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Stuart Quayle




Location: Isle of Man, Great Britain
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PostPosted: Thu 17 Jul, 2008 11:57 am    Post subject: Questions about the Morning Star flail weapon.         Reply with quote

Hi folks

Could any of you knowledgable people tell me about the Morning Star flail weapon please?

I need to know the following about the flail which comes in the form of two or three spherical spiked iron or wooden balls, each on a separate chain attached to a wooden or metal shaft:

1. between what time periods did this type of weapon become widely used in Medieval times, or is it even a medieval weapon or a renaissance one?

2. In which countries was it a popular choice of weapon, or widely used?;

3. Was it strictly a knightly weapon of choice, or mainly a foot soldier's infantry weapon?

4. Did any particular armies favour it?

5. Is there a particular way of using this weapon without injuring oneself swinging it (silly question I know)?

Really grateful for any/all information you can give me and any pics of any extant or good replicas in their variuos forms.

Many thanks in advance
Stuart Q
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Nathan Gilleland





Joined: 25 Apr 2008

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PostPosted: Thu 17 Jul, 2008 12:05 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

If I remember correctly, the flail was originally a farming tool used to separate the chafe from the wheat.

I could be horribly wrong, but that's what I remember. (can't think of what source I heard it from though.)

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Christian Callender




Location: Maryland
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PostPosted: Thu 17 Jul, 2008 12:15 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Stewart,

The Morning Star (or any flail, for that matter) seem to have as its origin the agricultural tool used for threshing wheat. Axes and swords (just long knives when you think about it) share this common pedigree.

Most of the ones I've seen in museums only have the one ball and one chain; any more than that and I think you'd find it to be almost impossible to wield. As I have found, using just the single chain variety takes a great deal of practice, first in not bludgeoning yourself, then in actually hitting a target effectively. The trick is to swing with the wrist, letting the ball swing at the maximum length the chain will allow. This makes the weight of the ball exponentially more powerful due to the centrifugal force from the swing, as well as allowing the ball to curve behind a shield if your aim is off a bit, still allowing you to inflict some damage. Some of the benefits of the Morning Star include the ease of construction, as well as the lack of maintenence required.

I'm not sure where it was most popular, or with whom, but most of the ones I have seen were either in German or English collections. It would probably be most effective on horseback, since the target would be below the user. On foot, it would be limited by the close-quarters nature of infantry combat.

Hope this helps!

Christian
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Stuart Quayle




Location: Isle of Man, Great Britain
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Posts: 125

PostPosted: Thu 17 Jul, 2008 12:36 pm    Post subject: Flail.         Reply with quote

Thank you Nathan, yes that makes sense having it's beginnings as an agricultural tool.

Christian, thank you so much for the very interesting description of how best to use this type of weapon, it sounds like it takes alot of practice to get it right! Yes, as used from horseback again makes sense, hitting downwards upon the enemy. Fascinating that a single ball on a chain could be seen as the most typical form of this weapon, that's blows away my preconceptions about this weapon.

I just have this bugging feeling that the morning star is not a true medieval weapon, but reaches it's true height of use much later than you would imagine, can't think exactly why I see it as a very late medieval weapon rather than say a 12th or 13th century one. I am probably totally wrong in my thinking. For instance, do the hussites use this style of flail, or strictly just the longer wooden tubular spiked flail?

Would really like to be able to pin down the correct timeframe for what we would refer to as the Morning Star. I guess even a cudgel type of staff weapon consisting of a single spiked ball of iron or wood mounted onto a shaft could loosely be referred to as a morning star. Would I be correct in saying this?

Please keep the great info coming.
Thanks
Stuart Q
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Nathan Gilleland





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PostPosted: Thu 17 Jul, 2008 2:31 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Given Christian's support to my theory that the flail started out as an agricultural tool, I would venture a second opinion.

Would this not make it more common amongst the peasants than the nobles? If a peasant was called off to war, he had to grab whatever weapon-like-tools he could so he was armed. The higher classes had the luxury of purchasing specialized killing instruments.

This seems to make sense to me, but then again, it might have started with the peasants and was adopted by the higher classes.

Any thoughts anyone?

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Christian Callender




Location: Maryland
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PostPosted: Thu 17 Jul, 2008 2:39 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Oh, I'm sure that flail-type weapons have been used everywhere that there were flail-type tools in use. It's not surprising, though. How many of us who grew up on farms or in mechanic's garages saw something heavy or sharp, picked it up, and thought immediately how useful that tool would be in a scrap? I daresay the majority of the people reading these posts. Wink

As such, the flail-type weapons were probably everywhere. I've even seen Japanese versions! The Morning Star is a bit different in that there is quite a bit of metal involved there, at least in the ball which is usually fist-sized. Metal was fairly rare for awhile, but with the advent of armored warriors, it was more common. Which was fortunate because until gunpowder appeared on the battlefield, the only way to destroy metal was with more metal! Edged wepaons like swords became less effective, and in response bludgeoning wepaons became the vogue. This is where the warhammer, bec de corbin, poleaxe, and yes, the Morning Star entered their heyday. They were heavy, sharp, relatively cheap, and didn't get their edges dulled from whacking armored opponents. For this reason, I think the Morning Star is right at home in the 13th century armory.

