Author Topic: Troop Types and Weapon Mix  (Read 17770 times)

Riptokus

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Re: Troop Types and Weapon Mix
« Reply #30 on: November 07, 2007, 10:46:29 AM »
That was a pretty complete list of why stone weapons have problems ... I'll go over it again and regroup it:

1.  Wood is generally at least as hard, if not harder to maintain than steel.  It draws moisture and is harder to dry.  It rots.  It splinters when hit with other weapons.  None of these points are critical, but they certainly do not encourage the use of wood bodies on weapons.

2. Stone is inconvenient to sharpen, and breaks, chips, or dulls badly.  Stones must be replaced constantly.

3.  It is also irregularly shaped, transfers shock strangely, and is inconvenient to mount in a handle (of any design).  This usually results in the handles or wood bodies of stone weapons being heavier than should be necessary, in order to keep the blades in place.  The irregular shapes also tend to wear the handle and/or cut the bindings, unless the stone is VERY carefully shaped.  Related to this, stone blades are severely limited in size (you can only get a stone blade about six inches long, max), which creates more mounting and binding problems.

4.  It takes a lot of time and effort to get a good sharp stone weapon.  Added to #2 above, this creates a logistics issue.

Now, I have made a few of these, and a lot of other people have made a lot more, and everyone I have ever seen testing a stone weapon has come to this set of conclusions.  None of these issues are immediately fatal (i.e. a stone weapon does "work" in the most basic sense), but each is a big enough problem that most people are going to want to go to metals at first opportunity.

Riptokus, by your own statements, you have never made or tested a stone weapon or tool of any design, and you have never handled a real sword.  Test these things, and tell me if I'm wrong.  You're talking to a bunch of people who are swordsmen (myself, Guspav, half the people on this board), trying to tell them how a sword works.  Don't make a conjecture based on nothing... ("but it killed a horse", as if horses are immune to attacks by steel two-handed swords).  Come up with good test results to demonstrate your point.  Because about a hundred million historians, re-enactors, and hobby weaponsmiths disagree with you... they all seem to think people generally go to metal blades at first opportunity, and for a number of very sound reasons.  Therefore you must prove your point, as it goes against accepted logic.


I get my information from purly local sources, people who use swords locally. This is why I am trying to pin down your claims on the Macuahuitl being inferior. I am now planning to build one based on the following information, to hand to my sword-using friends. Lacking a real Macuahuitl or the real details of construction, It won't be accurate.

Materials-
Obsidian obtained from South Central Colorado
Oak 2x4 if available at the local hardware store, if not, some other hardwood if available, if not, cedar, then pine.
Some Hemp Twine.

Construction Method-
Based on the description here-
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Macuahuitl
I will then cut a handle out of the wood equalling about 1/5th the length. This will be wrapped with the Hemp twine for grip. Knowing nothing about the properties of a good handle, I will taper it similar to a club and wrap the twine to make it comforable in my hand.
I plan to carve blade places out for the blades, relatively uniform. They will be an inverted wedge, since with my method of attachment, that will probably hold the blades in best. I am then going to get chewing gum, chew it into a set thickness, and attach 10 blades to each side using the chewing gum, filling the wedge completly. I then plan to go to several people around me who use swords and have them tell me how shittily of a job I did, since I have never made a sword in my life before and expect it to be complete crap.
With this weapon though, I expect to debunk the following thoughts

2) The blades inside the wood would jump around on impacts, and damage the wood holding it together (Stone is inconvenient to sharpen, and breaks, chips, or dulls badly is debunked by the stone used, obsidian, which last I checked, was famous for breaking sharp)
3) The Stone weapons weigh more then steel weapons (I didn't quite understand what you were saying with your addition, but I suspect that either I will debunk it or prove that with experience manufacturing this weapon I COULD debunk it.)
4) The Stone weapons aren't as well balanced as the Steel weapons. (and take alot of time to create and keep sharp)
5) The parts that wear out on a stone weapon would wear out too fast to be worth it when compared to the speed of sharping a steel weapon(Rope, Bindings, Blades)


