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David Martin




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PostPosted: Tue 24 Jan, 2006 6:51 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Gavin Kisebach wrote:

I dont see how a man impaled on a three foot polearm would be "in sight of all", or for that matter why he couldn't effectively just stand up, it would like drowning in a wading pool. Based on my (total guess) logic, the haft for me would be seven feet long, and the image of a man used as a grizzly banner seems more potent.

At the risk of beating a dead horse, a leaf blade on a three foot shaft sounds more like a falx or rhompaia on steroids than a halberd.


Keep in mind that according to the description in Egil's saga, the blade on the "Mail Piercer" was two ells long, which equates to about 3 feet. Put a three foot blade on a four foot haft and you have up to a seven foot weapon, depending upon the amount of overlap. It would also depend upon where the spike was positioned, assuming Thorolf's opponent would slide down to the spike, but it could still be quite possible to hold a fellow aloft and have the effect be quite dramatic.

I think it would be well-nigh impossible to hold a man aloft from a standard spear, as the shaft wouldn't survive the lateral stress of hoisting the weight upward. Someone who understands physics better than I could probably calculate the strength necessary to hoist up a 180+ pound man on the end of a seven foot spear versus a five foot "Mail Piercer" (assuming the spike appears two feet down the blade), which reportedly had a very stout shaft.

Just my $0.02.

"When war-gods meet to match their might,
who can tell the bravest born?
Many a hero never made a hole
in another man's breast."

- Sigurd, The Lay of Fafnir
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Hank Reinhardt
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PostPosted: Tue 24 Jan, 2006 6:53 am    Post subject: Viking Halberd         Reply with quote

Elling, as soon as I get to Toni's I'll start searching for the saga that has that passage. I moved all of my sagas, as well as many other books, to Toni's when my daughter and grandkids moved i with me. I should have remembered it, but didn't. As soon as I find it will post it. As for length, George Silver (Yeah, he's quite far removed from the Vikings) mentions 7-8 feet as being the ideal height for a browwn bill. My own experince i playing with this stuff, and sparring with frineds, confims this as far as I'm concerned. Once I get past 8 feet, the weapon is too hard to contral, and makes it easier for someone to get inside your guard. As I see it, the description in Egil is just to vague to be clear. if "colloquial" language was used it would not make much sense of to us. Consider describing a new semi-automatic handgun to me, with both of us being familiar with .45 ACP's and then using the same terminology to someone who had never seen a handgun. He wouldn't have any idea of what you were talking about. I am far from sure that the halberd in MRL is correct, I just think it is a reasonable guess.
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Gavin Kisebach




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PostPosted: Wed 25 Jan, 2006 4:12 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

David from my reading an ell can be anything from 22 to 45 inches.Oakeshott Type X blades average what, 31 inches? A 44 inch blade would be a bit of a smithing feat for the period, methinks. The kind of thing a kind would want to have buried with him.

While the haft of the weapon is described as being thick, the effective stress involved should be somewhat similar to a polevault performed by an armed and armored man. That's more than a bit of stress on an ash pole. The trouble with the passage is that the author is probably going for dramatic effect, and we're trying to extrapolate factual data from dramatic flair.

Honestly the whole passage sounds hoakey, but the idea is just so cool, it's fun to imagine. I'm sure Snorri had a twinkle in his eye when he penned the words. Wink
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Elling Polden




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PostPosted: Wed 25 Jan, 2006 4:29 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

300 years of slight exaggeration will do that to you. Happy

But if the pole is only, say 1m long, and as thick as a axe pole, it wouldn't be a great problem.
It would also mean that he is more falling onto it than beeing lifted...

"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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David Martin




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PostPosted: Wed 25 Jan, 2006 4:45 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Gavin,

Are you implying that the information in the sagas isn't 100% factual? For shame! Wink

One point of contention though: Pole vaulting is very different from lifting a dead weight on the end of a pole, regardless of how long the pole is. If this event happened at all, I think that Elling has the right of it: Thorolf may have set the haft into the ground and used the corpse's forward momentum to hoist it upward. Once the body was on the ground, it would take at least two strong men, and probably three, to accomplish this feat. I've seen fresh corpses and found them to be most uncooperative. Wink

I agree that Snorri probably took a bit of poetic license with this. Perhaps Thorolf held up the man's helmet, or perhaps his head. Taking the passage literally, one is left wondering why, in the midst of a ferocious battle, would Thorolf want to encumber his main weapon with an impaled body. His shield was on his back and it must have taken both hands to hold the body aloft, which would have left him a sitting duck.

