Friday, October 21, 2016

Gothic Mace Project

I apologise for the long delay in posts. I've been very busy over the last several months and just haven't had time. While I have in fact several draft posts that are 80% or even 90% ready, I just haven't been able to push one past the finish line for awhile, until now.

I actually completed this one awhile back, but am only just getting around to discussing it. Below are a pair of maces, the bottom one being in the "original" configuration (except the grip which was re-wrapped) and the top one heavily reworked to be more historically correct. The modified one was bought used off of e-Bay and was in need of significant TLC. These are both very early Arms & Armor examples of this type (c. 1986), and have since been replaced with a more accurate model based more closely off of A978 in the Wallace Collection.

Indeed, when I received it, I discovered that the weld bead that held the head (which was screwed on to the end of the shaft) had failed at some point, and been glued (!?) in place. I was stunned to see that! I have no real explanation as to how this happened - the previous owner professed no knowledge of it, and I tend to believe him. Weird. However, it made my rework much easier, since I was able to simply unscrew the head and get to business!

For the project I made several changes to the original mace. In outline, I reworked the head to make it look more like Wallace A978, grinding and filing decorative cutouts onto the flanges, and generally polishing and cleaning up the detail. The haft was rather crude and in rough shape; it was bent, had an uneven twist, and was marred with unsightly grind marks that had not been properly cleaned up. A fair amount of effort went into straightening and polishing it. Worst of all, the guard and pommel discs were simply tack welded to the hexagonal shaft, as opposed to forging/grinding down the grip area of the shaft to make a period correct tang for the weapon. I corrected all of these faults before reassembling and having the head professionally rewelded back onto the haft.

Step by step, the first work was on the head, which involved mostly grinding, but also a lot of hand filing to get all of the little "flourish" details put in, as seen in these pictures:

There was also a fair amount of clean up to remove unsightly grind marks and other work to crisp up some features that were not executed as well as they could have been. Then, I reworked the grip/hilt area, removing the guard disks and creating two copper alloy bits, one for the divider between the haft and the guard, and a peen block in the form of a thick six-petaled "flower." The grip area was ground down to make more of a tang as one would find on a sword - there is a battle axe shown in one of Oakeshott's books that features this method of construction, complete with a wheel pommel.

The grip was done in two halves, glued in place, bound with a leather thong, and then covered in thin leather dyed in an oxblood shade. The following pictures show the hilt both in progress and after completion:

So there you have it! A very ambitious project, that came out pretty well. Were I to do it over again I would make a few minor changes, the most significant being a slimming down and reshaping of the grip, with a goal of making it hexagonal in cross-section, a detail I noted in close up photos of A978 that I have seen subsequent to completing this project. Otherwise, this is an excellent example of the grim yet beautiful arms of the late Middle Ages and early Renaissance. One can certainly smite with great authority with this mace! Couple more pix of the finished weapon:

By the by, this mace is for sale - $450 shipped anywhere in the Continental U.S. (other locations we would need to discuss). Any interested parties feel free to contact me in the comments section.

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