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Christian Henry Tobler
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PostPosted: Thu 13 Sep, 2007 10:16 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hello Christopher and Michael,

First, great tests Mike! This is really great work.

Christopher, the reason we see thrusting swords later on in the period is probably because mail is the primary armour earlier. Even though it's next to impossible to cut through, a mail-clad arm or leg can still be broken or have horrible damage done to it otherwise because of the mail's flexibility.

Now, put pieces of plate over the mail and your sword stroke will have little effect. However, if you can thrust to the gaps between the plates and into the mail, now you're in business.

All the best,

Christian

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Hugh Knight




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PostPosted: Thu 13 Sep, 2007 10:43 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

[quote="Michael Edelson"]
Jean Thibodeau wrote:

Since the cutting value against maille was marginal the " effect " on target would have been mostly blunt trauma?
I would guess that using the hammer side would be best in most cases and the axe edge would be useful against unprotected or almost unprotected targets? And the previously discussed on other Topic threads that the axe on the poleaxe is very useful in hooking/parrying and usually wasn't very sharp.


Quote:
Actually the axe side is the devastating part, in my opinion. It can focus the poleaxe's massive power into a very small area, breaking bone and doing all sorts of nasty things to the flesh underneath. I'm sure the hammer part is no slouch, but I didn't test it so I don't know.


Actually, the evidence suggests Jean's right. The hammer is the "devestating" part; the serious hitting weapon, if you will. In my opinion the reason you see only Hammer+Spike pollaxe variants in the Fechtbücher is that the axe blade just wasn't of much use in the armored combats they were practicing. That you see Hammer+Axe Blade variants in the none-Fechtbuch iconography is caused by the fact that you might have non- or lightly-armed troops to face, and against them an axe blade can be of some use. Mostly, however, the axe blade should be considered as a hook (really, a hook) just like the spike on the bac of a Hammer+Spike configuration pollaxe. Focusing the pollaxe's massive power into the narrow edge of the blade just doesn't buy you much except possibly against a target like the fingers (there's a complex debate about that, but it's not really germane here). Remember: The pollaxe didn't develop until the age of plate (well, the tail edge of the Age of the Transition, but everyone that counted was in mostly full plate by then) because the pollaxe is designed to be a weapon for men at arms to be used primarily against men at arms; lightly-armed or unarmored troops are just a side dish. <grin>

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Hugh
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Hugh Knight




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PostPosted: Thu 13 Sep, 2007 10:46 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jean Thibodeau wrote:
previously read opinion about the usefulness of the axe edge and your comment actually matches more my original belief ( untested ) that with the axe edge all the energy is concentrated on a narrow line and that this edge would take advantage of the weight of the hammer on the other side i.e. the whole weight of the poleaxe head.

One reason to not use the axe edge might be to keep it as sharp as possible for more vulnerable targets ? But this might be a non issue because in a battle one would use one side or the other as opportunity and time permitted i.e. taking the time to change from an axe blow or a hammer blow might be a luxury one could little afford. ( Duels might be different and full plate armour might favour more use of the hammer than the axe for blows ).


No, Jean, your previous impression is the right one. The hammer is the real weapon in most combat (for swinging blows; the top spike is even more important).

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Hugh
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Michael Edelson




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PostPosted: Thu 13 Sep, 2007 10:52 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hugh Knight wrote:
Jean Thibodeau wrote:
previously read opinion about the usefulness of the axe edge and your comment actually matches more my original belief ( untested ) that with the axe edge all the energy is concentrated on a narrow line and that this edge would take advantage of the weight of the hammer on the other side i.e. the whole weight of the poleaxe head.

One reason to not use the axe edge might be to keep it as sharp as possible for more vulnerable targets ? But this might be a non issue because in a battle one would use one side or the other as opportunity and time permitted i.e. taking the time to change from an axe blow or a hammer blow might be a luxury one could little afford. ( Duels might be different and full plate armour might favour more use of the hammer than the axe for blows ).


No, Jean, your previous impression is the right one. The hammer is the real weapon in most combat (for swinging blows; the top spike is even more important).


I can't argue with that, my tests were geared to measure the weapon's effect against the armor itself, not the person underneath. The hammer would do very little to the maille, but perhaps the guy under it might not be happy.

