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Shane Allee
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PostPosted: Tue 25 Aug, 2009 7:36 am    Post subject: Maquahuitl, Macahuitl         Reply with quote

For years now Mark of Ollin Sword Design and myself have talked about making an Aztec macahuitl, but until recently it had always just been talk. While he was down in June, Mark picked up some wood with the intentions of using it to make one. This spurred me to start looking for a source for the correct type of obsidian blades. Quickly I found out that there aren't a lot of people out there making prismatic blades and Jim Winn stood out as the man to contact. He has a number of youtube videos of his knapping and some showing the process of making this style of blades. http://www.youtube.com/user/paleomanjim


So here is a picture of Mark's Macahuitl. It is 38 3/4" overall with sixteen 2" long obsidian blades set into the edge.



I went with a smaller 27 1/2" size and ten 2" long obsidian blades set into the edge.



These were both side projects to help with some of the stress from other projects in the works and just something fun we have always wanted to make. Mark does have a few blades remaining and will probably be making something for them to be set into. He had also talked about making a two handed version as well. I also picked up some obsidian to try my hand at pressure flaking with, but these won't give us the prismatic style of blades. It is a pretty safe bet that we will continue working on some central american bladed weapons of some kind or another.

Shane
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Gabriel Lebec
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PostPosted: Tue 25 Aug, 2009 8:09 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Well there's something you don't see every day. I love the patterning and design of these.

What exactly does "prismatic" mean in this context?

"The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of true art and true science." - Albert Einstein
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Justin H. Nez




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PostPosted: Tue 25 Aug, 2009 9:03 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I am curious as to how well they cut. The Spanish considered them sharper than their own swords.
"Nothing in fencing is really difficult, it just takes work." - Aldo Nadi
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Mark G.
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PostPosted: Tue 25 Aug, 2009 9:23 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The blades definitely are sharp. I actually caught my elbow on one of them as I was mounting them to the wood. It really took no effort to slice into my skin. Cutting might be a difficult thing to quantify with these. They aren't quite the same as what one would normally think of in typical sword terms and may have a different purpose as well. I have a feeling that they were more about getting an enemy to the point of submission by bleeding or blunt trauma, so that they may be taken prisoner for later sacrifice. That's not to say that you couldn't make some nasty cuts with them though.
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M. Eversberg II




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PostPosted: Tue 25 Aug, 2009 11:26 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Beautiful work there! I've always been a fan of macahuitl.

M.

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Shane Allee
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PostPosted: Tue 25 Aug, 2009 1:07 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Prismatic blades have parallel edges and are trapazoidal in cross section. Although sometimes they will be trianglular if the flake runs across to one of the previous ridge lines. The core will have a flat top and the blades will flake off the sides of the core and run the length of it. Here are some examples that I found online showing examples of prismatic blades and cores.




For anyone interested, Jim's youtube videos are interesting to watch. This is his first one on blades and cores, and it shows some of the ones that he has made, talks about how he does it, and shows museum stuff that he has taken pictures. It is just the first of a series

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8qJdMz1PTzQ&am...p;index=29

He does sell higher quality videos and I am tempted to pick up the one on blades and cores.
http://www.flintknappers.com/jimwinn.html

Shane
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Mark G.
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PostPosted: Tue 25 Aug, 2009 1:09 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Gabriel Lebec wrote:
Well there's something you don't see every day. I love the patterning and design of these.

What exactly does "prismatic" mean in this context?


I'm not entirely knowledgable about flintknapping or their terms, but I believe "prismatic" refers to the process by which the blades are made. Instead of taking a piece of obsidian or whatever and flaking pieces off to bring it to shape and refine the edges, prismatic blades are flaked off a conical core of material. You go around the circumference of the core, knapping off these long, relatively straight blades. What results are blades with flat backs and usually a ridge on the front side from previous blades being flaked off of the core. They come off the core perfectly sharp, with no need for edge refinement.

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Mark G.
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PostPosted: Tue 25 Aug, 2009 1:11 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Ah, you beat me to it. You provided pictures as well...
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Paul Hansen




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PostPosted: Tue 25 Aug, 2009 3:28 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Looks great, but why didn't you place the flints a bit closer together? That could help with the cutting, I guess. Or not?

I'm getting quite interested in the Macahuitl lately, but there isn't much solid info about them, unfortunately.
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Mark G.
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PostPosted: Tue 25 Aug, 2009 5:16 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

It was an personal choice on my part. The entire design was based around the number 2, with angles and proportions playing off of that. It was kind of a cool coincidence that the blades ended up being 2" long when we got them. The groove for the blades actually extends the length of the macahuitl, so I could fill the entire edge with them if I wanted to.

You're right that there isn't much information about macahuitls. Depictions of them are across the board, in terms of spaces between the blades. It isn't strictly the outside edge of the blades that can cut. From personal experience, their corners can be quite nasty as well.

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Jean Thibodeau




PostPosted: Tue 25 Aug, 2009 7:56 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Even with the spacing it should be able to make some nasty draw cuts and it does look cool with the spacing.

Really nice aesthetics in the geometric " painted " patterns.