Lacking any comparable material that the Mesoamericans had to properly treat and seal their wood, I will be unable to debunk the rot to your satisfaction. My experence with carpentry gives me hundreds of modern methods to do so, almost all of them possible by ancient people in some form, but my ability to prove that they were used is nil.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pressure_treated_wood#History
Gives you an idea on some of the methods used today by us. I suspect the Mesoamerican method would have been a combination between the selection of wood and soaking it in a particular kind of oil prior to use. Since they were picked up and carried, I doubt it was common practice to allow them to sit idly next to a ant's nest, which would be common with houses, or use them as shelter against the elements, such as doors, therefore they would be likely to last awhile without extensive treatments, with their main requirement being they don't get destroyed if a little rain falls on them. Without you having a greater understanding of wood, the only way I can really prove point 1 is by stating that this is made of wood-
http://www.powerhousemuseum.com/collection/database/?irn=173811
400 years, I don't know any warrior who would need a weapon for that long. BUT IT'S A CHAIR! How long would a Macuahuitl need to last for it to be worth it to produce them? My estimate is that if a Macuahuitl lasts 10 years with no significant degradation, it would be just fine. Swords don't have to be Heirlooms to be effective in combat. I believe that a wood Macuahuitl wouldn't be threatened by rot, if manufactured correctly, for at least a timeframe measured in the years. A little water falling on it, or not wiping off the blood, wouldn't hurt it as bad as doing that with steel would, I believe. But since I don't know the processes, I can't build an exact replica, so I can't test the ability for it to weather the weather.

I suspect that the Macuahuitl I make will be both acceptably light enough to be usable, Balanced enough to be usable, and easy to maintain. I suspect that with just a small bag, I will be able to quickly replace broken blades, if necessary. I also suspect that my attachment method will prevent the stone from jumping around and damaging the wood. I strongly suspect that even with my crude manufacture of the weapon, It will preform beyond your expectations. I also suspect that a real Mesoamercian Weaponmaker could make something on par with the stuff that came from Europe. However, not having access to a real form of this weapon, we will never know for sure. The point of this isn't to prove definitly, it is just to prove enough to pass the point of "acceptable plausibility". Enough for you to agree that yes, more factors then technology level were involved with the rejection of the Macuahuitl. For no examples to remain means there was a pretty through war declared against this piece of equipment. This is keeping with the Spanish philosophy of the time of burn the culture to the ground, so ours may take better root.


Which would be faster to make, given the creator has roughly equal experiance with both processes and has all the materials? Assuming better than poor quality, but not masterpiece. Also, how long does it take to become skilled enough to make decent quality macuahuatls versus swords? Also, would the Mexias (A) Have knowledge of iron deposits and (B) how to extract and refine?

Another question is, was there another European country that would have had the ability and benefitted from a trade relationship with the natives had they lasted against the Spanish?

Duuvian,
Later in history, there were quite a bit of examples of Europeans allying with local natives against the other powers. Trade was also something they all liked. Natives had a lot of gold, Europeans had a lot of Trinkets. Gold was more useless to natives then trinkets, and it was the opposite for Europeans, so typically they both thought they cheated the other. This makes for a great trade relationship, so no doubt there would be extensive trade. As for weapon manufacture, Mesoamerican Macuahuitls would be more prone to be able to be manufactured assembly line style. Think of a Macuahuitl like a disposable razor. You have the handle, you just have to go out and buy the blades. Since different stones have different densities, fitting the right stone in the right slot determines how effective your weapon will be, as well as balance and everything of that nature. Macuahuitls seem to me to be very customizable, but Ron's got a serious point here. Obsidian blades will wear out significantly quicker then iron swords. I suspect that Iron swords are harder to manufacture on an individual level, but just like the disposable razor, you gotta keep buying the blades!

