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Mike Dunchok




Location: California
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PostPosted: Tue 01 Sep, 2009 12:06 am    Post subject: Axes against maille...Comparison of linen jacks to maille.         Reply with quote

After reading around on these forums, I've seen that there have been rather ubiquitous discussions on the ability of longbow arrows to penetrate both maille and plate, and some discussion on how well swords to against maille. I had a couple of questions come to mind that didn't seem to have been answered on these forums, and which I thought I might ask for the sake of my own curiosity.

What I have gathered from reading here is first that swords simply cannot cut maille, and definitely cannot cut plate. Second, that while pointed swords can stab through maille, they cannot pierce plate. Third, that regular shortbow arrows have trouble penetrating maille, and can definitely not penetrate plate. Fourth, that longbow or composite bow bodkin arrows penetrate maille easily at close range, and cannot penetrate steel plate enough to damage the wearer, but can sometimes penetrate munitions plate.

However, I see that hardly anyone has asked how well axes do against maille. Can axes indeed sometimes cut maille if swords cannot? I realize that a blow from an axe can cause a great deal of blunt trauma, even without cutting the maille, but if its utility was in bludgeoning, why would axes be used at all over large maces or hammers?

I also read that cloth armor, such as the variety fashioned with 30 layers of linen, offers very good protection against cuts and is rumored to offer decent protection against thrusts and arrow shots. My second question then was, if both textile armor and maille are great against cutting, but textile armor was slightly better against pierces, what made maille more desirable than textile armor?

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Bartek Strojek




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PostPosted: Tue 01 Sep, 2009 3:13 am    Post subject: Re: Axes against maille...Comparison of linen jacks to maill         Reply with quote

Mike Dunchok wrote:

I also read that cloth armor, such as the variety fashioned with 30 layers of linen, offers very good protection against cuts and is rumored to offer decent protection against thrusts and arrow shots. My second question then was, if both textile armor and maille are great against cutting, but textile armor was slightly better against pierces, what made maille more desirable than textile armor?


Well, test posted here by Michael Edelson showed that even 30 layers of linen is in fact weak against thrusts and is still possible to cut, or rather slice actually.

Metal is always metal it cannot be just sliced.

And repeated strikes would probably be problem, metal is always metal and doesn't fall apart so mu
And jack sewn out of 30 layers of linen can weight 12 kg or a bit more (torso + amrs AFAIK) and be rather stiff beast.

The same amount of maill + gambeson would be usually a bit heavier, but difference wouldn't be so great.
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Mike Dunchok




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PostPosted: Tue 01 Sep, 2009 6:02 am    Post subject: Re: Axes against maille...Comparison of linen jacks to maill         Reply with quote

Bartek Strojek wrote:
Mike Dunchok wrote:

I also read that cloth armor, such as the variety fashioned with 30 layers of linen, offers very good protection against cuts and is rumored to offer decent protection against thrusts and arrow shots. My second question then was, if both textile armor and maille are great against cutting, but textile armor was slightly better against pierces, what made maille more desirable than textile armor?


Well, test posted here by Michael Edelson showed that even 30 layers of linen is in fact weak against thrusts and is still possible to cut, or rather slice actually.

Metal is always metal it cannot be just sliced.

And repeated strikes would probably be problem, metal is always metal and doesn't fall apart so mu
And jack sewn out of 30 layers of linen can weight 12 kg or a bit more (torso + amrs AFAIK) and be rather stiff beast.

The same amount of maill + gambeson would be usually a bit heavier, but difference wouldn't be so great.


Right, I was referring to the part of his test where the maille was easily penetrated by the compound bow with field points, whereas the linen held against the shots. Both the linen and the maille were pierced by halfsword thrusts.

But you're right, the linen did get a bit torn up. Hmm...

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Elling Polden




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PostPosted: Tue 01 Sep, 2009 6:21 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

There has been tests of axe vs mail, and the conclusions are pretty mutch the same as for swords; While totaly devastating to unarmoured flesh, a broadaxe bounces of mail and padding, maybe destroying or damaging a few links.

