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Benjamin H. Abbott




Location: New Mexico
Joined: 28 Feb 2004

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PostPosted: Fri 24 May, 2013 10:12 am    Post subject: Just how much does ash weigh?         Reply with quote

While contemplating the Mary Rose bills as recorded in Weapons of Warre and their 40-50mm-diameter hafts, I discovered that my measurements of an A&A English bill don't square with published density numbers for ash. Either ash in that shaft is heavier or it's significantly thicker than the nominal 1.125 inches (28.57mm). The A&A English bill I have/had is 89.5 inches in total length, weighs 5.5lbs, and balances 29 inches down from the tip of the head. That means 60.5 inches of ash haft weigh 2.75lbs (half the total weight). The 2.857cm diameter gives a volume of 985.3 cc. Published numbers on ash range from 0.6 to 0.71 g/cc. The ash in my bill would require of density of 1.27 g/cc to achieve the observed 2.75lbs (1.25kg). Alternatively, the haft would have to be 1.5in (3.81cm) to align with the 0.71 g/cc density. I don't have it with me, unfortunately, but I believe I measured the diameter and it was the advertized 1.125in or thereabouts. The handle isn't a perfect cylinder, but this discrepancy is too large for that to explain it.

Does anyone have any thoughts on what's going on here?

As a side note, a 5ft haft by the Weapons of Warre bill figures and 0.71 g/cc ash density would weigh 3.5-4lbs. It'd make for an effective bludgeon even without the head, which weighed over 6lbs according to a reconstruction. I'm skeptical English bills typically weighed 10lbs, though various sources do describe them as heavy.

It's also worthwhile to mention that with the above density even a 18ft ash pole 1.5in in diameter from to end to end would only weigh about 9.7lbs. Many pikes were thinner for some or all of their length.

Read my historically inspired fantasy fiction in here. I walk along a winding path set by Ludovico Ariosto, William Morris, J. R. R. Tolkien, and Ursula Le Guin.

Out of doubt, out of dark to the day's rising
I came singing in the sun, sword unsheathing.
To hope's end I rode and to heart's breaking:
Now for wrath, now for ruin and a red nightfall!
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Benjamin H. Abbott




Location: New Mexico
Joined: 28 Feb 2004

Spotlight topics: 1
Posts: 1,188

PostPosted: Tue 17 Dec, 2013 5:54 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I measured the shaft's diameter and it's a little more than 1.125in one at the thinnest, 1.25in at the thickest. So that can't explain the observed weight. At a full 1.25in diameter it should weigh about 1.9lbs according to the 0.71g/cc figure. So this ash - assuming it's really ash - has a density somewhere between 0.978 and 1.2 grams per cubic centimeter. But that's awfully heavy for wood - enough to sink in water at the higher end! - so I remain confused. I guess it must be the point of balance doesn't mean equal weight on each side.

As mentioned above, the fact that even 18ft ash pole at 1.5in diameter should weigh under 10lbs strongly suggests that pikes didn't weigh as much as is often claimed.

Read my historically inspired fantasy fiction in here. I walk along a winding path set by Ludovico Ariosto, William Morris, J. R. R. Tolkien, and Ursula Le Guin.

Out of doubt, out of dark to the day's rising
I came singing in the sun, sword unsheathing.
To hope's end I rode and to heart's breaking:
Now for wrath, now for ruin and a red nightfall!
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Ken Speed





Joined: 09 Oct 2006

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PostPosted: Tue 17 Dec, 2013 6:44 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Maybe a piece of hickory got into the ash pile and no one noticed? Maybe it's just an extremely dense piece of ash?

I'd ask A & A, they should be able to tell you the weight of the head, maybe your calculations are in error?
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Benjamin H. Abbott




Location: New Mexico
Joined: 28 Feb 2004

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Posts: 1,188

PostPosted: Tue 17 Dec, 2013 7:13 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

It's conceptual problem. This thread explains my error in concieving of point of balance as indicating equal weight on each side. My calcuations are good, but I was under an erroreous starting assumption.
Read my historically inspired fantasy fiction in here. I walk along a winding path set by Ludovico Ariosto, William Morris, J. R. R. Tolkien, and Ursula Le Guin.

Out of doubt, out of dark to the day's rising
I came singing in the sun, sword unsheathing.
To hope's end I rode and to heart's breaking:
Now for wrath, now for ruin and a red nightfall!
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Benjamin H. Abbott




Location: New Mexico
Joined: 28 Feb 2004

Spotlight topics: 1
Posts: 1,188

PostPosted: Thu 17 Jul, 2014 12:48 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

If the measures in the image on this page are accurate and the diameter is roughly uniform - i.e. not tapering - we can calculate the approximate weight of these two extant Swiss pikes with the equation for the volume of cylinder combined with the density of 0.71g/cc. This ignores the metal parts and assumes a solid ash staff of 16' 2" or 16' 3". According to my calculations the thicker pike would weigh 10.15lbs and the thinner one 6.14lbs. Even an ash staff 17' long and 1.75" diameter as described in a 1638 manual would only weigh 12.5lbs.

