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Fabrice Cognot
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Location: Dijon
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PostPosted: Tue 07 Jun, 2011 4:08 pm    Post subject: A Poleaxe         Reply with quote

And a very special one.


Poleaxes can take many forms, the most popular being those with a wide, straight cutting edge one one side and a hammer-like face on the other, quite widely represented in period artwork and in various collections or in the spotlight article on this website. But other sources like fighting treatises and contemporary accounts, chronicles and fictionnal works show us poleaxes of a different form : with a beak on one side and a 'hammer' of sorts on the other ; chief among them being the oldest known French fencing source, the ms. 1996 of the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, known as "Le Jeu de la Hache", a source you know well and which I’ve been studying (and teaching about) for about ten years. ‘Le Jeu’ speaks to us of the use of the ‘Mail’ and ‘Bec de Faulcon, but also of the top spike, known as the ‘Dague’ - the most important part of the weapon, for a good Poleaxe player, being the ‘Queue’.

Such was the kind of axe I wanted to make.

And a special occasion made me do it : the tenth edition of the HEMA gathering in Dijon, an event I’ve had the honour to run from its very beginning (and it seems this year was a blast, with 300 people attending..).

For what could be more special than this ? Such a milestone needed to be properly marked, and the Poleaxe and I are indeed an old affair…

It was also the occasion for me to once again try out a few theories I had about period making processes, some thoughts that came up studying original pieces. There is a poleaxe (or, one might argue, more of a Bec-de-Corbin) in the Musée des Ursulines in Mâcon (a small town in Southern Burgundy, also my birthplace and where my forge is), a river-found weapon about which I had the chance to write an article for the French Histoire et Images Médiévales magazine a few months ago, that I used as a basis, not as much in terms of shape and overall dimensions (for it sports an lengthy beak and a rounded hammer face wiht a short central spike) or minute details (such as the maker’s marks on both upper sides of the square-section beak, the very same marks than can be observed on a knife kept in the Wallace Collection, that belonged to Duke Philip the Good of Burgundy or on another knife of his in the Rüstkammer in Vienna) than in terms of techniques and steps used in its making.

For instance – and it shows the very same way on the Mâcon Bec de Corbin as it is visible on this Poleaxe – the top spike/side langets block is constructed by welding together two iron bars that form an inverted Y-shaped piece, a steel insert being welded at the top to from a sharp, acute, hardened point.

A similar hard steel insert (coming from an old fork head) was also welded at the tip of the beak. In fact, the only period process I didn’t use was welding the two halves of the head together – for time (or lack thereof) reasons the head was forged from a single iron bar, and a hole drilled (and filed) through for the pole ; the side lugs are threaded and screwed in one another.

By the way, the iron I used comes from a house built in 1808 – it’s therefore pre-Bessemer iron, well over two centuries old, and it shows both in its final aspect and in its working properties (though you have to trust me on that one), and I again express all my gratitude to my friend and student Isabelle for this nice gift.

The four spikes of the ‘Mail’ were hot-cut, forged out and then filed to shape. Some filework was also used at the base of the ‘Dague’.

Brass inlays are a common decorative feature on Poleaxe heads, and I didn’t want this one to be an exception. The inspiration came from a Poleaxe/Bec de Corbin head kept in the Belgian Army Museum in Brussels, very similar to the Mâcon hammer.

The 28 mm wide haft is European Ash (Fraxinus Excelsior), and sports hand-shaped steel langets inserted in hand-cut grooves. The ‘Queue’ is reinforced by a hand-shaped steel ring piece, although I don’t have a photograph of it. I didn’t want to put a spike on the ‘Queue’, as the floor in the Gym we used during the event would not have liked it much.

And that’s all I can say about it. I can’t give you any dimension, nor any weight (though I remember it was in the 2 kgs range):

This poleaxe was offered as the Grand Prize for the Dijon 2011 – Dijon X – raffle during the traditionnal Saturday Night Dinner. It has left France, it has left sweet Burgundy and I’m confident its new owner is not too unhappy with that – congrats again my friend !

Oh, how I love Poleaxes…





Photos by Laure Bornier

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Thom Jason





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PostPosted: Tue 07 Jun, 2011 5:10 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I had the opportunity to handle and view this up close at the event.

It is a true masterpiece, and feels most excellent in the hands.
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Bryce Felperin




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PostPosted: Tue 07 Jun, 2011 5:14 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Beautiful piece! The new owner is a lucky guy to have it, not only because of its quality but because of the love and attention to detail you put into making it. May it outlast you, as the great work of art that it is, far into the future!

Best and thanks for the pictures,

Bryce
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Joe Fults




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PostPosted: Tue 07 Jun, 2011 5:53 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Looks very nice.
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Alex Spreier




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PostPosted: Tue 07 Jun, 2011 6:50 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

That's gorgeous!

I love me a good poleaxe.

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Nathan Robinson
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PostPosted: Tue 07 Jun, 2011 7:43 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Absolutely beautiful and with all the trappings of a fierce and deadly weapon.
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Scott Hrouda




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PostPosted: Wed 08 Jun, 2011 6:10 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

This was a raffle prize?! Eek!

