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C. Stackhouse




Location: Kitchener, Ontario
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PostPosted: Sun 27 Nov, 2005 6:43 pm    Post subject: War Mallet/ two handed hammers, fact or fiction?         Reply with quote

Hi myArmoury.com, i just joined the forums and have a question.

Did war-mallets, two-handed hammers or something of that style exist during any period in ancient history? Although I am familiar with the martel de fer (literally meaning iron mallet). I am referring to the larger hammer on long poles, generally seen in fantasy stories and the like. If they were used how common were they and what were their major flaws? Or is this weapon just the fabrication of an artistic mind?

I have been searching for this information for quite some time now, yet all libraries near me are poorly stocked and concentrate mainly on swords. I am an aspiring blacksmith and it would be fun to wield my tool of choice on a battlefield.
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Gavin Kisebach




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PostPosted: Sun 27 Nov, 2005 7:18 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Welcome to the forums, I hope you learn as much as I have and more.

On the topic of war hammers, I'm no expert but here's what I've seen thus far.

Cavalry hammers are generally relatively short, say, 18 to 30 inches. Iron or steel head, a long backspike for puncturing armor, and langettes. Some have topspikes, but given the weight of the head, these are not subtle weapons. At least the hammer I have is not subtle, I'm sure a good smith could make a more wieldy tool. It's really powerful in sweeping arcs as you might expect from the back of a horse, but thrusting with any authority or speed is unlikely. Again, perhaps my cheap Ebay hammer is a bad example.

Lucerne hammers, which are a footmans tool, are two handed, inevitably include a topspike (as they should, thrusting is a natural and quick motion with polearms) a three pronged hammer face, and a long backspike. The weight of the head is much more managable with a two handed weapon, and there is ample evidence that they were not only commonly used, but an effective fighting system was build around them (Talhoffer et al).

As far as the "war maul" so beloved of RPG barbarians everywhere (myself included Wink ) I think it's one of those probable but not if you cold get something better weapons. A big wooden or metal head is just too slow, and offers little to nothing in the way of defense, as you can't use a shield. If you were a peasant or if you were raiding a village, it might scare the poo out of a villager, but any competent martial practitioner would have your leg before you could say "none shall pass".

If you've ever sparred with a good swordsman, you'd quickly realize just how much speed dominates, the only decent leveler being distance (hence the lucern hammer). Even Dane long axes, for example, were constructed very specifically for fighting, i.e. a very narrow blade, and could no longer be considered a useful farming tool. The excessive weight that might make a maul very destructive would not often be realized if the head never reached its target.

But I digress. I hope that makes sense.

There are only two kinds of scholars; those who love ideas and those who hate them. ~ Emile Chartier
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Felix Wang




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PostPosted: Sun 27 Nov, 2005 7:44 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The maul was occasionally used, but rarely as the weapon of choice. English archers in the HYW carried mauls to drive defensive stakes; but at Agincourt these same mauls were used to attack heavily armoured knights.

Also in the HYW, there was the famous "Battle of the Thirty", an arranged lethal combat between French and English "teams" during a truce in the larger war. One of the English side (German mercenary?) was apparently a man of great strength, and did bring a maul-like weapon to the battle.

see section VI of http://www.nipissingu.ca/department/history/M...nswort.htm
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Gavin Kisebach




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PostPosted: Mon 28 Nov, 2005 3:38 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Felix, could you expound on the construction of the mauls? i.e. were they a big wooden block, like the carnival hammer? or metal, akin to a sledge hammer? Now I'm curious as to the definition of maul, and how this differs from a modern splitting maul. Why the change in name and meaning? In modern context, maul seems to refer exclusively to the heavy, wide axe, but we're describing a big block head hammer. Anybody have a degree in maulology?
There are only two kinds of scholars; those who love ideas and those who hate them. ~ Emile Chartier
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Kel Rekuta




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PostPosted: Mon 28 Nov, 2005 6:06 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Gavin Kisebach wrote:
Felix, could you expound on the construction of the mauls? i.e. were they a big wooden block, like the carnival hammer? or metal, akin to a sledge hammer? Now I'm curious as to the definition of maul, and how this differs from a modern splitting maul. Why the change in name and meaning? In modern context, maul seems to refer exclusively to the heavy, wide axe, but we're describing a big block head hammer. Anybody have a degree in maulology?


Yes Gavin, they were apparently like a carnival mallet. A big chunk of wood, bound with lead strips, mounted on a wooden handle. I think the reference was from Le Bel's description of the English at Crecy. I'd have to look it up if you need a reference. (sorry, just started on my first coffee this morning)

FWIW, traditional woodworking mauls are considered consumables. You make them up from hardwood sections you might otherwise split for firewood. Mount a shaft into one end and bang away with it. The "hammer head" orientation of a mallet can give a bit more accuracy to the strike, but after a bit of practice the round face of a maul is easy to use accurately. The advantage of having 360 degrees of striking surface makes the tool last longer. Less time wasted making new mallets when a maul will last longer. Really nice mauls for leather craft are made with stacked rings of rawhide. Heavy nylon punching mauls are also available, although not as nice to use as rawhide ones.