As mentioned these tests where done with a viking style broadaxe; A narrower, wedge style axe might do more damage to the mail,and might achieve penetration.

However, the tests knock the feet under theories stating that the broad axe (aka daneaxe) was a response to heavier armour. On the countrary, it is a lighter, faster weapon with a maximised cutting edge, for use against soft targets, (partially) replacing the more massive bearded or wedge axes of the early viking age.

"this [fight] looks curious, almost like a game. See, they are looking around them before they fall, to find a dry spot to fall on, or they are falling on their shields. Can you see blood on their cloths and weapons? No. This must be trickery."
-Reidar Sendeman, from King Sverre's Saga, 1201
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Mike Dunchok




Location: California
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PostPosted: Tue 01 Sep, 2009 6:45 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Elling Polden wrote:

However, the tests knock the feet under theories stating that the broad axe (aka daneaxe) was a response to heavier armour. On the countrary, it is a lighter, faster weapon with a maximised cutting edge, for use against soft targets, (partially) replacing the more massive bearded or wedge axes of the early viking age.


Hmm...In that case, what would be the advantage of the daneaxe versus just a sword? Does it still cut better than a sword, just not well enough to defeat heavier armor?

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Bjorn Hagstrom




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PostPosted: Tue 01 Sep, 2009 7:27 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The advantage of the daneaxe over a sword would be that it is a pole-weapon. Double handed gives more power, length gives you reach. Drawback would be that you have no hand left for a shield..

And on maille vs cloth, you certainly can get equal protection as mail using layered linen, but at the cost of movability and comfort since you will look like the michelin man. Linen is also a very good moisture absorber and insulator so it will be hot and soak up all yout sweat from the inside making it heavier and heavier as you go. Not to mention that small cuts and wear will have it deteriorate faster than a maille hauberk. But nonetheless, cloth armour was used, I can recommend the spotlight article that I got this picture from:


medieval michelin men

Also the amount of linen cloth needed to equal or better mail might well make it as expensive as metal armour anyway.

There is nothing quite as sad as a one man conga-line...


Last edited by Bjorn Hagstrom on Tue 01 Sep, 2009 7:33 am; edited 1 time in total
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Shawn Henthorn




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PostPosted: Tue 01 Sep, 2009 7:32 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Well even with the "Dane axe" being lighter and faster than th earlier style the weight would still be placed on the extreme end makeing the impact several times greater than what a sword could achieve. The effects would obviously be devestating to an un armoured opponent but would also severly wound a mailled opponent do to concusive force. Also the axe would be cheaper to produce and a little more durable than a sword of the time making it easier to obtain and maintain.
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Elling Polden




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PostPosted: Tue 01 Sep, 2009 10:09 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

We don't really know how long the broad axes where; Most likely it varied from 110cm "hand and a half" / walking axes to 2m+ line weapons.

The main andvantage of the axe is the ability to strike over shield edges, and to hook shields. Striking directly at the shield is a invitation to get your weapon stuck.

A 1m axe might be used in one hand in a line figth, is a swing-and-unhook/drop fashion, where the longer reach would be its advantage.
The long, two handed axe would be more like a short, versitale spear.

The broadaxe, ulike its wedge cousings, can thrust (to the face) and slice. A broadaxe dragged over unarmoured flesh, with its curved blade and longe cutting edges, would produce a significant wound, especially in the neck-shoudler region where it would most frequently find itsef.

Many early medevial axe designs are more or less cresent shape, increasing this effect even further, though the broadaxe design stayed in use in Norway until the early 14th c at least.

"this [fight] looks curious, almost like a game. See, they are looking around them before they fall, to find a dry spot to fall on, or they are falling on their shields. Can you see blood on their cloths and weapons? No. This must be trickery."
-Reidar Sendeman, from King Sverre's Saga, 1201
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Patrick Kelly




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PostPosted: Tue 01 Sep, 2009 3:25 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
Also the axe would be cheaper to produce...................


