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W. R. Reynolds




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PostPosted: Wed 12 Oct, 2005 6:33 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

If period artists are to be believed, the poll axe was not used exclusively by the nobility. I KNOW that I have seen at least one painting with a soldier wearing a jack and sallet and leaning on a poll axe in some archive of period art work on the web. I ran across it while looking for something else entirely and thought it unusual because I had always thought of that weapon as a knightly one. It may have been in a detail of a Hans Memling painting, it looked like his style but I be darned if I can find it now. Just did a quick search and came up negative but I know it's out there.
Bill

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Joe Fults




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PostPosted: Wed 12 Oct, 2005 8:11 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jean Thibodeau wrote:
If archers could carry with them a 5' mallet and still have no trouble carrying his archery stuff, I would equip MY archers with a mix of Poleaxes and Spears as backup weapons capable of can-opening Knights. ( At least in my fantasy life. Big Grin )
)


I have a hunch a mallet can drive wooden stakes to create a barrier much better than a poleaxe or spear. I'm sure it will do just fine smashing the guys wearing the tin cans too.

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Russ Ellis
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PostPosted: Wed 12 Oct, 2005 8:43 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Benjamin H. Abbott wrote:

And according to Waldman most original shafts ranged from five to six feet, so the overall length of some halberds might have been just above six feet.


Sure, but there's still the matter of the top spike which can measure anywhere from 5 to 12 inches giving you a roughly 6.5 to 7 foot weapon to contend with a roughy 5 foot weapon the pollaxe....

Like I said I'm no expert, I'm only reporting what Waldman says and can't help agreeing that his logic seems pretty sound especially considering period art and the note that there are few "plain" pollaxes about. It's also probably worth noting that there are numerous records of arsenals stocking halberds, gusys etc. but none for the wholesale purchase of poleaxes so far as I know.

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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Wed 12 Oct, 2005 10:09 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Joe;

Joe wrote:
" I have a hunch a mallet can drive wooden stakes to create a barrier much better than a poleaxe or spear. I'm sure it will do just fine smashing the guys wearing the tin cans too. "

I agree but a Poleaxe is sexier and I would have the entrenching tools: Mallets & axes in the supply wagon or on pack mules.
Hey ! It' s MY Fantasy afterall. Razz Laughing Out Loud

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Daniel Staberg




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PostPosted: Wed 12 Oct, 2005 10:51 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

During the period in which the poll axe was in use as a battlefield weapon the vast majority of arms and armour were privately owned, not goverment issue. The individual knight or men-at-arms purchased his own equipment and it thus it would not show up in armoury records nor would they be bought in bulk.

What is WaIdmans source for Poll axe lenght? The most common lenght I've seen quoted is a total of 6 feet and if I remember correctly the lenght recomended by period writers was that it was to be the wearers height (and a hand??) in lenght.
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Bob Burns




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PostPosted: Wed 12 Oct, 2005 11:24 pm    Post subject: Poleaxe         Reply with quote

Well I gotta tell ya, I'd like to buy the Arms & Armor Poleaxe, but with my back being what it is as a result of my maniacal weightlifting workouts in the past and karate (lack of common sense on my part). This is a weapon that would not make my back very happy, so I am going to go with their Sparth Axe.
There is not much that I can really contribute to this topic, as I am a rookie to medieval weaponry, though I already have a dozen items from Arms & Armor and about 20 books, most of which were suggested to me by people in this website.
I am very hungry to learn, and several myArmoury members have given me very good guidance, along with Craig Johnson and David Peck of Arms & Armor.
Sorry I have nothing to contribute here, I do have a book that might be of interest to some of you though. George Cameron Stone's Glossary of Arms and Armor.
It does make sense to me though that a halberd would be a more effective polearm though. Or how about a glaive?

By the way, I am very grateful for this website and all the people that have helped me in my quest to learn!
Sure wish I would have discovered this passion years ago, but at 48, I have lot's of time.

