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Neal Matheson




Location: sussex UK
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PostPosted: Mon 05 Mar, 2012 1:59 am    Post subject: spear sharpness         Reply with quote

Hello all.
I made my first spear the other day and am having a bit of an "all things spear" moment. I was wondering if there is any information on the sharpness of spears. I talked to a reenactor at hastings a few years a go and he told me that spears didn't need to be sharp at all. My spears are what I call "mower sharp" they go through most targets with a pretty intimidating ease.
I am more interested in the early medieval period though as spears do not appear to have changed all that much information from any period would be most welcome.
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Johan Gemvik




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PostPosted: Mon 05 Mar, 2012 6:11 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Just as with swords I imagine there were both razor sharp and not so sharp spears.

From what simpel tests I've done with my own spear as well as several swords, an awl like tip doesn't need to be sharp except for being pointy, while a broad blade head, especially those with a fairly broad round tip need some edge sharpness to cut as it peirces to go through armour and cloth. Especially if you're going to use the pumping up & down motion after the initial entry as shown by Lynn in his Cold steel video for boar hunting, then there needs to be some edge sharpness. This opens a smaller wound into a huge one that bleeds out the boar in seconds. But this could be modern technique, I don't have any historical sources for spear pumping to widen a wound.

To go through naked flesh, no obviously a spear doesn't have to be very sharp.

"The Dwarf sees farther than the Giant when he has the giant's shoulder to mount on" -Coleridge
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Matthew P. Adams




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PostPosted: Mon 05 Mar, 2012 7:15 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Just to add a little...

I believe there are cleaving spears or hewing spears? If your spear is only for throwing, I would say it wouldn't have to be to sharp, but if you intend to use it as a pole arm as well, then I'd sharpen those edges up.

-Matthew

"We do not rise to the level of our expectations. We fall to the level of our training" Archilochus, Greek Soldier, Poet, c. 650 BC
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Jeremy V. Krause




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PostPosted: Mon 05 Mar, 2012 8:06 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I have a nice, authentically constructed spear head made by Patrick Barta of the period around 1100. It is of an elongated leaf shape with a rather acute point section. It has a rather stout but quite sharp point. The edges are not especially sharp. I guess I would call them slightly sharper than "butter-knife". It is clearly designed as a thrusting type peaon.



Last edited by Jeremy V. Krause on Tue 06 Mar, 2012 7:11 am; edited 1 time in total
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Neal Matheson




Location: sussex UK
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PostPosted: Mon 05 Mar, 2012 10:56 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

great replies I love that spear too. I'll keep the first inches by the point nice and dull to keep more metal up there. sharpening the lower portion to give the thrusts some "bite".
Neal
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Graham Shearlaw





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PostPosted: Wed 07 Mar, 2012 10:46 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

looking at how moden bayonets have a blunt side to stop it geting stuck in the ribs, a dull pach by the point will do much the same job.
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Sean Flynt
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PostPosted: Wed 07 Mar, 2012 11:09 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Seems to me that the main reason for the broad blade of medieval boar/bear spears is to cause maximum blood loss across the widest area of injury--severing vessels instead of pushing them aside or tearing them. I can't think of any reason NOT to put a fine edge on at least the leading edges of a broad spear.
-Sean

"Everywhere I have searched for peace and nowhere found it, except in a corner with a book"- Thomas a Kempis (d. 1471)
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Peter Messent




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PostPosted: Wed 07 Mar, 2012 12:29 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Sean Flynt wrote:
Seems to me that the main reason for the broad blade of medieval boar/bear spears is to cause maximum blood loss across the widest area of injury--severing vessels instead of pushing them aside or tearing them. I can't think of any reason NOT to put a fine edge on at least the leading edges of a broad spear.


That sounds right to me. While a wound caused by a broad, blunt blade might look just as gory and could put someone out of the fight depending on person and wound-location, it has less potential to damage organs and blood vessels, which are the big game-stoppers.

