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Chance

Spear shaft sapling or split wood

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I an trying to make a Viking like spear.  The shaft is where I am stuck in the past I just went to a big box and picked up dowel. this time I am going in to the bush and chopping down what I need. I had in my head that the Vikings would split it out of a log and work it round . now I see people saying use a sapling . any one out there have a idea how Vikings did it . the plan is that this year is to forge a pattern welded head as well then maybe even do my own smelting . yes I am even using hand forged axes to do the chopping .

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lol funny that is what I thought I would get for an answer . From what I can find there is no real prof of one more then the other . common sense would suggest what ever was handy in a suitable type of wood at the time of need.    

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Air dried Ash; a straight grained and tough and flexible wood would be my choice. Though I don't know what varieties on this side of the pond would best mimic the 

"storm of ash-woods"  a Norse kenning for spears in a battle

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I think there are a few ash tree out there not sure what type though . oak     maple   and not sure of the other things out there . I will likely have to split it out what ever I use. thanks for the imput 

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If you can't find one of the prime woods a good straight root is very strong and may serve.

Frosty The Lucky.

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Here's an anecdotal story that makes no attempt to answer your question directly...:P

My great uncle learned how to make bows and arrows from a Native American prior to WW1 and he taught me the same skills when I was a kid.  One thing he emphasized was to search out and use raw materials that required the least amount of work to finish.  Subsequently, we looked for whitebrush sprouts, which naturally grew long and straight in the river bottom on his property.  We would cut 100 to 200 at a time and bundle them together until they dried.  Bows were cut from bois d'arc or elm saplings, debarked while green and put up  to cure, etc.  We used wild turkey feathers for fletching and tied them to the arrows with sewing thread.  Points were flint or bottle glass chips.  The arrows cost almost nothing to make so I practiced a lot and eventually harvested many rabbits for the stewpot.

My obtuse point is that most cultures naturally look for efficiencies and I would wager the Vikings were no different.  Therefore, a sapling is less work than a split stave - so that is a logical first choice so long as performance was similar.  Type of wood would again vary with whatever was available locally.

The other possibility is that they traded for them - since the Vikings were also famous for traveling far and wide.

Edited by HWooldridge

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Not sure there are any roots long and straight around here . Rocks right under every where you put your shovel . I guess you can work them straight with heat the same as any green wood .

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I have cheated and bought 6 ft long Bo staff from the matrtial arts supply houses.  Of course, my being an instructor and having an account with a few of them doesnt hurt either

Edited by Steve Sells

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Note that winter is the preferred time to cut wood for air drying *before*  the sap starts rising in the spring!

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yes winter is best I agree .that is why it is time for me to get out there and chop what I need . 6 feet is a little short for what I am after but could do if need be.

 

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Air dried Ash; a straight grained and tough and flexible wood would be my choice. Though I don't know what varieties on this side of the pond would best mimic the 

"storm of ash-woods"  a Norse kenning for spears in a battle

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

Common Ash - used for its specific properties, it doesn't splinter easily under shock, common uses were pike shafts, spear handles, hammer and sledge handles

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I can't resist to mention the silver birch (Betula pendula) which is one of the most common tree species in Scandinavia. Its young, straight 2-3 meter tall saplings literally shout for being used as spear shaft. It's not as tough as ash at all but has its own advantages. Don't know about its growing in Canada... 

 

Bests

Gergely

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i've made a lot of spears for an iron age group, they are smaller diameter than the Saxon ones but just as long. I either use cleft ash or if using wood in the round, then either willow or hazel are very good. Certainly with the iron age spears, there is evidence for all of those being used as well as poplar. If you use the coppiced shoots such as hazel and willow, then by having the thick end at the butt you can get a little counter balance against the head. ;)

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Chance, 

The quick and easy method is to go to tractor supply or the local farmers union and get a hoe handle. They are straight, dry and bullet proof. You can go into the woods and shop too but the wood needs to be  dried and it has to free of knots and nodes as the shaft will break at these locations. In a survival scenario that's what we would all do but as long as the lights are on get a manufactured handle and repourpse it. 

The project sounds great, please show us the finished product when you can. 

Peter 

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I often do just go grab a handle or dowel that fits the bill . This time I am  doing it as old school as I can forging with charcoal I made .Pattern welded head from scrapes . If all of this works out then near the end  of the coming summer i will try to smelt my own iron the way the Vikings did.

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I cannot see why splitting and taking down - square, octagonal etc should be a problem. The vikings certainly had the tools and the skills.

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It depends partly on scale... I could have a spear shaft roughed out from a sapling in twenty minutes, with only a small hand axe and a knife to work with... Definitely what I'd do if I were on the march and needed one more spear for myself.  Cutting a larger tree or two, riving and shaving, could be a whole days work... BUT, I'd end with at least a dozen shafts... what I'd do if I were outfitting part of an army!  Also maybe some of both as I might use up the available supply of suitable saplings and still need more shafts. 

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With coppicing the saplings may be much more abundant than the whole trees.  I attended the Medieval Technology conference at Penn State a couple of decades ago and one the the presenters had a through examination of all the wood used to build a humongous Bank Barn; most was quite young (under 40 years old IIRC) and was the result of coppicing only a handful of old growth pieces were used and one of those was re-used from a previous structure.

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