I think of the sagas as the comic books of the day. In another century, our progeny will be debating if Batman's cape really could function like a parachute.

"When war-gods meet to match their might,
who can tell the bravest born?
Many a hero never made a hole
in another man's breast."

- Sigurd, The Lay of Fafnir
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Hank Reinhardt
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PostPosted: Wed 25 Jan, 2006 8:14 am    Post subject: Viking Halberd         Reply with quote

Although somewhat off of the subject, David brings up to points to comment about, with his reference of the battle and to Batman's cape, both which I have covered in the book I'm writing.
Battle-When I was young I was pretty wild, and was involved in a few gang fights. I've also seen some interesting footage of the same thing in today's world. Curiously, they were very similiar. I also think that many of the melee's in the Sagaa were much the same, with some guys fighting and other guys standing around , then getting invovled, maybe trying to hit someone when they weren't looking, fighting for a bit,then backing and a taking a breather. We do not think of battles like this. Instead we picture them as masses of men hacking and chopping in line. I think the reality was somewhat different, and you could have areas where in was more melee like. This could explain Thorolf's actions, but the truth is this is all speculation.. But then thats what these discussions are about.
The Batman's Cape comment is the other.( I've always used Sgt. Rock Comic books instead of Baqtman. That in the future some body will uncover one and think that you could hit someone in the stomach, bend them double and send them flying for 5 or six feet.) You cannot trust the drawings and paintings to give actual examples of fighting. Consider the Macijowski Bible, that shows steel helmets being split with a one handed sword. Not possible. Some of the fighting text showing a guy gripping the blade of his sword with his bare hand and striking wiht the pommel, and the next illo showing the same sword bing use to cut someone in half or lopping off limbs. While you can grab a sharp blade momentarily, any real movement, such as twisiting and pulling will inflict a bad cut. In short, we have to take all of this with a grain of salt, but also remember that the Sagas do not go into a lot of exaggeration like of lot of Medieval manuscripts...not staking up 17 Saracens on one lance..

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Nicola Tal





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PostPosted: Wed 25 Jan, 2006 9:41 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Arrow


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Gavin Kisebach




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PostPosted: Thu 26 Jan, 2006 12:38 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Nicola could you give us some information on these pics? They are very nice, but we need more to go on.

Hank, I know exactly what you're talking about, in highschool I was definitely drawn into the culture of angry young men. There are varying levels of involvement in ongoing feuds, brawls, and rumbles. Some guys are just opportunistic, or cowardly, and will take cheap shots. Some just watch unless they get sucked in. That all makes sense in some blood fued sagas (i.e. Laxdaela) where it's essentially gang warfare, but I don't think that's so much the case in larger battles, especially considering the lack of "prisoner's rights".

That's not to say battles don't have ebb and flow, or that sections of the line might be disengaged and resting, but the stakes are higher, so it's hard to imagine people smoking and joking while their left flank is run down and butchered by cavalry. I would imagine more a state of alert rest.

Anyhow, in the fights of my youth, if there was an expectation of lethality, you didn't see that kind of casual involvement. Everyone was on edge, alert and ready to fight or beat feet as soon as things went bad. It's a very different dynamic.
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Elling Polden




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PostPosted: Thu 26 Jan, 2006 4:35 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

We do quite a bit of "skirmish" training; fighting in groups and so on.
We spend quite a bit of time teaching people to act quickly and correctly when the lines break down and everything turns into chaos; moving, teaming up, avoiding being outnumbered.

The ones that master this skill are very, very efficient. I have seen, and octagonally done myself, experienced fighters that whack their way through three or four "lesser" foes.
Being numerically superior often leads to reluctance to attack; Sometimes only one will be offensive, you kill him, attack someone who is standing around, run away if you dont get him with the first three blow, go after somone else...

