Posts Tagged ‘Obsidian’

Wood: the other dark steel…

Wednesday, November 25th, 2009

Ok, So I will readily admit that the title of todays post was highly influenced by thoughts of thanksgiving turkey…Light meat or dark meat… It’s all good… But I digress.

You may recall a few posts I’ve done in the past on weapons made of wood. Some of them have been about reproduction, prop or cosplay weapons, weapons you could give to your little rascals, or for cosplay (costume play), designed primarily to be a safe alternative to the real thing.

Macahuitl

Macahuitl

However, I’ve also posted about weapon designs that, while made primarily of wood, were still quite lethal as edged weapons. The Macahuitl was one such weapon, using flint or obsidian blades, embedded in a wood frame shaped like a club, or a large broadsword. And then there was the Leiomano, which accomplished the same thing, using shark teeth, but packaged in a small axe form factor.

Leiomano

Leiomano

But I recently ran across an even more beautiful design, yet another based on the small axe form factor, but without any kind of hard blade material whatsoever… Just wood. Really hard wood… Have a gander at this:

Samoan War Axe

Samoan War Axe

Now chances are, the edge would be nowhere as keen as that of a macahuitl, so this would be more likely used freehand as a club, or to break or dislocate bones than an actual cleaving device,  (unless you had a hard surface to chop against and were willing to keep whacking away until the job was done :/ )  However,  it is just a beautiful piece of work.

I just love this thing. Between the smooth and highly polished finish on the weapon, the Samoan patterns on the blade, and the absolutely evil lines on this axe, I just love it to death. Ok, maybe not to death, since I kind of like being alive, but you get the point.

The points on this thing are amazing. The deep bevel of the edge is accentuated by the light colored patterning of the blade area, making it look almost like a thick slab of dark steel. The patterning runs all the way down the shaft, stopping just short of the light colored jute or twine wrapped grip. The combination is just sweet.

Truth be told, I think this wooden axe looks more both more beautiful  and sinister than most of the other evil steel axes I’ve posted on this site so far…

And that’s no small feat for a weapon made entirely of wood.

Samoan War Axe – [My Armory]

Stone Club, Wooden Sword, or both?

Wednesday, July 15th, 2009

In this day and age of high tech steels, it’s hard to imagine how our ancient predecessors got by without it. There are so many different kinds of steels, used in so many different ways, from Skyscrapers, and tools, to bolts and belt buckles, that a world without it is almost unfathomable.

And yet they got by somehow. With simple materials readily available in nature. Thatched huts, stone tools, and yes, even primitive, but highly effective weapons. Perhaps not as cool as the ones we get to play with today, but pretty impressive nonetheless. Today I thought I’d talk a little about one example of pre-metal age ingenuity I ran into a long time ago, but still find quite interesting.

The Macahuitl

The Macahuitl

This is called the Macuahuitl, or Macahuitl. It is an old Mesoamerican weapon, most frequently associated with the Aztecs, and based on the much simpler wooden club, or Macana, used by the people of old central and south America. It is basically a wooden club, with pieces of obsidian embedded in it, often tied in place with leather straps or cordage.

Macahuitl Sketch

Macahuitl Sketch

There have been many cultures that have used purely wood based sword and axe like weapons (which will be the topic of a future post). But wood, by itself, is absolutely horrible at holding an edge. And only on certain hard woods can you even create a convincing edge. Make an edge in a piece of soft wood, and you’d loose it cutting through a block of cheese.

A Fantasy Macahuitl - Tom Anderson

A Fantasy Macahuitl - Tom Anderson

However, rocks with a high quartz content, like obsidian or flint, readily chip into very, very sharp, reasonably durable edges, and at some point, some enterprising Aztec realized that putting obsidian chips into the edge of his weapon would give it a particularly evil edge. The end result being a weapon that could be used in much the same way as the club it was based on, except with massive cutting power. Rather clever actually.

Macahuitl Blades

Macahuitl Blades

At this point I think it behooves me to point out that I believe the Aztecs were quite fond of smacking people upside the head with their wooden clubs, which invariably meant that, with the advent of the macahuitl, a new era of wanton beheadings and such was spawned, not unlike their Japanese counterparts. A rather unfortunate side effect of progress. Especially if you are a smackee. But I digress.

An Aztec Warriior with a Macahuitl

An Aztec Warriior with a Macahuitl

I find this weapon intriguing because it kind of marks a milestone in weapon design. Much like flint arrow heads over sharpened sticks, and stone clubs vs regular wooden clubs, this weapon, to me, represents not only the Aztec cultures first steps into true swordsmanship, but also the ingenuity of the old cultures.

A Macahuitl made from a baseball bat

A Macahuitl made from a baseball bat

I think nowadays we take for granted how important these seemingly unimportant little steps were for the people of the day. And that enterprising inventive nature is certainly something that I aspire to even today. And when I say “aspire to”, I mean the weapons building. Not the beheadings and human sacrifice.

Though there are times when I wish… Never mind…

Macahuitl – [My Armory]
Macahuitl – [Wikipedia]

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