The Angon

Roland Martel

The German javelin, called an 'angon', was in common use amongst the Franks in the fifth and sixth centuries A.D. It bears a very close resemblance to the Roman javelin or light pilum. This resemblance leads many experts to believe that the angon is modeled after the Roman weapon. Since the Germans were very keen on imitating almost anything Roman, and since large numbers of German warriors were serving with the Roman army since the fourth century, the angon could very well be the Germanized pilum.

Like the pilum, the angon used mild steel to form the head on the long bar that connected the head to the shaft. The blade shape varied from the basic leaf shape to barbed points. The angon construction made it difficult to withdraw from shields, giving it the same effect in battle as the Roman pilum.

In the first test of my angon against a wooden target, I found it extremely difficult to remove the angon only by using my legs to push against the target. I discovered that the first inch of the blade had bent after entering the wood, locking the angon in place. The design described below uses a tang rather than a socket to attach it to the haft. The socket is more correct for the weapon, but a tang is much more easily made with simple tools. If you feel adventurous, go ahead and make the socket. I leave it to you to figure out how. (Editor's Note: Perhaps a socket from a garden implement could be used to slide over the riveted connection, giving it additional support.)

Building the angon...

To anneal the bar, heat the area being worked with the torch until a dull red glow appears. Then let it cool slowly.

To begin, form a point on one end of the bar. A point is drawn with hammer blows directed along the axis of the bar. Form the point square; in the next step it will take a blade shape. When done the taper should be about 1 ½ inches long.

Now form the point into a short blade. To do this, flatten the point and about two more inches of the bar into a leaf shape, about 3½ to 4 inches long. After setting the initial shape, begin directing the hammer blows at the edges so as to taper them. The head should become diamond shaped in cross-section. After forming the basic blade shape you may file or grind the head to improve the shape and remove hammer marks. For safety's sake do not try to put an edge on the blade yet.

Form a tang by flattening the opposite end of the bar. Try to maintain an even thickness throughout the tang.

Prepare the wooden shaft by first tapering the last two thirds of it down toward the butt. This treatment improves the balance and aerodynamics of the weapon. Saw a slot in the head of the shaft. Make the slot wide enough to fit the tang of the blade. With the tang held firmly in the slot, drill two holes through the whole assembly to receive the rivets. Now sand the shaft thoroughly.

If any heat treatment is intended for the blade, do it before the blade is riveted to the shaft. Many weld shops can perform heat treatments even on low-carbon steel. After heat-treating the blade, rivet it to the wooden shaft. Now it's safe to sharpen the blade.

Take care not to split the wood while riveting. Usually this will only happen if the rivet bends. To avoid bending the rivet, make sure it is not too long. The length of rivet left after passing through the material being riveted should be about the same as the rivet diameter. If you use cut nails for rivets, anneal the nails before using them.

Back to Early Period #7 | Back to Early Period Index | Back to PastTimes