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Old 18th September 2008, 08:57 PM   #1
Matchlock
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Default Incendiary quarrels/arrows/crossbow bolts

I posted these as a preply to Stekemest's comment on the 1485 Bavarian arsenal inventory, but really wish to share them in a separate thread now.

So here they are, of 15th to early 16th century date.

The watercolor illustration is from an illuminated fireworks book dated 1442, showing just how they were actually made.
Mass production 460 years ago - under the critical eyes of a supervisor! Isn't that cute?

Matchlock
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Old 19th September 2008, 01:35 PM   #2
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Undoubtfully precious items.
...And the illustrations are rather cute, indeed.
Are you familiar with the process ? What part of the material are those two guys 'cooking' ?
Fernando
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Old 19th September 2008, 03:05 PM   #3
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Default Their chemical substances

The Schweizerisches Landesmuseum Zürich had them analyzed, so here they are:

1. Outer incendiary layer:
88 % sulfur
10.4 % saltpeter/potassium nitrate
1.6 % carbon

2. Inner burning mass:
13.7 % sulfur
83.5 % saltpeter/potassium nitrate
2.8 % carbon

Matchlock - well, as some of the members here have been so very nice and provided me with information by private messages, I feel that I should give my real name:

Michael
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Old 11th October 2008, 05:24 AM   #4
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These are truly amazing items. In Gilkerson's "Boarders Away II", he shows some of these in a Swedish? museum and remarks that they were one of the earliest incendiary weapons used against the rigging of ships in naval combat, circa 16th/17th century. These are extremely rare items! Are the ones pictured yours, Michael, or are they museum pics. If they are yours, I am sick with envy!!!
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Old 19th October 2008, 10:09 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by M ELEY
These are truly amazing items. In Gilkerson's "Boarders Away II", he shows some of these in a Swedish? museum and remarks that they were one of the earliest incendiary weapons used against the rigging of ships in naval combat, circa 16th/17th century. These are extremely rare items! Are the ones pictured yours, Michael, or are they museum pics. If they are yours, I am sick with envy!!!



Hi, M ELEY,

Thanks for your nice lines.

The two incendiary quarrels on top used to be in my collection until about 15 years ago when I passed them to a friend of mine who had concentrated on earliest crossbows and stuff. My field is earliest firearms.

The ones below I photographed in the Swiss National Museum Zurich, togehter with the 'recipe'.

These earliest accouterments sure range among the greatest rarissimae on earth.

Michael
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Old 20th October 2008, 05:22 AM   #6
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Amazing,indeed. Thanks for posting them, Michael. Would have loved to have had one for my collection, but just a little out of my price range, I suspect!
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Old 20th October 2008, 02:38 PM   #7
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Hi Matchlock,

Thanks for posting these. I've got to admit that I'm interested in these for intellectual reasons only, not collecting them. I have this gut-negative reaction to collecting old incendiaries and bombs, especially if they still have their original chemicals in them.

To me, the most interesting thing is that these highly reactive materials lasted as long as they did.

F

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Old 20th October 2008, 05:48 PM   #8
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Unless they were stored really, really well, I doubt that there is much to fear.
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Old 20th October 2008, 06:18 PM   #9
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Great pictures, thank you very much.
I'd like to present pictures of mine, but I have no chance of taking photos at the moment (my collection is not where I am ). I'll show them as soon as possible.
They are only the heads, though.
Peter
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Old 20th October 2008, 09:09 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by stekemest
Great pictures, thank you very much.
I'd like to present pictures of mine, but I have no chance of taking photos at the moment (my collection is not where I am ). I'll show them as soon as possible.
They are only the heads, though.
Peter


Peter, I would love to see your quarrel heads some time. The iron hafts should be very thin and threaded in order to enable the incendiary mass to glue. I used to have some, too.
Owning such heads is as good as anyone could normally and possibly do, anyway.
Michael
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Old 21st October 2008, 02:11 AM   #11
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Fearn, for the most part, I agree with Ed in that they are probably inert. That being said, I won't go putting a lit fuse down my Rev War grenado powder hole any time soon. Just read a terrible story about another collector killed trying to saw a Dahlgren shell in half. Probably inactive...but why take chances!

Peter, I would also love to see your items whenever you get the chance to post them. Thanks!

