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Joshua R




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PostPosted: Tue 17 Jan, 2012 6:36 pm    Post subject: Dane/Long Axe Length         Reply with quote

I apologize if this has been covered elsewhere, but I'm curious as to whether or not there were any 'rules' for the length of the two-handed combat/battle/war axe. I understand that early axes of this variety might be four to six feet long and that the axes favored by gallowglass in the 16th Century tended to run around six feet (or more) in length.

I seem to recall reading that the appropriate length for the haft of a naginata was equal to the height of the person using it. I understand that Japan is nowhere near Europe, but was there a similar standard?

Thanks for any help!

" For Augustus, and after him Tiberius, more interested in establishing and increasing their own power than in promoting the public good, began to disarm the Roman people (in order to make them more passive under their tyranny).... "
-N. Machiavelli, The Art of War
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William P




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PostPosted: Tue 17 Jan, 2012 8:40 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

my understanding is that, according to period artwork, looking at how danish axes measured compared to the people using them, in artwork, makes them as being about 3-4 foot this is for the saxons and other 'vikings' of that era including the varangian guard of about the 8th to the 11th century i dont know about later
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Joshua R




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PostPosted: Wed 18 Jan, 2012 7:32 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

How tall are we assuming the figures to be?
" For Augustus, and after him Tiberius, more interested in establishing and increasing their own power than in promoting the public good, began to disarm the Roman people (in order to make them more passive under their tyranny).... "
-N. Machiavelli, The Art of War
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Matthew Bunker




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PostPosted: Wed 18 Jan, 2012 7:56 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

We had a discussion about Dane Axe heights and the relative heights of the Huscarls shown on the BT last year over on the Living History Forum:-

http://livinghistory.co.uk/forums/viewtopic.php?f=9&t=26002

"If a Greek can do it, two Englishman certainly can !"
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Joshua R




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PostPosted: Wed 18 Jan, 2012 8:41 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks for the link, Matthew!

Sounds like the only sure conclusion is that one ought to start with a longer haft than one thinks to need and chop it down until it feels right.

" For Augustus, and after him Tiberius, more interested in establishing and increasing their own power than in promoting the public good, began to disarm the Roman people (in order to make them more passive under their tyranny).... "
-N. Machiavelli, The Art of War
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Elling Polden




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PostPosted: Wed 18 Jan, 2012 9:55 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Interstingly, there where no rules for the length of scandinavian broad axes, not even in the high medevial laws.

In scandinavian/german reenactment fighting the norm is 6-7ft, which is the length needed to actually be outside the striking range of enemy swordsmen as you fight in the line.
This asumes that the daneaxe is a primary weapon, in the style of the helbard or galloglass axe, which are as you mention documented to be in this length range.

However, there are indications that the daneaxe was used as a personal weapon rather than a primary. In this case, it would be in the 3-4ft range, and be worn under the belt of a shield and spear equiped warrior. Or carried as a status symbol by a norse freeman in times of peace.
If used as a backup "sword substitute", the axe would presumambly be used in both hands, with the shield hanging on the guige. I have tried this, and it is reasonably effective provided that you maintain pressure on the defender.
Such an axe could also be used in one hand, though recovery would be very slow. Alternately, it could be held in the middle of the shaft and used to block spear thrusts while closing inn to hook and and slice. This I have yet to try with fencing masks, but it is high on my to-do list.

Both types of weapon are feasible, but documentation is scarce.

"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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Joshua R




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PostPosted: Wed 18 Jan, 2012 1:16 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

So would it be logical to conclude that the Huscarls at Hastings, the Varangian Guard, early Gallowglass, and others who used the broadaxe as a primary weapon would use longer c. 6 foot hafts?

Or would they have fought with spears in the shield wall until the lines broke and then gone to the shorter axes?

ETA: Should the axe head be especially large on such an axe?