As Shimen Mussashi says:
"it is imposible to beat ten men at once. But quite posible to beat ten men in a row." Wink

"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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Kevin Toomey





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PostPosted: Thu 26 Jan, 2006 6:57 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

These descriptions are a mind bender; I’d say I’m confused by now. Especially since to my reading, a shaft long enough to reach the socket is about 7 feet or so, if you were reaching down perhaps it might be 26 inches(?)

I may be further misunderstanding, in that it seems the term hewing spear, has an assumed metaphorical meaning, hewing men, rather than a literal, hewing wood, meaning. We wouldn’t make that leap if it were a hewing axe. Are swords referred to as hewing swords as well? (Just looking for an alternate view to sift through the mystery) From what I have gathered, dedicated battleaxes came along somewhat late in the Viking era, which might lead to discussions of weapon or tool, along with big knives but never extends to swords and spears. These are always weapons, so when you hear hewing spear, it must first be a weapon. (The big bladed spears, could they really survive heavy cutting stroke impacts?)

An exception that is far removed is the yariganna. The ancient Japanese spear plane. It has a passing resemblance to the yari, but would not make the best substitute, nor used for hewing pre se, but it does clean up just after. I can imagine a long bladed spear like object being used to shave level green timbers after the axe or adz, with a 3 foot handle you could use your whole viking body. Obviously speculation, but it could have been more spear-like than the yariganna, so more useful as a weapon yet never became as popular or necessary as axes but not out of place in a shipyard of duplicitous minded fellows.

Even with this woodwork connection you still end up with the same thing. A long bladed spear, but surely not(?) sword length. So I tried to stretch my brain out, spread the definition of hewing to processing the cut log to beams and squeeze in David Martin’s description where he mentioned plowshare into something that might have been. If you had the thick roundish point, sharpened to a diamond just at the end,(or maybe it’s just a dull round point) tapering back to a wing-feather shaped blade, a back spike if need be, socket and 3 or 4 foot handle, it might be good for prying, chopping bark off logs. It might have a 3 foot blade, 2 might be better but still sounds long. You just have to polish and sharpen it up for fighting day. I tried looking for something that might foot the bill, the only thing I got was reminded that GBruks makes an 11th c T shaped broad axe.


Or is it an just an axe head mounted on a spear, that sounds like something you might take to a gang fight.

It’s been fun to think about but I don’t think I got anywhere.
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Patrick Fitzmartin





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PostPosted: Thu 26 Jan, 2006 3:39 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Greetings Kevin Toomey, Thank you for bringing the "metaphorical" angle up. I have harbored the same suspicions. A misinterpreted kenning gone wild? A description of performance rather than item and purpose?
The same may go for the halberd. Stories told to liven up a dark winter night and keep the teller in food ,drink and admiration rather than an analytical description of a weapon as we might seek these days? Dramatic liscense has been around for a long time. Wink
I am really enjoying this thread though. MRL's offering does have some definite appeal to me but I don't have enough drama to buy it yet. Maybe when they close it out. Big Grin Sincerely, Patrick Fitzmartin
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Kevin Toomey





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PostPosted: Sat 28 Jan, 2006 1:08 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Patrick Fitzmartin wrote:
Greetings Kevin Toomey, Thank you for bringing the "metaphorical" angle up. I have harbored the same suspicions. A misinterpreted kenning gone wild? A description of performance rather than item and purpose?
The same may go for the halberd. Stories told to liven up a dark winter night and keep the teller in food ,drink and admiration rather than an analytical description of a weapon as we might seek these days? Dramatic liscense has been around for a long time. Wink
I am really enjoying this thread though. MRL's offering does have some definite appeal to me but I don't have enough drama to buy it yet. Maybe when they close it out. Big Grin Sincerely, Patrick Fitzmartin



Sorry Patrick, I'm having trouble figuring out exactly what you mean. Blush
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Patrick Fitzmartin