This is incorrect in its broad sense. Period war axes, with their multi-piece construction, are just as complicated to produce as a sword, in some aspects more so. Ask Eric McHugh about that. When he made my large Dane Axe it was an eye opening experience. Issues of effectiveness aside, a wood axe is not a war axe, just as a machete is not a sword.
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Benjamin H. Abbott




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PostPosted: Tue 01 Sep, 2009 7:04 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Michael Edelson tested an A&A poleaxe against riveted mail. It broke at least three rings with each stroke, and Michael assured us that the man beneath would be dead. A thrust with a top spike penetrated completely. While the mail used might not be up to the historical standard, I think we can conclude that a man in a hauberk would not be safe from a 15th-century poleaxe.
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Shawn Henthorn




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PostPosted: Tue 01 Sep, 2009 9:41 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Patrick Kelly wrote:
Quote:
Also the axe would be cheaper to produce...................


This is incorrect in its broad sense. Period war axes, with their multi-piece construction, are just as complicated to produce as a sword, in some aspects more so. Ask Eric McHugh about that. When he made my large Dane Axe it was an eye opening experience. Issues of effectiveness aside, a wood axe is not a war axe, just as a machete is not a sword.


Hmm interesting..of course I was not talking about labor but rather the material it was made from which is from my understanding was 90% of the cost...exactly opposite of today's situation. Now bear in mind my knowlege of axe materials is very limited and I am not sure how many made the body of cheap bog iron body with a good steel edge or if most were made from higher quality body materials. Also in this situation it would be interesting to discuss the price of a localy obtained axe as opposed to an imported frankish sword. Lastly, what wood axe are we talking about, is this the "wedge axe mentioned earlier?
Edit: for clarity this post was made from perspective of "darkage" Scandinavia or Britton.
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Anders Nilsson




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PostPosted: Tue 01 Sep, 2009 10:09 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Elling Polden wrote:
There has been tests of axe vs mail, and the conclusions are pretty mutch the same as for swords; While totaly devastating to unarmoured flesh, a broadaxe bounces of mail and padding, maybe destroying or damaging a few links.

As mentioned these tests where done with a viking style broadaxe; A narrower, wedge style axe might do more damage to the mail,and might achieve penetration.

However, the tests knock the feet under theories stating that the broad axe (aka daneaxe) was a response to heavier armour. On the countrary, it is a lighter, faster weapon with a maximised cutting edge, for use against soft targets, (partially) replacing the more massive bearded or wedge axes of the early viking age.


Very interesting indeed. Do you have some fotage of this?

Anders "Nelle" Nilsson, Instructor Angermanna Mnhfs
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Aleksei Sosnovski





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PostPosted: Tue 01 Sep, 2009 11:46 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

My 2 cents.
1) Axes vs swords vs maces vs hammers.

Axes can cut. Axes can thrust. Axes can be used for grappling, much like a longsword. Axes can hook. Axes can hit behind a shield. Axes produce more powerful blows than swords. Well, it is generally speaking, there are very different axes, so some cannot thrust and some cannot hook.

Axes are better than maces against unarmored/lightly armored opponents because they are sharp and therefore can slice and thrust which does not require large swings. Maces also cannot hook.

Axes are cheaper than swords (because one can make a useful axe even of copper, not to mention harder iron and steel). Also every blacksmith was able to make axes, but very few were able to make swords. Axes are better for attack (give more powerful blows, I remember my surprise when small blunt reenactment axe which weighed ONLY 1 pound cut much deeper into a corner of a tree stump than a 3-pound sword). well, axes are, obviously, worse for defense (handle is a vulnerable part and balance is not the best one for fencing).

Axes are worse than hammers against heavily armored opponents. That is why in 14th century and later war axes often also had hammer heads and/or spikes.

2) Axes vs armor.