Also, I hate to use fiction, especially movies, as an example, but in Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings, Gimli uses a 'walking axe'. Is there any evidence of longaxes being used in Northern Europe for similar purposes?

" For Augustus, and after him Tiberius, more interested in establishing and increasing their own power than in promoting the public good, began to disarm the Roman people (in order to make them more passive under their tyranny).... "
-N. Machiavelli, The Art of War
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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Wed 18 Jan, 2012 10:22 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Joshua R wrote:

Also, I hate to use fiction, especially movies, as an example, but in Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings, Gimli uses a 'walking axe'. Is there any evidence of longaxes being used in Northern Europe for similar purposes?


Yes that would be a Fokos:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shepherd's_axe

So there are axe headed walking sticks, would a large handled and headed axe be used as a walking stick ? Systematically maybe not but if one can lean on a spear while walking why not a long handled axe, and even if one carried it on one's shoulder one would probably be inclined to use it in rough terrain as a walking stick even if it was a very secondary purpose for the axe.

You can easily give up your freedom. You have to fight hard to get it back!
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Joshua R




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PostPosted: Wed 18 Jan, 2012 10:53 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks, Jean. It's amazing what pops up around here when you ask about it!
" For Augustus, and after him Tiberius, more interested in establishing and increasing their own power than in promoting the public good, began to disarm the Roman people (in order to make them more passive under their tyranny).... "
-N. Machiavelli, The Art of War
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William P




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PostPosted: Wed 18 Jan, 2012 11:34 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jean Thibodeau wrote:
Joshua R wrote:

Also, I hate to use fiction, especially movies, as an example, but in Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings, Gimli uses a 'walking axe'. Is there any evidence of longaxes being used in Northern Europe for similar purposes?


Yes that would be a Fokos:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shepherd's_axe

So there are axe headed walking sticks, would a large handled and headed axe be used as a walking stick ? Systematically maybe not but if one can lean on a spear while walking why not a long handled axe, and even if one carried it on one's shoulder one would probably be inclined to use it in rough terrain as a walking stick even if it was a very secondary purpose for the axe.

funnily enough it was suggested by my group of varangians that being able to lean on your axe should be partly how to determine an ideal hieght.


as for joshua, the article i read determining the daneaxe hieght in artwork, i think they assumed a hieght of around 5'8" or so, and they determined it based on comparing hieghts in artwork etc. id have to find it again

are you guys SURE theres no evidence of axes in graves or have we maybe just not found one yet (hope its the latter, i mean theres bound to be a couple somewhere....*rolls eyes*
that and the fact weve found clothing and shoes before in gravesi feel sceptical there isnt a partially preserved axe sitting in a bog or some russian grave somewhere

i mean in many of the celtic graves of the le tene culture they use the fact that wooden items generated stains on the floor of the tomb, which roughly indicated their size, this was for things like chariot wheels etc, as well as spear shafts etc
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Audun Refsahl




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PostPosted: Thu 19 Jan, 2012 8:29 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

on walking axes... in norway the axes did at some point start to get shorter and turn into walking stick length axes, this was I suppose in the late middle ages (might have been earlier, but until evidence of something else is provided I still believe in the long daneaxes). from the 16th and forward we have several examples of this, but the ones i thought would interest are actually from the 17th and 18th century.
http://digitaltmuseum.no/things/bergmannsks/MH/SS-48452?pos=25
"bergmannsøks" translates into miners axe, and we typically find them in Røros and Kongsberg, the two biggest mining towns i norway. these two cities were heavily influenced by germany, as they used engineers etc from germany. these axes come from the tradition in norway to use axes as personal arms, and were used as status symbols by those who used such, engineers, big farmers, other bigshots.
http://www.digitaltmuseum.no/things/bergmannsks/MH/SS-05491?pos=9
http://chr-auksjon.no/auctions/61/items/31940
these often have a forward point on the blade. these points was decorated, and the edges was often dull or even squared off, because they no longer had a purpose.

