Axes - the Vikings are coming!!!!

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Wayland

Hárbarðr
Can you educate us on the purpose of the uber long helve Wayland?

Remembering that this is a tool designed for war. The long helve adds an awesome power to the cutting stroke which helps when trying to drop a horse or rider and can also be used on the back hand as a stave weapon. Much like a quarter staff.

I think it was almost certainly a weapon that was used as part of a co-ordinated group. Although very dangerous on the attack it had a key weakness in that it was slow on the recovery so I suspect you would need a couple of good warriors at your side to cover you at such moments.
 

British Red

M.A.B (Mad About Bushcraft)
Dec 30, 2005
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Mercia
Makes sense Wayland. The recovery has always worried me...it just can't be an individual melee weapon can it? I read an account somewhere of them being used in the second rank of a shield wall to reach over the front rank and hook down the shields of the opposing force. I can see that working coupled with spears and swords but it implies a degree of planning and specialisation in formation fighting that seems unlikely?
 
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Wayland

Hárbarðr
No reason for it to be unlikely, we used to do the same sort of thing on battle lines all the time.
SheildWall.gif


Re-enactment fighting is quite a competitive business. Although the right army has to die in the end of course, how it does it is a matter of pride amongst the various groups that make up those armies.

We nearly always had a couple of competitive clashes before the last clash in which the army destined to lose by history, takes it's bow.

People were no less intelligent or organised a thousand year ago. the human brain has been a sophisticated tool for many thousands of years as the incredible craftsmanship of flint nappers demonstrates so clearly.

If your lives are on the line, then a little pre-planning and preparation is a very small price to pay for getting home alive.
 
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Wayland

Hárbarðr
This is a poll axe, as described by a history teacher of mine describing the battle of hastings. Apparently it's for taking the head off a man in one go.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pollaxe

The Poleaxe is certainly a later evolution of weapons like this.

There are images on the Bayeux Tapestry of these weapons cleaving iron helmets which may be a slight exaggeration but I suspect this would make short work of a hardened leather helm.
 
Jul 30, 2012
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westmidlands
The Poleaxe is certainly a later evolution of weapons like this.

There are images on the Bayeux Tapestry of these weapons cleaving iron helmets which may be a slight exaggeration but I suspect this would make short work of a hardened leather helm.

It's obvious we all think that but I saw this on the TV, in a Richard hammond weather programme.

http://www.gizmag.com/how-to-build-a-supersonic-ping-pong-gun/26082/

It's all about momentum and inertia apparently. That long handle may be just what's called for to go through a thin bit of soft steel. Give it a go, it should be able to go through a steel saucepan!
 

British Red

M.A.B (Mad About Bushcraft)
Dec 30, 2005
25,781
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Mercia
I didnt think it unlikely because they weren't sophisticated, but rather considering the dynamics of a shield wall. If the guy in front dies, you have to fill the gap. But you can't do that without a shield. Can you use an axe that big with a shield?

I know they were used, not even trying to dispute that, just never been entirely clear on the manual of arms that explains their tactics?
 

Mesquite

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Mar 5, 2008
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Give it a go, it should be able to go through a steel saucepan!

I doubt you would take your SFA to a steel saucepan so why would Wayland want to scratch up and otherwise damage what is a beautifully crafted axe?

I've had the pleasure of holding that axe and there's no way I'd want to mar it for no reason.
 

Toddy

Mod
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Jan 21, 2005
36,903
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S. Lanarkshire
The Poleaxe is certainly a later evolution of weapons like this.

There are images on the Bayeux Tapestry of these weapons cleaving iron helmets which may be a slight exaggeration but I suspect this would make short work of a hardened leather helm.

King Robert 1 neatly avoided the lance of a charging knight, stood up in his stirrups and brought his axe crashing down on the helm of Henry de Bohun; it went straight through the helm and split de Bohun's head in two.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_de_Bohun

M
 

Wayland

Hárbarðr
I didnt think it unlikely because they weren't sophisticated, but rather considering the dynamics of a shield wall. If the guy in front dies, you have to fill the gap. But you can't do that without a shield. Can you use an axe that big with a shield?

