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Mike West




Location: North Carolina
Joined: 06 Dec 2003
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PostPosted: Sat 08 Sep, 2012 10:39 am    Post subject: Boarding Pike dimensions?         Reply with quote

I've been interested in Naval boarding pikes and, have been wondering about the dimensions. Specifically, I have watched a video of the USS Constitution Boarding Pike team. I've contacted them through various means and, email, but they haven't answered.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=amLM6E0o_mc

I would assume that the haft is about 6" in length, while the 4 sided pike head is about 10" in length. Perhaps about 3/4" square at the base of the pike, tapering into a point. Several of the heads seem to have different sized pike heads, though.
The hafts would be up to 1.5" in diameter.

I would like some more information on suitable dimensions.

Thank you.



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Timo Nieminen




Location: Brisbane, Australia
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PostPosted: Sat 08 Sep, 2012 5:30 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

From SC Wolfe, Naval Edged Weapons in the Age of Fighting Sail 1775-1865:

12' total length for a "full-size" boarding pike, 8' for the half-pike, and 4' for the quarter-pike. Most heads were triangular, square, or diamond in section. Some leaf-bladed heads were used (but these were less common), between 10-13" (counting socket or just edge?). Socket 3-4". A leather sheath was used to protect the head.

A description of surplus British boarding pikes:

4 1/2 inch three sided pike blade with 10-inch iron straps, fastened to hard wood pole. Full length 7 1/2 feet, diameter 1 1/4 inches.

The 1797 USN pattern: 95 inches full length (2.4m), 7" 4-sided head, iron langets painted entirely white.

No metal butts, either ball-shaped or rounded. ("Ball-shaped" means a wooden ball, about 2 haft diameters across, usually flattened rather than spherical.)

From W Gilkerson, Boarders Away:

No pointed butts - either no metal butt, or a flat one. Some pikes had a metal butt sleeve, with the wood extending through it by a few cm, so the sleeve wouldn't hit (and damage) the deck. Sometimes brass butts.

Earlier pikes were longer than later ones, but none of the specimens examined were longer than 10'; by 1815 the standard length was between 8 and 9' in most navies. Ash was preferred for hafts, diameters between 1" and 1 3/8". Shorter specimens may have been shortened for easier display after retirement from service.

Standard French pike during the American Revolution was 7'6", with a broad 4 1/2" long leaf-blade. There was also a long version, 11 1/2" long, with a 12" blade. Before 1800, the French adopted a spike-headed pike, with triangular, square, diamond, and hollow-ground diamond heads being used.

British pikes were usually just under 9' long. The British didn't have a standard pattern until 1888, when the model adopted was 7'6" long, with a triangular section spike head, and butt sleeve/collar with langets, and the haft protruding through the bottom. This model was used until 1926. Hafts and heads were either polished clean or painted white (hafts) or black (heads).

American heads (pattern 1797) average about 16" with langets, about 1 1/2" wide. Earlier American pikes were more usually leaf-bladed (unlike the European preference for spike-headed), and spike-heads were often long and slender. Early pikes often had no langets. Surviving pikes are about 8' long (as per the pattern specification).

The final US pike (used into WW1) was 8', with a narrow spike head, and 1 3/4" haft at the langets. The transition from narrow head to fat haft helped stop over-penetration (in theory, at least). The haft was tapered from a fatter middle towards both ends. (A double-tapered bo might be a good haft, though 2' too short.)

(GIlkerson has a whole chapter on them, with lots of pictures. The single best boarding pike reference I know of!)

"In addition to being efficient, all pole arms were quite nice to look at." - Cherney Berg, A hideous history of weapons, Collier 1963.
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Mike West




Location: North Carolina
Joined: 06 Dec 2003
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PostPosted: Sat 08 Sep, 2012 7:29 pm    Post subject: Thanks!         Reply with quote

Thanks for the information. I checked the Boarders Away book on amazon and, it's affordable. Interesting that the Boarders Away book on firearms is out of print.

Do you think the pikes in the photo and, video are shortened versions? They seem to be half-pikes. I don't think any of the hafts were longer than 6.5 to 7 feet, I do like the shape of the thicker bladed pike at the front of the photo. I'm thinking of having one made, along with a boarding axe to accompany my recent French cutlass purchase.
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Timo Nieminen




Location: Brisbane, Australia
Joined: 08 May 2009
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PostPosted: Sat 08 Sep, 2012 8:30 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The pikes in the video look about 8' long - when they're lined up with the pikes upright, the pikes are about 1/3 longer than the people. (8' including head, not just the haft). So, pretty standard half-pikes, which seem to be the most common boarding pikes.

Don't know of any readily available production heads, though plenty of leaf-shaped heads could work, especially if narrowed. 6' haft would work, even if a bit short. So, to have a good one might need going custom. Or antique, which you might be able to get at a similar price.

"In addition to being efficient, all pole arms were quite nice to look at." - Cherney Berg, A hideous history of weapons, Collier 1963.
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Mike West




Location: North Carolina
Joined: 06 Dec 2003
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Posts: 84

PostPosted: Sat 08 Sep, 2012 10:14 pm    Post subject: I'm going to go with Adriaan Gerber         Reply with quote

http://adriaangerberknives.com/

He made me a Lochabar axe, similar to the one pictured on his website, although with a shorter haft. I'll probably go with a longer haft, based on your info. How long do you think the pike blades were? Up to a foot?



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Glen A Cleeton




Location: Nipmuc USA
Joined: 21 Aug 2003

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PostPosted: Sat 08 Sep, 2012 10:28 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

George Washington at one point ruled that a spontoon should be six feet of haft with a foot of blade. There was of course a lot of variation and holding to regulation. The British spontoons remained at nine feet tall (half pikes) for a number of decades, as did their halberds. The reason for spike type heads vs spear shapes (and certainly no place for a crossbar) is fighting amongst the rigging

Boarders Away is a great book.

Cheers

GC
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