-Mark

Last edited by M ELEY : 21st October 2008 at 02:13 AM. Reason: Forgot a word!
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Old 21st October 2008, 04:44 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by M ELEY
Fearn, for the most part, I agree with Ed in that they are probably inert. That being said, I won't go putting a lit fuse down my Rev War grenado powder hole any time soon. Just read a terrible story about another collector killed trying to saw a Dahlgren shell in half. Probably inactive...but why take chances!

Peter, I would also love to see your items whenever you get the chance to post them. Thanks!

-Mark


This whole topic is really interesting! and the discussion on old ordnance being inert or not reminds me that they are still finding unexploded bombs from WWII in Europe! In childhood our family lived near an old air base, and on one adventure, my brother and I found in a field, an old WWII bomb, which was apparantly a 500 lb. practice bomb...it was empty so not heavy, and we carried it home through town. You should have seen the looks out of windows!!!! My dad grumbled and eventually put the thing in the attic. When we moved years later, he apparantly 'forgot' and left it in the attic oops!

Really looking forward to more on these old incendiaries!!! Thanks!
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Old 21st October 2008, 12:05 PM   #13
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This post on incendiaries led me to a description of a gun, The Swamp Angel, (it may have been a 32 pdr) that was used with "Greek Fire" incendiary projectiles during the shelling of the city of Charleston during the American Civil War.

http://www.awod.com/gallery/probono/cwchas/swamp.html

I am particularly amused by the passage,

"Gillmore instructed Colonel Serrell to explore the possibilities of constructing a battery in the marsh between James and Morris islands. By one account, Serrell gave the duty to a young engineer lieutenant who, after examining the salt marsh, declared the project could not be done.

Serrell informed the doubting engineer that nothing was impossible and to requisition any necessary materials. A short time later, Serrell received a request for twenty men eighteen feet tall for work in the marsh. At the same time another request was sent to the department's surgeon asking him to splice three six-foot men together to make the needed eighteen-footers."


Unfortunately, though predictably Col Serrell was not amused. He replaced the young engineer and went on to build the battery.
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Old 21st October 2008, 06:24 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bill Marsh
This post on incendiaries led me to a description of a gun, The Swamp Angel, (it may have been a 32 pdr) that was used with "Greek Fire" incendiary projectiles during the shelling of the city of Charleston during the American Civil War.

http://www.awod.com/gallery/probono/cwchas/swamp.html

I am particularly amused by the passage,

"Gillmore instructed Colonel Serrell to explore the possibilities of constructing a battery in the marsh between James and Morris islands. By one account, Serrell gave the duty to a young engineer lieutenant who, after examining the salt marsh, declared the project could not be done.

Serrell informed the doubting engineer that nothing was impossible and to requisition any necessary materials. A short time later, Serrell received a request for twenty men eighteen feet tall for work in the marsh. At the same time another request was sent to the department's surgeon asking him to splice three six-foot men together to make the needed eighteen-footers."


Unfortunately, though predictably Col Serrell was not amused. He replaced the young engineer and went on to build the battery.


Unlike Col Serrell, I am amused!
Thank you for this nice contribution, Bill Marsh!

Michael
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Old 21st October 2008, 07:07 PM   #15
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Me too Bill!
I'll have to remember that approach, well done!
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Old 21st October 2008, 07:09 PM   #16
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Default Incendiaries, 400 - 500 year old

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim McDougall
This whole topic is really interesting! and the discussion on old ordnance being inert or not reminds me that they are still finding unexploded bombs from WWII in Europe! In childhood our family lived near an old air base, and on one adventure, my brother and I found in a field, an old WWII bomb, which was apparantly a 500 lb. practice bomb...it was empty so not heavy, and we carried it home through town. You should have seen the looks out of windows!!!! My dad grumbled and eventually put the thing in the attic. When we moved years later, he apparantly 'forgot' and left it in the attic oops!

Really looking forward to more on these old incendiaries!!! Thanks!



Hi Jim,

I hope nobody has stumbled across your left back attic bomb meanwhile ... (sarcastic rolleyes, but I do not know how to add that icon).


You asked for more incendiaries, so here they are:

- incendiary quoites (Pechkraenze); there have been several of them in big auction houses over the last years, e.g. Sotheby's, London, 15 Dec 2004

- two heavy clay grenades (Tongranaten) retaining their original black powder filling and even their original wooden fuses containing a small amount of glued powder. One of the fuses is cut in half to make the powder column visible

- a small Thirty Years War iron hand grenade also retaining its original filling and wooden fuse. Note the details of the fuse!