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PostPosted: Sat 28 Jan, 2006 7:02 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Greetings Kevin Toomey, Okay like you said. Maybe a spear that takes down a lot of men. A weapon of merit, good at what it does. Thorgrim felled Olaf's men as trees in the forest with his mighty spear versus Thorgrim created alot of casulites with his slicing techinque of his "specially" designed cutting spear. The kennings, from what I have learned so far, are phrases that make the audience think for a moment. It gets you more involved in the story. Audience particpation.
Same thing with the halberd. Bards and Skalds in the days of old were the "medium". They were compensated for their services. So here we are on a cold, long winter night bored to death. I am telling the story. I could say " Thorgrim whacked Olaf with his axe and he died". Or I could say " Thorgrim hewed Olaf to the breast with his mighty halbred of two ells length to the breast and hoisted him high for all to see his death." Which is a better story line? We in our day might be looking for something like " Thorgrim hit Olaf with his type L axe with an 8" cutting edge to the solar plexus which resulted in death due to blunt trauma."
I hope this helps as I am really with you on this. Your post spoke my feelings on this whole Viking hewing spear/ halberd thing. My pride and joy of anything I collect is to have an "original" exisisting somewhere. There is hardly any weapon in my collection that I cannot produce a picture in a book or on the web that it does exsist. I really like the MRL offering but am hesitant to buy it. If they dig one up and show it, I will buy it in a heartbeat. Sincerely, Patrick Fitzmartin
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Kevin Toomey





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PostPosted: Mon 30 Jan, 2006 4:53 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hey Patrick,
I was wondering if I am wrong in my assumption that the term “hewing spear” is always taken to mean a cutting sword like spear or do you, others ever use the term to mean hewing as with hewing axes.

Today you might hear someone use the term, mill, to generally describe a wide variety of woodwork operations. Hewing could have then been accepted generally to mean, making square. The yariganna is a spear like tool used by a people without planes to flatten and true up trees (I doubt that is its original name for what it’s worth.) So if you can accept the broader definition, the Japanese spear plane could be thought of as a hewing spear. J just sayin’ that this is a way to use a spear like tool that may have gotten lost or seperated from those who told and knew what it was and those who wrote and didn't? or however it went:(

I’d like to say that my interpretation of the times leads me to believe it was very much an “Ay’s the b’y that builds the boat and A’ys the b’y that sails her” world. I think there must have been an esteem and appreciation of a good tool. Power over wood was power of their world; they were important things at least, and if you could poke a monk with it, so much the better. A tool of risk!

I don’t think you’ll find any shortage of those who argue or a least caution that the sagas are a lot of story telling. I was grasping at straws trying to find a way to pull it away from purely descriptive language to literal meaning. or at least a descriptive literal.

Looking at it some more I put the GransforsBruks 11th c broad axe on my “to buy sometime later” list. I found it for 375usd, that’s not too awful bad. If you turned it around, mounted point first, on a longer haft, eh? You could possibly claim that it has been converted from axe to spear. But so you don’t confuse it with a literal and specialized weapon only spear, I’ll call it a hewing spear.
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Elling Polden




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PostPosted: Tue 31 Jan, 2006 2:26 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The term hewing spear does not originate in the norse term, wich is "hoggspjot", more directly translated chopping spear...
"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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Hank Reinhardt
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PostPosted: Tue 31 Jan, 2006 8:34 am    Post subject: Viking Halberd         Reply with quote

Well, as much as I hate to admit it, I may have been wrong about Egil's halberd. For years I thought that the halberd described had to be socketed like a spear. Then I ran across the comment, "he was armed with a small axe with a head shaped like a halberd. This sent me into another direction. I\
I haven't had the time to devote to this like I would like, as I have had some other things develop that I have to attend to. But I have been doing some research.
I haven't yet found the reference to the axe shaped like halberd. But I have a large number of Sagas and books containing sagas, so will continue to look. But in the reaseach I found some other interesting things.
Falk, in his book, Altnordische Waffenkunde, describes the halberd as something like a two edged sword mounted on a shaft. There were two types, a long shafted one for thrusting and a short shafted one for cutting and thrusting. I am currently trying to locate a copy of the book, which was published in 1914. He also translate the word hoggspyjot as hewing spear.
In the Saga of the Faroe Islanders, in the book Thrand of Gotu, Sigmund is described as having an axe, inlaid with silver, with a wide hooked blade and the shaft bound with iron. He climbs a wall by hooking his axe over the top and pulls himself up.
"A man comes straight at him and strikes at him with a sword. Sigmund parries the blow with his axe and quickly thrusts the point of the axe deep into him so that the axe sinks deep into his chest and this one is soon dead. Ossur is quick to see this and runs at Sigmund and strikes at him. Sigmund again parries the blow with his axe and strikes at him and takes off his right arm, and down falls his sword. Sigmund thrusts a second time at Ossur and the axe goes into the hollow and Ossur falls." Later Sigmund uses this same axe and "puts the top point of his axe against Thrand's chest and says that he will feel the full weight if he doesn't pay him the money.". Now the only Viking axe that I have seen that can do this is the T shaped axe.
I think that it is wrong to relegate this axe merely to woodworking. Any axe can be used as a weapon. One of the most common Viking axes, that with the deeply hollowed back, was, and is, primarily a carving axe. The hand grips the blade close the the head and is used for rough shaping. Also the T shaped axe shows up in a lot of places as a weapon, and is quite popular in India and Africa. About the only axe that is not also useful for other things is the great huge "Danish" axe with the blades 10-12 inches in width. This blade is so thin that it is not suitable for woodworking, but great for lopping off limbs.
In the same sagha there is reference to a "Byrnie Troll" but it is not used as a name, but rather seems to be describing a type of axe. Hopefully this weekend I will post a photo of a "hewing spear" that I made from a sword, also some other types. Since I really like them. Later, Hank