The obsidian produces very much of as close to a molecular edge as one can get when it is fractured/split of the core and is much sharper than any steel razor at least until it gets damaged ..... although damage can cause fresh new cutting edges.

Anyway, what I have read before here or elsewhere. Wink Cool

Congratulations on very nice work. Big Grin Cool

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M. Eversberg II




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PostPosted: Wed 26 Aug, 2009 8:21 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

What holds the blades into the grooves?

M.

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Mark G.
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PostPosted: Wed 26 Aug, 2009 6:17 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I ended up using pitch to attach the blades. I tried experimenting with some more natural processes for attaching the blades, but nothing has really worked out for me so far. I'm still experimenting though. I got anxious about getting this macahuitl finished when the blades showed up and couldn't make myself wait for the experiments to pan out.
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Jeremy V. Krause




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PostPosted: Wed 26 Aug, 2009 6:42 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Congratulations on a fine reproduction Shane,

It looks really scary! These must have been terrifying weapons.
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Shane Allee
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PostPosted: Wed 26 Aug, 2009 9:04 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I picked the spacing based on my design as well. Originally I figured that I would use fourteen blades. Once I found the design style I wanted and layed it out, ten blades is what it worked out to be. For the shorter size that I did, ten blades seems to be a pretty common number. The different codices all show the macahuitl differently and even in the same codex you see a good bit of variation with things like blade spacing. For awhile I had considered doing the cotton balls between the blades as some even show, but decided against it for the time being.

I'd wanted to make my own pine pitch, but it is hard to come by this time a year around here. So I ended up going with a hide glue with a bit of wax added to the mixture to soften it a bit. Also added a bit of the same pigment that I had used in the paint to give it a bit of an orange color.

Shane
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Gabriel Lebec
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PostPosted: Wed 26 Aug, 2009 9:57 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Ah, so it's geometrically prismatic (I was thinking optics before). You'd think someone with a math degree would get that. Wink Thanks very much for the small presentation, it's great to learn about materials besides the familiar steel.
"The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of true art and true science." - Albert Einstein
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Jared Smith




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PostPosted: Thu 27 Aug, 2009 4:32 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Justin H. Nez wrote:
I am curious as to how well they cut. The Spanish considered them sharper than their own swords.


I am only going by memory, but am pretty sure one Spanish account described a cavalryman's horse being decapitated by a native warrior equipped with this type of sword. The account and discussion of these South American swords has been gone over in the past couple of years in older threads.

Absence of evidence is not necessarily evidence of absence!
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Paul Hansen




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PostPosted: Fri 28 Aug, 2009 8:00 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jared Smith wrote:
Justin H. Nez wrote:
I am curious as to how well they cut. The Spanish considered them sharper than their own swords.


I am only going by memory, but am pretty sure one Spanish account described a cavalryman's horse being decapitated by a native warrior equipped with this type of sword. The account and discussion of these South American swords has been gone over in the past couple of years in older threads.


See below:

Bernal Diaz del Castillo wrote:

While closely environed in this manner, a number of their strongest warriors, armed with tremendous two-handed swords, made a combined attack on Pedro de Moron, an expert horseman, who was charging through them accompanied by other three of our cavalry. They seized his lance and wounded himself dangerously, and one of them cut through the neck of his horse with a blow of a two-handed sword, so that he fell down dead. We rescued Moron from the enemy with the utmost difficulty, even cutting the girths and bringing off his saddle, but ten of our number were wounded in the attempt, and believe we then slew ten of their chiefs, while fighting hand to hand.


Although "cut through the neck of his horse" perhaps does not mean "cut the neck of his horse clean off". Instead, maybe the artery was cut or something.
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Justin H. Nez




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PostPosted: Fri 28 Aug, 2009 12:34 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Paul Hansen wrote:
Jared Smith wrote:
Justin H. Nez wrote:
I am curious as to how well they cut. The Spanish considered them sharper than their own swords.


I am only going by memory, but am pretty sure one Spanish account described a cavalryman's horse being decapitated by a native warrior equipped with this type of sword. The account and discussion of these South American swords has been gone over in the past couple of years in older threads.


See below:

Bernal Diaz del Castillo wrote:

While closely environed in this manner, a number of their strongest warriors, armed with tremendous two-handed swords, made a combined attack on Pedro de Moron, an expert horseman, who was charging through them accompanied by other three of our cavalry. They seized his lance and wounded himself dangerously, and one of them cut through the neck of his horse with a blow of a two-handed sword, so that he fell down dead. We rescued Moron from the enemy with the utmost difficulty, even cutting the girths and bringing off his saddle, but ten of our number were wounded in the attempt, and believe we then slew ten of their chiefs, while fighting hand to hand.


Although "cut through the neck of his horse" perhaps does not mean "cut the neck of his horse clean off". Instead, maybe the artery was cut or something.


Maybe its time to do some test cutting? NOT on a horse mind you, but maybe a nice beef brisket before throwing it in the mesquite pit? I don't know can you test cut with a macahuitl?

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M. Eversberg II




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PostPosted: Fri 28 Aug, 2009 4:53 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Given the thickness of the board, I wouldn't think it could get THROUGH a horse's neck; too little cutting width compared to the width of the weapon.

M.

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