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John A. Brown





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PostPosted: Wed 22 Feb, 2017 4:41 am    Post subject: Is it easy to cut through wooden weapons such as staffs?         Reply with quote

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Because I purchased Mount and Blade three days ago and my katana came in by mail I decide to do a little experiment.
In Mount and Blade you can block direct blows from the sword's edge with a wooden staff, wooden clubs, and maces with wooden handles. By block direct blows I mean something looking like in the scene below.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nRcFxGxNgIA&feature=youtu.be&t=2m3s

Except as opposed to Tom Cruise easily slicing a rifle in half and killing the riflemen along in one blow, Mount and Blade's game mechanics shows that a wooden staff and wooden club can last unlimited amounts of direct blows from swords.
So I got curious and got an old flag pole. It is about one inch in diameter, uses very hard thick wood, and looks exactly as in the link below.

https://madaboutgardening.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/407141-1000x667.jpg

I laid it on a table and swung my katana. My katana did not do any damage. I swung it again much harder but all that's came is a small scratch.

So I decided to put two chairs at the staffs and leave some empty space in the middle the staff (because I thought the table was preventing the katana from cutting it fully). Despite now having nothing below it to prevent full force, when I swung the katana it still wouldn't cut it in half and only left a deeper scratch.

So I got curious and stuck the pole outside on the ground. I decided to try horizontal blows but the thing still wouldn't cut in half.

Hell I did everything above with other tools such as hammers, knives, and machetes and the end result was the same. The pole was not cut in half (though the machete left the same scratches and dents the katana did).

The reason Mount and Blade made me curious was because popular media and entertainment- in particular movies and manga- portray wooden weapons such as clubs, maces, and especially staffs as weapons being easy to cut through with swords in the same manner in which The Last Samurai shows the rifle getting sliced in half in an instant (and killing the soldier with it). Basically not just the overhead vertical swing Tom Cruise did but horizontal swings, diagonal swings, and even swings from below an easily slice apart the clubs some police are holding or the staff some farmer is using in self defense and even hack apart shields with enough hits.

However my experiment with the flag pole made me wonder about the notion of swords easily cutting apart wooden weapons. I mean part of why Mount and Blade made me so curious is because its game mechanic is supposedly based on real European swordsmanship and it showed the you can directly block sword slashes and thrusts by placing the wooden weapon directly in front of the sword. Although my flag pole got damaged, it could not be cut in half which gives me the impression Mount and Blade is accurate in this regard.

But I also read just right now that German mercenaries were hired using large heavy two handed swords to cut apart pikes so that cavalry can run through and slaughter the pikemen (who now were simply using sticks for battle after the skirmish with the Grman mercenaries). And its not just them, some internet articles speak or some Japanese swords called the Odachi and Zanbato being used against spearmen and naginata samurais in the same manner as well as youtube comments speaking about Thracians doing the same against Greeks who tried to expand their city state territory outside of Greece.

So I am a bit confused. I must point out I have no formal training in swordsmanship and was just doing wild blows. However in Hollywood portrays peasants picking up swords and easily defeating other peasants armed with spears because they are able to cut through it which is why along with the real historical incidents (German mercenaries for example) why I am asking this question.

If I get proper sword training, would it be easy to cut through a 19th century rifle as the scene in the The Last Samurai shows? Or at least the flagpole I tried to cut?
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David Hohl




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PostPosted: Wed 22 Feb, 2017 5:46 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Yes, wood is very very tough. The notion of cutting through substantial poles is completely made up. Maybe under very good circumstances a spear haft could be broken, but not blithely sliced through. Otherwise axes in logging and carpentry would be a lot smaller.
To address your other point, the German and Japanese using big swords to break up pike and spear formations means that these people would knock the pikes aside and move into the formation, cutting up people and disturbing the lines. These formations depended on having everyone standing together with their long spears pointed in the same direction, so once that's tangled up the group of spears become much easier to attack, even though the spears themselves aren't cut in half.