now, to get to the point, these axes was often highly decorated with etchings, inlays, gilding etc, for the really rich ones. those with not as much to spend on walking equipment had their canes carved in the same fashion...
these are called "bergstav" mountainstaff / miners walking stick
http://www.digitaltmuseum.no/things/bergmanns...1767?pos=5
http://digitaltmuseum.no/things/bergmannsstav...1766?pos=9
notice that the point is still there... also, they are bendt backwards near the head, also typical of weaponaxes in norwegian middle ages and on...
this last one the head is cast bronze, so this is right between the two, it is still called a staff
http://digitaltmuseum.no/things/bergmannsstav...004?pos=10
these were in use well into the 19th century, at least in the backwaters and mountains of norway...

wish I had more pictures for you, should have had some regular weaponaxes for comparison, but couldn't find any right now... sorry.

just bacon...
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Joshua R




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PostPosted: Thu 19 Jan, 2012 8:40 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Surprised

OK, that's kinda cool. I might have to have one made before the snows melt, this year!

" For Augustus, and after him Tiberius, more interested in establishing and increasing their own power than in promoting the public good, began to disarm the Roman people (in order to make them more passive under their tyranny).... "
-N. Machiavelli, The Art of War
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Tjarand Matre




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PostPosted: Thu 19 Jan, 2012 11:23 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The search term "bondeøks" (peasants war axe) returns quite a few of those typical late weapons axes. The surviving examples are mostly from the 17th century and are as Audun pointed out rather short and with a forward thrusting point.

http://digitaltmuseum.no/search?query=bonde%C...amp;page=1
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Jeremy V. Krause




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PostPosted: Thu 19 Jan, 2012 1:23 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

So it appears that there are two schools of thought on this matter of Dane axe shaft lengths. Some are saying that 3-4 feet is ideal and others are calling for 5 feet and above.

I am saving up for a very authentic Dane axe and I was going to go for the "tall as your chin" shaft but now I'm completely up in the air.

Keep your thoughts coming guys as this is a very interesting subject and I want to make as reasonable choice as I can in this regard.
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Audun Refsahl




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PostPosted: Thu 19 Jan, 2012 2:24 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I would think that the key is in the type of battle, and the style of fighting. the norwegian peasant axes are made for one to one combat, or larger scenes of fighting where people generally do not use shields, so its the same kind of skirmishing where you'd find sabres, baskethilts and the like. the 3-4 ft length makes sence. also, these was used a lot in boarding ships etc, also a situation where it seems ideal.
In viking age/medieval linefights with shieldwalls, forests of spears and such, it makes sence to have a longer weapon, as they were a little later in the middle ages... the way I see it, the type of battle you fight, and the role you have in the fight, dictates the weapon you have, and the length of your axe. but keeping a 4 ft axe in the belt? sounds cumbersome...

just bacon...
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Jeremy V. Krause




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PostPosted: Thu 19 Jan, 2012 5:25 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Simply looking at period illustrations it would seem that the Dane axe was used without a shield so I would think that the shaft would have some length to it.

3 feet just seems way to short to me especially balanced with a 11-12 inch blade. Perhaps to the middle of the chest would be a good height for an axe of the period 1000-1100? This does seem to approximate the length seen in artwork.
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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Thu 19 Jan, 2012 5:40 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jeremy V. Krause wrote:
Simply looking at period illustrations it would seem that the Dane axe was used without a shield so I would think that the shaft would have some length to it.

3 feet just seems way to short to me especially balanced with a 11-12 inch blade. Perhaps to the middle of the chest would be a good height for an axe of the period 1000-1100? This does seem to approximate the length seen in artwork.


I sort of agree, at least functionally, even if I'm not sure about the historical evidence or can't add to the evidence.

I do think that people underestimate the defensive qualities of a very long handled axe as they only visualize fully committed blows holding the axe near the end of the handle.