Christian
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Stuart Quayle




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PostPosted: Thu 17 Jul, 2008 3:46 pm    Post subject: Morning Star flail.         Reply with quote

Many thanks guys, really appreciate your info. Happy
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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Thu 17 Jul, 2008 4:25 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Check out the Hussite Wars as they favoured the morning star or flail and mostly in a long pole version rather than a one-handed Knightly version.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hussite_Wars

They also were very early users of hangonnes ( Early handheld small firearms: Basically a small canon at the end of a stick ) and small canon used in combination with large Warcarts.

Do a search here and you should find some Topics about the Hussites that also mention the use of flails: Not the first time the subject has been asked about.

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Stuart Quayle




Location: Isle of Man, Great Britain
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PostPosted: Thu 17 Jul, 2008 4:40 pm    Post subject: Flails.         Reply with quote

Many thanks Jean, the Wikipedia link you have provided is a most interesting insight into the Hussite Wars.

The type of flail I am primarily interested in is the one consisting of a number of iron balls each attached to a separate chain, each chain to a central staff, I am told chiefly a horseman's weapon used in Central Europe.

I will do a search, thanks.

regards
Stuart Q
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Christian Callender




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PostPosted: Thu 17 Jul, 2008 4:52 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Nathan Gilleland wrote:
If a peasant was called off to war, he had to grab whatever weapon-like-tools he could so he was armed. The higher classes had the luxury of purchasing specialized killing instruments.

This seems to make sense to me, but then again, it might have started with the peasants and was adopted by the higher classes.


I concur, Nathan. One can all too easily imagine a knight riding around the countryside, and seeing a peasant with a flail think to himself "Hmmm, that gives me an idea..."
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Chad Arnow
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PostPosted: Thu 17 Jul, 2008 5:26 pm    Post subject: Re: Flails.         Reply with quote

Stuart Quayle wrote:
Many thanks Jean, the Wikipedia link you have provided is a most interesting insight into the Hussite Wars.

The type of flail I am primarily interested in is the one consisting of a number of iron balls each attached to a separate chain, each chain to a central staff, I am told chiefly a horseman's weapon used in Central Europe.

I will do a search, thanks.

regards
Stuart Q


Stuart,
I did a quick look through one of my books that has a lot of pole weapons and couldn't find an example of a multi-headed flail. Pretty much every flail in that book was 15th century and later. There was one interesting one that looked like it used leather or some other textile instead of a chain.

I also checked Waldman's monumental work on polearms and he doesn't think flails were that widespread and he didn't mentioned multi-headed examples.

I'll dig some more, but I can't recall many examples (actually none off the top of my head) with more than one iron ball attached to a single shaft.

Happy

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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Thu 17 Jul, 2008 6:56 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Stone's Glossary show a few flails on page 228: A short handled one has 3 chains with solid polygonal masses at the end somewhat like metal cubes with each corner cut to show a diamond shape on each side, German XV century.

Another one has two chains and a medium length handle described as Indian in origin XIX century.

Many others on the page with some short chains and a long wooden hitting piece with spikes in bands at the top, bottom and middle: Most looking rather crude in construction.

Also the usual spiked ball versions like those made by A & A.

A GLOSSARY OF THE CONSTRUCTION DECORATION AND USE OF ARMS AND ARMOUR, BY GEORGE CAMERON STONE.

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Christopher Finneman




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PostPosted: Thu 17 Jul, 2008 8:40 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I always thought thats the flail was always confused with the morning star. Isnt the morning star a polearm with bands of spikes at top of the weapon? Kinda like a long spiked club? I could be wrong. But I remember seeing one at arms and armor a while back and it is a long pole with a head of spikes.
I know you see in many fantasy games flails being called morning stars which isnt true. But like I said I may be wrong.
Just my two cents


Christopher

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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Fri 18 Jul, 2008 1:47 am    Post subject: Re: Questions about the Morning Star flail weapon.         Reply with quote

Stuart Quayle wrote:
5. Is there a particular way of using this weapon without injuring oneself swinging it (silly question I know)?


For the one-handed sort of flail you're specifically asking about, maybe you could look up a Discovery Channel show titled Perfect Weapon. It's not the best or most accurate source, but their "Skull Smashers" episode has some interesting information about the flail's use.

The two-handed flail directly derived from the agricultural tool, on the other hand, is one of the more exotic weapons included in some Renaissance European fighting systems. Check Paulus Hector Mair and translations/interpretations of his work in particular--he's known for treatment of some uncommon and even seriously weird weapons. If I remember correctly, he even writes about the use of unmodified agricultural scythes (not war scythes) in combat.
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Randall Moffett




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PostPosted: Fri 18 Jul, 2008 2:26 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Stu,

This is a good post from the past.

http://www.myArmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.php?t=8785

Thats about the best I can find. So yes there are some with multiple chains. I have never liked the ball flails before but prefer one with a very short chain. I find them much easier and more effective but milage may vary.

