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Kirk K.





Joined: 24 May 2016

Posts: 74

PostPosted: Wed 25 May, 2016 2:16 pm    Post subject: Lochaber axe on very long pole?         Reply with quote

In my reading up on pole arms I found an image of a Scot in traditional garb holding a Lochaber axe on the end of a pole that had to be at least 20' long. Unfortunately, I have not been able to find the image again.

This puzzled me. I though about the characteristics such a weapon would have. Obviously a pole that long could not be extremely rigid. A heavy weight on the end of a long, springy pole tends to oscillate around. Since that is about impossible to stop, the wielder would have to go with the natural tendencies of the weapon and use them to his advantage.

I first thought the guy might reach out from the front ranks, sweeping the blade back and forth to keep attacking infantry at bay. That seemed unlikely on reflection as the sweep movement would be too slow and uncontrollable to achieve that goal effectively. Then I thought it might be used to attack cavalry from behind the pike wall. But thinking about it, the weapon lacks the precision and speed to attack a such fleeting, mobile target as a cavalryman.

I finally hit upon a hypothesis that may be viable. I know the Scottish clans used pikes in their internecine battles. The pikes were ~15'-18' long. The pike wall and the 'push of the pike' was the battlefield environment of the time. The pikemen obviously had to maintain focus on what they were doing to remain effective. Now image a guy with a Lochaber axe on the end of a pole slightly longer than the enemy's pikes. He stands behind your front ranks of pikes, holding his axe blade over the heads of the enemy pikemen. Then he uses the natural springiness of the long pole to start the axe blade oscillating up and down. Once he has a good chopping cycle established he starts fanning the oscillating chopping blade back and forth across the ranks of enemy pikemen. I think that a huge axe blade slamming down from above repeatedly across the ranks would disturb the concentration of any soldier, especially when they could not move because they were braced against the push of enemy pikes.

So did such a variant of the Lochaber axe actually exist, and if so how accurate are my guesses about how it was used?
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Mikko Kuusirati




Location: Finland
Joined: 16 Nov 2004
Reading list: 13 books

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PostPosted: Wed 25 May, 2016 4:14 pm    Post subject: Re: Lochaber axe on very long pole?         Reply with quote

Kirk K. wrote:
Then he uses the natural springiness of the long pole to start the axe blade oscillating up and down. Once he has a good chopping cycle established he starts fanning the oscillating chopping blade back and forth across the ranks of enemy pikemen.

Not gonna happen unless his name is Tom or Jerry, I'd say.

PS. Well, OK, Bugs might pull it off, too.

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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Kirk K.





Joined: 24 May 2016

Posts: 74

PostPosted: Wed 25 May, 2016 4:31 pm    Post subject: Re: Lochaber axe on very long pole?         Reply with quote

Mikko Kuusirati wrote:
Kirk K. wrote:
Then he uses the natural springiness of the long pole to start the axe blade oscillating up and down. Once he has a good chopping cycle established he starts fanning the oscillating chopping blade back and forth across the ranks of enemy pikemen.

Not gonna happen unless his name is Tom or Jerry, I'd say.

PS. Well, OK, Bugs might pull it off, too.
Do you think this weapon exists? If so, how would you envision it being used?
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Mikko Kuusirati




Location: Finland
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PostPosted: Wed 25 May, 2016 4:53 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Couldn't really say without seeing the picture.

But, as a general thing, I'd assume it was used like any other long polearm of its sort. Certainly not utilizing cartoon physics. Happy

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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Kirk K.





Joined: 24 May 2016

Posts: 74

PostPosted: Wed 25 May, 2016 5:05 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

A heavy weight oscillating at the end of a springy pole is "cartoon physics". Umm, okay, fine. Good luck with that.