I know they were used, not even trying to dispute that, just never been entirely clear on the manual of arms that explains their tactics?

Truth of the matter is that all we have to go on is the behaviour of re-enactors in non lethal combat which is a sub prime comparison archaeologically.

My specification to Dave included some "pointyness" on the top of the blade for thrusting and "hookyness" on the bottom for dragging.

Seems like he nailed those for me.
 

janso

Full Member
Dec 31, 2012
611
5
Penwith, Cornwall
Lovely looking! Didn't the Anglo Saxons employ a long axe with a hook on the rear for pulling shields down opening up an opponents centre of mass? A random fact popped out there 😦


Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk
 

TinkyPete

Full Member
Sep 4, 2009
1,926
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uk mainly in the Midlands though
It is great to see it in the flesh, certainly an effective tool for it's use. do not forget that very few warriors went into battle with only one weapon, most would carry some back up and still had a belt knife as well. even today we have a rifle, bayonet and even grenades or pistols for a rifleman, and that is before you have anything that you may have got through for self purchase. on tour I had a couple of other things. I know also a lot of Americans were carrying tomahawks extra in Afghan as well as bigger knives.
 

Wayland

Hárbarðr
I think the "hook" described is just the lower profile of the axe head. It would certainly serve the purpose well enough.

Extra weapons were certainly carried. There are even accounts that suggest a rich or powerful man might have a servant that carried extra shields and weapons into battle for them, much like the later idea of a squire.
 

Wayland

Hárbarðr
King Robert 1 neatly avoided the lance of a charging knight, stood up in his stirrups and brought his axe crashing down on the helm of Henry de Bohun; it went straight through the helm and split de Bohun's head in two.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_de_Bohun

M

"Despite the great risk the King had taken, he merely expressed regret that he had broken the shaft of his favourite axe."

I like a man that has a favourite axe...

I think the main concern I have about the Bayeux descriptions comes from the shape of the helmets. Being mostly conical I think they are more likely to deflect the blow towards the shoulders which would have an equally devastating consequence of course.

As with so many things, it would be nice to see an accurate test, but I certainly won't be trying it with this one.
 

Dave Budd

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Jan 8, 2006
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It's funny, when Wayland stood around with that axe, it somehow didn't look as big and impressive to me as it had when I was holding it. Can't think why? :rolleyes:

When I was taking the picture of the 3 axes leaning against the door, the large one fell over and bounced off the floor of my workshop. The only reason it bounced off and not stuck in was because it hit the 2mm mild steel sheet on said floor! I looked over the edge and it didn't effect it, which was quite pleasing :D

I can't see it being much use against metal helmets, but the squidgy bloke underneath for sure! The bayeux depictions have to be taken with a certain amount of artistic license I would say. Whist at TORM, I was shown a short video of a chap demonstrating his sharp Dane axe at a show. He had a cabbage set up ona post at about head height and was taking lots of swings to basically shave the cabbage into coleslaw. Was a nice demonstration of the dexterity of a weapon composing of a 10" head and 5' handle! His didn't have the nice cross section of your though, so was a bit lighter I suspect
 

Rich D

Forager
Jan 2, 2014
143
10
Nottingham
I think it's really hard to guess at the level of skill that would have existed back then, with people who use the weapons every day from early childhood, and had a heritage and culture of use in battle. I remember the first time I heard about that Talhoffer guide to medieval combat and how intricate and skillful the use of two handed swords was, I'd always kind of assumed knights were big blokes acting like tanks. I think about how hard it is to learn the nuances of anything from a written text with a few pictures (it's hard enough from youtube), makes you start to realize how good they must have actually have been.
Has there ever been any studies of the body composition of Viking and Anglo Saxon axe men skelletons to see if they had developed differently due to their weapon practice like the later English and Welsh archers seem to have?
PS the axe(s) look astounding.
 
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udamiano

On a new journey
its a loverly piece of work, and has a great balanced weight to it, I had a chance to carry it around for a bit,and I got to say there is something deeply comforting about holding a damn big axe, and like dave, it certainly looked a lot bigger in my hands than it did in Waylands.
 

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