It is very difficult to penetrate both mail and jacks with a simple cut. But if one cuts with a point (where point slides across the armor) both axes and swords can break chain mail links and shred jacks. I experimented with cutting stuffed gambeson and found that such point cut was devastating while ordinary edge cut was totally useless and cut-slice was only marginally useful. Well, everything depends on sharpness and geometry of the point and quality/thickness of armor of course. But it is much easier co cause a blunt trauma with an axe than with a sword. I've been fighting with blunt steel weapons for several years and I barely feel most hits with swords. I wear chain mail over (relatively but not overly) thick stuffed gambeson as my body armor with more rigid limb protection. Even hits to my shoulders are not painful at all, though I do not use spaulders. But I am afraid of axes. I have seen helmets made of 14 ga mild steel being penetrated by blunt reenactment axes (with no injuries as penetration was not very deep, but I still consider it too dangerous. In our club we fight with full force only with single-handed swords as our armor does not offer satisfactory protection against axes, maces and 2-handed weapons).

3) Chain mail vs jacks.

Jacks were probably cheaper. But they tend to get really heavy when it rains. Jacks offer good protection against cuts and reasonable protection against thrusts. Chain mail is almost immune to cuts and offers reasonable to good protection against thrusts. However there is one big difference. Jacks protect well against round and rectangular bodkins, especially shorter ones, as well as other weapons with rectangular or nearly rectangular points such as some swords and daggers. However jacks offer far less protection against narrow broadheds (funny phrase, isn't it? Big Grin ) and other weapons with relatively narrow flat points with really sharp edges. I didn't do any experiments with triangular bodkins but I think that they will also easily penetrate jacks when properly sharpened. Chain mail offers better protection against such points. Oh, but jacks offer much better protection against blunt trauma.

Well, everything was written about some approximate generic axe, sword, jack, etc. In order to discuss the problem in more details one should exactly define which weapons and armor are to be compared.

Hope my post helps at least a little.
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Mike Dunchok




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PostPosted: Wed 02 Sep, 2009 12:08 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thank you, Aleksei. That response was the perfect detailed explanation I was looking for!

So point cutting can give a big increase in penetrating power when using lateral strikes as opposed to thrusts, but for the record, while this aids one in shredding a jack, it's still not enough for cutting maille, right? And of course, axes do not have points and couldn't be handled that way, but nonetheless benefit instead from the extra blunt trauma since their weight is forward?

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Mike Dunchok




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PostPosted: Wed 02 Sep, 2009 12:09 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

And woah, did you say that blunt axes penetrated 14 ga helmets? As in, "cut" them, not only dented? How thick were the helmets?
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Aleksei Sosnovski





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PostPosted: Wed 02 Sep, 2009 12:34 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Mike Dunchok wrote:
And woah, did you say that blunt axes penetrated 14 ga helmets? As in, "cut" them, not only dented? How thick were the helmets?


Axes do have points. Well, these are "horns" of the axe. Here is an example of an axe that can thrust and "point cut" http://armillum.com/tienda/images/ARMAE/danesa.jpg. This is the very first search result that Google gave me Happy

These helmets were made of 14 gauge steel. I guess that final thickness was around 16 gauge due to dishing and sanding. The penetrations (not simply dents but the metal was torn so one could see light through the holes) were achieved with corners of an axe (though these were of course rounded). Here are a few examples of axes. http://images.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http:/...-AbFnNHaCw Look at the first one. This has a very defined "corner" to penetrate whatever it hits. As far as I remember helmets were penetrated by an axe similar to that on the fourth photo. It was a one-handed axe, by the way. And penetrations were achieved in combat, not during test cutting when one is not tired and has plenty of time to aim. I have to say however that a very precise and powerful strike is required to penetrate a helmet, and even more power is needed to injure the one who wears this helmet, as in cases that I saw the wearer was not injured and continued fighting. An angle a few degrees different from square and axe glances off sometimes not even leaving a dent. My guess is that it was possible to penetrate helmet with an axe but it did not occur very often. I guess that what usually happened was one knocking his opponent to the ground with a powerful but not lethal hit and then finishing him with an aimed blow(s) to a vulnerable area. It is possible to make somebody see stars with a good whack to the helmet without penetrating it, but it is by no means easy. A lot depends on a person wearing the helmet, too. Some people are very difficult to knock out, while others are less resistant.
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Mike Dunchok