*rolls eyes and moves on*
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Dan Howard




Location: Maitland, NSW, Australia
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PostPosted: Wed 25 May, 2016 5:07 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Newton's Third Law would probably preclude this sort of thing in the real world. The back end would likely need to be held by something a lot stronger and heavier than a human.
Author: Bronze Age Military Equipment, Pen and Sword Books
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Mikko Kuusirati




Location: Finland
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PostPosted: Wed 25 May, 2016 5:36 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Kirk K. wrote:
A heavy weight oscillating at the end of a springy pole is "cartoon physics". Umm, okay, fine. Good luck with that.

*rolls eyes and moves on*

Wooden poles are not that springy, no matter how long; you'd need something more like bamboo. If the pole didn't just snap under the stress, any sideways movement would affect the oscillation, quickly turning it from a linear up-and-down hacking movement to a fairly useless spinning motion - and in order to "fan" it from side to side to begin with you'd have to somehow move it through two opposed and interlocked hedges, in fact a veritable thicket, of pikes. The back-and-forth oscillation would tend to throw the edge of an asymmetrically weighted blade out of alignment on every swing even before you added the sideways motion. And like Dan said, you'd need something heavier and with a stronger grip than a human being to hold on to the butt end.

Now, on the other hand, I think I've heard of something kind of similar about bludgeoning weapons made of fresh, pliable saplings with a (quite small) weight fixed on the thin end, used in some African context or other... but don't quote me on that.

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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Kirk K.





Joined: 24 May 2016

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PostPosted: Wed 25 May, 2016 5:51 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

In the drawing I saw (still looking for it) you could see a pronounced droop over the length of the pole. If the mere weight of the blade was enough to cause so much droop, the pole had to be somewhat springy.

Anyways, I am just trying to find some credible idea of how such a weapon would work and be deployed. I am open to suggestions.

On a personal note, your condescending snark does you no favors.
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Neal Matheson




Location: sussex UK
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PostPosted: Wed 25 May, 2016 11:28 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi Kirk, it would be useful if you could find the image, as other have said I think it is quite unlikely.I haven't seen any lochaber axes on long shafts in museums etc but accepted that pole weapons are often re-hafted. Contemporary images show axes on 5'-6' poles and the lone lochaber axe wielding highlander from the Penicuik sketches has a longer shaft while the McBane image shows a fairly short weapon. Nothing pike sized though.
I think other posters were being light hearted rather than snarky.

http://www.seeknottheancestors.com/
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Mikko Kuusirati




Location: Finland
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PostPosted: Thu 26 May, 2016 12:57 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Kirk K. wrote:
In the drawing I saw (still looking for it) you could see a pronounced droop over the length of the pole. If the mere weight of the blade was enough to cause so much droop, the pole had to be somewhat springy.

Anyways, I am just trying to find some credible idea of how such a weapon would work and be deployed. I am open to suggestions.

On a personal note, your condescending snark does you no favors.

Wood is elastic to a varying degree, sure, but seriously not that elastic.

I didn't mean to sound snarky, sorry. It's just... look, to be frank, the idea is ludicrous in light of real physics and how battle formations work. I instantly got the mental image of a kilt-clad Jerry chopping a row of hapless Toms in two, and it would be hilarious in the cartoon but impossible in real life.

I would suggest if the weapon existed as portrayed - and it would, indeed, be three or four times the size of most of its kin - it was used by poking with the point and cutting with the edge just like all other polearms. It could also have been a special weapon or tool for some kind of siege or firefighting function, perhaps, or a processional symbol.

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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Gabriele Becattini





Joined: 21 Aug 2007

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PostPosted: Thu 26 May, 2016 6:57 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

the pike is not a traditional weapons found in highland context,

never heard about "push of pikes" in clan warfare,

for sure it was used by scottish regular soldiers when serving in formal battle arrays, like every other soldiers of the pike and shotte era,

spears and half pikes are mentioned frequently, but we are talking of a completely different use in the battlefield


the lochaber axe is by all intents and purposes a sort of halberd and it is impoossible that it was mounted on such a long pole,
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Gregg Sobocinski




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PostPosted: Thu 26 May, 2016 10:44 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Try swinging a 20' pole without anything on the end, and you'll quickly decide that the picture you saw was inaccurate. Perhaps it was taken from fantasy fiction cover art?
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Kirk K.