Also, if you really want to cut your flagpole in half, try putting it back on the table and use the machete to cut at about a 45 degree angle. You still probably won't get through very fast but it should make more progress.
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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Wed 22 Feb, 2017 6:23 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

If you hit a shaft hard enough to cut through it, a human being couldn't hold it.
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Eric Allen




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PostPosted: Wed 22 Feb, 2017 9:15 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Congratulations, Mr. Brown, you are taking your first steps into a larger world.

You've actually approached this very scientifically. You started with observations (based on pop culture, and the idea a sword could easily cut through a wooden shaft), designed an experiment, and tested your hypothesis. Your results and observations are valid.

Judging from this post and the handful of others you've made so far, you are coming to the realization that what you assumed to be true about swords, weapons, and fighting based on what you've been exposed to through pop culture--movies, video games, etc.--doesn't always hold up. We've all been there, and we're all still learning.
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Matthew Amt




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PostPosted: Wed 22 Feb, 2017 9:26 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

As already stated, it is VERY difficult to lop through weapon shafts. I expect that cutting through a *rifle* is just Hollywood. ("Everything in the movies is WRONG.")

That said, spears will break! The Greeks expected that to happen during a long tough fight, in part because spears were often surprisingly thin. With enough stress, they'll break even without getting chopped on. Medieval pikes, and even some polearms with heavier hafts, generally had iron strips called langets extending 2 feet or so behind the point, in order to prevent the heads being chopped off. So it *was* a consideration.

Just remember that all the strength you put into attacking the enemy's weapon is strength you could have used to attack *him*. And wading into a formation of pike points is just a really bad idea no matter what you're swinging...

Yeah, it can be interesting what happens when you try something out! Painful, too, if something unexpected happens, so be careful, eh?

Matthew
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Mikko Kuusirati




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PostPosted: Wed 22 Feb, 2017 10:47 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Cutting a wooden pole like the haft of a polearm is really hard. It can be done, but not reliably and not at will. Not even when the pole is firmly fixed in place, and certainly not when the pole is being held by a person who's doing their level best to kill you all the while.

However, rather than being cut, a long wooden pole might conceivably bend and snap under the impact from a heavy weapon, especially one with a sharp edge to concentrate the force on one small hot spot. Or just from being bent too hard in normal use. Or from minor nicks and dents adding up over months and years of use and abuse.

Personally I would suggest the langets on most polearms were intended to reinforce the pole against snapping under lateral stresses and to reduce the accumulation of wear and tear over time, rather than to stop swords from cutting through them in one swing.

PS. And, yeah, casually cutting a rifle stock in two like in that clip from Dances with Samurai Razz is simply not going to happen no matter how strong and skilled you are. Even if you could somehow generate enough power to do it, what would happen is you'd just bat the gun out of the way and probably damage your sword.

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


Last edited by Mikko Kuusirati on Wed 22 Feb, 2017 12:35 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Bram Verbeek





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PostPosted: Wed 22 Feb, 2017 12:02 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I applaud your approach!

Mount and Blade, while fun and a lot better than most games, is limited in its realistic approach, so I'd advise you to take things you see there as a starting point of research, as you have done.

Cutting wood is harder than many think, as is cutting metal. While I would not damage your katana with it, it would be interesting to experience hust how hard it is to slice through a piece of bent metal. The side of a pan is a lot thinner than most helmets, and if you fill a cheap one (with gelatin for instance) and strike it from the side with your machette, it might give you an idea on how hard it is to cut through armour.
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Richard Miller




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PostPosted: Wed 22 Feb, 2017 2:57 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hey, John

That is a very good question and a very good approach to separate fact from fiction. I still have a lot of notions in my head that I picked up from fiction, especially films. Even the best of films are riddled with inaccuracies and sometimes outright falsehoods. I think that there are quit a few people out there who are convinced that a well made katana could cut through a rifle, if the wielder was skilled, or that a good swordsman could easily cut through a hardwood stave.
As it was said, the "Dopplesoldner" (double soldier) who swung those massive swords were most often not attempting to break the pole weapon itself as they were trying to disrupt the formation. These people were so named because they were paid double and supposedly twice the size of the average soldier.
I can't believe that any weapon from any era was able to routinely hack through the poles of halberd or spear, no matter how strong or well trained the man wielding it might be.
Keep the questions coming!