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Hugh Knight




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PostPosted: Thu 13 Sep, 2007 11:07 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Michael Edelson wrote:
I can't argue with that, my tests were geared to measure the weapon's effect against the armor itself, not the person underneath. The hammer would do very little to the maille, but perhaps the guy under it might not be happy.


Quite right. More importantly, the hammer would do a lot more to the person under *plate* than the axe blade would (because the teeth on the hammer would make it stick whereas the axe blade would be likely to slide), and the important thing to remember is that the pollaxe is a phenomenon of combat in plate armor.

Great tests, by the way. Very well done.

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Hugh
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Michael Edelson




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PostPosted: Thu 13 Sep, 2007 11:08 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hugh Knight wrote:
Michael Edelson wrote:
I can't argue with that, my tests were geared to measure the weapon's effect against the armor itself, not the person underneath. The hammer would do very little to the maille, but perhaps the guy under it might not be happy.


Quite right. More importantly, the hammer would do a lot more to the person under *plate* than the axe blade would (because the teeth on the hammer would make it stick whereas the axe blade would be likely to slide), and the important thing to remember is that the pollaxe is a phenomenon of combat in plate armor.

Great tests, by the way. Very well done.


So that's what those teeth are for! Thanks Hugh!

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Michael Edelson




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PostPosted: Thu 13 Sep, 2007 11:10 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Christian Henry Tobler wrote:
Hello Christopher and Michael,

First, great tests Mike! This is really great work.

Christopher, the reason we see thrusting swords later on in the period is probably because mail is the primary armour earlier. Even though it's next to impossible to cut through, a mail-clad arm or leg can still be broken or have horrible damage done to it otherwise because of the mail's flexibility.

Now, put pieces of plate over the mail and your sword stroke will have little effect. However, if you can thrust to the gaps between the plates and into the mail, now you're in business.

All the best,

Christian


Hi Christian,

Thank you!

I'm learning a lot today...I've never considered that particular explanation...I've always thought that the swords were mostly for killing those guys that weren't wearing maille. I like your explanation...perhaps in concert with my assumption...better.

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Hugh Knight




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PostPosted: Thu 13 Sep, 2007 11:12 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Michael Edelson wrote:
So that's what those teeth are for! Thanks Hugh!


You're welcome.

Yes, that's what the teeth were for. We did some tests at my Schule on a curved piece of steel and there's just no doubt that armor really works: Most blade weapons slide when they hit (including the blade of an axe) which means not all the force goes into the target, but the teeth on the hammer head actually reate little dimples in the plate so that force transmisision is greater. They work just like the "teeth" on a "rochet" or lance of peace.

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Hugh
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Christian Henry Tobler
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PostPosted: Thu 13 Sep, 2007 11:33 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hey gents,

In Peter Falkner and Paulus Hector Mair, who show axe + spikey hook combinations, the axe is used to strike. It would interesting if we had a source showing the preference where an axe+hammer combo is shown. I don't know of any fechtbuch that does, but I'll dig into this.

CHT

Christian Henry Tobler
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Freelance Academy Press: Books on Western Martial Arts and Historical Swordsmanship

Author, In Saint George's Name: An Anthology of Medieval German Fighting Arts
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Christian Henry Tobler
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PostPosted: Thu 13 Sep, 2007 11:49 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi Hugh,

I wonder sometimes if that force transmission is actually a safety feature. A coronal head allows a lance to 'grip' the armour, transmitting shock, but not allowing a point to slide on the armour into a gap, causing substantial injury.

Do we have any iconography showing the hammer end swung first?

CHT

Christian Henry Tobler
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Freelance Academy Press: Books on Western Martial Arts and Historical Swordsmanship

Author, In Saint George's Name: An Anthology of Medieval German Fighting Arts
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Hugh Knight




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PostPosted: Thu 13 Sep, 2007 11:57 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Christian Henry Tobler wrote:
In Peter Falkner and Paulus Hector Mair, who show axe + spikey hook combinations, the axe is used to strike. It would interesting if we had a source showing the preference where an axe+hammer combo is shown. I don't know of any fechtbuch that does, but I'll dig into this.


I can't speak to Falkner (since you're hoarding that one, Christian <grin>) but in Mair they're using them unarmored--a huge difference.

http://mdz10.bib-bvb.de/~db/bsb00006570/image...?seite=391

Moreover, as you point out, this is the Axe Blade + Hook configuration; they have little choice but to strike with the axe blade.