Joined: 24 May 2016

Posts: 74

PostPosted: Thu 26 May, 2016 4:28 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Gregg Sobocinski wrote:
Try swinging a 20' pole without anything on the end, and you'll quickly decide that the picture you saw was inaccurate. Perhaps it was taken from fantasy fiction cover art?
Let me further explain what I saw. The context was a page about Medieval art. An artist was talking about his modern rendering of a historical drawing. The historical drawing was faded and not that easy to make out. Upon reflection, the sash the guy was wearing may in fact have been a sling to help bear the weight of weapon. I have seen that before with pikes.

The bottom line is, I would have completely dismissed the whole thing from the start were it not for the historical drawing. That has become a bit of a brainworm for me. It could be an ancient fantasy drawing I suppose, but I want to make sure.
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Kirk K.





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PostPosted: Thu 26 May, 2016 4:36 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Neal Matheson wrote:
I think other posters were being light hearted rather than snarky.
I guess I need to post an 'explainer' here. I do not care about snark, really. My concern is that when the first response to the thread is a somewhat sneering put-down from a veteran member, that can kill the thread dead. I have seen that happen over and over on many message boards. I do not mind my ideas being attacked. I *want* that. It is how I learn things and test my hypotheses. I just do not want a thread containing a question I would like answered to be strangled in the cradle. A post without the sneer that actually stated why the thing likely does not exist would have been fine.
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Philip Dyer





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PostPosted: Thu 26 May, 2016 5:23 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Well, the modern renderer could of just screwed up the drawing. Do you have the book and could take a photo of the picture in question and post it here?
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Gregg Sobocinski




Location: Michigan
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PostPosted: Thu 26 May, 2016 7:44 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Kirk K. wrote:
Gregg Sobocinski wrote:
Try swinging a 20' pole without anything on the end, and you'll quickly decide that the picture you saw was inaccurate. Perhaps it was taken from fantasy fiction cover art?
Let me further explain what I saw. The context was a page about Medieval art. An artist was talking about his modern rendering of a historical drawing. The historical drawing was faded and not that easy to make out. Upon reflection, the sash the guy was wearing may in fact have been a sling to help bear the weight of weapon. I have seen that before with pikes.

The bottom line is, I would have completely dismissed the whole thing from the start were it not for the historical drawing. That has become a bit of a brainworm for me. It could be an ancient fantasy drawing I suppose, but I want to make sure.


[size=12]
Your response is well described. I sincerely hope that you or a member of this forum can find this intriguing image.[/size]
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Kirk K.





Joined: 24 May 2016

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PostPosted: Thu 26 May, 2016 7:59 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Philip Dyer wrote:
Well, the modern renderer could of just screwed up the drawing. Do you have the book and could take a photo of the picture in question and post it here?
I did not care about the modern rendering at all. As I said, I was looking at the original, but it was faded and somewhat difficult to see the fine details. The drawing was a hand drawing or colored plate printing, not a book illustration. This was all on a webpage I am still trying to find again.

So far as the drawing, it could also be of a failed prototype weapon. If I come across a 20+' seasoned wood pole I can borrow I will tape a couple pound piece of scrap pipe to the end and play with it some. Don't laugh, I live in timber country and there is unexpected wood objects and stuff everywhere here. I like to hunt around in barns and have seen all kinds of weird things like that.
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Neal Matheson




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PostPosted: Thu 26 May, 2016 9:10 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

HI Kirk, it seems we are stuck until we can find the image.
http://www.seeknottheancestors.com/
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Kirk K.





Joined: 24 May 2016

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PostPosted: Fri 27 May, 2016 2:00 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Neal Matheson wrote:
HI Kirk, it seems we are stuck until we can find the image.
Yeah, I know. And it will keep bugging me. 😠
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