Sunday 12 June 2022

If Swedes and Pigs could fly?

In this blog entry I introduce Swinefeathers, also known as Swedish Feathers, to my 17th century Swedish army. 

28mm Swedish musketeers protected by Swinefeathers from Warlord.  Figures from Warlord, Foundry, Perry & TAG.

“By the one end it is made fast in the ground in such a manner that the other may lay out so it may meet the breast of a horse where by a body of musketeers is defended as with a palisade against the rude charge of a squadron of horse…” from James Turner’s 1683 book ‘Pallas Armata, Military Essayes of the Ancient Grecian, Roman and Modern Art of War’.


Swinefeathers, or Swedish Feathers, were portable stakes used by shot armed foot in the 17th century to create temporary defences against mounted troops.  The idea of missile armed foot troops using some form of defences against charging cavalry was not a new idea in the 17th century. I’m sure that many of you will immediately think of Henry V’s army at Agincourt with the English and Welsh bowmen using stakes to help defend themselves against the French mounted knights. 

By the 17th century musket armed infantry were of course still vulnerable to enemy cavalry. Although their pike armed colleagues where intended to be one form of defence against cavalry, the idea of these pre-prepared stakes was re-introduced during Prince Maurice’s military reforms at the turn of the 16th and17th century.  Each stake was made of a stout, thick pole, between 4 and 6 feet long, with a metal point at one end to aid planting it in to the ground, and a metal spear-point at the other with which to fend off the enemy.  It may have got the name ‘Swinefeather’ because of it’s similarity to a boar-spear; a very stout spear used in the hunting of wild boar. 

The Swedes, who were fighting the fearsome cavalry of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in the early 1600s, needed ways to defend their musketeers. They appear to have been early adopters of Swinefeathers, and Gustav Adolf ordered enough Swinefeathers to equip 8 regiments of infantry in the early 1620s.   It was probably because of this adoption that Swinefeathers also became know as ‘Swedish Feathers’.

Swinefeathers, based separately to the musketeers, on 60mm x 40mm bases.

Technical Details

Although Swedish/Swine Feathers are mentioned in a number of military treaties of the time we know frustrating little about the details of their construction and use.  From the descriptions of them in the treatises, and from some tantalising 1/6 scale contemporary models that have survived, we have some idea of how they may have looked.  One interesting feature is the possibility that in some form the stakes incorportated a feature that allowed them to be used in the dual role as either a musket rest, or as a stake. While this makes sense in reducing the number of things a musketeer was expected to carry, it does rather limit functionality as while placed in the ground as a stake, it couldn’t be used as a rest to allow the musketeer to continue firing, and vice versa. 

Use In Action

There use in actual engagements is quite difficult to come across. Charles Singleton has written a very interesting piece ( that describes their use in the British Civil Wars.  The Kadrinazi blog, by Michal Paradwoski, also has some excellent references for the use of Swinefeathers ( ).

A modern interpretation of a Scottish musketeer carrying a Swinefeather. (From Military Modelling, 1978, I think!)

It was following reading about their use at the battle of Mewe / Gniew in 1626 between The Swedes and Poles that I started to think about how I might represent them on the miniature battlefield.  In this battle Gustav Adolf needed to operate his musketeers without their protective pikemen because of difficult ground.  To provide the musketeers with some defence, it appears that this was an occasion when the Swedes issued their musketeers with Swinefeathers.  Although there are no details of their use or impact in the battle, it is interesting to note (from the Kadrinazi blog) that an Engineer in the Polish army, Wendelin Schildknecht, who served in this war against the Swedes writes about the use of Swinefeathers. He comments on the effectiveness of the Swinefeathers against the Polish cavalry and goes on to say that he was surprised the Swinefeathers were only used for a couple of years by the Swedes.  He’s not sure why their use stopped, other than perhaps the inconvenience of expecting the musketeers to carry the extra encumbrance. 