hayate666,
I wasn't aware that the Celts were so much closer in technology levels at the start of empires on Europe then the northern tribes at the start of Empires in the Americas. The Mesoamericans had extensive things going on for them that more northern tribes hadn't even thought could exist. The results of Divergent Evolution were most pronounced in Central America. This is where corn came about, an invention that was unmatched in the rest of the world. There was more in Central America and Western South America that already worked then in the rest of the Americas, therefore if any place retained technology, these places would. Unfortunately, This part of the world was the part that met the Europeans first, and they had the misfortune of meeting the Spanish. The Spanish were fresh out of wars of extreme hatred and religious intolerance, and had developed a practice of burning the culture currently there to prevent the other side from easily taking the place back. They razed the Empires of Central America to the ground, and salted the earth of the technological marvels that came from there. The Maya developed a calendar which is much more accurate then what we have. We never adopted it, partially because of it's "pagan" roots, but mostly because we already have one. That doesn't make it primitive or junk, it is just something that would fill a role we already have filled, and the Maya culture was demonized early enough that we could go around that piece of equipment that worked better then ours.

Offline Ron Losey

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Re: Troop Types and Weapon Mix
« Reply #31 on: November 07, 2007, 07:18:03 PM »
That test will prove quite adequate.  I fully expect you to find the following:

1. The oak 2x4 with a bunch of stones in it will generally prove at least as heavy as a steel sword, if not more so, and most certainly more nose heavy.  Not enough to make it unusable, but enough to make a steel blade more desirable.

2. Sharpening obsidian will prove harder than you expect.  Shaping it to fit a groove in a piece of wood will not be easy.

3. Whenever you cut something, some of the stones will chip.  After a dozen or so cuts, it will become quite dull and every stone will need replacement.  (Discovery Channel did this experiment once, and found this to be true.  I tested it on flint, not obsidian, but had the same results.)  If the stones are not mounted well, some will remain in the target. 

4. If you get enough oil on the wood to prevent it from drawing moisture, your gum for sticking the stones in place will probably not hold well at all.  For the sake of fairness, I'll give you a tip there ... try a strip of leather around the base of the stone, and then force it into the grove.  It will probably hold better than gum or most glues, and certainly reduce damage to the wood caused by stones being replaced and/or moving when a target is hit.  If the leather seems to have too much flex to it, after the stones are in place, try hardening it with boiling oil or boiling water.  I don't know for certain if that will help, but many tribes of the now eastern U.S. wrapped stones in leather before mounting them into wood handles, to reduce shock against the wood, so I suspect they were on to something.  No matter how you mount them, it likely won't be easy to keep the fool things in place.

5. If crossed with another weapon blade (especially a steel one), the wood on the weapon's body will take rather substantial damage, and/or the obsidian will be prone to shatter.

Now, to really get the proper effect, you need a few more things: 
One is a machete, so you can compare the test cuts.  I say a machete, not a high-quality sword ... to avoid the question of quality of weapon design.  Comparing your weapon to a gardening tool should give the Aztec weaponsmiths the benefit of the doubt.  (We want this to be fair, after all, because I am quite interested in the results.)  Do compare similar cuts, because most people are quite prone to underestimate cut damage from long blades - and so when they test any one weapon (regardless of make or design), they get the impression that it is more effective than is realistic because they have nothing to compare to.  (This is how the myth on Japanese swords cutting anything got started ... real test cuts compared to nothing.  Fact is that good European or Chinese or Arabic blades will do the same thing.)

Two is a target for your test cuts.  If you or people you know are deer hunters, there is little use for the deer's neck (no edible meat on it) - it's a good target for test cuts, has spine bones to provide a target with substantial bulk.  If you cannot use large portions of a dead animal, you will need something else.  The cheapest targets I know are bundles of green river cane - they get similar resistance to Japan's practice of using wet bamboo wrapped in straw mats, but pretty much require zero construction time to go down to a river and collect a few hundred of them.  Wrap them in a bundle at least 12 inches across.

