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M. Eversberg II




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PostPosted: Wed 31 May, 2017 9:19 pm    Post subject: Bamboo as a spear or lance shaft         Reply with quote

Something I have been thinking about as late is bamboo as a shaft material. I have worked only a bit with bamboo (very thin pieces that grow around here), and I know they can be formed into pointing weapons in a survival scenario (as given by various wilderness survival manuals and my own experience). With a bit of work (and open flame if you want the tip harder), it'll definitely do someone at least once. From what I can tell, anything thinner than about 5cm or so in diameter has considerable flex to it, such that anything in the 3cm or less range doesn't really suffice for a thrusting hand weapon.

From the bamboo I have access to, anyways.

The British 1868 Pattern Lance seems to have a variant that used bamboo, and Japan seems to have used bamboo for their yari. The lance doesn't appear to be all that thick. How would that material serve in a lancers role, then? Are they using specific bamboos that do not flex severely at horseback energy levels? How about simple breakage handling? The lance drills I have seen do not have them as couched heavy-shock type attacks, but these will have a lot of energy to handle - I know bamboo is tough, but it isn't magic.

Clearly it was used, so it wasn't useless, but I don't have physical access to any originals and things just aren't adding up.

Curiously, the patent drawing for the 1868 lists the bamboo model as being heavier than the solid wood one.

On a more practical level, how does one taper bamboo to fit a lance or spearhead? With wood you shave it down, but with bamboo you don't have much shaving space before you hit a void.

(Anyone have ideas? I've found a place that actually seems to sell hardware for the later 19th century lances, so I might formulate myself one at some point in the future, hence part of the interest!)

Thanks,

M.

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Horace C Squire




Location: Vermont
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PostPosted: Wed 31 May, 2017 10:47 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The species of bamboo used for spear shafts is Dendrocalamus strictus, known as "male bamboo" or "Calcutta bamboo". It is nearly solid and more rigid than an ash pole. It is also harder to find than common bamboo. I have a 1" piece which I intend to put a blade onto when I get around to it. It is rigid and seems about the weight of a similar sized ash pole.
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Ben Joy




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PostPosted: Wed 31 May, 2017 11:30 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Another common name for the bamboo that Horace mentions is "Iron Bamboo". The stuff is extremely thick walled, leaving only smaller drinking-straw-sized voids in it rather than the typical large gaps you're used to seeing; and it's "tough as iron" in a figurative and near-literal sense. I'll spare the links and whatnot but a quick google search turns up plenty of results.

While I haven't turned any Iron/Calcutta Bamboo into a spear, I can easily see it done. I've worked with the stuff before for some other projects and used to have a small bookshelf made out of it. It takes a nail just like regular wood, without splitting, unlike other bamboo types. However it's still very rigid, so flexing isn't going to happen a lot, but if it does flex some it can do so without instantly snapping.

Tapering wouldn't be a huge issue, in order to set the lance/spear head. Bamboo naturally tapers as a shaft extends. A 2" base might become .5"-1" at the end of an 8'-10' pole. Therefore as long as your head's socket tapers reasonably well with the already tapered bamboo, or can be adjusted, then I think it'd socket just fine . . . and a little bit of shaving down the bamboo -if necessary- wouldn't hurt it.

I think they'd make for effective spear/lance shafts and fulfill the role quite well. It's just a matter of using the right bamboo breed, just like using the right wood in any other project.

"Men take only their needs into consideration, never their abilities." -Napoleon Bonaparte
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Eric S




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PostPosted: Thu 01 Jun, 2017 12:09 pm    Post subject: Re: Bamboo as a spear or lance shaft         Reply with quote

M. Eversberg II wrote:
Japan seems to have used bamboo for their yari. .
All of the yari I have seen have solid wood shafts, I have never seen bamboo used. I have seen spears from India which seem to use a type of bamboo.

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Timo Nieminen




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PostPosted: Thu 01 Jun, 2017 2:53 pm    Post subject: Re: Bamboo as a spear or lance shaft         Reply with quote

Eric S wrote:
M. Eversberg II wrote:
Japan seems to have used bamboo for their yari. .
All of the yari I have seen have solid wood shafts, I have never seen bamboo used.


Wood was usual for yari hafts. But laminated hafts were sometimes made from bamboo; these are solid. (Chinese laminated bamboo hafts were often made with a wooden core covered in bamboo stripes. I don't know whether the Japanese laminated hafts were all-bamboo or wood-and-bamboo like Chinese hafts). Laminated bamboo hafts are very good, but were probably more expensive and slower to make than wooden hafts.

Plain bamboo hafts were sometimes used for fukuro-yari (socketed yari). One supposed advantage of these over the usual tanged yari was that you could use bamboo poles as replacement hafts. All the mounted ones I've seen have been on wooden hafts. The sockets are often about 1" in diameter (sometimes more), which would be IIRC thicker than the typical wooden yari haft at the head end, and is similar in size to Vietnamese bamboo glaive hafts at the head.

Then there was the take-yari - a bamboo pole with one end cut to a sharp point. Still issued as a weapon in WW2:


"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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M. Eversberg II




Location: California, Maryland, USA
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PostPosted: Thu 01 Jun, 2017 9:33 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks to all for the replies!

I was unawares of "Dendrocalamus strictus". Seems like exactly the kind of material that would work for actual close combat weaponry. I suspect I'll go the solid wood route for my lance, but clearly I'll need some for a "take-yari" at some point!

I'm not sure where I got the idea of some yari being bamboo. It may well have been an anachronism.

Thanks again!

M.

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Mart Shearer




Location: Jackson, MS, USA
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PostPosted: Thu 01 Jun, 2017 11:07 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

There are a number of medieval European depictions showing banding on spears and lances which are sometimes interpreted as some type of cane.
Psalter-Hours of Guiluys de Boisleux, Morgan M.730, fo.14v, 1246-1250



Coutumes de Toulouse, BNF Latin 9187, fo.33r, 1295-1297



 Attachment: 15.56 KB
BNF Latin 9187 fo033r-spear.jpg


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