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Neal Matheson




Location: sussex UK
Joined: 08 Feb 2009
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PostPosted: Thu 02 Oct, 2014 12:12 am    Post subject: Polearm haft section         Reply with quote

Hello,
I am tempting myself with the Galloglass axe from Wulflund. If anyone has any opinions on this I would be very interested in hearing them. I would probably haft it myself here. I am wondering about the section of historical and specifically Irish polearms. I was looking through my pictures and can see that poleaxes often seem to have square sections. It seems to me that octagonal, square or oval(?) are very useful in keeping the edge on-line. Is this the case on axes from history. Given that to make a round shaft one has to go through both square and octagonal sections it seems interesting that anyone would choose to go past wither of these states.
Neal

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Timo Nieminen




Location: Brisbane, Australia
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PostPosted: Thu 02 Oct, 2014 4:19 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Rectangular and square, usually with rounded or chamfered edges, are common profiles. They're the dominant profiles for European polearms after about 1400, except for spears and close relatives. Oval was also used. The hafts might also be round at the head, and transition to square/rectangular where gripped. Oval is common for East Asian cutting polearms (e.g, naginata) and beaked polearms (e.g., ge) from the Bronze Age to modern times, though round is seen on Chinese cutting polearms.

Rectangular or oval as opposed to square or round gives more strength in the long direction of the cross-section for the same weight haft (and less strength in the short direction). It also gives control of edge alignment. Oval and round vs rectangular and square gives more comfort and less weight for the same strength, but less resistance to the weapon twisting in the grip.

However, while round section seems inferior, on the basis of both strength of haft for a given weight, and edge alignment and security of grip against twisting, round section was used on axes and other polearms. The inferiority is not large enough to make people stop using round section hafts. I haven't had any problem using billhooks mounted on round hafts for pruning trees. One does need to look at the head for edge alignment, rather than just using feel, but no problem during cuts.

You don't have to go through square to make a round haft - wood grows with a round section (and you get a nice tapered haft for your spear too, by using wood-as-grown, rather than sawing and rounding from a larger piece). Modern hafts are so commonly round because turned poles are common and don't need any further rounding or chamfering of the edges.

"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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Neal Matheson




Location: sussex UK
Joined: 08 Feb 2009
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PostPosted: Thu 02 Oct, 2014 11:13 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Great answer thank Timo. Do you think coppiced trees may have been deliberately "coaxed" to provide shafts for spears etc.ash trees around here coppiced natural and even saplings don't really grow very straight.
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Mikko Kuusirati




Location: Finland
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PostPosted: Fri 03 Oct, 2014 12:46 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Neal Matheson wrote:
Great answer thank Timo. Do you think coppiced trees may have been deliberately "coaxed" to provide shafts for spears etc.ash trees around here coppiced natural and even saplings don't really grow very straight.

Possibly, at least in certain periods and regions, as discussed here.

You do need fairly straight, knotless timber no matter how you make your hafts, since the grain has to travel along the haft - if there's any point where it goes across, that's where it will break.

The subtle tongue, the sophist guile, they fail when the broadswords sing;
Rush in and die, dogs -- I was a man before I was a king.
-- R. E. Howard, The Road of Kings
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Bjorn Hagstrom




Location: Höör, Skane
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PostPosted: Fri 03 Oct, 2014 1:46 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Also it is very much possible to straighten a crooked piece of coppiced timber.

I suppose the same method that are used to straighten arrow-shafts would work too if scaled up approriately? i.e heat the wood and bend to shape. In large enough scale, that is how the Scandinavian clinker built ships are made, and then it is massive oak planks that are basted and bent.

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