Properly hafting a spear - I can't do it

Discussion in 'Sword Discussion' started by Charlie_K, Dec 5, 2020.

  1. Charlie_K


    Jul 16, 2012
    I've made multiple attempts at sanding a wooden pole to properly fit the socket this spear head I got. And each time I've been met with complete failure.

    I've used a compass, found the center of the pole, marked out what the tip needs to be sanded to, marked where the bottom of the socket would be and masked it off. Yet no matter how hard I try, or how slow I go, my slopes and angles simply never match up. One side is always more rounded than the others, or steeper than the others, and the end result has always been an off-centered spear head that sits crooked at the end of the shaft, looking exceedingly sloppy.

    I have no tools for this beyond a 4-way wood rasp file, sand paper, and a ruler and compass. That's all I have to work with, and an apparent inability to properly recognize angles even when using a spirit level.

    If there's some secret, some special technique to sanding a round pole to get to an even, symmetrical point, I apparently don't know what it is.
  2. LEGION 12

    LEGION 12 Gold Member Gold Member

    Jan 8, 2009
    Think of sharpening a pencil spin the shaft around the tools or sandpaper , once in awhile set the head on the pole to find any high spot's . Some broomsticks you can find at any hardware store already have a tapered end .
  3. horseclover

    horseclover Basic Member Basic Member

    Nov 21, 2000
    From the other thread

    You can actually use your compass/dividers as calipers.

    If you hold the pole in one hand and turn as you stroke with the rasp, the taper will end up dead center. I did that big spear freehand and my first try, so it may be a matter of patience and experience but I find just taking things slow usually offers the best result. If you turn while you rasp, and shift the rotation one increment with each stroke, you will end up dead center.

    Good luck
  4. Charlie_K


    Jul 16, 2012
    I honestly don't know how to do that. I've searched youtube for videos on how to do stuff like this, but everyone I find either does their work offscreen so you can't see what they do, or they benefit from having access to belt sanders. Or worse, they actually have access to a lathe. Nobody seems to operate from the position of being limited to hand tools they need to keep stationary while moving the medium they're working on.

    Is it really as simple as the above makes it sound? Because I have to free-hand everything on this. I have no stationary work points at my disposal.
  5. LEGION 12

    LEGION 12 Gold Member Gold Member

    Jan 8, 2009
    Your overthinking it set it on a table and spin it while removing wood with your rasp file to a rough shape , then the same way with sand paper checking the fit until the heads is as tight as you want it .
  6. LEGION 12

    LEGION 12 Gold Member Gold Member

    Jan 8, 2009
    Was going to take a pic of mine but I can't get the head off . [​IMG]
  7. Mecha

    Mecha Titanium Bladesmith Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Dec 27, 2013
    Ahh, roll it like a rolling pin with one hand, while holding the sandpaper or rasp against the pole end?
  8. LEGION 12

    LEGION 12 Gold Member Gold Member

    Jan 8, 2009
    Yes sir keep an even keel . :)
    Mecha likes this.
  9. Richard338

    Richard338 Gold Member Gold Member

    May 3, 2005
    I was working on a handle piece of mammoth ivory the other day, trying to get the tapered ends as round as possible.
    I initially held the piece as firmly as possible and rotated it while gently contacting my belt grinder. The rough result was OK, but not perfectly round.
    I improved it by clamping it and manually doing the shoe-shine style polish with strips of paper. I rotated it in the clamp periodically and ultimately got it to work pretty well.
    60 or 80 grit paper will remove wood quickly this way.
    Last edited: Dec 5, 2020
  10. BitingSarcasm

    BitingSarcasm Basic Member Basic Member

    Feb 25, 2014
    I use knives to get a rough shape, belt sanders to get close, and the final fit is by hand. I find that the trick to a good fit is to anchor the shaft and move the sanding medium across it instead of the other way around. I use short strips of sand paper and do the “shoeshine” trick. Broken sanding belts are great for this, but rectangular sanding sheets work fine. Big sheets that you have to cut into strips often don’t have paper strong enough to shoeshine for very long. Applying direct pressure evenly is harder and more likely to wear unevenly, as is using rigid tools like files for final fit. It’s doable, but it takes practice or a little luck.

