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Tormod Engvig




PostPosted: Tue 01 Sep, 2009 11:08 am    Post subject: Required length of a Polearm?         Reply with quote

Greetings all,

I know that this question probably depends on the height of the wielder, but I have heard that polearms need to be 6 ft. (1.8 m) in length to be classified as such. Any truth to this?

Though I guess that also depends on your definition of a polearm. Mine is any weapon affixed to a pole (metal, wood, or otherwise) qualifies as one. That makes both a 15th c. poleaxe, a 10th c. handaxe, a 2nd c. spear, a 13th c. mace, and a 17th c. pike all polearms, right?

The reason I ask is that I am drooling over A&As Hungarian Axe. It comes w/ a 4.25' handle. Would a 6ft. handle be out of place on such a weapon? Historical accuracy and usage are my primary concerns. In regards to historical usage, I would imagine that lengthening the handle would turn it more into a quasi-Halbert or poleaxe type weapon, while w/ the standard 4.25' handle the weapon would be more wieldable in a melee the way, say, Vikings 400 years prior would have done.

Ahhh, semantics. Gotta love it!

"Skal til kamp på bølgen top, Dannebrog i stavnen op, gid der bag dets røde fold, står en helt som Tordenskjold."
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David E. Farrell




Location: Evanston, IL
Joined: 25 Jun 2007

Posts: 156

PostPosted: Fri 04 Sep, 2009 8:04 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

to be honest, the 6 foot requirement seems fairly arbitrary.... akin to using a particular length as a requirement for being a sword.

For example, how would one categorize the presumably sub 6 foot pollaxes we see so commonly shown in artwork? I'd still categorize them as pole-weapons (i.e. a large hafted weapon)

As to how well a 6 foot haft would fit on that particular piece... I dunno... you may be able to fire off a query to the A&A folks, as they may be able to tell you if there is evidence of larger hafts (and why they chose the size they did).

AKA: 'Sparky' (so I don't need to explain later Wink )

For he today that sheds his blood with me shall be my brother
-- King Henry, Henry V, William Shakespeare

Before I came here I was confused about this subject. Having listened to your lecture I am still confused... but on a higher level.
-- Enrico Fermi
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Alex Spreier




Location: Central Oregon
Joined: 21 Nov 2006
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PostPosted: Fri 04 Sep, 2009 8:28 am    Post subject: Re: Required length of a Polearm?         Reply with quote

Tormod Engvig wrote:
Ahhh, semantics. Gotta love it!


Exactly! My advice is to use whatever size haft is most comfortable to you. One part of medieval weaponry (especially pole-arms) that I think people tend to either forget about or gloss over is the amount of variance due to personal preference. During my five years of training, I have gone through many different haft sizes for poleaxe:

Originally I used a haft that was 6 feet long. And it worked just fine, but I kept feeling it was a little long for me. Even though I am 6 feet tall the haft would get a little tangled up during plays. Maybe the haft, maybe me who knows Big Grin
After that I dropped down to a 5.5 foot haft, which worked much better, but would still get tangled up and just didn't "feel" right.
So I recently had a friend work me up some 4.5 foot ash hafts. Haven't actually gotten to play with them (too busy moving) but I like the feel of them.

So I have used 6', 5.5' and 4.5' hafts for my pollaxes. At what point does it stop being a "poleaxe" and become "an axe" or "a hammer"? I haven't the foggiest.

So I say, go with whatever haft feels good to you and talk it over with the guys from A&A.

Compagno, Northwest Fencing Academy

http://bunkaijuju.blogspot.com/
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Matthew Fedele




Location: Auburn, NY USA
Joined: 21 Jul 2005

Posts: 64

PostPosted: Fri 04 Sep, 2009 8:31 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I was taught, mostly for safety reasons, that it should be cut to the highest height that you can reach up and grab. This gives you control of the weapon and is out of eyeball height for most people. We had a lot of crowds to deal with though. YMMV.

Cheers,
Matt
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David E. Farrell




Location: Evanston, IL
Joined: 25 Jun 2007

Posts: 156

PostPosted: Fri 04 Sep, 2009 9:29 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Matthew Fedele wrote:
I was taught, mostly for safety reasons, that it should be cut to the highest height that you can reach up and grab. This gives you control of the weapon and is out of eyeball height for most people. We had a lot of crowds to deal with though. YMMV.



interesting - I can understand it from a safety perspective.

there are a variety of measures given in different treatises for longer weapons and some can be extrapolated from extant pieces or artwork. For spears, this tends to be about 6-8 feet and like 12+ (depending on if it is a 'short' or 'long' spear). I think halberds, partisans and the like tend to be toward the 8-10 foot range, and pikes get really big. Not surprisingly, their useage and their length are closely related.

For my training spears (I don't have a sharp - but it would be the same), which are meant to be 'short' spears - I go by the length of my arm above my head with fingers straight (a bit shorter than silver's quarterstaff measure) - for me this works out to about 7.5 feet overall.

My pollaxe is about 5.5 feet overall, which works pretty well (it is really an armoured close combat weapon, after all). For reference, I'm about 5'11".

AKA: 'Sparky' (so I don't need to explain later Wink )

For he today that sheds his blood with me shall be my brother
-- King Henry, Henry V, William Shakespeare

Before I came here I was confused about this subject. Having listened to your lecture I am still confused... but on a higher level.
-- Enrico Fermi
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Tormod Engvig




PostPosted: Fri 04 Sep, 2009 10:53 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks for the opinions! They pretty much mirror my suspicions.

