Replacing the Army Spade Finial

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Finial = the topper/ornament of a flagstaff

Flagstaff = the guidon staff carried by a color guard member

Active Duty and Reserve US Navy and US Coast Guard color guards are required to have the battle-ax, also called a Battalion Lance, as their primary finial, according to NTP 13B, Flags, Pennants and Customs (download from the Resources page). The silver spade is mandatory as the finial on the unit guidon.

For NJROTC units, it is up to the Naval Science Instructor whether to switch from the Army spade finial. It is a local purchase. Sea Cadets is the same. However, the Navy standard is the brass colors battle-ax.

For maritime-based first responder agencies with their own color guard, it might be fitting to use the battle-ax finial as an historical reference for the team. Of course, the spade finial is always appropriate for these agencies.

The battle-ax is solid brass and gold in color. Ultimately, this means you would want the upper ferrule (A), screw joint (C), and lower ferrule (D) the same color. That means a separate set of staffs that have gold colored metal for use in Navy-only and Navy-Coast Guard work. When working with the Army, Marine Corps, Air Force, or Space Force, you must have staffs with silver colored metal and the flat, silver Army spearhead finial. Colonial Flag and Glendale Parade Store sell staffs with gold and silver colored metal, but both only come with the spade finial and you still need to replace the gold colored spade with the battle-ax.

The metal color is never addressed in any Navy manual. The only guidance I have been able to obtain is by getting a tour of the Navy Ceremonial Guard equipment. The majority of their staffs, for Navy-only, and joint Coast Guard work, have brass colored metal for the middle screw joint and both ferrules since all the finials are brass. They also have several staffs for joint service when working with the Army, Marine Corps, Air Force, and Space Force that have silver colored metal with the flat, silver Army Spearhead attached.

This leads me to believe that the intention of the Navy was to have all brass colored metal for the staffs. This makes historical sense since metal aboard ship was all solid brass. I don’t think that’s a stretch in thinking.

You may want to read the article, All About the Color Guard and The Why of the Color Guard: Marine Corps, Navy, & Coast Guard.

On the Glendale Parade Store website, this finial is listed as the Battalion Lance (Battle Ax): Perfect-Fit Ornament, the SKU is 13GE. It’s made for the dark brown staffs which are not authorized. The Traditional Fit Ornaments do not work for this replacement procedure. They do not fit on guidon flagstaffs.

The state of Maryland requires the Botonee Cross (pictured at right) as the finial for the MD flag. The Perfect Fit SKU for the Botonee Cross is 83GE. Use the same procedures as below.

Texas requires a star or spear.

How to Attach the New Finial (in this case, the Battle-ax)

First, remove one of the screws holding the spade on the staff. You then need to push the small threaded barrel out with a screwdriver or something similar.

I use a claw hammer to fully extract the rest of the barrel and the other screw.

You will see that the threads on the battle-ax are quite long and I’m not sure why. It doesn’t really seem necessary. The length of the finial’s thread post means that the finial and upper ferrule will not fit as you can see in the pictures below.

Here, you see that It’s just over a half-inch that I need to remove either from the finial thread post or the tip of the staff. I chose to take 3/4 of an inch off of the top of the staff.

I suggest not using the eye screw to attach the battle-ax, that does not present a professional image. Get a screw to attach it, but there are some modifications you must make. Here are two options for screws. I found that either screw worked, but the screw at the bottom fit perfectly.

You may want to try using the Guidon Staff Repair Kit. In order to have the screw fit well, I used my drill to create a counter-sink, which is a concave bevel that allows the screw head to fit flush with the ferrule side. I put an old cloth in the vice.

Here, I used a fine-tooth saw to remove the inside tip of the staff. The one thing that is a slight concern for me is that there is only one hole (I drilled the smaller, starter hole in the picture below for the battle-ax) in the ferrule side for the battle-ax, and for a spade, there are two holes (the larger hole, below) and two screws.

The new ferrule is loose, so I wrapped blue painter’s tape around the base of the tapered part of the staff, pushed the drill bit through the tape, slid the battle-ax on, which fit snugly with the tape, and inserted the screw. The finished product is the large picture at the top of this article.

I tried shaking the battle-ax loose and could not do it. It’s not going anywhere. The wood screw that I used is relatively long so, drilling through the ferrule to make another hole and insert another screw would work to secure it even more, but that hole would have to be at a different level and, as you can see from this last picture, there is very little room and the integrity of the tip of the staff might be jeopardized inserting another screw there. When traveling, I highly suggest that you unscrew the battle-ax finial and place it in a bag to avoid damaging anything.

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