    I would check the inside of your socket, too. Shine a light inside and fish around with something straight, I use a round file. Just because it looks smooth on the outside doesn’t mean the inside is the same. I have found defects before that needed to be addressed for a tight fit. If you are getting the loose rattle, I suspect one side is a little squashed or has a bad weld. Then when you are trying to do everything by turning it smooth and perfectly conical it norms down to that smallest side, and it ends up too small. If this is the case, stop removing material with parallel motions and start removing along the grain. Mark reference points in Sharpie so you know where you are working, because you are no longer trying for symmetrical, remove material as needed to fit the irregular area.
  11. Charlie_K


    Jul 16, 2012
    That's actually something that happens during socket production?
  12. BitingSarcasm

    BitingSarcasm Basic Member Basic Member

    Feb 25, 2014
    Yep. The sockets are made by folding a flat piece of metal around a mandril, then welding the ends closed. I have noticed that they don't always clean the welds down to flush all the down the length of the open space. The first couple of inches are always fine, but as the diameter narrows there is less care taken. I had some buttcaps that had huge beads left towards the skinny end. It's not an issue that people will usually notice, but I cut part of the top off to reduce weight and the cutoff section becomes a walking stick ferrule.

    Sockets can also be round on the outside and not round on the inside, I suspect they spend a lot more time sanding and finishing the part people will see. Maybe one side of the flat metal was a bit thicker, or one side got thinned out, and now a shaft that has been beautifully tapered to fit based on outside measurements will not spin inside. I say, "Hmmm," sand off the flattened area of wood where it was obviously sticking, and try again. It sticks again, so I retaper the end to match, and now the socket rattles around on the end like a dunce cap. My solution was, and is, to mark the shaft and the socket so that I am always inserting the shaft in the same orientation. Then I can flatten the sticking area longitudinally as needed.

    This is based on a pretty small sample size, I've done this with spear heads and buttcaps maybe 8 times or so. But it works if you keep at it. One thing to remember is that the spear head won't have a super tight compression fit holding it on, it needs to be loose enough to accept glue. It will also get firmer and safer if it is pinned and or wrapped on too.
  13. Charlie_K


    Jul 16, 2012
    Well that's just wonderful.

    It's not bad enough that the staves come slanted and warped, and cost $40 a pop just to get. Or that I can't tell a good angle even when using a level. Now I've got to worry about the inside of the sockets possibly being off-kilter and throwing my efforts off even further than they already are.

    Stuff like this is very discouraging to encounter for something that's supposed to be so simple.
  14. BitingSarcasm

    BitingSarcasm Basic Member Basic Member

    Feb 25, 2014
    It’s only simple if everything works right the first time. Since this is still 2020, it’s just not gonna happen. Check out the Axe forum and look for hangs, and you will see that experienced, capable users will sometimes get an axe on a haft and end up with a WTF Happened result. Wood looks homogenous, but it’s an organic material that can have an almost perverse will to be contrary. The grain might be wider and weaker on one side and therefore weaker and easier to sand, and 2 pieces of wood from the same tree will sometimes be so different in properties that I can almost believe someone snuck in and grafted the thing.

    Another trick I use for when things aren’t making sense is to take some 200 grit sandpaper and lightly sand my fingertips and all the contact areas down to the base of my palm. I’m not saying until I bleed, just 3 or 4 light passes to take off any dead skin and wake up the rest. Your fingers can detect the difference in height of the ink on a newspaper if you let them. Touching the area I’m working on and probing the socket helps me build up a model in my head for what has to happen to get the 2 together. You may end up with Assegai length by the time you get it right, but it’s still a spear. And if you ever try to do another, it will be a lot easier the next time.
  15. GWashington1732

    GWashington1732 Basic Member Basic Member

    Jun 20, 2009
    I reccomend adopting a beaver as a pet. Give it a post to nom on and instant spear handles. :p

    Sorry, I couldn't help myself.
    Richard338 likes this.
  16. Koreyaguy


    Dec 26, 2020
    Hey guys I just got a spear for Christmas and was wondering how to sharpen it but my pop told me to use a flat file but I've never used a file before and dont know ho wss to put an edge on it cause this edge is so blunt
  17. Londinium Armoury

    Londinium Armoury

    Jun 2, 2020
    I've only hafted 1 spear in my life , into a proper spear head the way I think you are talking about, I riveted it into the wood as well and drilled through the side. It might annoy you how I did it though seeing as how precise with your measuring you are trying to be with complicated symmetry and using hand tools. I just got a angle grinder and a flap disc and did it in about 3 mins like I was sharpening a 8 ft long pencil with a power tool, then I hammered it into the socket and riveted it and sent it around to my uncle.
    The hardest part was walking down the street with an 8 ft long spear while trying to remain inconspicuous.
    Here is the spear I did, it doesn't look the best but it's straight and strong.

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