Perhaps the key to a good pole weapon is that it should outrange your "typical" sword, mace, flail, hammer, etc., while not being too cumbersome for the wielder.

Range/reach is good, but not the end all of a weapon's effectiveness.

I think I'll eventually shoot off a query to A&A about the length of the haft on their Hungarian piece. I'd like to think I'm pretty historically savvy on such subjects, but they would undoubtedly know better than me.

Cheers
Tormod [/quote]

"Skal til kamp på bølgen top, Dannebrog i stavnen op, gid der bag dets røde fold, står en helt som Tordenskjold."
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David E. Farrell




Location: Evanston, IL
Joined: 25 Jun 2007

Posts: 156

PostPosted: Fri 04 Sep, 2009 11:49 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Tormod Engvig wrote:

Perhaps the key to a good pole weapon is that it should outrange your "typical" sword, mace, flail, hammer, etc., while not being too cumbersome for the wielder.
[/quote]

I'd be careful with even that... I can show you properly executed pollaxe strikes with a 5.5 foot axe that actually have a shorter range than a typical longsword, because of the spacing of your hands. That's what I meant when I said it is really an armoured close combat weapon.

AKA: 'Sparky' (so I don't need to explain later Wink )

For he today that sheds his blood with me shall be my brother
-- King Henry, Henry V, William Shakespeare

Before I came here I was confused about this subject. Having listened to your lecture I am still confused... but on a higher level.
-- Enrico Fermi
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Johan S. Moen




Location: Kristiansand, Norway
Joined: 26 Jan 2004

Posts: 259

PostPosted: Fri 04 Sep, 2009 12:04 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Different lengths for different applications.

If we're talking mass infantry combat, long and "cumbersome" pollweapons work. You point them at the enemy, and probably don't use any fancy techniques. You could of course use a pike in a duel too, but that would seem like an unecessarily complicated way of killing someone, especially if they're in armour and the all-purpose can opener, the pollaxe, is available...

As a sidenote, one hand spears used in reenactment in Scandinavia are often 2,5 meter(max) in length. They're long enough to give a decent reach, but not as long as to be wobbly and unsafe. Some like me, use a 2 m spear for the sole reason that they're easier to bring along in the car or on the bus when travelling to events...

Johan Schubert Moen
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Matthew Fedele




Location: Auburn, NY USA
Joined: 21 Jul 2005

Posts: 64

PostPosted: Fri 04 Sep, 2009 1:29 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Yes, one on one a 16 ft pike isn't very practical. They wobble even when made of good hardwood, and all your opponent has to do is get past the point and follow it to your gizzards. Even in a pike line the smart tactic in this case is to drop the pike and pull your dagger/short sword.

Wish they put some pics up, but we play with them at http://www.renaissancesoldier.com/gallery/index.html. Sorry, I'm getting off the subject a bit, you guys are reminding me of a fine day, a pike square in good order, and the smell of slow match in the air. Wink

Cheers,
Matt
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Benjamin H. Abbott




Location: New Mexico
Joined: 28 Feb 2004

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PostPosted: Sat 05 Sep, 2009 7:31 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Matthew Fedele wrote:
Yes, one on one a 16 ft pike isn't very practical.


The historical record suggests otherwise. See Silver, Meyer, di Grassi, and other Italian sources for dueling with the pike. Silver even considered the pike superior to most shorter weapons (swords, shields, halberds) in open single combat.[/quote]
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Tormod Engvig




PostPosted: Sat 05 Sep, 2009 3:19 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Benjamin H. Abbott wrote:
Matthew Fedele wrote:
Yes, one on one a 16 ft pike isn't very practical.


The historical record suggests otherwise. See Silver, Meyer, di Grassi, and other Italian sources for dueling with the pike. Silver even considered the pike superior to most shorter weapons (swords, shields, halberds) in open single combat.
[/quote]

Interesting. I never would have imagined that being the case. I always imagined pike warfare to be exclusively a team activity. Too cumbersome to wield in single combat.

"Skal til kamp på bølgen top, Dannebrog i stavnen op, gid der bag dets røde fold, står en helt som Tordenskjold."
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Benjamin H. Abbott




Location: New Mexico
Joined: 28 Feb 2004

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PostPosted: Sat 05 Sep, 2009 3:26 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Yeah, I wouldn't have expected pikes to be useful in single combat either. It's nice when period evidence goes against modern speculation. I feel as if I'm actually learning something when that happens.
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Johan S. Moen




Location: Kristiansand, Norway
Joined: 26 Jan 2004

Posts: 259

PostPosted: Mon 07 Sep, 2009 2:07 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Benjamin H. Abbott wrote:
Matthew Fedele wrote:
Yes, one on one a 16 ft pike isn't very practical.


The historical record suggests otherwise. See Silver, Meyer, di Grassi, and other Italian sources for dueling with the pike. Silver even considered the pike superior to most shorter weapons (swords, shields, halberds) in open single combat.


I've seen the section on pike in Silver, so I know it was used for duels. I do wonder however, how common it was. Can't remember seeing a lot of accounts of pike duels, although they could of course be out there!

Johan Schubert Moen
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