Two-Handed Warhammers & Short Poleaxes

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Two-Handed Warhammers & Short Poleaxes

Postby Thaeris » Sat Jun 11, 2016 11:05 pm

I picked up a Windlass spiked warhammer on sale the other day: ... spike.aspx

...with the intent of building my own, perhaps scaled-down version, of this weapon:

It turns out that Sean Flynt did something very similar to this before: ... xe&start=0

This made me think about the usage of long warhammers/short poleaxes in harness. In one hand or two, a hammer or mace should follow similar usage patterns to that of a sword, and a two-handed weapon thus should really benefit from the various longsword teachings. Obviously blossfechten techniques cannot normally be used successfully against an opponent in harness, but a two-handed warhammer, etc., can strike all of the basic cuts and all meisterhau with no more effort than a sword, apart from the higher inertia. "Edge alignment," considering the position of the hammer, spike, or axe face, is also similar to that of a sword. I think you therefore have the capability of employing a battlefield weapon in the exact same fashion you employ a sidearm, with the caveat of being able to use that weapon in a battlefield context directly against armored combatants. The only real factor you have to deal with now is how flexible your armor happens to be, as that will limit the application of longsword techniques with the weapons in question.

Given what little I know of poleaxe fighting, a full-sized weapon is one of the most intimidating weapons I have seen demonstrated. A hand-and-a-half weapon in light of the above context is nearly as imposing, with the promise of being highly agile in the hands of a seasoned combatant in properly fitted and articulated armor. Perhaps this draws parallels to Fiore's sword-axe, as Matt Easton considers in this video, with a very fitting weapon for the subject:

Short single and perhaps two-handed poleaxes which would be used in a similar fashion were covered in this thread on MyArmoury: ... t+pole+axe

In general I'd like to think that such weapons serve to break the idea of armored combat being a slow, circling, or ponderous affair which we might be fixated upon due to considering the usage of the sword in that context... which is barely the right weapon for the job. Instead, you have quite vigorous and straight-forward combat which may not look too different from unarmored or lightly armored combat with swords or axes. An interesting idea, perhaps?
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Re: Two-Handed Warhammers & Short Poleaxes

Postby Galloglaich » Mon Jul 18, 2016 7:14 pm

Definitely an interesting idea. No doubt pollaxes are extremely intimidating. And I think they can be faster

I think one of the main things making harness fighting look ponderous is that most people can't afford properly "bespoke" harness that really fits well, though thanks to all those armored fighting games like bohurt etc. we are getting closer to having a broad based enough industry that it is becoming more affordable. I remember reading that they started using lighter steel armor for Battle of Nations for example.

Pollaxe isn't quite as fast as a sword though IMO, swords can be ridiculously fast, faster than most people realize. You sound like you are experienced and familiar with HEMA so you probably know that already. One factor is just the thinness of the blade cutting through the air- I remember when we first switched from padded weapons and shinai and so on to steel swords, how much faster the steel was.

But that said you probably could still use a lot of the blossfechten techniques anyway. Would be interesting to see what a Zornhau done with a pollaxe would look like. Or a zwerch.

I think a lot of the knightly pollaxes were actually pretty short, in the longsword or at least montante size range...
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Re: Two-Handed Warhammers & Short Poleaxes

Postby Thaeris » Mon Jun 19, 2017 3:54 am

I figured I'd bump the thread considering some recent toying around with the vanilla weapon as mentioned in the first post. Sorry, no pictures (unless someone really wants pictures); hopefully descriptions are good enough.

I assume we're fairly thrifty around here, so low-cost projects are always worth considering. Unfortunately, that's easier said than done, as the tools needed for those projects can be quite expensive. I'll cut that part of the discussion out, however, because I'm not that far along with this yet.

A BRIEF REVIEW OF THE WINDLASS WARHAMMER: The short explanation of this weapon is that it is a costume weapon and not made for hard use. This is a bit of a disappointment, as Windlass generally delivers a good deal of value for the price. I think I paid $65 for the hammer, and would never recommend that someone pay full price for the product. Again, it's suitable as a costume weapon, or alternately, a piece suitable for a project - which you will have to put additional time and resources into.

DETAILS: Materials quality on the weapon is variable. The steel itself does not seem bad - the cast steel head is solid enough, the butt cap lends itself to no scrutiny, and the langets are made of tough, mild steel (more on those later). The handle is made of soft wood. For a costume weapon, this is fine. For instance, I used my chisels to chamfer the grip section with virtually no effort. While this wood selection makes improving ergonomics easy (and necessary, as the out-of-the-box square cross section is terrible), it makes re-hafting the weapon necessary after just a few strokes. Mine developed a fracture at the approximate mid-point from the hammer head to the grip area. The tacks in the grip area do work to improve tactility - I'm not sure how historical or ahistorical they are, but they seem plausible. Add gloves, and gripping is easy (considering you've made an octagonal cross-section for the grip). The langet screws are craptacular. If flushing them down the toilet wasn't a bad idea, I'd recommend one do that, as that's really where they belong. They are short, soft wood screws that will not hold under a shock load, which is exactly the sort of thing a hammer is subject to. More on that next.

CONSTRUCTION: The hammer head is a casting designed to look like a historical construction. Because it's cheap, everything on the head is a single piece, and a large square void is present in the center to act as a receptacle for the wooden haft. For a project, I'm not sure any of it is hardenable (with the points being hardened and the remainder of the piece being softer and tougher), but heat treating is still outside of my realm of experience anyway. The langets are simply welded on. This might not be a problem considering the price point, but that price point really shines through when you find out the langets are basically 16-guage steel (which is about 1/16" thick, and not absolutely terrible). The langets might work reasonably well, though some deformation might be expected, if the wood screws actually worked to keep the langets on. But they don't. The screws come loose (and bend, too!) and allow the langets to flop around, which lets them deform even more easily than they might otherwise. Interestingly, I'm quite certain historical weapons used thicker langets which were also riveted. Even more interestingly, that sort of construction would have probably prevented all the shortcomings I mentioned about both the langets and the screws on the Windlass weapon. Huh... All the other details of note have already been sufficiently covered. Conclusion has already be given in the first section of the review for the TL:DR crowd.

FOR THE FUTURE: The langets definitely need to be reinforced or otherwise replaced. Jumping onto MyArmoury for advice on this front would be a fine starting point for that stage of the project, whenever that comes. I'm not sure how I want to handle rivets - I almost think shaping grade-5 (or better) nuts and bolts would do for that. The haft should be ash or hickory, of course. As per, "what makes for a balanced hammer?", I've for a long time thought about building a rotational moment of inertia tester. That's also more time, money, and materials. So, for now, it's just a question of how to stiffen up the langets, and it's only relevant for whenever I decide to jump back on the project.

Being thrifty people, it's worth pointing out some options that may in fact be better value for the money. Check out this, of all things, Deepeeka, weapon that's pretty much in line with the exact theme of short poleaxes/warhammers as are the subject of this thread: ... ar+Hammer+

The construction is riveted, the head is made of multiple parts, and it's already the target size! I'm pretty sure they don't heat-treat their swords, but if they start doing that properly, I might have to reconsider my current preference for economy reproductions! So, until next time...
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