RPM
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Chad Arnow
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PostPosted: Fri 18 Jul, 2008 5:19 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Christopher Finneman wrote:
I always thought thats the flail was always confused with the morning star. Isnt the morning star a polearm with bands of spikes at top of the weapon? Kinda like a long spiked club? I could be wrong. But I remember seeing one at arms and armor a while back and it is a long pole with a head of spikes.
I know you see in many fantasy games flails being called morning stars which isnt true. But like I said I may be wrong.
Just my two cents


Christopher


Waldman puts the flail and the spiked club/polearm (some called Holy Water Sprinklers) in the same chapter. The flail is related to the non-chain-bearing Morgensterns. Its German name is Kettenmorgenstern or something like that.

Terminology, as we all know, is not always cut and dry. Some terms are, or have been, interchangeable.

Happy

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Eric Myers




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PostPosted: Fri 18 Jul, 2008 10:23 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi Stuart,

I can give you some specifics from the Iberian material.

In 1675, the Spanish fencing master D. Miguel Pervez de Mendoza y Quixada published a book of commentary on martial arts (Resumen de la verdadera destreza de las armas en treinta y ocho aserciones), which includes a section on the flail. The flail he is referring to is a two handed weapon, with three chains and heads. The heads in the frontispiece picture do not have spikes, but I doubt that affects the use, other than making it safer to practice. He discusses some of the construction and use of the flail. In use, he says that the blows are the same as the two-handed sword (montante), except that you can't thrust (these are overwhelmingly downward angled blows, not rising); keep the hands in front of the body, and use the wrists to the extent possible; stable footwork is *really* important. He also decries the short shrift that two handed weapons have been given by fencing masters, pointing out that even those who do teach or discuss them tend to only do so cursorily. Even though he was the head fencing master for the kingdom, well into the verdadera destreza period, he gives the impression that the two-handed weapons are his favorites, and are what separate the men from the boys.

One of my metal worker students has made several flails for us to practice with, agricultural flails, single mace like head, and a copy of the one described above. The three headed was actually the easiest to use, and I suspect this has to do with mass distribution, using three chains rather than one. Obviously a heavier single chain could be used, but we don't have one of those, so please remember that this theory is only semi-informed conjecture.

In practice, I have found a few other tips. A little practice at keeping the flail in motion goes a long ways - and keep it slow until you are comfortable. Changing direction is hard, but easiest if the path of your blows is more vertical than horizontal. There are two good ways to stop the flail: 1) hit something, adversary, pell (I use an old rusty car), ground, etc; 2) stop in a tail guard. Once you get this far, you won't hit yourself much, and that will mostly just be bounce back after hitting something, and that really doesn't hurt. Well, it might with spikes Eek!. Circling in a constant direction and hitting something over and over is very easy, and produces a huge amount force. We put old armor on a human sized pell, and an unspiked flail just tore off piece after piece of armor.

You will notice that in the picture, the chains are as long as or even longer than the haft. This worried me at first, but in fact the hands seem fairly safe from harm. Most flails and flail records I know of (which aren't many) have longer hafts than chains, though apparently longer chained infantry flails were common in south east Europe. The length of the chain and head relative to the shaft definitely affects the handling. I have some ideas about this, but I don't have enough experience with the shorter chains/heads yet to say much in public about it. Sorry. Any two handed flail is almost certainly a footman's weapon, not a horseman's.

I've attached a copy of the frontispiece picture I mentioned above.



 Attachment: 137.34 KB
small_perez_mendoza_frontispiece.jpg


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Stuart Quayle




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PostPosted: Fri 18 Jul, 2008 2:11 pm    Post subject: Flail         Reply with quote

Many thanks guys for the great information on the various types of flail and the use of them - absolutely fascinating! I really appreciate it Happy

and thank you Eric for the wonderful info on the Spainish Mangual. Did I hear right that you reconstructed this weapon and tried it out on an old beat up Camero and it's on video? Wow! if so that sounds awesome, is it on Youtube by chance?

Would love to see this weapon in action. Cool

Cheers guys
Stuart Q
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Eric Myers




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PostPosted: Fri 18 Jul, 2008 5:01 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Wow, word gets around more than I knew Laughing Out Loud

Technically it's a Cougar, not a Camaro, and no, it's not on youtube. Maybe we can get a better shot of it in action and put it up there though.

Here's the reconstruction, the haft is a steel tube rather than wood, but I don't think that changes much.



 Attachment: 67.58 KB
small_Flail1.jpg


Eric Myers
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Stuart Quayle




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PostPosted: Fri 18 Jul, 2008 5:16 pm    Post subject: Mangual flail.         Reply with quote

Wow Eric - that looks a superb replica of the flail you featured on the front of the Spanish treatise. As you very well elaquently pointed out before, it must take alot of skill to control without injuring oneself.

Many thanks for showing it Happy
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