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Craig Johnson
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PostPosted: Fri 07 Mar, 2008 1:37 pm    Post subject: Staff weapons in the XIII and XIV century         Reply with quote

Hi Guys

Here is an oldy, but goody, thread dealing with early pole arms. Some could be proto bill hooks though using the term proto in connection with a billhook is goofy as pruning/bill hooks are probably one of the first pole tools/weapons to come along and would be seen from very early on. It is finding an artist in period that cared to illustrate one that is the tough part.

Craig

Staff weapons in the XIII and XIV century
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Corey D. Sullivan




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PostPosted: Fri 07 Mar, 2008 1:58 pm    Post subject: Re: Staff weapons in the XIII and XIV century         Reply with quote

Craig Johnson wrote:
Hi Guys

Here is an oldy, but goody, thread dealing with early pole arms. Some could be proto bill hooks though using the term proto in connection with a billhook is goofy as pruning/bill hooks are probably one of the first pole tools/weapons to come along and would be seen from very early on. It is finding an artist in period that cared to illustrate one that is the tough part.

Craig

Staff weapons in the XIII and XIV century


Finding a billhook in period art is indeed tough. Infact, I'm having a hard time picturing what a 14th century bill would look like.
Would it just look like one of these with a top spike?


"He had scantly finyshed his saienge but the one armye espyed the other lord how hastely the souldioures buckled their healmes how quikly the archers bent ther bowes and frushed their feathers how redely the byllmen shoke their bylles and proved their staves redy to appioche and loyne when the terrible trotnpet should sound the blast to victorie or deathe."
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Craig Johnson
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PostPosted: Fri 07 Mar, 2008 8:59 pm    Post subject: Bill hooks         Reply with quote

Hi Corey

Yes, if you look through the thread I posted above there are two illustrated in this picture (the two in the center obviously)




That fit the form and the date.

Best
Craig
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Nathan M Wuorio




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PostPosted: Wed 26 Mar, 2008 7:04 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Corey, I would reccomend Aurora History Boutique. I found that their prices are really nice, and they stock a lot of things that you won't find in other places. Another couple of places to look at are www.mingloo.com, www.therionarms.com, and www.by-the-sword.com. Look at the pole arms there, some have the same pieces for varying prices.
Nathan.
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Bob Burgess




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PostPosted: Sun 07 Aug, 2011 1:42 am    Post subject: Billhook, bill - tool or weapon         Reply with quote

A few years late in replying to this thread, but as other browsers may find it using search engines, a few more points to consider...

The billhook as a tool for cutting wood, pruning trees, pruning grape vines, trimming hedges etc has been in continual use in Europe for over 2000 years. We had them in England before the Roman invased c 50AD, and they were known to the ancient Greek and Egyptians before the Roman Empire. It is also common in Asia, especially in India, South East Asia, China and Japan. Probable origins lie in the fertile plains of Mesopotamia, now Iraq, with the Assyrian peoples, from whom it spread east and west about 2500 to 3000 years ago..

The variety of blade shapes and sizes is still quite astonishing, in some case even small variations in blade shape from village to village, let alone region to region, or country to country - there are literally thousands of shapes... Yet most are easily recognisable as such, and share common features such as relationship of handle to blade. Both tang and socket handles (also scale tang) are common in many countries, and it is an easy tool to turn into a weapon, especailly a pole arm such as a bill. (note pre 1900 the term bill was more common than billhook, and was equally applied to tool and weapon).

There are hundreds of illustrations of billhooks in medieval Books of Days, especially for March, the month to prune grape vines - from the 10th to the 16th century. My best guess is that a bill (weapon) will share many similarities on basic blade shape (minus the various spikes, hooks and long handle) with a billhook (tool) from the same period....

e.g.



 Attachment: 89.97 KB
Biblia de Ripoll 10th or 11th C (Vatican).jpg
Biblia de Ripoll, Spain 10th or 11th Century (Vatican Collection)

 Attachment: 48.67 KB
Brother Ranulf.jpg
Probably taken from 14th century manuscript

Edge tool collector and historian, with a special interest in the billhook...
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