Dane Axe Hight.

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Tiddles
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Dane Axe Hight.

Postby Tiddles » Wed Jun 08, 2011 1:22 pm

Hi.

I have been offered a Vik standard Dane Axe it maybe to small for me.

The axe if 4 foot 6 inches, I am 5 foot 7 inches in my socks.

Tiddles.



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Re: Dane Axe Hight.

Postby Medicus Matt » Wed Jun 08, 2011 1:41 pm

Good question.
You'll usually hear that they were all really tall (I remember being told that a dane-axe should come up to your chin) but if you look at the battle scenes on the BT you'll see that the vast majority seem to be in the 3-4 foot range.

I think the tendance towards really tall ones owes more to us all wanting huge weapons, rather than it being a reflection of reality.


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Re: Dane Axe Hight.

Postby Benedict » Wed Jun 08, 2011 2:12 pm

I doubt that any society would have a problem with using a shorter axe two-handed, since you're likely to have more control rather than less. 'No more than chin height' is a sensible rule of thumb to avoid using an axe you may not be able to control properly.

I wouldn't think there would be a problem using a daneaxe that's shorter than chin height. I'm used to one that must be around five foot, but I've also played with a hand axe with a three-foot shaft which was beautifully fast and controlled when used two-handed.

I'd suggest trying the weapon and seeing what you think; if you like the way it handles and you feel comfortable with it, then go with it.

Matt - I'm no expert on archaeology, but given that we've generally got taller (better diet, less manual labour), I suspect the average height will have risen; a 3-4' axe in 1066 may have been in similar proportion to a 4-5' axe in 2011.

As a general point, I would suggest a bit of caution before we start discussing shaft sizes and the merits of using one or two hands. There is, after all, a remote possibility of being misconstrued... :devil:



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Re: Dane Axe Hight.

Postby chrisanson » Wed Jun 08, 2011 2:21 pm

tall enough to lean on comfortably while taking to mops



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Re: Dane Axe Hight.

Postby Medicus Matt » Wed Jun 08, 2011 2:27 pm

Benedict wrote:given that we've generally got taller (better diet, less manual labour), I suspect the average height will have risen; a 3-4' axe in 1066 may have been in similar proportion to a 4-5' axe in 2011.


Whilst average heights today are a lot greater than they were in the 17th-19th century, we're not really taller than our pre-12th century ancestors, average early medieval male height based on skeletal analysis is 5'8", compared to an average of 5'10" today.

So no, not really.
Last edited by Medicus Matt on Wed Jun 08, 2011 2:47 pm, edited 1 time in total.


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Re: Dane Axe Hight.

Postby PaulMurphy » Wed Jun 08, 2011 2:47 pm

Hmm, that's a tricky one. The length of any weapon is subject to artistic mangling, so unless there are extant finds with the original shafts in place there is considerable difficulty in proving whether the artwork is reliable. There are plenty of axe heads in museums from this period, but as far as I know there are no pieces of shaft remaining, never mind a whole one.

As Matt says, the BT provides the most obvious evidence, e.g.
http://hastings1066.com/bayeux30.shtml
http://hastings1066.com/bayeux31.shtml
http://hastings1066.com/bayeux33.shtml

In all of these, the longest axe is perhaps as high as the sternum of the wielder, although it is hard to judge the scale. However, earlier we have:

http://hastings1066.com/bayeux5.shtml

In this frame, the axe is clearly at the chin level of the wielder. Given that all of the spears are shown as 6-7 feet in length, I'm tempted to say that they are all realistic representations, but then the spear shafts seem to be about 10mm in diameter, and the horses are of course a fetching shade of purple or green, so taking one element as 100% accurate is a big mistake.

http://members.ozemail.com.au/~chrisand ... ivory.html also has an interesting example, but relying on this to prove that axes were as tall as the wielder also leads you to conclude that his sword is about 5ft long.

These illustrate the problems with artistic representations - is the sword on the plaque made larger because it would be difficult to carve it at the correct scale, or because it needs to be emphasised, or because it really was a 5ft blade on a 10lb sword? In the BT, is the axe in frame 5 the right size and the others scaled to fit into the very busy scene, or was the one in frame 5 enlarged to emphasise the importance of the wielder?