Modelling Feathers

I suppose the easiest solution would have been to grab some wooden cocktail sticks and to have used these to represent Swedish Feathers.  However, I remembered that  Warlord Games have some rather lovely looking Swedish Feathers available in their 28mm Pike & Shotte range (  These look to be based on the 1/6 scale surviving models, and include the ‘musket rest’ feature. Even though I’m not convinced that they were used in a dual role, these white metal models were too nice not to use! An order to Warlord HQ was swiftly followed by the delivery of a good supply of Swedish Feathers. 

Pack WGP-ARM-05 from Warlord Games 28mm Pike & Shotte range.

Deciding how to field them took a bit of thought and experimentation.  As far as I know there is no account of how they were placed when in the ground, or how many were used to cover a particular frontage of infantry.  I decided to have as many ‘feathers’ as I had figures in a unit of shot, and to have them deployed, also like my figures, in two ranks.  It looked sensible, and also looked more attractive, to have them staggered.  

Blue tacked on to a 40mm x 20mm base as an experiment.

Trying Swinefeathers in front of a unit of shot. The larger bases are 60mm x 40mm.

I decided to make bases of deployed stakes that could be added on to the table, in front of units of shot, to represent deployed Swedish Feathers.  Using blue-tack I tried them on some different configurations of bases.  

  • 20mm deep bases would minimise how much space they would take up, but I was concerned they may tip over more easily, and the bendy white metal stakes would be less protected by this shallow base.
  • 40mm depth of base seemed ideal.  I suppose it would have made sense to uses 40mm square bases, the same that I use for my foot.
  • However 60mm frontage, 40mm depth allowed a compromise with reducing the number of additional bases that would need to be ‘faffed about’ with! 

I had a selection of 60x40mm, 2mm thick, MDF bases from Warbases in my hobby horde.  After a small amount of clean up, to remove flash etc., I attached the Swinefeathers to the bases.  On each base I marked by eye where each Feather would need to go so that they were evenly spaced across the base. (A cutting mat with 10mm squares helped with this.) 

Start off the whole drilling straight down.

Once the hole is started you can then drill at an angle.

Swinfeathers super glued in place.

To make a hole on the base for a Swinefeather I used a pin vice with a 0.5mm drill bit. The stakes need to be at an angle, but I found it impossible to drill at an angle in to the MDF, and so I started a perpendicular hole first, and then drilled at an angle once the hole was started.  Each small hole in the MDF base was then enlarged slightly with a round needle file, and each feather was glued in place with super glue and spray activator. 

Bases primed.

I primed the based Swinefeathers with Halfords rattle-can Camouflage Dark Brown (I don’t often use spray, but it was a nice day outside and I thought any risk to the simple stakes was minimal). This gave a nice prime and dark base coat.  I paint the pikes for my Swedish army black, based on the protective paint that is believed to have been used on them (see Lion from the North, Volume 1 by Michael Fredholm Von Essen).  It would seem logical for the Feathers to be treated in the same way, but I was worried that they might not show up very well on the table if their were black or dark grey. I therefore opted for a reddy-brown colour for the wood, and dark-metal for the metal parts. 

After a base of Flat Brown and Black Metal, added a wash of Agrax. Then highlighted with Flat Brown again, and with Lead Belcher.

Once my regular basing was added I then had sets of Swinfeathers to deploy with my Swedish units of shot.  In the next blog post I will look at their use under the Pike & Shotte rules, and also how I decided to try and ‘jazz up’ some bases.

The completed bases of Swinefeathers.

They look like they should deter enemy horsemen.

Until next time! 

Andy @ The Friends of General Haig.


  1. Amazing work on these figures and stakes!

  2. A very nice article of background and techniques. May they be useful in your tactics!

    1. Thanks, Pancerni, I am looking forward to seeing how they do on the table top 👍

  3. Those look nice and the deployed set up seems entirely feasible. As an aside I have used swine feathers as a re-enactor and they are very little different to use than a musket rest and don't create any additional encumbrance. We found that in hand to hand they could be held along side the musket with the spear point protruding beyond the musket's butt plate to give a bayonet style effect.

    1. Thanks, Elenderil 👍. That is very interesting feedback 😀.