Enjoy those extremely rare pieces!

Best, Michael
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Old 21st October 2008, 07:15 PM   #17
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Mind that the scale is in centimeters!

Michael
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Old 21st October 2008, 08:20 PM   #18
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Default Are 500 year old incendiaries inert?

I tested small quantities of powder etc. from each of my incendiary objects, as well as powder taken out of 550 year old barrels that were still loaded (!).

My experience has shown that the old black fine powder will just sizzle and sparkle a bit but will not flash up like new black powder does.

Humidity does rarely account for it as that powder had been kept under cover and away from the air for centuries. So my theory is that the respective substances (coal, sulfur and saltpeter/nitrate), all constisting only of fine powder particles, have become de-mingled over that long period of time.

As far as I know, the first experiments with thick grained powder were made no earlier than the mid 16th century.

I would like to hear your theories on that, Gentlemen; I am not a chemist.

Michael
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Old 22nd October 2008, 02:44 AM   #19
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Holy cow, Michael! You really do have some of the rarest things I've ever seen! I wasn't even aware of incendiary quoits! My favorite piece is the 30 Years War grenado with original fuse! Incredible! I've known that the later 18th century bombs had a flattened dimple on the side to keep them from rolling away in combat or in the "fighting top" of a ship, but I never realized that these earlier models had the dimple as well. Thanks so much for posting them. I'll leave your chemistry question alone (not my area).
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Old 22nd October 2008, 03:13 AM   #20
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Default Incendiary quoites

This is the description from Sotheby's sales catalog of 15 Dec 2004:
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Old 22nd October 2008, 03:16 AM   #21
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Don't they remind one a bit of donuts?!

Michael
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Old 22nd October 2008, 05:14 AM   #22
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Hi Michael,
Thank you for these fantastic rare items of ordnance! (sorry about the dumb bomb story .
Like Mark, I'd never heard of incendiary quoits either, and these items really put perspective into the warfare of the times. Whats really amazing is that these have survived, I've never even seen them in catalogs.
Outstanding material!

All the best,
Jim
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Old 22nd October 2008, 06:05 AM   #23
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Yes, donuts...the kind James Bond would be served! Don't dip in coffee!

Actually, Jim, I enjoyed your story and it's too bad you don't still have that dummy bomb. Sounds very cool. Getting back to incendiaries, I just read an interesting story from a book on Ft Macon (a Civil War fort near Atlantic Beach,NC) called "The last Shot of the Civil War". It seems that during WWII, with all the submarine activity off our coast, the U.S. Army sent down some soldiers from New York to stay at the well-preserved bunker in case of a shore invasion. A large camp was set up, with many of the soldiers staying in the walls of the fort. One cold night, the 'yankee soldiers' decided to start a fire and used an old cannon ball as an andiron.(Not being rude here. I'm a yank myself from Ohio, but have lived in NC for 20 years) The resulting explosion flung men across the room and injured one soldier. Moral of the story- don't use ordinance in a fireplace. Moral #2- Don't anger any old Confederate ghosts!
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Old 22nd October 2008, 06:24 AM   #24
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Thanks Mark! and great story on the cannonball in the fire!!!

This is a pretty interesting topic and recalls some of the items you brought up in the pirate discussions, and Gilkerson.

How were these quoits used anyway Michael ?, ignited and launched off a pole or something? I've heard of the grenades but not these.

All the best,
Jim
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Old 23rd October 2008, 12:22 AM   #25
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Hi Jim,

Sotheby's catalog description calls them QUOITES - is QUOITS American or just a modern version?

I have been told that they were set on fire and just thrown down from the town walls to welcome the enemy. As the sulfur and tar are said to splatter all around and make the flesh burn, the result must have been gruesome.

I also heard that they were stuck on poles to shed their light on fests in times of peace.

The are quite common in old German, Austrian and Swiss armories/museums and, as I wrote, sometimes could be purchased at auctions. The prices vary but are approximately 1,500 USD a piece.

I have four quoit(e)s, all of them different. I love them as they smell extremely old and dangerous giving my arms room the singular smell of an old armory. If you have ever been to the Landeszeughaus Graz, Austria, with more than 30,000 16th-17th century weapons you will know what I mean.