Of course, if you want to add armor to that test, you'll get even more interesting results.  (Stone weapons WILL go through armor, but they will chip and dull VERY badly in the process.)

Another tip - be sure to strike with a bit of a slicing motion.  If you just club something with an obsidian blade, you will just leave a row of little scratches on the target... but with just a little slice to it, the sharp edge of the obsidian should produce a pretty substantial wound.  If you have any buddies who are good with Japanese swords, they can probably explain this visually better than I can in text.  I would hate for such a well-planned test to have skewed results because you have minimal experience with long bladed weapons.

I am really interested in your results ... not just because I am pretty sure of the outcome, but because not nearly enough work has been done on this sort of thing.  Be sure to take lots of pictures and/or video, to record this.

Offline guspav

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Re: Troop Types and Weapon Mix
« Reply #32 on: November 08, 2007, 11:29:35 AM »
Wow, that experiment sounds awesome, I really want to see the results :)

Riptokus

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Re: Troop Types and Weapon Mix
« Reply #33 on: November 08, 2007, 04:32:07 PM »
The notes I have on it says pretty clear it was an adhesive and not binding, so I will either need to go with glue, or gum. I suspect gum might work because when it hardens, it can fill in gaps. If the wood is made into the shape similar to what a bell drill creates when setting up for pylons, and the base of the obsidian is thicker then the point(which is the easiest way to get it anyway), the drying gum, well packed into the grove will function by expanding to add an extra bit of holding power. Between the two, I would be quite surprised if my blades pop out. Damage to the wood is what I will be looking at, as well as ability to replace the blades.

 My original tests were pretty simple. First I was going to give it to some people who have used swords before to swing around a bit, then I was going to take it to a tree stump and hack the crap out of the stump for the purposes of destroying the blades and possibly the rest of the weapon, and then I was going to remove several of the blades and replace them, and repeat the previous test. These tests weren't to find out how much damage these weapons can inflict. We already know what they can do via Spanish records. Considering I've heard steel swords do the same thing, I suspect the weapons are comparable on effectiveness, depending on how well the material can hold up. That means what needs to be tested is balance and how well the material holds up. I wish I had more information on the materials since the very wood they used affects every bit of information. Oak reacts infinitely differently then Douglass Fir, which is different then Mahogany. There is just too many variables here, that ultimately all I can do is make one that "looks" right, and try to make conclusions off of it. I will definitely take many pictures, and perhaps some video recordings if possible.

Offline guspav

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Re: Troop Types and Weapon Mix
« Reply #34 on: November 08, 2007, 04:50:56 PM »
hey, I just found this, it might help you :)
http://www.macuahuitl.com/
I wouldn't use the spiky design though, the prismatic blades one is probably the better since prismatic blades are supposedly very easy to get from obsidian cores (by hitting them the right way which I completely ignore).
I'll check on typical wood types from mexico's valley to see which were more likely to have been used, though more tropical varieties might have been used also.

EDIT: ok, here are some:

Salix bonplandiana (willow)

Crategus pubescens (hawthorn)

Cupressus lusitaica (cypress)



« Last Edit: November 08, 2007, 05:16:24 PM by guspav »

Offline Ron Losey

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Re: Troop Types and Weapon Mix
« Reply #35 on: November 08, 2007, 05:17:16 PM »
Unless this thing is extremely heavy, a tree is going to cause the blades to shatter like glass.  Something a little softer would probably make a more reasonable test.

Also, you may get those blades in there so well that you can't replace them.  If you do get them glued into a groove like that, be careful not to cut yourself when replacing them.  And again, try lining the groove with a strip of leather to reduce damage to the wood.

As for bindings, I think it was mostly the Maya weapons that used rope bindings.  (I sent Guspav a model for one of those earlier.)  Same point, different design.