In summary, we don't know - they were certainly long enough to require two hands to wield them, and were probably not taller than the wielder, but other than that we can't say.


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Re: Dane Axe Hight.

Postby PaulMurphy » Wed Jun 08, 2011 2:50 pm

Benedict wrote:Matt - I'm no expert on archaeology, but given that we've generally got taller (better diet, less manual labour), I suspect the average height will have risen; a 3-4' axe in 1066 may have been in similar proportion to a 4-5' axe in 2011.


Ah, but those who used them in C11th England were the top 0.5% of society, with a diet which was probably less balanced than ours overall, but also less full of processed sugars and fats, and of course they did zero manual labour as they had a whole estate full of people to do that, or were effectively employed as full time professional soldiers. I'd argue that these people were likely to be taller than the average due to their better nutrition, and so I'd put them as maybe 5'8 to 5'10 on average which is pretty much where we are now.

Look at them as being like the C11th equivalent of professional rugby players, who are now pretty much all over 6' and 15 stone, with some at 6'8 or above.


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Re: Dane Axe Hight.

Postby Captain Reech » Wed Jun 08, 2011 3:32 pm

Perhaps the best rule to apply is "How big can you safely handle?" In an age where every weapon was hand made and a dane axe (we assume) is a professional soldier's weapon (as opposed to a farmer grabbing his handy general purpose axe when defending himself or called upon to do military service) we must suppose that the weapon would be custom made to the requirements of the man who had to use it. Contrary to the popular fantasy image of a battle axe, a Dane axe head isn't all that big, as a huge, crescent shaped blade is a) slow to recover and b) is likely to get stuck in your opponent (not too bad unless his mates are about) or his shield (annoying for him as he'll have to drop it but worse for you as you've lost your weapon) so you want something heavy enough to do damage but light enough that you can keep it moving quickly, probably for hours at a time. I'd say somewhere between stomach and chest height (a little longer than a pickaxe handle would seem sensible) would give you the best compromise for a practical weapon. On a safety note, make sure you can handle swinging the weight of the weapon, without losing control, for about 20-25 minutes. Control means you can judge where the blade will end up and 'pull' the blow should your opponent suddenly step into the danger zone after you've launched your attack.

(If you get chance, watch Paul who has posted above sometime, he's good with one!)


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Re: Dane Axe Hight.

Postby randallmoffett » Wed Jun 08, 2011 5:37 pm

The issue is that in all eras you have such situations but average is still the average, though you still have extremes in these statistics.

Ave. height in the modern UK is 5'10" (This was 2000ish so may have changed). Medieval is 5'8". So this regardless of extremes this is true for the average adult male of the time. So even if you are looking at the taller better fed groups modern or medieval the numbers both go up for these certain parts of the population. Several of the knights that have been exhumed from the 100 Years War era topped 5'10", 6' or more. We know several of the Plantagenet kings topped 6 to even 6 and a half feet. So the shift likely still is as Matt said, about 2 inches to the similar groups, average or otherwie. Many of us around 5'10" to 6' something likely fit the height for a well fed and active medieval male. Average height in medieval Europe was 5'6" -5'6.5" or so. We can see some regional as well as local differences in this spread as well.

As to the axe I often wonder where the chin level standard even came from. There is such a limited amount of evidence on lengths of axes and spears due to wood being easier to decay and hence measure it seems a difficult one to find hard cold facts on. That said my experience with any weapon is that if you cannot get a good control of it, especially after having practiced with it some then something is wrong. My axe is about 4'-4'5" and I and am 6'. Seems to work well. Someone used to to cut down a tree :roll: so the head is a bit loose now but such is life.

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Re: Dane Axe Hight.

Postby chrisanson » Wed Jun 08, 2011 6:22 pm

As to the axe I often wonder where the chin level standard even came from


isn't it all to do with proportion? you know how all hammer stales are about hand size for the average bloke or a rake is about the same size? it is just a tool that needs to be useable



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Re: Dane Axe Hight.

Postby WorkMonkey3 » Wed Jun 08, 2011 7:25 pm

Benedict wrote:Matt - I'm no expert on archaeology, but given that we've generally got taller (better diet, less manual labour), I suspect the average height will have risen; a 3-4' axe in 1066 may have been in similar proportion to a 4-5' axe in 2011.