The one Fechtbuch I know of that shows pollaxes with an axe blade is Codex 11093 and that one seems to show strikes being done with the hammer (as you can see in the attached picture) and hooks being done with the axe blade.



 Attachment: 124.54 KB
0044A.jpg


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Hugh
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Hugh Knight




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PostPosted: Thu 13 Sep, 2007 12:06 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Christian Henry Tobler wrote:
I wonder sometimes if that force transmission is actually a safety feature. A coronal head allows a lance to 'grip' the armour, transmitting shock, but not allowing a point to slide on the armour into a gap, causing substantial injury.


The similarity to the coronal is only about "sticking"; safety can't be an issue with the pollaxe since the teeth actually make the hammer head less safe by helping to transmit all the force to the target. If the head were smooth it would be safer because not all the force would go into the target unless you hit it just perfectly. And sliding isn't a safety issue with the pollaxe; if the weapon slides there's no way the hammer head can cause damage, and the Dague (the pointy end for those who don't know) couldn't get at a gap either because it would be too close by then. Moreover, we know from the primary-source accounts that the Dague was often used for thrusting, so that's where they'd have put a coronal if they were worried about it.

Quote:
Do we have any iconography showing the hammer end swung first?


Well, there's the one from Codex 11093 I posted in the previous message, then there's this one from Kal that's probably a counter to a swinging blow:
http://mdz10.bib-bvb.de/~db/bsb00001840/image...l?seite=82
Then there's this one from Talhoffer where the guy on the right is about to make a swinging blow:
http://base.kb.dk/pls/hsk_web/hsk_vis.side?p_...p_lang=eng

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Hugh
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Jean Henri Chandler




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PostPosted: Thu 13 Sep, 2007 12:14 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

On cutting swords vs. mail armor.... keep in mind, in this period, not only was mail armor rare compared to the amount of armor in some later Medieval battlefields, but it didn't cover the whole body. Most people here in this list don't have to be reminded of the forensic analysis which has been done at battlefields like Wisby, most skeletons with evidence of cuts were cut on the lower legs (lower left leg particularly IIRC). A hauberk doesn't protect the lower legs. Or the lower arms in most cases or the face or in many cases the neck. In fact the most common type of mail from Classical times through the Dark Ages was probably one or another type of short byrnie or corslet which really only protected the torso, and the only other protection commonly worn was a helmet protecting the top of the head, more rarely with a coif or an aventail or even some face defense ala sutton hoo. These areas offer good protection against most attacks when using a shield, but by and large I susepect that the short answer is:

They defeated that armor by cutting around it.

Note that it's the rise of head-to-toe mail armor during the Crusades period which seems to coincide with the rapid evolution of pole arms and poll-axes (early examples being that large two-handed huskarl axe in England which showed up as armor was becomming more widespread) and heavier crossbows and the early two handed swords, which seem to have predated plate armor

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Hugh Knight




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PostPosted: Thu 13 Sep, 2007 12:28 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Christian Henry Tobler wrote:
Do we have any iconography showing the hammer end swung first?


I'm sorry, Christian, I misunderstood this question in my previous response. I don't have any pictures from non-fechtbuch sources showing pollaxes being swung; mostly they just stick up in the air or are being used to thrust (which is usually a better attack anyway).

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Hugh
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Luka Borscak




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PostPosted: Thu 13 Sep, 2007 12:37 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Do you people think a large cut oriented sword like for example XIIIa could cut through well made mail (like this used in test ) with a two handed blow?

I think that most of the historic mail wasn't that good as the one used in this test and most good cutting sword could cut through it even with one handed blow...
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PostPosted: Thu 13 Sep, 2007 12:43 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Luka Borscak wrote:
I think that most of the historic mail wasn't that good as the one used in this test and most good cutting sword could cut through it even with one handed blow...


What do you base this belief on?

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PostPosted: Thu 13 Sep, 2007 12:49 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Luka Borscak wrote:
Do you people think a large cut oriented sword like for example XIIIa could cut through well made mail (like this used in test ) with a two handed blow?

I think that most of the historic mail wasn't that good as the one used in this test and most good cutting sword could cut through it even with one handed blow...


No, the evidence is pretty clear that almost no sword, one or two handed, will reliably cut mail. When used in armored combat agaisnt other armored foes the sword was really mostly a percussive weapon. Jean's right, of course, about hitting for the "bare spots" when you can, but remember that the sword remained a common weapon in knightly combat even after mail got to be pretty complete. Too, swords, even one-handed swords, are often shown striking to people's helmets, and there's no possible way they could cut through a metal helmet (not enough to do any good). No, we have to accept that swords were used as bludgeons; thin-edged clubs, if you will. You can hit someone in the head through a helmet hard enough to stun him, and you can break hands, arms and shins through mail.