Happy Collecting,

Bob
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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Thu 13 Oct, 2005 1:38 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Bob;

From your comments about passing on the A & A Poleaxe I'm guessing that's because it has a hammer on one side and an axe on the other that this is an excessively heavy weapon ? I just used the bathroom scale first with just me and them holding the Poleaxe to get a rough idea of the actual weight and it comes to about 5 1/2 pounds to a max. of 6 pounds, no more than my A & A English Twohander.

I doubt that the Sparth axe is much lighter ? Well ask Craig at A & A to confirm the weights. The Sparth axe is also a very interesting piece but I don't want you to miss out on the Poleaxe because you might think it weighs like a boat anchor.

What is surprising is that before I had it in hand I assumed that the head of the Poleaxe was much bigger than it is.

My Danish axe from Albion is heavier and not as nice as the A & A one: Also the axe head was a very inexpensive $50 made in India and not built quite right. Albion hasn't yet given their axes the Next Generation treatment! O.K. considering the bargain price.

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Russ Ellis
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PostPosted: Thu 13 Oct, 2005 5:54 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Daniel Staberg wrote:
During the period in which the poll axe was in use as a battlefield weapon the vast majority of arms and armour were privately owned, not goverment issue. The individual knight or men-at-arms purchased his own equipment and it thus it would not show up in armoury records nor would they be bought in bulk.

What is WaIdmans source for Poll axe lenght? The most common lenght I've seen quoted is a total of 6 feet and if I remember correctly the lenght recomended by period writers was that it was to be the wearers height (and a hand??) in lenght.


Hmmm assuming that the pollaxe was in concurrent use with the haldberd, partizan etc. (I believe that's the case?) can we really definitively say that? There were many towns that in the Swiss confederation throughout Italy, in Austria etc. that did in fact order quantities of polearms (halberds, partisans etc.) for use by their militias. In fact they did this even past the time that these polearms were being relegated to obsolescence by the advent of firearms. These polearms were stored in city armouries or arsenals some of which still exist today as museums.

Of course as you say knightly weapons were typically personally owned not supplied by the city which would tend to confirm the idea that the pollaxe was for the most part a knightly weapon.

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Last edited by Russ Ellis on Thu 13 Oct, 2005 6:22 am; edited 1 time in total
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Russ Ellis
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PostPosted: Thu 13 Oct, 2005 6:14 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jean Thibodeau wrote:
Bob;

From your comments about passing on the A & A Poleaxe I'm guessing that's because it has a hammer on one side and an axe on the other that this is an excessively heavy weapon ? I just used the bathroom scale first with just me and them holding the Poleaxe to get a rough idea of the actual weight and it comes to about 5 1/2 pounds to a max. of 6 pounds, no more than my A & A English Twohander.

I doubt that the Sparth axe is much lighter ? Well ask Craig at A & A to confirm the weights. The Sparth axe is also a very interesting piece but I don't want you to miss out on the Poleaxe because you might think it weighs like a boat anchor.

What is surprising is that before I had it in hand I assumed that the head of the Poleaxe was much bigger than it is.

My Danish axe from Albion is heavier and not as nice as the A & A one: Also the axe head was a very inexpensive $50 made in India and not built quite right. Albion hasn't yet given their axes the Next Generation treatment! O.K. considering the bargain price.


My pollaxe weighs in at 5.5 lbs as well. It's not really all that heavy.

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Benjamin H. Abbott




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PostPosted: Thu 13 Oct, 2005 7:49 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
What is WaIdmans source for Poll axe lenght?


Probably surviving examples. He does say that later pollaxes got up to six to seven feet in length.

Quote:
Hmmm assuming that the pollaxe was in concurrent use with the haldberd, partizan etc. (I believe that's the case?) can we really definitively say that?


It's my understanding that the pollaxe was almost exclusively a 15th century weapon, while most of the records for militias and such come later on. Waldman does suggest that Lucerne hammers, a weapon very close to the more hammer-like pollaxes, saw considerable use around the city of their birth.