An obesity epedmic and more desk jobs? Surely that's making us shorter and fatter not taller and healthier.
IMO a chin height two handed pole weapon is unweildy and too likely to catch the floor with a swing, two handed wood cutter axe is a good length.



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Re: Dane Axe Hight.

Postby chrisanson » Wed Jun 08, 2011 8:46 pm

WorkMonkey3 wrote:
Benedict wrote:Matt - I'm no expert on archaeology, but given that we've generally got taller (better diet, less manual labour), I suspect the average height will have risen; a 3-4' axe in 1066 may have been in similar proportion to a 4-5' axe in 2011.


An obesity epedmic and more desk jobs? Surely that's making us shorter and fatter not taller and healthier.
IMO a chin height two handed pole weapon is unweildy and too likely to catch the floor with a swing, two handed wood cutter axe is a good length.



what bearing does average height have on the use of something today anyway ? i thing i would look quit silly with a spear of original size if the average height was 2' 6". surely the agument is what is useable and what is not? and more to the point what is safe to use.



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Re: Dane Axe Hight.

Postby Tiddles » Wed Jun 08, 2011 10:40 pm

Well being 5' 7" I guess I am just below average hight of the time.

I am a self employed gardener so used to swing axe,s, mattocks and the like with ease and control. Also having done 15 century reenactment for nearly 20 years I have safely handed bigger things than a Dane Axe :D

Just want to know if 4' 6" is a realistic size for the weapon and if there is a formula for working out the correct size.
I seam to remember I was measured for my Pole Axe, the point came to level with my nose. I found it very comfortable to use.



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Re: Dane Axe Hight.

Postby randallmoffett » Thu Jun 09, 2011 3:37 am

chrisanson,

Might be but the way it is often circulated in reenactment circles makes it sound like there is some historic evidence which I have never seen but wonder if exists somewhere. Why chin length over any other length?

To me using one that is chin length could be an issue for many people.

Randall



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Re: Dane Axe Hight.

Postby Captain Reech » Thu Jun 09, 2011 7:45 am

[quote="Tiddles"]Also having done 15 century reenactment for nearly 20 years I have safely handed bigger things than a Dane Axe :D

My apologies, I got carried away and forgot who I was talking too!

I'd generally go for chest height with the dane axe. Looks in proportion, is a manageable length in a show fight and is comfy to lean on when you're hanging about waiting to go on or off the field. As Paul has mentioned earlier, the illustrations we have left to work with are confusing due to lack of scale or perspective so it's very much rule of thumb and a healthy dose of common sense as to how big. 4'6" sounds a sensible length, big enough to clear a space round you and easy to manage getting on or off a boat, crossing a rough field or moving through woods etc.


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Re: Dane Axe Hight.

Postby chrisanson » Thu Jun 09, 2011 9:34 am

so start long and cut it down until it feels ok



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Re: Dane Axe Hight.

Postby Benedict » Thu Jun 09, 2011 12:52 pm

Yes, very good point on daneaxe-users being top status and so likely to be well fed, healthy and "upper class" (in the tall sense of the word).



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Re: Dane Axe Hight.

Postby Ulfar » Thu Jun 09, 2011 5:42 pm

chrisanson wrote:so start long and cut it down until it feels ok


I completely agree, Chris.

It's what is right for the individual that counts. As long as the weapon can be used safely, under control, then it's OK.

Incidentally, my Dane axe is slightly longer than chin height and I'm 6' tall.



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Re: Dane Axe Hight.

Postby Tiddles » Sun Oct 30, 2011 1:06 pm

Ulfar wrote:
chrisanson wrote:so start long and cut it down until it feels ok


I completely agree, Chris.

It's what is right for the individual that counts. As long as the weapon can be used safely, under control, then it's OK.

Incidentally, my Dane axe is slightly longer than chin height and I'm 6' tall.


I recently got the Osprey Men at Arms 459 The Vargangian Guard 988-1453. It refers to the long axe as being between 47-55in long with various styles and sizes of heads. Some of the latter ones had a back spike.

Mine is 58in (4' 10") and is just right for me :D I wanted 60in (5 foot) but the extra 2" took it to the next postage band of £20 instead of "10 for 2" shorter :o

Tiddles.




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