A friend of mine has a more quoit(e)s than I and would probably deaccession of one or two. Only the shipping will not be easy as they are rather fragile.
Anyone interested?

All the best to you,
Michael
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Old 23rd October 2008, 03:19 AM   #26
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Hi Michael,
Thank you for the explanation on the use of these. The reason the term quoit is so interesting is because it is the term used for the razor sharp discs with open centers typically associated with Sikh warriors who were deadly accurate at launching them . The Hindu term Chakra usually was used until the Sikh application became quoit.

It does sound gruesome with the magma like sulfur and tar, splattering and attaching its molten presence to flesh, reminding me of the instances in less warlike circumstances of roasting marshmallows and accidentally splashed scalding liquid.

I know exactly what you mean with that semi acrid, dank smell which propels a room as you describe into battlement times of long ago.....there is nothing else that can duplicate that wonderful smell....much like that of a room full of really old books!

I have never been to the Landeszeughaus in Graz, but I do have the book about its fantastic collections, and imagine it as a sort of arms paradise.

Thank you for sharing these Michael,

All the best,
Jim
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Old 23rd October 2008, 04:07 AM   #27
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Good mornig, Jim,

It's 6 a.m. in Bavaria and I must find some sleep.

Thank you so much for explaining the semantic derivation of "quoit" - I would never have thought that.

Such highly specified knowledge, together with the high standard of formulating your pointed sentences and using elite structure shows me to things: your wide-range and at the same time manifold top level education (certainly partly self-taught) and your extreme personal energy to accomplish the rest.

Gosh, I wish I had more of your gifts. My arms hobby has made my life too one-dimensional.

Send me some lines again, if you like.

Best wishes,
Michael
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Old 23rd October 2008, 03:24 PM   #28
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Matchlock
Good mornig, Jim,

It's 6 a.m. in Bavaria and I must find some sleep.

Thank you so much for explaining the semantic derivation of "quoit" - I would never have thought that.

Such highly specified knowledge, together with the high standard of formulating your pointed sentences and using elite structure shows me to things: your wide-range and at the same time manifold top level education (certainly partly self-taught) and your extreme personal energy to accomplish the rest.

Gosh, I wish I had more of your gifts. My arms hobby has made my life too one-dimensional.

Send me some lines again, if you like.

Best wishes,
Michael




Michael, I am very deeply honored by these very kind compliments! Thank you! If I may, just say that my only true education has been here, on these forums, and my teachers have been the members here, who like you have openly shared thier weapons, interests and observations.

Actually, the weapons themselves truly teach us, as we seek to find the answers they hold using the often subtle clues they carry. The only knowledge I have has been from following these clues, along with the others in research into nearly every conceivable avenue of history to follow the trail.
I cannot possibly imagine the collecting and studying weapons as being in any way one dimensional, especially those of the stature of those you have shared with us here! You are much too modest Michael, and I believe I speak for everyone in saying we are fortunate to have you with us.

Thank you again!

All very best regards,
Jim
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Old 23rd October 2008, 05:55 PM   #29
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Slightly off-topic, but apropo for this thread:

Last night (10/22/08), Mythbusters, the US TV program, built and fired a korean hwacha, which is basically a mobile platform for launching 200 fire arrows (powered by blackpowder rocket motors, and exploding on impact). It was worth watching, and it looks like it will be broadcast again tonight (10/23) and 11/2 in the US.

Just FYI. It's fun to see these weapons in action.
F
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Old 23rd October 2008, 10:07 PM   #30
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Default Incediary arrows in Southern Germany, 1442 and 1485

The watercolors are from the 1485 Landshut/Bavaria armory inventory of which I posted some firearms illustrations in another thread.

Note that the arrows have only one point - as Stekemest wrote, a feature preferably characteristic of South German and Austrian quarrel heads. Thank you again, Peter.

The line drawings were done in the 19th century after the famous South German Hauslab manuscript dated 1442, now preserved in The Royal Armories, Leeds. The watercolors illustrating the making of incendiary arrows posted here earlier are from the same ms. Luckily, those two pages of that book were open on display when I took the photos in the Tower in 1990.

Note that the burning mass on two of the arrows is lit, with smoke curling up. The ankle that both crossbow men and harquebusiers are aiming denotes that the projectiles are planned to cross a town wall and set the wooden tiles of the houses on fire - together with ship sails the main purpose of incendiary projectiles.

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