That, by the way, also shows Waldman's Swiss focus. He's a great source on a Swiss polerams, but I'm not sure he should have the final say on the pollaxe, which was more of a French and English weapon. He certainly doesn't devote very much ink to the pollaxe.
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Russ Ellis
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PostPosted: Thu 13 Oct, 2005 7:55 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Benjamin H. Abbott wrote:

It's my understanding that the pollaxe was almost exclusively a 15th century weapon, while most of the records for militias and such come later on. Waldman does suggest that Lucerne hammers, a weapon very close to the more hammer-like pollaxes, saw considerable use around the city of their birth.

That, by the way, also shows Waldman's Swiss focus. He's a great source on a Swiss polerams, but I'm not sure he should have the final say on the pollaxe, which was more of a French and English weapon. He certainly doesn't devote very much ink to the pollaxe.


So you believe that the pollaxe was in widespread peasant infantry use? I would suspect that even in England the English Bill was probably a more common non-noble weapon? I've been looking and I just can't seem to find any evidence that the pollaxe enjoyed any sort of widespread battlefield usage... If someone does have such a source I would sure appreciate a pointer in the approriate direction. I was pretty disappointed to read Waldman's analysis of the pollaxe honestly. Sad

I agree about Waldman's focus, it's unfortunate that he didn't give other polearms like the glaive and vouge the same treatment that he gave the halberd in his book.

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Sean Flynt
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PostPosted: Thu 13 Oct, 2005 8:08 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Waldman also makes clear that some of his measurement info comes from relating weapons shown in historic artwork to relatively constant human proportions. He's an M.D., so I give him the benefit of the doubt on the biometric stuff.
On a related note, some of y'all may recall that I hafted my Albion Kern Axe head significantly shorter than the complete weapon Albion offered. I first mounted it on a 6' haft and cut the haft down until the weight of the head became manageable. That turned out to be around the length of a typical poleaxe. This head is robust, to say the least, and probably not historically accurate since it seems to be based primarily on modern illustrations. Nevertheless, it works well at the length suggested by the original Dürer drawing (which informed the modern illustrations). It seems that martial axes naturally fall into 4'-6' range.

-Sean

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Benjamin H. Abbott




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PostPosted: Thu 13 Oct, 2005 11:58 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
So you believe that the pollaxe was in widespread peasant infantry use?


No, but I think knights used pollaxes some when they fought on foot during the hundred years war. I've read in many places that dismounted English knights fought with spears and axes.

Froissart writes that King John fought with an axe at Poitiers, so how ignoble could axes have been?

Quote:
I would suspect that even in England the English Bill was probably a more common non-noble weapon?


I think so to - unquestionably this was true in the later period. Of course, sometimes bills are called battle axes, and archers are certainly said to have used battle axes, so it's hard to say.

Also, anyone who thinks the A&A pollaxe is heavy should consider the 8+ lb Russian axe in Waldman's book. Now that thing really would have been a beast to wield.
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Russ Ellis
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PostPosted: Thu 13 Oct, 2005 12:38 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Okay so it seems that we agree that the pollaxe is not a peasant weapon.

So the only question that remains is the original one that started this thread. Was the pollaxe used in battle?

Waldman says no. I tend to believe him because period art (lack of pollaxes) and logic (pervasiveness of halberds) tend to support him. Several of your gentlemen here say it isn't so. If you could provide documentation to support that position I've got some background on a review to rework. Happy

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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Thu 13 Oct, 2005 1:45 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Russ;

Thanks for getting back to the first question Big Grin Although I enjoy the very informative digressions as much as anybody a periodic return to the first subject can bring in more information directly concerning the subject and more and different digressions.

No, specific sources from me, but I was of the impression that the Poleaxe was also a battlefield weapon.

Oh, also isn't there also a reference ( Can't remember the specifics or the source ? ) of keeping a few Poleaxes near the entrance of your dwelling to repel brigands should they come to the door: The 14th century equivalent to an 18th century Blunderbuss for home defence ?

Oh, expensive high quality weapons might be too expensive for non- Nobles to buy for their armouries but after a few victories against Knights, peasant armies ( Hussites ) or free cities or mercenary armies might accumulate good arms and armour from routed opponents.