Mauls are just perfect for splitting wood with a wedge, froe or riving iron. The round face always strikes true on the flat striking surface of these irons. I suspect a modern splitting maul was originally sold as a "combined splitting wedge/maul". The description was concatenated as the item became popular.

I love reading about old tools but I couldn't guess which orientation would be better for driving really long stakes on a battlefield.

Wink
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C. Stackhouse




Location: Kitchener, Ontario
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PostPosted: Mon 28 Nov, 2005 6:10 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Concerning the construction of the maul in question, I would have to guess it would be a broad wooden head, reinforced with metal bands. Wood is much more coarse than metal, providing a 'non-slip grip', and would allow for a wider striking surface. Both of these traits would have been invaluable during the heat of war-like conditions when driving stakes into the ground.

Furthermore these are extremely easy and cheap to make, if one is lost or broken they can easily be reconstructed without using much, if any, steel at all. Concerning their effectiveness as a weapon of war, if an armoured knight was hit by one of these tools they would be stunned or knocked to the ground, leaving them prone to a second strike. Granted a knight facing off one on one against a maul wielding archer would undoubtedly take then man's head in a single stroke; however if a knight happened to be caught up in fighting someone else, the maul wielding archer could easily
'sucker-punch' the armoured combatant, rendering him quite incapacitated. Most of the helms knights wore had little to no peripheral vision, making such an attack very possible.


P.S. If any of this doesn't make sense, or is a bit jumbled I apologize, I woke up maybe an hour ago and have been writing this in my school's library.
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Benjamin H. Abbott




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PostPosted: Mon 28 Nov, 2005 2:34 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hmm, I always thought the mallets used by the English archers had lead heads, not wooden ones. They're often claimed to have weighed over twenty pounds, but I have trouble believing that.

Whatever their construction, the hammers used by the English at Agincourt were noted by the French for their effectiveness.
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Gavin Kisebach




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PostPosted: Tue 29 Nov, 2005 1:23 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I'm beggining to develop a sense that any weapon described as "heavy" or "bulky" either

A. wasn't used often, and then only in dire need
B. wasn't originally designed for fighting
C is being grossly misrepresented.

I think its a good rule of thumb.

In this case, a mallet being very heavy makes sense, as driving stakes in under time constraints calls for the extra weight, and it follows rule B. the next question would be how to these mallets arrive on the field? As part of the baggage train, then handed out? Not many folks would want to lug a twenty pound weight around while marching.

As far as the stakes, these are "pallisades" or "Cervus" right? Not Stimuli? were they driven in then sharpened? or were they ready-made? If ready made, would think a soft material like lead or wood would not blunt the tips as much.

There are only two kinds of scholars; those who love ideas and those who hate them. ~ Emile Chartier
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Elling Polden




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PostPosted: Tue 29 Nov, 2005 4:31 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Again, we point to Polden's first law of Weapon Analysis;
"If exotic weapons where any good, they wouldn't be exotic, would they?"

"this [fight] looks curious, almost like a game. See, they are looking around them before they fall, to find a dry spot to fall on, or they are falling on their shields. Can you see blood on their cloths and weapons? No. This must be trickery."
-Reidar Sendeman, from King Sverre's Saga, 1201
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Gavin Kisebach




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PostPosted: Tue 29 Nov, 2005 5:17 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

That's awesome. Permission to use that rule ad nauseum with RPG'ers, SCAdians, and SLOphiles? I'll give credit to you, I promise.
There are only two kinds of scholars; those who love ideas and those who hate them. ~ Emile Chartier
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C. Stackhouse




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PostPosted: Tue 29 Nov, 2005 6:46 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

It's a shame though, I guess I'm going to be sticking with my kite/sword, spear/kite combo.

Ah well, c'est la vie.
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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Tue 29 Nov, 2005 6:47 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Gavin;

Makes a lot of sense that exceptionally heavy weapons would be exceptional and if reasonably well designed might work in the hands of the " freaky " strong: The 19th century strongmen like Louis Cir who could lift impossible weight without the benefit of steroids. Things like lifting a very thick handled 160 pound dumbbell one handed from the floor to over ones head.

So a guy like this might be able to easily handle a 20 pound polearm but he would be one in a million.

Elling:

Bad design even if it looks cool does not a good weapon make. Razz Or what you said: "If exotic weapons where any good, they wouldn't be exotic, would they?" Cool

You can easily give up your freedom. You have to fight hard to get it back!
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C. Stackhouse




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PostPosted: Tue 29 Nov, 2005 7:50 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Well some exotic weapons are effective, like nunchakus a Dacian falx or a rhinoceros. Razz

But seriously I could see a 3-5 lb hammer being quite useable by anyone of average to moderately heavy build and beyond. Such a weapon would have glaring disadvantages if it was ever caught in single combat, yet in a melee it be very effective; using the momentum from any missed blow to drive the head into another close target.