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Allen W





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PostPosted: Tue 31 Jan, 2006 8:55 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hank, I think everything described in that last passage could be accomplished with a normal Danish broad axe. It reminds me of instances in Njall's Saga where Skarp-Hedin's axe Battle Troll cuts into someone's shield yet kills them with the "upper horn". I take these horns to refer simply to the pointy ends of a normal crescentic axe.
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Greyson Brown




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PostPosted: Tue 31 Jan, 2006 12:10 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Allen W wrote:
Hank, I think everything described in that last passage could be accomplished with a normal Danish broad axe. It reminds me of instances in Njall's Saga where Skarp-Hedin's axe Battle Troll cuts into someone's shield yet kills them with the "upper horn". I take these horns to refer simply to the pointy ends of a normal crescentic axe.


This is certainly something that we have to consider, but I tend to think it simplifies things a bit too much. I could see the "horn" of a Danish axe stabbing someone, but I don't know that it would be effective enough a method for me to then go intimidating people with it.

Also, it may not be a weapon of the same variety, but one of the saga's (I believe it is Egil's, but I don't remember) mentions a man stabbing someone with his "halberd" between the shoulder blades so that the point came out of the other side of the man's body. This description may be poetic license, but it is use more than once in that saga and I think it it might have been used in others as well (I don't really remember, and my references for these statements are currently in the mail). I don't think that a Danish axe is going to penetrate far enough to come out of the other side of a person's chest.

Just my two cents.

-Grey

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-Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, The White Company
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Elling Polden




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PostPosted: Tue 31 Jan, 2006 12:37 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I think we have been over these pasages allready


The types of hewing spear mentioned by Falk is Kesje and Atgeir. I addition he mentions the Bryntvari, or mail piercer, from Egil's saga.

Atgeir is usually translated Bill or helbard by the english translators, as is Kesje.
Of course, these translators are not exactly experts on weapons and armaments.

Bryntroll is more uncertain; noone knows what it is; Falk sugests a double bladed axe, but more likely is a weapon with some kind of armour piercing spike: Bryntroll means Maile troll, indicating that it was a "anti armour" weapon.
A posibility is a danaxe style weapon with a backspike. I haven't looked much into these, as of yet.

"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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Craig Johnson
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PostPosted: Tue 31 Jan, 2006 2:17 pm    Post subject: Another of Wolfgang's Axes         Reply with quote

So I wake up out of a deep sleep in the middle of the night remembering I have seen another axe similar to the ones Wolfgang posted the link to and picture of. This of course raises the question what in the hell do I dream of in rem sleep but we will save that for the psychiatric analysis by the courts Happy

I of course now on a mission to figure out where I saw it. After much looking at books when I should be working I figure its gone and I won't find it anywhere.

Then yesterday I flip open Blankwaffen as I am talking on the phone and there it is staring me in the face. Can't believe I did not think of it right away when the discussion started.

Very similar with a straighter blade, though no back spike but I think one has to admit when looking at these examples that there would have been a decent range of variation in these and we now have 3 good examples.

Craig



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