The length of Poleaxes may have varied or been modified for battlefield conditions if this made them more competitive against other longer polearms ? Also, some degree of variation due to different fighting styles or opinions about ideal length.

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Russ Ellis
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PostPosted: Thu 13 Oct, 2005 2:01 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jean Thibodeau wrote:
Russ;

Thanks for getting back to the first question Big Grin Although I enjoy the very informative digressions as much as anybody a periodic return to the first subject can bring in more information directly concerning the subject and more and different digressions.

No, specific sources from me, but I was of the impression that the Poleaxe was also a battlefield weapon.

Oh, also isn't there also a reference ( Can't remember the specifics or the source ? ) of keeping a few Poleaxes near the entrance of your dwelling to repel brigands should they come to the door: The 14th century equivalent to an 18th century Blunderbuss for home defence ?

Oh, expensive high quality weapons might be too expensive for non- Nobles to buy for their armouries but after a few victories against Knights, peasant armies ( Hussites ) or free cities or mercenary armies might accumulate good arms and armour from routed opponents.

The length of Poleaxes may have varied or been modified for battlefield conditions if this made them more competitive against other longer polearms ? Also, some degree of variation due to different fighting styles or opinions about ideal length.


My thought exactly Jean Happy There's a lot of "mights" and "mays" etc. in your post. Personally I'm prepared to believe anything was possible over history, but I'd like to put this to bed once and for all so I'll know if I need to rework my site. If someone can point out a couple of period sources or at least some good historical data that should do it.

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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Thu 13 Oct, 2005 2:42 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Russ;

One of the early replies by Daniel Staberg mentioned some sources that seemed to support the use of Poleaxes in battle.

Although, having a few more examples would be interesting as nobody else has brought out specifics.

So, I can see were you would want a bit more before " changing " a few of your comments on your site review: Nothing worse than changing something due to new information and having to change it back later if other information contradicts it. Eek! Laughing Out Loud Cool

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Benjamin H. Abbott




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PostPosted: Thu 13 Oct, 2005 3:28 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
Oh, also isn't there also a reference ( Can't remember the specifics or the source ? ) of keeping a few Poleaxes near the entrance of your dwelling to repel brigands should they come to the door: The 14th century equivalent to an 18th century Blunderbuss for home defence ?


Funny, I remember hearing that about bills. Who knows...

And as for sources, Froissart's tales have nobles wielding axes in battle all over the place. That was perhaps before the axe had truly evolved into what we consider a pollaxe, though the word pollaxe does appear in Chaucer.
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Daniel Staberg




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PostPosted: Thu 13 Oct, 2005 10:14 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Russ Ellis wrote:
Okay so it seems that we agree that the pollaxe is not a peasant weapon.

So the only question that remains is the original one that started this thread. Was the pollaxe used in battle?

Waldman says no. I tend to believe him because period art (lack of pollaxes) and logic (pervasiveness of halberds) tend to support him. Several of your gentlemen here say it isn't so. If you could provide documentation to support that position I've got some background on a review to rework. Happy


I've already provided such sourcing, I'll repeat it again.
The Bretton 15th Century instructions on how troops were to be armed, Indetures for english men-at-arms serving in France during the 15th Century, works of art, (Rous roll, the Caesar tapestries, 15thC editions of Froissart, Schilling Chronicle and so on). The research of Andrew Boardman, David Edge, Paul Knight and Crhistopher Gravett all show the poll axe in battle field use among the French and English men-at-arms.

Waldman is obviously looking at the Swiss and to some extent German praticies which were diffrent fromt he Anglo-French ones. The Halberd was for a long time only in mass use in Switzerland and througout parts of Germany while other pole arms were favoured in other parts of Europe. The halberd only became a common sight all over europe in the last decade of the 15th Century and the early 16th Century.
The Swiss didn't have a lot of men-at-arms and the German men-at-arms never adopted the habit of fighting on foot as the French and English did hence the pole axe would not have been a common a weapon in those areas and there it might very well have been used only in judical duels or in chivalric displays in the lists.
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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Fri 14 Oct, 2005 12:49 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Daniel;

Thanks again: Well I'm convinced. Cool

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