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"Painted pike shafts" Topic

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Sandinista02 Mar 2017 4:37 p.m. PST

I had a search but could not see anything previously posted.
My question is would pikes in late 15th/early 16th century be natural wood or painted bright colours?

I am thinking specifically for Swiss, but I have French and Italians to paint too.


Daniel S02 Mar 2017 6:00 p.m. PST

I've never seen a painted shaft in a reliable source, paint was expensive if you had to paint hundreds or thousands of shafts.

Seasoned natural wood that had been treated with oil or tar paint to prevent rot on campaign. Of course some shafts could be raw wood to represent replacement shafts or hastily made pikes.

Mako1102 Mar 2017 6:58 p.m. PST

I don't imagine paint would really be that available, or affordable, to the masses, back in the day, but could be wrong about that, I suspect.

In previous discussions, I think the general consensus is/was that most were unpainted.

wrgmr104 Mar 2017 12:08 a.m. PST

Mine are painted as wood.

Great War Ace04 Mar 2017 8:17 a.m. PST

Bare wood. A forward ranks pike would likely be destroyed/compromised in its first battle. There's no way that painted shafts would be stacked up in their thousands waiting. But I can see an elite unit with "parade" pikes for show being painted……….

Mark Plant04 Mar 2017 2:46 p.m. PST

You can image search "castle armoury" and find lots of pictures of pikes and halberds.

They all seem to be dark wood.

I don't imagine paint would really be that available, or affordable, to the masses, back in the day

And yet the Swiss managed to buy brightly dyed clothes and go to war in those.

Swiss pikemen were not poor, but reasonably well-off burghers. They could have afforded paint if they wanted it.

French Wargame Holidays05 Mar 2017 5:29 a.m. PST

The 1529 painting The Victory of Alexander the Great by Albrecht Altdorfer has various coloured pikes in the painting, one I can think of off the top of my head for a period reference


Puster Sponsoring Member of TMP05 Mar 2017 6:14 a.m. PST

Sure that there are colored pikes? I remember some red lances, but would have to check on this to be sure…

uglyfatbloke05 Mar 2017 7:10 a.m. PST

The red may just be what the artist fancied or even deterioration of the pigment, and Mark makes a good point; we should not assume that a pikeman would be poor – not by the standards of the day at least.

Matheo05 Mar 2017 2:15 p.m. PST

"Zeugbuch" of 1502 shows all pikes' shafts in bare wood.

Daniel S05 Mar 2017 6:54 p.m. PST

If there are painted pikes in the Alexanderschlacht painting I certainly can'f find them using online photos.
The close ups of the Landsknechts show plain wooden pikes



Sandinista05 Mar 2017 10:42 p.m. PST

Consensus seems to be plain wood in it's various shades.
That will do me.

That is a great painting


Great War Ace06 Mar 2017 8:43 a.m. PST

What in heck are those pikemen charging into? They look like they are holding long kebabs?! Lances with donuts on the ends?!

dapeters06 Mar 2017 9:14 a.m. PST

"Swiss pikemen were not poor, but reasonably well-off burghers. They could have afforded paint if they wanted it."

Only may be the first cople ranks, "well off" is kind of a funny term in the middle agesm, like having a change of clothes. These guys would not waste money on this.

Puster Sponsoring Member of TMP06 Mar 2017 10:56 a.m. PST

That "kebab" is not on pikes but lances. It offers some resistance to the air, making it easier to keep a lance lowered at an angle while moving.

uglyfatbloke06 Mar 2017 12:31 p.m. PST

Dapeters, the kind of men who had a military obligation or who took up arms for a living were not generally poor by the standards of the day. They could certainly afford paint (which was not all that expensive) but I can't see why they would have bothered.

Swampster07 Mar 2017 4:32 p.m. PST

Might the 'do-nuts' be fox tails? Compare Durer's knight.

Great War Ace07 Mar 2017 8:28 p.m. PST

That's an interesting technical feature for couched lance that I had never heard of before, Puster. Thanks for the reply.

Puster Sponsoring Member of TMP08 Mar 2017 4:29 p.m. PST

It also was rather rare, as depictions of real contemporary gensdarmes practically never show them. I have read somewhere that the small pennants sometimes attached to earlier knights lances served the same purpose, more then identifying the arms.

Swampster09 Mar 2017 10:38 a.m. PST

There are fox tails or similar fluffiness on the lances in e.g. the Weiss Kunig, the Schlacht im Walde and the Wolfegg Hausbuch as well as Durer and the Alexanderschlacht.
They are specifically mentioned in a contemoprary Italian letter link being used by German knights in the early-ish Italian Wars.

sausagesca10 Mar 2017 5:47 p.m. PST

Relying on period paintings has its own hazards, but it is interesting how this famous image represents Landsknecht in generally single colour outfits. I suspect this was a practical expedient but I use this approach with my Swiss and Landsknecht -- individuals don't have too many different colours but the unit is very colourful

Skull and Crown11 Mar 2017 9:40 a.m. PST

Great topic- thanks for bringing it up. I've done a lot of research on painting ships at the time, and red oxide was the go to color for things like galleys. It is color fast, cheap and protected the wood. Same reason we use it on barns. One could imagine that it could be used on pike shafts?

I for one don't mind going a bit "hollywood" on such things, as we are painting small models to be seen from a distance, a bit of color helps make things pop.
I usually go with either a light wood on the yellowish side like flames of war Green ochre, a medium warm brown like P3 beast hide, or Reaper paints Ruddy brown to get that more mahogony look.


ultimately, I use the color that makes the unit pop out the best!


Sandinista12 Mar 2017 3:46 a.m. PST

That's a nice looking unit

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