When we recreate a weapon from the past there are always decisions and compromises to make regarding which historic example to use as a model and what material to make it out of. We constantly evaluate these decisions and make new design decisions based on factors such as cost, demand, and how modern consumers want to use these historical replicas. In the case of our Celtic Spear we've decided to make a significant change by offering it in hardened steel.
Celtic spear and original spearpoint from the Oakeshott Institute Collection
We have previously produced these spears in a non-hardened state, a decision we made for several reasons. First off, most historical spears of this type were probably made of iron, not hard steel. Spears made of non-hardened steel behave similarly to examples made of iron. They are not brittle and they are unlikely to break when they strike something hard or when the point sticks into a target and is subjected to significant stress from the sagging weight of the haft. Instead, these spearheads will bend if overstressed. This was probably desirable in many historical examples. A bent spear point can be readily fixed in the field while a broken point might render the weapon largely useless. Additionally, most people who buy a spear today use it for target practice, reenactment, or to hang it on the wall. In particular, modern people seem to like to throw spears at trees -- an activity that puts a lot of stress on the point of the spearhead.
Hardening a Celtic Spear in Vegetable Oil
Despite these reasons for using soft steel, there are also many good reasons for hardening spear points. First, there were also plenty of examples of higher status spears with hardened points and edges, and we've always really loved them. Hardening the blade of the spear allows the weapon to hold a better edge and to resist permanent bending due to its spring qualities. Historically, hard steel spears would likely have been higher status weapons that were of much higher value than those made of iron.
The Quenched Spearpoint Tempering Out To the Edge
Hard steel spearheads perform better against live targets and much better against armored adversaries because the sharper edges can aid in penetrating textiles, leather, and maille. Check out our video in which we explain the new hard spear, how and why we are offering it, and explore its capabilities by stabbing it into a sheet of 14 gauge mild steel. Check out the product page here: Celtic Spear.
Nathan Clough, Ph.D. is Vice President of Arms and Armor and a member of the governing board of The Oakeshott Institute. He is a historical martial artist and a former university professor of cultural geography. He has given presentations on historical arms at events including Longpoint and Combatcon, and presented scholarly papers at, among others, The International Congress on Medieval Studies.
Craig Johnson is the Production Manager of Arms and Armor and Secretary of The Oakeshott Institute. He has taught and published on the history of arms, armor and western martial arts for over 30 years. He has lectured at several schools and Universities, WMAW, HEMAC, 4W, and ICMS at Kalamazoo. His experiences include iron smelting, jousting, theatrical combat instruction and choreography, historical research, European martial arts and crafting weapons and armor since 1985.