-Rick
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Tim Harris
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PostPosted: Wed 22 Feb, 2017 6:47 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

My suspicion about the use of zweihanders against pikes:
While a blow from a big two-hander might not cut a pike shaft, it would certainly displace it. In a tight press of pikemen, swinging a shaft into its neighbours is going to make a bit of a mess, and give a swordsman opportunity to ruin the day for a few pikemen.

https://www.facebook.com/TimHarrisSwords
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James Arlen Gillaspie
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PostPosted: Wed 22 Feb, 2017 8:42 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

A katana has nothing like the power of a full - blown body length great weapon (yes, I know I've said that I think they tended to be a couple of inches shorter than their wielder, ideally). Knocking pikes aside is the main thing, but how thin pikes were towards the business end is something that moderns don't appreciate. One might not cut the head clean off, but a good strike could make the shaft prone to failure, and require replacement. Striking a breastplate with such a pike could snap it off.
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Graham Shearlaw





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PostPosted: Tue 28 Feb, 2017 12:12 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

One thing people don't realize is just how much the shaft of long pike is a long leaver that bends and wobbles about.
Just by design your average pike man has to fight against the centre of mass being forwards of there grip to keep there pike point level.

Now a two handed swords will take big scoops and chips out of the shaft and certainly knock it side ways.
So it's a good thing you have some support troops to see off the other sides "Dopplesoldner".
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Benjamin H. Abbott




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PostPosted: Wed 01 Mar, 2017 6:17 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

As I've mentioned in previous threads, various historical sources indicate that one-handed swords and other edged weapons could in fact cut through wooden shafts, especially pike shafts. It strikes me as unlikely that the various references to cutting pikes across time and space are invented or wrong. Lord Orrery even claimed langets on pikes mattered so much that he was once part of a group that carried a fort by storm because the enemies pikes lacked langets and they thus were able to cut the heads off the pikes.

I suspect historical pike shafts tended to be thinner than what today's martial artists attempt to cut. Historical soldiers may additionally have been better at cutting.

I can't find it, but from NetSword back in the day I recall an image of piece of oak (1" by 3" I think) supposedly cut most of the way through by Obata Toshishiro-kaiso.

Some contemporary martial artists seem to be able to getting through around 1" of hardwood with a single cut.

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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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Wed 01 Mar, 2017 2:00 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The sources don't distinguish between a shaft that was physically cut through and one that broke after extended abuse. A shaft that breaks after being hit with a sword will appear to have been cut until the end is physically examined.
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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Wed 01 Mar, 2017 2:04 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Benjamin H. Abbott wrote:
Some contemporary martial artists seem to be able to getting through around 1" of hardwood with a single cut.


This is no different to the stupid helmet-cutting videos we have seen. Find a video where a person is actually holding the shaft. If you clamp the shaft so it is held completely rigid then it is a lot easier to cut..

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Mark Moore




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PostPosted: Wed 01 Mar, 2017 4:32 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

As interesting as this conversation may be...have any of you yet to notice that the original poster of this topic has yet to comment or ask any further questions? WTF?! Sound like a familiar scenario?........McM
''Life is like a box of chocolates...'' --- F. Gump
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Jared Smith




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PostPosted: Wed 01 Mar, 2017 4:42 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I would say wood, especially fresh cut "green" wood of diameter 3/4" (20 mm) or greater diameter, is very effective at absorbing controlled alignment technique sword cutting strokes soley based on my own limited experiments a few years ago. I was academically interested in this a few years ago as a way of cheaply simulating cuts through meat or flesh, and how the sword would fare against something tougher like bone after the initial soft target. Wooden diameters much smaller than 3/4" (20 mm) break or cut much more easily and left me guessing at to how much of the damage was due to cutting versus brute crushing force. My subjective test cutting experience based opinion is that wood diameters significantly smaller than 3/4" (~20 mm) did not represent very meaningful experiments in test cutting. Although I do not study that to any degree to qualify as an expert, I will go out on a "limb" here and state that I am unaware of many archeological pole arm shafts that are significantly smaller in diameter.