That said, I think that a reasonable indication of how a weapon may be sharpened could be the person using it. If someone grew up a farmer, and then one day was called upon or made the choice to be a soldier, he would likely deal with any blade as he did when he was a farmer. If you spent your life with a sickle in one hand and a cigar stone in the other, I think you're likely to hold on to that stone even if a sword, knife, spear or axe replaces the sickle - though that may differ from what 'professional' soldiers/warriors or those in-the-know did. Even today with pretty standardized training in the military, you will note differences in how weapons are handled and maintained between a country-boy private, a city boy, a Ranger, an Infantryman and a POG. I imagine the variety was at least as great then.
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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Wed 07 Mar, 2012 7:11 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Peter Messent wrote:
[ Even today with pretty standardized training in the military, you will note differences in how weapons are handled and maintained between a country-boy private, a city boy, a Ranger, an Infantryman and a POG. I imagine the variety was at least as great then.


And the different level of care ( babying ) when someone owns a high quality weapon compared to an issue weapon: One might still take care well of an issue weapon, to keep it functional as one's life may depend on it performing optimally, but one might not be that concerned about dings and cosmetic only damage to an issue weapon.

You can easily give up your freedom. You have to fight hard to get it back!
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Sean Flynt
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PostPosted: Thu 08 Mar, 2012 8:04 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Peter Messent wrote:
Sean Flynt wrote:
Seems to me that the main reason for the broad blade of medieval boar/bear spears is to cause maximum blood loss across the widest area of injury--severing vessels instead of pushing them aside or tearing them. I can't think of any reason NOT to put a fine edge on at least the leading edges of a broad spear.


That sounds right to me. While a wound caused by a broad, blunt blade might look just as gory and could put someone out of the fight depending on person and wound-location, it has less potential to damage organs and blood vessels, which are the big game-stoppers.

That said, I think that a reasonable indication of how a weapon may be sharpened could be the person using it. If someone grew up a farmer, and then one day was called upon or made the choice to be a soldier, he would likely deal with any blade as he did when he was a farmer. If you spent your life with a sickle in one hand and a cigar stone in the other, I think you're likely to hold on to that stone even if a sword, knife, spear or axe replaces the sickle - though that may differ from what 'professional' soldiers/warriors or those in-the-know did. Even today with pretty standardized training in the military, you will note differences in how weapons are handled and maintained between a country-boy private, a city boy, a Ranger, an Infantryman and a POG. I imagine the variety was at least as great then.


Hunting spears, complete with toggle, are seen among the lower classes of infantry in the marching illustrations of The Medieval Housebook. It's not clear if those are exclusively battlefield weapons or just part of what an army needed to feed itself on the march. Either way, one suspects that the men carrying them were well accustomed to their use on big critters of both four- and two-legged varieties.

One of Dürer's battle scenes shows a spear of this type--still with toggle--in among frontline men-at-arms in plate harness.

-Sean

"Everywhere I have searched for peace and nowhere found it, except in a corner with a book"- Thomas a Kempis (d. 1471)
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Daniel Staberg




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PostPosted: Thu 08 Mar, 2012 9:28 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hans Döring shows NCO's and Officers, both mounted and on foot armed with broad bladed spears very similar to hunting weapons.









Paul Dolnstein shows himself as a light cavalryman in the Landshut war (1504) armed with a similar type of weapon


"There is nothing more hazardous than to venture a battle. One can lose it
by a thousand unforseen circumstances, even when one has thorougly taken all
precautions that the most perfect military skill allows for."
-Fieldmarshal Lennart Torstensson.
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Sean Flynt
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PostPosted: Thu 08 Mar, 2012 11:32 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

And as these became badges of officer rank, as shown here, their sharpness may have become less critical.
-Sean

"Everywhere I have searched for peace and nowhere found it, except in a corner with a book"- Thomas a Kempis (d. 1471)
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Jared Smith




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PostPosted: Fri 09 Mar, 2012 12:29 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Peter Messent wrote:
Even today with pretty standardized training in the military, you will note differences in how weapons are handled and maintained between a country-boy private, a city boy, a Ranger, an Infantryman and a POG. I imagine the variety was at least as great then.


I would be most worried about the issue if the one who sharpened the blade was a chef, regardless of where he came from.

Absence of evidence is not necessarily evidence of absence!
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