I admire how you were able to pull together various elements from historical pieces that appealed to you and create this stunning work. Thank you very much for sharing. Happy

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Jean Thibodeau




PostPosted: Wed 08 Jun, 2011 7:53 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Very nice work and very effective looking as well as aesthetically pleasing. Big Grin Cool
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Ben Anbeek
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PostPosted: Wed 08 Jun, 2011 8:39 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

love to see this one

stunning

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Leo Todeschini
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PostPosted: Thu 09 Jun, 2011 12:56 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Again Fabrice - stunning

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Greg Mele
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PostPosted: Thu 09 Jun, 2011 12:51 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Fab,

Well, you can take the poleaxe out of Burgundy, but you can you take the Burgundian out of the poleaxe? Wink

Seriously, that is a magnificent weapon - it makes my hand twitch just looking at it!

Best,

Greg

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Bob Burns




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PostPosted: Fri 10 Jun, 2011 5:25 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Fabrice, this is a remarkable piece and I stated as such quite purposely, as I love Bec De Corbins! Mine is from Arms and Armor and will be in my collection untill the day I die! Your's is particularly gorgeous and would be the envy of any Bec De Corbin fan, such is also the opinion of my wife, pictured with me in the avatar, as Gayle is one of us and not a swordwife! She Loves swords as much as everyone of us, inclusive but not limited to her custom Arms and Armor German Rapier and Parrying. Dagger, Del Tin Viking sword, AA gold hilted German Branch sword, Hanwei Ming sword my Hanwei Song sword, Shaolin Wootz, Cromwell, even and especially my AandA German Bastard sword (my very first sword ever) in fact after 2 years of deciding my first sword, Gayle was instrumental in my selecting it. Poor Gayle I drove her nuts those 2 years! Now thoroughly validated as a sword NUT in her own right. She thinks your Bec De Corbin is Outstanding! Also too big for her but she loves it, is my A and A Highland Claymor and not too big so she wields them are my Albion Berserkr and Vassal!
She won't watch 30 seconds of the NFL buty Swords, daggers and polearms are a whole different story!
So you also have a FemaleSwordNUT admireror of your Bec!

Outstanding!!!!

Bob

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Sam Gordon Campbell




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PostPosted: Fri 10 Jun, 2011 8:37 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Now that good sir, is a bec-de-corbin/poleaxe!
Oh how I want one Laughing Out Loud

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Fabrice Cognot
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Location: Dijon
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PostPosted: Tue 14 Jun, 2011 2:02 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks all for the very kind words Happy




Needless to say, I'm really looking forward to making another one. Some day, maybe.......

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Laszlo Schunder




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PostPosted: Wed 27 Jul, 2011 2:46 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi,

My friend won this avesome poleaxe on the Dijon X.
He are very-very happy and proud.
Until September he will be our teacher of armoured-fighting, so your poleaxe can act active role in his duty.
So, your beauty has a very good place now. She is not just decoration but real, appreciated weapon. :-)
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William P




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PostPosted: Wed 27 Jul, 2011 4:23 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

3 things.
1 its beautiful... what more can i say..
2.. i would love to wield it and for similar reasons i would NOT relish that thing coming at me. i think that a real french knight would be VERY happy with that.
thirdly i admittedly had trouble following yor manufactering process because i dont know quite which parts your talking about. and where said parts go on the whole thing. BUT.
does the term bec de corbain refer merely to that style of hammer and spike head combinatio? because ive heard the name bec do corbain being used to refer to a warhammer as well.
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Herbert Schmidt




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PostPosted: Wed 27 Jul, 2011 5:08 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Great work Fab!

There are few makers out there who can handle these beauties as well as you do!

What happened with the top spike? Is there a crack that shows on the photographs?
But still a beautiful work.

Congrats!

Herbert

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Victor R.




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PostPosted: Wed 27 Jul, 2011 9:20 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Herbert Schmidt wrote:
Great work Fab!

What happened with the top spike? Is there a crack that shows on the photographs?


It appears to me that the spike is made by folding a single bar which holds the head and integrates into the langets. The "seam" shows near the base of the spike where it hasn't been flattened and sharpened as much as the "working end".

But that's just my $0.02...

I recall another thread about "coveting thy neighbor's toys". Well, neighbor.... Laughing Out Loud

Beautiful work by a wonderful craftsman.
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Tomas B




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PostPosted: Wed 27 Jul, 2011 11:23 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

That is one awesome poleaxe. It manages to look beautiful and brutal at the same time.
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Fabrice Cognot
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PostPosted: Thu 06 Oct, 2011 1:20 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi all


Apologies for replying so late.

Herbert : as Victor said, it's a welding seam, except that it's not a single bar folded in two, but two bars welded together (with an additional bit of steel on top caught in between to provide a hard point). Such a construction "flaw" is documented on the Mâcon historical example I'm referring to, about which I published a paper some two years ago.


Quote:
does the term bec de corbain refer merely to that style of hammer and spike head combinatio? because ive heard the name bec do corbain being used to refer to a warhammer as well.


It does. And...it does also. Though we must keep in mind that strict nomenclature was far from the concerns of medieval authors or fighters ; rather, it's quite a recent phenomenon, wanting to put all and everything into tiny boxes - and eventually failing.





And thanks all for the very kind comments Happy

PhD in medieval archeology.
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