For the Albion models I have owned (Knight, original Crecy, Munich, Sempach) I would wrap a whole soaked traditional printed newspaper around some different diameter green tree limb cuttings. After fully penetrating the newspaper, I could seldom cut more than 1/4" (6 mm) into "green" fresh fresh pine limbs that were at least 3/4" (21 mm) in diameter while applying controlled cuts as are necessary for me to personally section cut reduce the height of a water bottle or milk jug.

Absence of evidence is not necessarily evidence of absence!
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Benjamin H. Abbott




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PostPosted: Wed 01 Mar, 2017 5:50 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dan Howard wrote:
The sources don't distinguish between a shaft that was physically cut through and one that broke after extended abuse. A shaft that breaks after being hit with a sword will appear to have been cut until the end is physically examined.


For martial purposes, it doesn't matter whether an attack with an edged weapon cuts or breaks an opposing weapon shaft. It's clear Raimond de Fourquevaux and Lord Orrery were talking about sword attacks removing the heads from pikes. (Note that there are a number of other texts that describe swords cutting through pikes and/or lances.) As far as extended abuse, these sources don't specify how many cuts it takes to remove the head from a pike. Joseph Swetnam recounted a case of a combatant armed with sword and dagger cutting through an opposing staff. Swetnam didn't dispute the ability of the sword to cut a staff but instead suggest the person with the staff lacked skill. One cut strikes me as the most plausible; landing more than a few cuts against an opponent's staff in single combat seems unlikely.

Of course, while I'm fairly convinced that a strong and skilled soldier could remove the head from a pike in no more than a few cuts with a single-handed sword, I'm not sure about thicker shafts such as some halberds and other polearms had.

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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Frank F.





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PostPosted: Wed 01 Mar, 2017 10:32 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I do distinctly recall an account from the 19th century, gathered in the book Swordsmen of the British Empire by D. A. Kinsley, of a sepoy cutting through a musket with his tulwar and killing his opponent with the same strike. It is definitely doable and has happened historically, although it was also likely quite an impressive and remarkable feat, which prompted its recounting.
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Bram Verbeek





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PostPosted: Wed 01 Mar, 2017 10:47 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Frank F. wrote:
I do distinctly recall an account from the 19th century, gathered in the book Swordsmen of the British Empire by D. A. Kinsley, of a sepoy cutting through a musket with his tulwar and killing his opponent with the same strike. It is definitely doable and has happened historically, although it was also likely quite an impressive and remarkable feat, which prompted its recounting.


Cutting through a musket, especially with a Tulwar seems highly unlikely. It would require quite compelling evidence. A musket is not only the significant amount of wood, but a rather thick pipe on it as well. Though the show lacks in 'real science', I would like to refer to a Mythbuster episode where they tried to cut a machine gun barrel with a katana, it ended in failure, no matter how they tried. A Tulwar is less suited against such hard targets.
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Frank F.





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PostPosted: Wed 01 Mar, 2017 11:04 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Bram Verbeek wrote:
Frank F. wrote:
I do distinctly recall an account from the 19th century, gathered in the book Swordsmen of the British Empire by D. A. Kinsley, of a sepoy cutting through a musket with his tulwar and killing his opponent with the same strike. It is definitely doable and has happened historically, although it was also likely quite an impressive and remarkable feat, which prompted its recounting.


Cutting through a musket, especially with a Tulwar seems highly unlikely. It would require quite compelling evidence. A musket is not only the significant amount of wood, but a rather thick pipe on it as well. Though the show lacks in 'real science', I would like to refer to a Mythbuster episode where they tried to cut a machine gun barrel with a katana, it ended in failure, no matter how they tried. A Tulwar is less suited against such hard targets.


I have found the passage. It seems I have slightly misremembered and I guess my mind just fabricated the part about killing an opponent in the same strike from watching YouTube video. However, the account does mention a musket being completely cut in two during combat.

Here's the passage:
"To give an idea of the temper, sharpness, and weight of the swords of all these [Mysorean] men, I have only to mention that the barrel of one of the menís muskets was completely cut in two by one stroke.Ē

Colonel Richard Bayly of the 12th Foot Regiment on the topic of the tulwar, taken from Diary of Colonel Bayly of 1896.
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