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Socketed Spear Heads VS Tang Spear Heads


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The basic question I have is which is better... a socketed spear head or a tang spear head, and why?

With little research it can be seen that both have existed thru history, as I understand it most eastern spears were designed with a tang and it appears most western spear were socketed.  Obviously the first historic spears were made with a tang as they were stone and you can't very well carve a socket from flint, during the bonze age there was a divergence where socketing became more popular in western civilization.  I assume that this was due to the ease of casting the bronze, making a socket would be just as easy to cast as casting a tang, albeit with the know how to make the mold.  However the use of a tang spear head did not completely drop out of fashion even though those civilizations had advanced bronze casting capabilities, and this trend seemed to carry on through the iron age up to the current era, that both exist separate but equal.  This is what leads me to this question...there would be pro's and cons to both designs...for manufacture (when working with iron/steel) the tang design, obviously,  would be much easier to make than a socketed design.  Attachment to shaft the tang design would also appear to be superior as it is much quicker to split a shaft slide the tang in with some cutlers resin and wrap with rawhide/leather/sinue and maybe a nail/pin versus; having to shave down the shaft and using cutlers resin and a nail/pin attachment, I believe the latter to be very difficult during battle whilst the former being somewhat doable during a battle.  That leads us to the next category, durability and longevity, the tang design does seem to have some fall backs in this category as the split shaft is a major weakness that can easily break during battle as well as the attachment point (the weakest point) being not shielded, but I believe the socketed design has some inherent flaws as well, consider the weld seam on the socket (or weld seam at the head/socket junction)  this could be a potential major failure point if the weld is not absolutely perfect causing the weapon to be unusable and irreparable.  Lastly aesthetics, and in this category the socketed spear blows the tang spear out of the water, it's the flowing nature of the head to the socket into the properly fitted shaft is a thing of beauty versus the more cobbled together look of the tanged style. 

With all this in mind I have trouble deciding which would make the superior spear? Is there a specific mechanical advantage to either design or does it come down to personnel preference? 

Please if I have left any thing out or am incorrect in any of my research/assumptions/thoughts pipe up, I relish in hearing differing thoughts and correcting my own if they are incorrect....thanks all   

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Well, I think you are right about the weakness of the tang assembly, but I think when it comes to the socket it is important to remember that most of these tips would have been made from several pieces of steel/iron, even for the tang style, so weld failure is an issue for both styles.  I also don't think anyone has ever had time in battle to re-slot a staff for tang style spear head during a battle.  You'd be better off just fighting with the staff.  I also think attaching a socketed head would be faster, but still not fast enough.  I think the sockets are simply much more robust.  Tang style isn't necessarily "too weak" though.  Depending on use, it could be just fine.  Martial and crafting traditions could both influence what was made and used, not necessarily what was "best".  

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Not to mention most Anglo-Saxon spearheads were socketed but not welded.  They evidently thought that was good enough for the job, and I'm not about to argue with them about it.;)

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56 minutes ago, Alan Longmire said:

Not to mention most Anglo-Saxon spearheads were socketed but not welded.  They evidently thought that was good enough for the job, and I'm not about to argue with them about it.;)

How where these attached Alan? Burnt-on, glued...?

"The way we win matters" (Ender Wiggins) Orson Scott Card

 

Nos, qui libertate donati sumus, nes cimus quid constet.

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Hard to say based on the evidence, but probably just jammed on the tapered end of the shaft with a little pitch.  This is mostly on javelins and throwing spears where you really don't care if the head comes off in the target.

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Thanks Guys...Jerrod I agree that in a battle scenario it is unlikely that any sort of repair is possible, that's why I said "some what doable", perhaps could be done but probably never would in a real life scenario. 

Alan...when you say socketed but not welded I'm guessing it was a single piece of steel/iron that was formed over a mandrel or some other similar tool to form the socket either before or after forging out the spear?

And I guess I did get some what off my question...sorry rambling a bit at 5 am trying to stay awake at work :) ....but more using todays metals (monosteels) which would be a better design and why?

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Most tanged spears also have a ferrule that covers the end of the pole with the tang passes through, helping to reinforce the pole and prevent splitting.  One could simply slide a piece of pipe over the end, it wouldn't look very pretty but would serve the purpose.  Considering this, a socketed spear is just doing it all in one piece, and makes inletting the shaft to take a tang, and the tang itself, unnecessary.  Taper the end of the shaft, slide it on, and stick a nail in it, you're good to go.

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You can always make a pretty ferrule, I can't imagine you can do much with a socket. The Japanese polearms often used a tang and a ferrule, like Some wooden handled chisels I've beat on with a hammer with no failure of the tool. I have made several miniature naginata which I have used for cutting reeds. I split or saw the entire length of wood and carve in a slot for the tang, sometimes I just carve close to finished and burn it in the rest of the way. I use a ferrule where the blade meets the shaft, one close to where the tang would end but still surrounding the tang (and the wood of course), and one at the bottom of the shaft like a pommel/ferrule. 

Choosing a good piece of wood is probably more important than socket vs. tang but a perfect axe handle would still break if you hit a tree with the handle instead of the blade.

i haven't made a socketed anything so I can't say much about that, you would need a mandrel and you need to be able to forge weld which isn't a huge deal. You don't need any special tools to forge a long tang but you may need to braise the ferrules and I was never able to find much information about fitting the long tang in the shaft.

for a purely thrusting weapon the socket has proven to work just fine but if i were trying to cut anything I would go with the tang construction with plenty of support for the tang, like using multiple ferrules or a cord wrap.

I should add for tanged construction, if your polearms shaft is the same thickness and cross section all the through the middle ferrule won't stay put, just give the shaft some taper and press the middle ferrule on tight without the blade inserted.

 

what about a tanged spear with a socket length ferrule? I'm sure I've seen that somewhere... Sounds like I've got something to try out.

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Forrest: yep.  Just forge a fan shape and roll it around a mandrel.  Doesn't even have to butt up at the edges.  On most socketed spearheads the socket is at least as long as the blade, sometimes longer.  If you do a good taper you get a locking effect like a Morse taper lathe tailstock.

I have seen heavy duty framing chisels with a tang and a ferrule that looks like a socket.

As to what would be better, only you can decide for yourself.  It seems to be one of those "this is just the way we do it" things where the west tended to use sockets and the east tended to use tangs.  It worked for both cultures for a very long time, after all.

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