First Spear Project
Being new to the historical/semi-historical recreation scene, I decided to give a try to spear hafting. I bought the Windlass/MRL long-bladed hewing spear. I didn't realize it until hafting, but the deal of the day find I bought had been mis-drilled and had the rivet holes in line with the edge, instead of perpendicular to it...not to mention that the holes were fairly misaligned with one another too. Nonetheless, it being my first attempt, I decided not to let it bother me too much. I primarily chose the hewing spear for the reasons that it was affordable, and that I could have some relativistic freedom in my interpretation. They're of course mentioned in the Viking Sagas (Atgeir) but there aren't any such-identified surviving examples (at least that are known to me).

I began with a 6 ft. poplar dowel from Lowe's. I know that ash is historically ideal, but very difficult to come by at lengths longer than 5 ft. I finally justified my misgivings by telling myself that historical haftsmen would have done the same thing - if the ideal version is unavailable or prohibitively expensive, go with a solid alternative. I know I could've ordered an ash dowel for around $30 (more like $50-$60 after shipping) from online sellers, but I've seen too many stories of buyers frustrated at the likes of warped dowels, or dowels with poor grain pattern. I figured a nice solid piece of poplar from the local store was my best bet as I could choose one with tighter, straight grain - and all for around $10 too!

I used a surform tool (as suggested by the magnanimous Sean Flynt) for shaping the end that would receive the socket. I also used it for shaping the area that would eventually take the buttcap I was making. This tool might as well be a magic wand as far as I'm concerned - it's fantastic for that kind of shaping. Cleaned the really fine work up with some files and it was ready to go. Next came the shaping for the buttcap, which began life as a plumbing pipe cap (again, thanks go to Sean Flynt for this inspiration). It took a little while at the grinder, but the mild steel of the cap ground away fairly easily. I was left with a nice beveled cap that could counterbalance some of the weight of that spearhead (which was surprisingly hefty).

After shaping, I oiled the haft - 5 good coats - and the poplar took it very well. And finally I fitted. I secured things in place with a rivet for the head and buttcap, with a little JB Weld in the rivet holes for good measure. Lastly I added a decorative knot in leather cord.

Overall, it was a fantastic education. I'm glad to have had the opportunity to jump in and enjoy something like this. In the end I'm fairly pleased with my first attempt, and with newly acquired skill and knowledge I can aim for even greater historicity in future projects.

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Original pipe cap

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Stock pole

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Buttcap after grinding

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Shaped for socket

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Finished spear close up [ Download ]

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Finished spear [ Download ]

Last edited by Jonathan Hodge on Wed 09 Dec, 2015 9:59 am; edited 3 times in total
Looks great--heaps better than my first spear project! That blade is a beast.
Thanks Sean! You're the initial inspiration for this project, so glad to know you approve. I couldn't have even begun without your shared knowledge.

As far as the spearhead goes - it is a beast. The tip on that thing could go through a car door without much effort. The edges came blunt, but a little time with the grinding drum on the Dremel and some files took care of that, and it's now a nice cutter as well. I haven't done any major stress tests on it, but the few trials I've put I through have shown that it's definitely solid.
Nice looking job :) Spears generally tend to be overlooked - a "peasant" weapon. But in a skilled warriors hand, I believe they could easily defeat a single swordsman. They have been sadly neglected.
Thanks Ralph. Even though this is my first build, it seems that part of the excitement of crafting weapons comes in being able to know the weapon in and out - holding it in your hands as you shape and refine. After working on this project I've discovered that it can be more nuanced and agile than I would have thought. It's capable of the quick thrust or delivering a fierce blow. Given the right circumstances I can see that this weapon was among the most threatening one could face on the battlefield. There's a reason that armies went to war with spears as the primary weapon for centuries..
I have become a despiser of Lowes and almost all home improvement stores as I've built up my shop. Epically when it comes to lumber! prices are unreal in comparison to if you can find a local saw mill and get rough cut lumber at a fraction of the price - and have more hard wood options.

I did an axe about a year back, and I wanted to also use an ash haft, but didn't go looking for my local saw mill at the time, and instead got a hickory wheel barrow handle which was 5 feet - and I think they also had 6 foot lengths there and I shaped that for my axe head.

so if in the future, if your looking for a better hard wood, that's an option. a better option is to just look around and see if there's a mill near you, they are out there. only thing is they may only sell in bulk, or give you a chunk that you can't work with - with your existing tools. as long as you have a table saw, your going to be ok.

can't wait to see your project all finished up!
Thanks Daniel! I was really wanting a round section for this project, so that was part of the reason for going with a dowel. I'll look for some local lumber mills - I live close to the mountains in East Tennessee, most of which are heavily forested, so there's a decent chance we might have one in the area.
I've always wanted to pick up one of those hewing spears and haft it. Just never quite got around to it. Very cool.
Thanks Matt. It's a really nice piece actually. The only thing I would change is the length of the socket - I think it's a little long. However, the blade is well made and is quality hardened steel. I would love to pick up another one to try a short spear project I've got in mind. I picked this one up as a deal of the day for under $20 but regular price at KOA is only $35. It's not too late to add that to your Christmas wish list!

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