With one hand near the head one can make close quarter snappy cuts, even draw cuts, or thrusts with the top horn of the axe, or use the bottom horn for hooking shield rims. The middle of the haft can block or push.

One can also use the " queue " of the long Danish Axe the same ways as instructed in the " Jeu de la Hache ", that end is defensive because it can parry very quickly and even thrust to the face quickly: A long handled axe is only ponderous when held with both hands near the end of the haft and one can shift form heavy ponderous chops to agile use by sliding one or both hand quickly on the haft. Wink

In brief, the fighting style(s) may have been varied and very subtle and skilled making use of the axe alone not that much of a handicap without a shield, or the shield on one's back on a guige.

You can easily give up your freedom. You have to fight hard to get it back!
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William P




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PostPosted: Thu 19 Jan, 2012 7:57 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jean Thibodeau wrote:
Jeremy V. Krause wrote:
Simply looking at period illustrations it would seem that the Dane axe was used without a shield so I would think that the shaft would have some length to it.

3 feet just seems way to short to me especially balanced with a 11-12 inch blade. Perhaps to the middle of the chest would be a good height for an axe of the period 1000-1100? This does seem to approximate the length seen in artwork.


I sort of agree, at least functionally, even if I'm not sure about the historical evidence or can't add to the evidence.

I do think that people underestimate the defensive qualities of a very long handled axe as they only visualize fully committed blows holding the axe near the end of the handle.

With one hand near the head one can make close quarter snappy cuts, even draw cuts, or thrusts with the top horn of the axe, or use the bottom horn for hooking shield rims. The middle of the haft can block or push.

One can also use the " queue " of the long Danish Axe the same ways as instructed in the " Jeu de la Hache ", that end is defensive because it can parry very quickly and even thrust to the face quickly: A long handled axe is only ponderous when held with both hands near the end of the haft and one can shift form heavy ponderous chops to agile use by sliding one or both hand quickly on the haft. Wink

In brief, the fighting style(s) may have been varied and very subtle and skilled making use of the axe alone not that much of a handicap without a shield, or the shield on one's back on a guige.


with a 4 foot axe thats not AS easy to do. because even with a 2 handed axe, where your normally agressive anyway, ythe fact is a lack of shield can put you at a disadvantage and you need to be drawn into that radius of the one handed weapon, and shield user. who can knock you around with both the weapon and the shield often in unison.
a good stance with MY 2 handed axe, which is 130cm and 1.7kg, the balance point is about 52cm from the top of the shaft, so holding the axe one hand on the butt and the other at the balance point means you get a very efficient and very fast swing, from the position of holding the axe with the head facing towards the ground behind you, then delivering an overhead cut to the upper body, to increase momentumn the basic trick is to do what woodcutters do and , as the axe is about halfway through the arc, you slide the hands closer together to increach the reach, and this changes the 'mechanical leverage' of the axe, often resulting in a harder swing.
of course a good swing is all about good footwork and use of the hips as well.
another technique might be to hold the axe hands a foot apart, with one hand around the butt of the shaft, then sliding the axe back and forth like a spear to hook legs or shields, the sudden shortening of the lever also means abit more momentum as the axe is swung, if you slide

and
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Elling Polden




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PostPosted: Fri 20 Jan, 2012 12:23 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

A two haded axe is used like (ta-da!) an axe; hands shoulder width appart, sliding the front hand as you strike, and applying force from the hips.
It is also important to note that the axe head can be turned to allow you to strike from different angles. I'll get my axes later to demonstrate.

Audun: I know the short hafted daneaxe sounds unpractical, but the Leidang laws describe them as substitutes for the sword, not the spear. Thus, logicaly, they would have to be a "personal weapon" of some sort...

"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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Elling Polden




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PostPosted: Fri 20 Jan, 2012 4:08 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

As an example:
One handed spear, daneaxe, longsword, "walking axe", "hand axe", viking sword



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"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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