Wikipedia still claims pikes weighed 18-22lbs!

I can't be sure but I suspect the light stiff pikes of tight ash desired by Sir John Smythe as well as the pikes assumed by George Silver and Joachim Meyer weighed 7-8lbs.

Read my historically inspired fantasy fiction in here. I walk along a winding path set by Ludovico Ariosto, William Morris, J. R. R. Tolkien, and Ursula Le Guin.

Out of doubt, out of dark to the day's rising
I came singing in the sun, sword unsheathing.
To hope's end I rode and to heart's breaking:
Now for wrath, now for ruin and a red nightfall!
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Bjorn Hagstrom




Location: Höör, Skane
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PostPosted: Fri 18 Jul, 2014 1:21 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I just made a 11 foot pike out of ash, 40mm diameter, and including a large head, it weighs in at 3.7 pounds (1.7 kg)
I have plenty of ash around, so if you want I can make a sample measurement for specific wheigth

There is nothing quite as sad as a one man conga-line...
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Benjamin H. Abbott




Location: New Mexico
Joined: 28 Feb 2004

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Posts: 1,188

PostPosted: Fri 18 Jul, 2014 8:19 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Interesting. How long the ash shaft? 335 cm long at 4 cm diameter gives a total volume of approximately 4200 cm3, which by most published ash densities (0.54-85, with 0.68-0.71 for European ash) should weigh more than 1.7 kg (2.99kg at 0.71g/cm3). Perhaps the head weighs less than an equivalent section of shaft.
Read my historically inspired fantasy fiction in here. I walk along a winding path set by Ludovico Ariosto, William Morris, J. R. R. Tolkien, and Ursula Le Guin.

Out of doubt, out of dark to the day's rising
I came singing in the sun, sword unsheathing.
To hope's end I rode and to heart's breaking:
Now for wrath, now for ruin and a red nightfall!
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Bjorn Hagstrom




Location: Höör, Skane
Joined: 25 Oct 2007
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Reading list: 8 books

Posts: 324

PostPosted: Sat 19 Jul, 2014 1:16 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Unfortunately, I had already epoxied the head to the shaft by the time I read this thread..and I did not weigh the head before putting it on.

But now I have in front of me a piece of the same ash, a straight 30 x 5 x 5 cm, piece. On my kitchen scale 568g
So this particular piece is 0,76g/cm3

Wood is a living material, water content will vary with humidity, and growing conditions will also factor in. So a variance by 10% either way is probably not improbable.

There is nothing quite as sad as a one man conga-line...
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Daniel Staberg




Location: Gothenburg/Sweden
Joined: 30 Apr 2005
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PostPosted: Sat 19 Jul, 2014 2:01 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The Solothurn armoury have measurements including weight for all of their preserved pikes as part of their online collection
http://emp-web-45.zetcom.ch/eMP/eMuseumPlus?service=StartPage

Click "suche", in the field marked "Sammlungsbereich" chose "Stangenwaffen" in the drop down menu and click "suchen" and you will be able to browse all of their polearms including pikes. Works a lot better than using the "volltext-suche" which seem to be unable to find the pikes even when you search for them using the proper german term (langspeiss).

"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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Benjamin H. Abbott




Location: New Mexico
Joined: 28 Feb 2004

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PostPosted: Sat 19 Jul, 2014 7:46 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

That's a great resource, Daniel. Thanks much! Assuming those weights are accurate, pikes weighed even less than I thought. Most of the ones I saw weigh around 2.5kg (5.5lbs). 3.23kg (7.12lbs) at 5.04m (16.5ft) is the highest weight I could find with a quick search. That suggests 7.77lbs for an 18ft pike. It's also interesting that so far I haven't found any in the collection a full 18ft.

So why do Wikipedia and other sources still claim pikes weighed 15+lbs?

Read my historically inspired fantasy fiction in here. I walk along a winding path set by Ludovico Ariosto, William Morris, J. R. R. Tolkien, and Ursula Le Guin.

Out of doubt, out of dark to the day's rising
I came singing in the sun, sword unsheathing.
To hope's end I rode and to heart's breaking:
Now for wrath, now for ruin and a red nightfall!
View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
Daniel Staberg




Location: Gothenburg/Sweden
Joined: 30 Apr 2005
Likes: 2 pages
Reading list: 2 books

Posts: 562

PostPosted: Sat 19 Jul, 2014 8:07 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I'm not sure how much the weight has change due to age of the pikes, after all they have been in storage at least 4 centuries. I've wondered about the shape of the wood as well, just about all of the pikes in Graz showed at least deformation as do many of the preserved pikes here in Sweden. The Solothurn pikes are almost unusual in that they have not been drasticly shortend like the Graz pikes but my assumption is that they may well have lost the odd inch or three in their years of active service. I think that the 18 foot pike was a rare creature, it was hard enough to find good ash for the 5.3 meter pikes that Gustavus Adolphus chose as the new Swedish standard in 1616. I suspect that most armies ran in to similar problems.
"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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