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PostPosted: Wed 02 Sep, 2009 12:44 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

When the helmet was cut, it was with a rounded point of an axe as seen in that slavic axe - but the fellow was neither injured nor dazed?
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Aleksei Sosnovski





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PostPosted: Wed 02 Sep, 2009 1:51 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

He was probably dazed a little but managed to continue fighting. I do not remember though, maybe his opponent gave him a couple of seconds to recover. In a real battle he would not have been given this time. The helmet had relatively thick padding (once again, relatively but not overly, I guess not all authentic helmets had padding that thick. We reenactors prefer thick padding you know.) so the point of the axe did not reach the scull. There are a lot of funny occasions in reenactor's life. Sometimes helmets get so deep dents that they are uncomfortable to wear, but people realize it only when they take them off and then put on before next fight. Sometimes people discover large bruises on areas not protected by armor a day or two after a fight. In a fight most people do not notice hits that would normally distract or even incapacitate one. I would not dare to stay still and wait for a hit but I do not mind being hit during a fight because it almost never hurts (well, even if it hurts, it is usually after the fight). Also in a fight one unconsciously moves so as to avoid the oncoming weapon or protects himself with less vulnerable body parts. It is very difficult to dispatch an armored opponent. One should either aim for weak spots or knock his opponent down and then use multiple full force aimed blows against the now defenseless foe. Piercing armor is possible but oh so difficult.

I guess that at this point I should say something to prevent people being afraid of reenactors Happy I've been into it for 7+ years and during this time in our club the most serious injuries were broken fingers (and it happened only when people neglect proper armor i.e. fought without steel gauntlets ). There were a lot of bruises and scratches, but one gets them in any martial art so it does not matter. I've heard stories about more serious injuries and even deaths, but they all happen when people neglect safety rules or (far more seldom) when a lot of unfortunate circumstances happen at the same time. But again, one can get hit by an icicle falling from a roof and die. And there is hardly any sport without possibility of death. All martial arts as well as shooting, football, swimming, etc. are potentially dangerous. Even sitting at home or going to work is dangerous Happy Reenactment is probably more dangerous then sitting at home but at least as safe as football if not even safer as long as one uses proper equipment and stays away from unnecessary risks like participating in events that are notorious for a lot of injuries.
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Luka Borscak




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PostPosted: Wed 02 Sep, 2009 4:40 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Mike Dunchok wrote:
Thank you, Aleksei. That response was the perfect detailed explanation I was looking for!

So point cutting can give a big increase in penetrating power when using lateral strikes as opposed to thrusts, but for the record, while this aids one in shredding a jack, it's still not enough for cutting maille, right?


I have a very strong opinion that you can't cut mail with a tip cut when it is hard enough to do with full power cut by a poleaxe.
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Aleksei Sosnovski





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PostPosted: Wed 02 Sep, 2009 5:45 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Luka Borscak wrote:

I have a very strong opinion that you can't cut mail with a tip cut when it is hard enough to do with full power cut by a poleaxe.


The reason in "point cutting" is that the weapon does not cut multiple rings at a time but tears them one by one. It is like breaking several thin branches one by one and breaking same branches but tied into a bundle. But there is one big BUT here. On needs not only to make a hole in the armor, but also to inflict a wound deep enough to incapacitate his foe. But, just as the example with helmets pierced by axes shows, armor penetration does not necessarily mean a wound. I guess that a good "point cut" with a one-handed sword may make a small gap in a chain mail (depends on a lot of factors of course) but most likely will not be deep enough to cut through padding and flesh beneath. I did not do any test cutting on mail. I don't have enough time and/or money to make a piece of quality chain mail and then destroy it. The closest experience I had was when a thrust with a blunt reenactment sword tore 4 links from my chain mail (which is butted but made of spring steel). The tip of the sword hit me in the shoulder and, due to its rounded shape, slid upwards making a noticeable gap in my chain mail but seemingly not getting under it. It is similar to effect of "point cut". And it allows to compare its effect with that of a normal cut (it was the only hit that actually made a hole in my chain mail in 4 or 5 years).
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