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Forum Index > Historical Arms Talk > Modifying a modern hunting spearhead into viking leaf spearDIY Project Reply to topic
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Johan Gemvik




Location: Stockholm, Sweden
Joined: 10 Nov 2009

Spotlight topics: 1
Posts: 793

PostPosted: Tue 22 Mar, 2011 10:46 am    Post subject: Modifying a modern hunting spearhead into viking leaf spear         Reply with quote

Sorry for any misspelling. The spellcheck function on the forum went crazy on me and I managed to clear most of it up but some residue is to be expected. It's not my fault! Wink

I recently bought a socketed boar hunting spearhead from 3 Rivers Archery for $27.99. The idea was to modify it into a viking age spearhead and mount it on an ash shaft to make it a low cost fully functional and decently historical piece.

Here's the spearhead from the 3 rivers webshop.

http://www.3riversarchery.com/Product.asp?sho...=4356#full

These spearheads are obviously made in Pakistan, as stamped on the side of the socket, and are a lot of "bang for the buck". Cheap enough to modify while still retaining a fair level of craftsmanship. What you get is a hollow diamond cross section spearhead with a tempered edge able to take razor sharpening and it's got a full socket unlike other some other low cost spearheads like the Cold Steel ones. Itís not perfect, but who cares at that price?
The blade does bend if impacted heavily, say thrust into a log or similar, which may be an intentional feature for hunting so it won't snap when hitting bone. I don't know enough about boar spear hunting to really say if that's a desired function or not though, it's just guesswork.

Speedy delivery
Delivery was swift, even overseas to Sweden. Impressively swift in fact. I got the slip in just a couple of days and thought for sure that couldn't be the overseas package with the spearhead that fast. But it was. Obviously they work saturdays and around the clock or something at 3 Rivers and their low cost shipping option beats UPS by a mile. Wink

Off the shelf look
When I got the spearhead the first thing that caught my eye was the hollow diamond blade of excellent shape. This head has by far the best cross section shape I've seen in a low cost spearhead, I've only seen it's like in expensive spearheads before. It's not perfect, but far above any expectations I had on a $27.99 product.


What to aim for
For the look I wanted I carefully machine ground off the makers stamp and rounded the shape to a Petersen type A leaf form which seems to be the most common for Viking age finds.



The diagram above shows the first set of Petersen typology spearheads and is borrowed from Ospreys book Viking Hersir by Mark Harrison and Gerry Embleton. An excellent easy reading starter book on viking culture and weapons, but of course I had to dig deeper to the real source of it, so here's one of the Petersen type A spearheads from the Museum of Cultural History, Oslo, Norway.



This photo is from the Vikerir site, they have marvelous photos of all kinds of museum items in Norwegian and Danish museums. For those who haven't seen the site yet, it's a real marvel! http://www.vikverir.no/ressurser/hist_mus_oslo_no_viking/
The piece shows a Petersen type A in the smaller size, my spearhead conversion isn't a perfect match, the neck is flattened more where the socket meets the blade and the neck itself is a little more elongated, but the match is decent at least and other examples of the same type show thinner intersection and longer sockets so it's at least plausible.

Modification process
One needs to be extra careful with not overheating when grinding a tempered piece or it loses hardening, so I cooled the blade with immersion i a bowl of water standing next to the grinder and took extra care and time, no rushing it. One way to do this is to not use gloves, then you can feel when it gets hot and cool it right away, on the other hand it takes more skill and care or you could injure yourself. Anyway, I expect there are others on this forum also experienced with this as I see quite a few grinding modifications done in here.

Here's photos from before modifications, the first one is off the 3 rivers webshop, the second one is from Tim who also bought the same spearhead. I didnít think to take any before photos myself, I was too eager to get started so good thing he did. These give a pretty good idea of what it looks like off the shelf in ways not really shown in the webshop photos.


You can see the makers stamp in the socket here. Itís about 1 mm deep, looks deeper because it's stamped with sharp lettering, but itís not and can be ground off and smoothed out easily enough.



Hereís photos after the modifications, the socket is clean and the blade is now leaf shaped and sharpened to razor keen.








We know from finds that Viking age spears were at least as long as a grave, they never turn up with a back end cap or ďlizard killerĒ thatís common to most spear wielding cultures, so likely they were cut down in length to to fit the grave. Some may have been shorter and some were possibly quite a bit longer than this. I went for just under 3 meters with this one so I didn't have to waste a perfectly good pole by cutting it short, but I can always do that later.

