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Jeff Larson





Joined: 29 Dec 2011

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PostPosted: Sat 09 Sep, 2017 9:50 pm    Post subject: Pollaxe Polls         Reply with quote

Looking over the feature article on pollaxes, I see three main types of polls on those pollaxes that do have polls (the smashy bit):

1. A flat head, rectangular in plan, with rows of spiky "bumps" to help it grip curved plate.

2. Similar to #1 above, but with a single large spike centered in the middle of the striking face.

3. A "coronal" head, consisting of 3 or 4 large prongs.

Is there any evidence that one of these is superior to another for the intended purpose, namely making bad things happen to the wearer of the armor that it impacts? Looking at various internet videos, I see no reason to believe that the central spike on type #2 will penetrate even to the depth of the flat poll surface behind it, but perhaps it imparts some other advantage. I see no reason to doubt that all three types are effective at helping the poll "stick" to the struck armor, as opposed to sliding off, mainly based on anecdotal evidence on this forum.

Did any of these types constitute a technological advancement over any of the others, in the sense that they were developed at a later date and began to supplant one of the other types?
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Mark Moore




Location: East backwoods-assed Texas
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PostPosted: Mon 18 Sep, 2017 6:09 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

To answer your questions as best possible to my knowledge, the 'poll'--hammer-head--was developed with one intent, as you already know. *To crush plate armor.* In thought of plate armor, the inventor of the first pollaxe must have thought---''The hammer giveth...the hammer taketh away.'' To be hit hard by an axe or hammer while wearing full plate is one hell of a jolt...and I say this from experience. You are not going to jump up feeling froggy and say "Oh, no, you didn't". The pollaxe works extremely well.
I don't really think that these weapons were made differently on purpose, just a trend that caught on and varied from place to place. Some say --A flat hammer. Others say--Spikes.

Either way you look at it....plate armor is what it is. The weapon that is used against it not so much what it is....but how it is used. Wink ..............McM

''Life is like a box of chocolates...'' --- F. Gump
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Dan Howard




Location: Maitland, NSW, Australia
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PostPosted: Mon 18 Sep, 2017 7:12 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

A non-smooth texture on the face of a poll should make it less likely to glance off the surface of armour. Perhaps the different poll patterns were attempts to work out which "bites" most effectively and not slide off.

Quote:
I see three main types of polls on those pollaxes that do have polls (the smashy bit)

Many of the weapons in that article are not pollaxes. Most are halberds or warhammers.

Author: Bronze Age Military Equipment, Pen and Sword Books
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Mark Moore




Location: East backwoods-assed Texas
Joined: 01 Oct 2003
Likes: 6 pages
Reading list: 1 book

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PostPosted: Mon 18 Sep, 2017 11:00 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I meant to say those words exactly, Dan. The pollaxe was truly a 'work in progress' as armor became better and better. Before the advent of full plate, a good ol' wooden club would have done well against a helm and mail. A spear, even better. The pollaxe...the 'coup-de-gras'. I personally think the 'Bec-de-Corbin' is about the ultimate anti-armor weapon.....and they look cool as hell! Wink Laughing Out Loud ......McM
''Life is like a box of chocolates...'' --- F. Gump
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Jeff Larson





Joined: 29 Dec 2011

Posts: 8

PostPosted: Mon 18 Sep, 2017 11:57 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

By "Bec-de-Corbin", are you referring to the variation of the weapon that had a prominent rear fluke, often known as a "Bec-de-faucon"? That's actually the genesis of my question.

You might think that the fluke would be "the ultimate anti-armor weapon", and I labored under that misconception for some time. But as Hugh Knight wrote in other threads, 1) there is no text that describes using the back fluke to strike a blow; in all techniques discussed the fluke is used as a hook to trip or pull an opponent, 2) the iconography from the fightbooks is disputed, but one can make a good case that every time the fluke is depicted as in a position to strike a blow, the user is committing "bad form" and is being used as a "bad example", the person who is the helpless victim of a useful technique that the fightbook is trying to impart, 3) practical experimentation has shown that it is very hard to get a single spike to "stick" on doubly-curved plate compared to the hammer-head designs I described in the OP on this thread.

Referring to a number of internet videos, both the "multiple little bumpy spikes" version of the head and the "flat head with a single large spike in the middle" seem equally able to stick and severely dent flat plate of a thickness a little thinner than most helms and breastplates. However, I was surprised to see that although the single spike did penetrate the thin plate, the depth of penetration was such that the flat hammer surface didn't make contact (save for the flat plate deforming enough to come into contact with the hammer face). It was as if the flat face of the weapon made no contribution to the damage to the plate save for to provide a reservoir of mass behind the spike.

Sadly, that video did not include in the comparison the use of a 3- or 4-pronged hammer head. I would surmise that it would stick well, penetrate a short distance, say, 1/4 to 1/2 inch, and then dent the plate well. But that is only a guess, as I said, I don't have a direct comparison.

I certainly agree with the pollaxe being a "work in progress", and was merely curious as to whether any distinct trend in its evolution could be observed and described. I don't know if any scientific test on the merits of the various designs was carried out back in the day, and I'm sure the proponents of each design had their "marketing hype" to show their version was superior. I was just wondering if we could do better today, with the hindsight of history and the ability to construct valid tests of the equipment.
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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Mon 18 Sep, 2017 3:29 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Internet videos don't have the target moving around making it harder to strike squarely and with maximum force. I would think that there would be a lot more glancing blows in actual combat making the differences in the various polls more pronounced.
Author: Bronze Age Military Equipment, Pen and Sword Books
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Jeff Larson





Joined: 29 Dec 2011

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PostPosted: Mon 18 Sep, 2017 5:39 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I would think denting a under-gauge, stationary, flat piece of mild steel would be the minimum standard for a functional poll head, not the gold standard. If a spike won't penetrate that to any great depth, I don't see why it should be expected to penetrate something more representative of real armor to any greater degree. My only reservation was that the steel was backed by a bale of straw instead of some sort of practice dummy...perhaps that provided more give to the piece than we might expect of a man in armor, perhaps not.

And if a "claw"-type hammerhead had been included in the video, at least we'd have a starting point for a comparison. I make no claim this would be the ending point.
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