Oh, and I suspect most medieval mail was better than that used in the test. Medieval craftsmen were highly skilled and knew their business. They couldn't build a jet aircraft, but in things they had the techniology to do their craftsmanship was superb. They made mail for a living, whereas all the samples I've seen have been built by amateurs or by folks in factories who were making costumes--not people who were making armor that had to protect the customer from life-or-death combat.

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Hugh
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Michael Edelson




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PostPosted: Thu 13 Sep, 2007 12:55 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Luka Borscak wrote:
Do you people think a large cut oriented sword like for example XIIIa could cut through well made mail (like this used in test ) with a two handed blow?

I think that most of the historic mail wasn't that good as the one used in this test and most good cutting sword could cut through it even with one handed blow...



I just can't win. Happy

The first time I did the tests, people said historical mail was better than what I was using, now it's the opposite. Happy

But in all seriousness, no, I don't think it's possible to cut through maille with a sword, any sword. First, you can't "cut" maile, you have to break it by hacking through it, so no amount drawing the sword over the maille will help. If the poleaxe could not hack through the maille, then no sword has a chance. Unless, of course, you put the maille up on a piece of wood and trap it between two hard surfaces, but that would be cheating.

Second, the Del Tin sword I used is a cut oriented sword. It was a very stiff, broad blade with a hard edge. There is a lot of power behind the cut...it's like a stiffer XIII with fullers. Also, Del Tin is very good with steel. According to Dan Maragni, a master weapon smith, who actually sectioned several of their swords, Del Tin steel and heat treat is top notch. Their hilts are a different matter.

Now if the maille in question is crappy, maybe, but I couldn't even cut the import 9.5mm Indian mail, so much crappier can we get?

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PostPosted: Thu 13 Sep, 2007 1:02 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hugh Knight wrote:

Oh, and I suspect most medieval mail was better than that used in the test. Medieval craftsmen were highly skilled and knew their business. They couldn't build a jet aircraft, but in things they had the techniology to do their craftsmanship was superb. They made mail for a living, whereas all the samples I've seen have been built by amateurs or by folks in factories who were making costumes--not people who were making armor that had to protect the customer from life-or-death combat.


On this we will have to disagree. Julio's mail is VERY good. He is without a doubt one of the best makers we have today. Certainly some historical maille would have been better, but a talented maille maker today has enough free time on his hands that with the right amount of passion and talent he can crank out some excellent maille.

You really have to see this stuff in person to appreciate it. He made me a maille keychain made of various types of links, if we ever get together I'd love to show it to you.

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PostPosted: Thu 13 Sep, 2007 1:07 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Michael Edelson wrote:
I just can't win. Happy

The first time I did the tests, people said historical mail was better than what I was using, now it's the opposite. Happy


No, you can win, you just have to educate people about what it means. People have grown up being fed nonsense by supposed experts (some of them professional historians) about what medieval weapons did and how they were used, and they have that information "stuck" into their heads. Swords cut, and people used swords to cut at people in mail, therefore swords must have cut through mail. That's how people think. Unfortunately, that syllogism, like many, is flawed because its assumptions are flawed: In this case, the assumption that the only way for a sword to have effect is by cutting.

Of course, the pendulum can swing too far the other way, too: With all the people now studying Fechtbücher they tend to forget that while halfswording is the best way to defeat mail, the evidence shows it wasn't being done in the Age of Mail, so their notions of how you use a sword in that period are skewed. Powerful, heavy, slamming blows are what's needed to damage a person with a sword in mail when you're not halfswording, but that's contrary to current fashions about lighter techniques that come from unarmored fighting manuals.

Now what I'd like to see more of is halfsword and spear and pollaxe thrust testing. Specifically, "place and push" tests, where you place your point with little particular force but then drive the point into the target (e.g., the armpit through a mail voider). We've done some preliminary experiments in my Schule, but nothing too formal against a properly mounted target.

Again, your test was great, and while I fall in the group that says medieval mail was probably a bit better (for the reasons I cited previously), I don't think it was enough better to invalidate your tests. Well done.

Regards,
Hugh
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