I couldnít get my hands on a full length ash shaft, but I did get hold of two ash martial art Jo staffs at a local sports and martial arts store. These were lightweight, strong and just perfect for the job, except that they only come in the 1.3 m length which I felt was too short for a full warspear. So I had to improvise a steel tube link. Since I had to do that anyway, I made the sections detatchable from each other.
This also facilitates safe transport in manageable lengths to fit in a car, but also opens up to a variety of back end options with different lengths, say a 2 meter with no back end cap or tip as seen in grave finds and a 3 meter with a back cap or point.



Right now the spear weighs 1640 grams and is about 2.9 meters in length.

This is what the spearhead looks like attached to the shaft. The pin and joint construction is also shown.



Should work just fine against the expected melon on stick invasion this summer. Wink

"The Dwarf sees farther than the Giant when he has the giant's shoulder to mount on" -Coleridge
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Ken Speed





Joined: 09 Oct 2006

Posts: 656

PostPosted: Tue 22 Mar, 2011 11:34 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Yes, those melon invasions are terrible! I was attacked by a squash once but luckily I had my sword with me so everything worked out well for me but no so good for the squash!

Hey, I'm impressed! really good job on the spearhead and the shaft. I'm surprised you couldn't find some ash at a cabinet or mill work shop for your spear shaft but you could disguise the joint with a leather grip pretty easily if you wish.

Good work!
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E. Storesund





Joined: 10 Jan 2011

Posts: 101

PostPosted: Tue 22 Mar, 2011 12:55 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Wow, this was quite an inspiring read. I actually think I'll try this out myself!
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Tim Jorgensen




Location: Fargo, ND
Joined: 10 Sep 2010
Likes: 1 page

Posts: 40

PostPosted: Tue 22 Mar, 2011 1:44 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I'm working on one of these right now as well. Grinding off "Pakistan" was quite easy, but etching in "Norway" was a little more difficult. No, ha ha, just joking about the Norway bit. Also, I' trying for a bit of a patina by experimenting with the various blends of mustard, vinegar, lemon juice, or whatever else takes away the "fresh & clean" appearance.

I might try to keep the defined angle, but just grind it down more so it's 1/2-1" closer to the socket. If all else fails, this will make a great weenie roaster.

Thanks for the pics Johan!
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E. Storesund





Joined: 10 Jan 2011

Posts: 101

PostPosted: Wed 13 Apr, 2011 9:18 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Finally received mine today. It was marked "cutlery", so perhaps weenie roaster isn't too far off for an idea.
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Richard A. Mooney




Location: El Reno Oklahoma
Joined: 03 Dec 2014

Posts: 1

PostPosted: Wed 03 Dec, 2014 9:46 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Tim Jorgensen wrote:
I'm working on one of these right now as well. Grinding off "Pakistan" was quite easy, but etching in "Norway" was a little more difficult. No, ha ha, just joking about the Norway bit. Also, I' trying for a bit of a patina by experimenting with the various blends of mustard, vinegar, lemon juice, or whatever else takes away the "fresh & clean" appearance.

I might try to keep the defined angle, but just grind it down more so it's 1/2-1" closer to the socket. If all else fails, this will make a great weenie roaster.

Thanks for the pics Johan!


Another way to get that aged patina on high carbon steel is to syick it in a potato and leave it for a day or two and it will blacken it permanently.

SSG Richard A. Mooney
U.S.Army Reserves M.P.
3 Tours of Afghanistan
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T. Kew




Location: Cambridge, UK
Joined: 21 Apr 2012

Posts: 174

PostPosted: Thu 04 Dec, 2014 6:03 am    Post subject: Re: Modifying a modern hunting spearhead into viking leaf sp         Reply with quote

Johan Gemvik wrote:

We know from finds that Viking age spears were at least as long as a grave, they never turn up with a back end cap or ďlizard killerĒ thatís common to most spear wielding cultures, so likely they were cut down in length to to fit the grave. Some may have been shorter and some were possibly quite a bit longer than this. I went for just under 3 meters with this one so I didn't have to waste a perfectly good pole by cutting it short, but I can always do that later.


That's an interesting idea. I'm not sure I buy it, though, because we don't have any of those caps where we find weapons in bogs or the like either - and we wouldn't expect to see those having been cut down to length. Nor do we see them in cremation graves, where length is less of an issue. Finally, we also don't see them in large graves which feature things like horses or carts.

So I'd guess rather that they didn't have caps or spikes on the end of their spear hafts.

(Comments from memory - it's been a while since I've gone through the archaeological reports)
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