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Thread: Is it easy to cut through wooden weapons such as staffs, clubs, and mace with swords?

  1. #1

    Is it easy to cut through wooden weapons such as staffs, clubs, and mace with swords?

    Because I purchased Mount and Blade three days ago and my katana came in by mail I decide to do a little experiment.
    In Mount and Blade you can block direct blows from the sword's edge with a wooden staff, wooden clubs, and maces with wooden handles. By block direct blows I mean something looking like in the scene below.

    Except as opposed to Tom Cruise easily slicing a rifle in half and killing the riflemen along in one blow, Mount and Blade's game mechanics shows that a wooden staff and wooden club can last unlimited amounts of direct blows from swords.
    So I got curious and got an old flag pole. It is about one inch in diameter, uses very hard thick wood, and looks exactly as in the link below.

    I laid it on a table and swung my katana. My katana did not do any damage. I swung it again much harder but all that's came is a small scratch.

    So I decided to put two chairs at the staffs and leave some empty space in the middle the staff (because I thought the table was preventing the katana from cutting it fully). Despite now having nothing below it to prevent full force, when I swung the katana it still wouldn't cut it in half and only left a deeper scratch.

    So I got curious and stuck the pole outside on the ground. I decided to try horizontal blows but the thing still wouldn't cut in half.

    Hell I did everything above with other tools such as hammers, knives, and machetes and the end result was the same. The pole was not cut in half (though the machete left the same scratches and dents the katana did).

    The reason Mount and Blade made me curious was because popular media and entertainment- in particular movies and manga- portray wooden weapons such as clubs, maces, and especially staffs as weapons being easy to cut through with swords in the same manner in which The Last Samurai shows the rifle getting sliced in half in an instant (and killing the soldier with it). Basically not just the overhead vertical swing Tom Cruise did but horizontal swings, diagonal swings, and even swings from below an easily slice apart the clubs some police are holding or the staff some farmer is using in self defense and even hack apart shields with enough hits.

    However my experiment with the flag pole made me wonder about the notion of swords easily cutting apart wooden weapons. I mean part of why Mount and Blade made me so curious is because its game mechanic is supposedly based on real European swordsmanship and it showed the you can directly block sword slashes and thrusts by placing the wooden weapon directly in front of the sword. Although my flag pole got damaged, it could not be cut in half which gives me the impression Mount and Blade is accurate in this regard.

    But I also read just right now that German mercenaries were hired using large heavy two handed swords to cut apart pikes so that cavalry can run through and slaughter the pikemen (who now were simply using sticks for battle after the skirmish with the Grman mercenaries). And its not just them, some internet articles speak or some Japanese swords called the Odachi and Zanbato being used against spearmen and naginata samurais in the same manner as well as youtube comments speaking about Thracians doing the same against Greeks who tried to expand their city state territory outside of Greece.

    So I am a bit confused. I must point out I have no formal training in swordsmanship and was just doing wild blows. However in Hollywood portrays peasants picking up swords and easily defeating other peasants armed with spears because they are able to cut through it which is why along with the real historical incidents (German mercenaries for example) why I am asking this question.

    If I get proper sword training, would it be easy to cut through a 19th century rifle as the scene in the The Last Samurai shows? Or at least the flagpole I tried to cut?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2002
    Southern Maryland, for the last 350+ years; previously of the Danelaw.
    I do a bit of axe work around the farm, and my favorite is a light Hudson Bay pattern axe, somewhat similar to the Viking half axe. No, it's not a sword. (I have swords, but I "prefer and axe.")

    When I'm trimming limbs from trees or windfall or heavy brush about the diameter of a haft for a pole arm (spear, mace, light axe) I seldom strike it square-on, but usually at an acute angle. Yes, there's more to go through, but you're going somewhat with the grain, so the edge of the axe penetrates further and easier. Also, the tree or fallen trunk holds it nice and steady for me, If a foeman were wielding the weapon, he would have both a firm grip and the weapon could well be in motion opposing mine, so once again an angled strike at the shaft may (or may not) produce the desired results. Sticking a flag pole in the ground does not really duplicate the dynamics involved in combat. Clamping it in a vise or other firm holder might. Having another person wield (with the both of you in good protective gear, and the experiment set up with proper parameters) might...

    HOWEVER, you are also seeing "Hollywood" combat, where the hero's gun never runs out of ammunition and all swordsmen are invincible (except the bad guys, who die in droves) and Tom Cruise slices rifles in half. i.e. Moonshine!

    Yes, swords can be effective against wooden hafted weapons; but it's largely a matter of technique, training, practice and luck, as well as the quality of the sword and the material, position, and dynamics of the haft. The German mercenaries wielding their two-handers against the phalanx of pikemen were given extra pay, considered very brave, and were also thought to be a little crazy.

    Note that wooden weapons did not disappear from the battlefield, and back in the early '70s we were taught a number of useful moves at Quantico with our entrenching tools. But, in general, I prefer an axe.
    Retired civil servant, part time blacksmith, seasonal Viking ship captain.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2007
    Kingston area, Ontario Canada
    Bruce has the only answer that is effective, the axe.
    Typically miraculous cutting events happen in the movies because it's "in the script".
    No sword was made to cut up opponents weapons, just their meat and bone. Besides who would damage an opponents weapon that you will later own?
    Japanese swords are not better at cutting than other swords designed to cut more than thrust. They have good blades but are not spring steel that can take more abuse.
    No sense comparing Japanese swords to other swords either, Japanese swords are considered quite an art form with a soft core, harder exterior and hardened edge. Most other blades are a spring steel, some damascus.


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