Granted I would only recommend such a strategy for someone who was adequately armoured.

Above all else, be armed

-Niccolo Machiavelli
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Gavin Kisebach




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PostPosted: Tue 29 Nov, 2005 8:16 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
Granted I would only recommend such a strategy for someone who was adequately armoured.


Aye there's the rub. Anyone adequately armored wouldn't be driving stakes for a living.

Five lbs, even ten lbs, if you swing it in big circles with "Viking Fury" would be heck on wheels, for about five minutes. Then you'd need an iced tea and a cat nap.

There are only two kinds of scholars; those who love ideas and those who hate them. ~ Emile Chartier
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C. Stackhouse




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PostPosted: Tue 29 Nov, 2005 9:29 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

By adequately armoured I wasn't exactly referring to high cost steel plate, even boiled leather and straw padding would be a fair enough defense against most weapons used among the common foot soldier. As long as you somehow didn't attract the attention of a knight, few people would want to actively engage a man swinging so wildly. Your only real worries here would be spears, bows or other very long hafted weapons.

As to the endurance issue, I agree with you. There is no denying the fact that even a star athlete would tire in such conditions. But I guess if you were fighting like that, surviving the battle wouldn't really have been your first priority.

Above all else, be armed

-Niccolo Machiavelli
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Elling Polden




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PostPosted: Tue 29 Nov, 2005 11:49 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

C. Stackhouse wrote:
Well some exotic weapons are effective, like nunchakus a Dacian falx or a rhinoceros. Razz


I have wanted a armoured battle rhino for some time...

The nunchaku is a good example of a exotic weapon. It requires a lot of training, but when in the hands of a skilled user... is slightly more efficient that the Common Stick.
A sword or spear man with a comparable amount of training will, of course, turn you into Sish Kebab in short time.
Because the reason you developed the thing in the first place was because you didn't have a sword or spear.

The flax also bears the hallmarks of a converted farming tool. You take your scythe blade, mount it on a stick. Why? Because you do not have a propper sword, spear or shield.
If it was truly efficient, the romans would have adopted it. Which they didn't.

Againt someone flailing wildly with his warmaul, rise your shield, and catch the shaft of the maul on your shield edge as you step in.
Or wait until the blow passes you, and step inn.

Sword/spear and Kite is pretty much the ultimate combo for unarmoured fighting, so Good choice! Happy

"this [fight] looks curious, almost like a game. See, they are looking around them before they fall, to find a dry spot to fall on, or they are falling on their shields. Can you see blood on their cloths and weapons? No. This must be trickery."
-Reidar Sendeman, from King Sverre's Saga, 1201
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Elling Polden




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PostPosted: Tue 29 Nov, 2005 11:51 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Gavin Kisebach wrote:
That's awesome. Permission to use that rule ad nauseum with RPG'ers, SCAdians, and SLOphiles? I'll give credit to you, I promise.


Permission Granted, Soldier!
They are the target audience, after all... Wink

Btw; SLOphiles?

"this [fight] looks curious, almost like a game. See, they are looking around them before they fall, to find a dry spot to fall on, or they are falling on their shields. Can you see blood on their cloths and weapons? No. This must be trickery."
-Reidar Sendeman, from King Sverre's Saga, 1201
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Benjamin H. Abbott




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PostPosted: Tue 29 Nov, 2005 2:40 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Other types of two handed mass weapons were both popular in England in the later period and rather light, sometimes right around five pounds. I don't see why such weapons would be much less effective than other polearms.

And you don't need a twenty pound hammer to drive stakes into the ground. I'm sure a five to eight pound hammer would do fine. They put spikes of them at least in the 16th century, so the hammers the archers carried were weapons as much or more than tools. A twenty pound weapon is simply too heavy...
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Sean Flynt
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PostPosted: Tue 29 Nov, 2005 3:00 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

If you want something as crude and brutal as a maul/hammer but common enough to have proven its value, take a look at the weapons of the so-called Morgenstern Group. These were approximately the length of a typical poleaxe and consisted of an integral wooden haft and head (the haft swelling to become the cylindrical head). The heads of these giant clubs typically were bound with iron strips top and bottom and studded with spikes of pyramidal section. They were popular peasant weapons for obvious reasons. These have the multiple advantages of being thoroughly documented in contemporary artwork, still existing in European armoury museums, being discussed in recent scholarship and also having that brutally efficient look about them.
-Sean

"Everywhere I have searched for peace and nowhere found it, except in a corner with a book"- Thomas a Kempis (d. 1471)
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Felix Wang




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PostPosted: Tue 29 Nov, 2005 3:43 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The goedendag also falls into this group of weapons; as used at Courtrai by the Flemish..
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