During my search for a way to mount a metal spearhead (iron) to a wooden shaft (ash) with acceptable historical correctness, I stumbled upon a short note (german only, sorry) speaking of a glue made from beeswax and stone meal, that was (allegedly) designed for this purpose.

I have little means to judge the correctness of this assertion and to conjecture about the exact mixture (which stone type, which volume ratio, etc.), but the source appears to be credible enough to be worth asking for more details, which I couldn't find anywhere.

Any historically motivated craftsmen around here which could provide a bit more info, or an educated guess?

Side node: It seems that glues from animal extracts were far more common and hence, would most likely be historically "more" accurate, but I fear the smell. Of course I could also use birch or pine tar, but I'm curious now about this beeswax-stonemeal-thing.

up vote 8 down vote accepted

Skimming the German article you link to, there's another key word -- Ägypter or Egyptians.

In that context a search for "egyptian beeswax stone glue" is instructive. Lap Shear and Impact Testing of Ochre and Beeswax in Experimental Middle Stone Age Compound Adhesives, P. R. B. Kozowyk et al., PLOS one, Mar 2016 tests some pine rosin + beeswax + ochre glues. It's open access so free to read. The references may also be of interest. While they test a number of formulations, all used rosin (pitch) as a base ingredient. This is very similar to Cutler's resin which is still used, and in which beeswax is used to make it more flexible (this link says that ancient Egyptians used pine pitch glue in trapping birds, implying that they knew about pitch).

This Reuters article also mentions in passing the use of beeswax to soften pitch.

The German word Pech -- pitch -- appears in your original article (in the compounds Erdpech -- asphalt -- and Birkenpech -- birch pitch or more common birch tar) but in a European rather than Egyptian context.

I guess it really depends a lot on your spearhead and which epoch you want to recreate, but to be historically accurate with an e.g. 10th century European spear, the metal smith would prepare the spearhead with a socket and attach it to the handle (perfectly carved to sit perfectly in the socket) with one or more metal pins.

Glue (as in with the Egyptian razor mentioned in the article you linked to) works in that case because a razor is used gently - never with violence or jammed into something that doesn’t like getting stabbed - many glues before the 20th century were very brittle and would crack on impact. Prehistoric spears might use a bitumen / pitch glue and sinew, but then they wouldn’t be using iron, but that is implied in the article you linked to. (100,000 years ago people just weren’t smelting ore - their hunting tools were stone...)

Ötzi’s copper axe (from about 5000 years ago) used glue and leather strapping:

otzis ace

  • I accepted the answer from Chris H because it actually answers pretty good what I asked for (information about glue from beeswax and stone meal). Nonetheless, I wanted to point out that the information from this answer here was incredibly valuable for me, because it referred to the hook of my original question (a way to mount a spearhead historically correct) and thereby made me realize that I was completely on the wrong track. I wish I could mark more than one answer as accepted here. – Wanderer Jul 4 at 17:58
  • @Wanderer - no worries mate. I don’t care about the points, just helping out. The other answer sort of dealt with your question, but I was afraid if you only got that perspective you would actually go down the wrong rabbit hole. If you like, just ask a a new question and I will post the answer there too. :) – Nothingismagick Jul 4 at 21:50
  • No no, this won't solve the problem. The new question could trigger multiple high-quality answers again, and then I will feel even worse not being able to mark them all as accepted, because I will have stolen other peoples time for answering a question I already knew a good answer for. :( – Wanderer Jul 5 at 18:01

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