Info Favorites Register Log in
myArmoury.com Discussion Forums

Forum index Memberlist Usergroups Spotlight Topics Search
Forum Index > Off-topic Talk > Noobie question #2: Various types of shields - pros and cons Reply to topic
This is a standard topic  
Author Message
Gene Green





Joined: 13 Mar 2007

Posts: 62

PostPosted: Mon 17 Nov, 2008 7:49 pm    Post subject: Noobie question #2: Various types of shields - pros and cons         Reply with quote

This is probably an over-generalization (since there were various types of shields at the same given period of time). But the most common types in medieval Europe (based on various artwork I've seen) seem to have progressed from round to kite to heater to pavise and round again.

What I am trying to understand is why a particular type of shield was getting so popular at some given time ?

E.g. what makes a triangular shield (kite or heater) better / more useful than round or rectangular ?

Why did the kite developed into a heater ? What was the advantage of one over another ? Kite seems like a perfectly workable design.

Why, during Renaissance, there seems to be a newfound interest in round shields ? What makes them so appealing all of a sudden ?
View user's profile Send private message
Bill Tsafa




Location: Brooklyn, NY
Joined: 20 May 2004

Posts: 599

PostPosted: Mon 17 Nov, 2008 8:55 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

This topic has come up before so I will copy and paste some of my old posts. It should give you some place to start your study and you can continue from there. You should be able to pick out a lot of useful information with regard to shield use.

Let me list and classify the main shields types. The significant characteristic that defines them is how you block with them and how much help you need from your sword to block. There is no hard rule as to their exact size and their characteristics can be somewhat mixed.

1-Heater-(24"x36") shield near 100% defense and sword near 100% offense. Corners are vital to blocking and when pointed up offer a deflecting surface.

2-kite- (22"x40") No top corners so you must punch block or sword-block to cover your head.

3-round- (24") no bottom corner so sword has to do more defending then kite

4-targe- (18") smaller then round so sword has to do even more defending.

5-buckler- (10") sword has to do even more defending then with targe. At this point the sword is almost on 100% defense. You have to be very conscience of closing off incoming angles of attack with your sword as you attack.

6-two handed weapon- The sword or polearm is your only shield and must close off incoming angles of attack in every instance it attacks.

The pattern you see in the manor I have have listed these is that as you move from large shield to smaller one, the sword must be dedicated more and more to defense. With larger shields you have to actively work your offense around your shield (not move the shield out of the way of the sword). This takes a lot of training to do. Without doubt a large shield will restrict you offense in favor of defense.

It is interesting to observe that while the smaller shields give more range of motion, and thus easier offensive capability, they are also self-restricting in that they become more and more dedicated to defense.

Some wild cards here are a scutum (square) and two-weapon forms. I classify a scutum in the same category as a kite. The reason is because the scutum gives good leg protection (like kite) but is too bottom heavy to efficiently bring the top corner up to block your head (like heater), so you have to do some sword blocking for your head. So a scutum defense is more kite-like. A coffin shield would also require a similar sword defense as a kite. I have seen people use hand-pavise as both kite and heater, so it all comes down to how you use it and how much sword blocking you have to do to supplement.

I regard two-weapon forms (two swords, two axes, mixed) in the same category as buckler. After all the buckler makes a good iron-fist for punching too. It is a similar situation where both hands are almost 100% dedicated to defense. So it appears to me that two-weapon forms are more buckler-like in their defense.

Just to expand on the heater... I mentioned that it can be near 100% defense and sword near 100% offense. This is the standard I gave above. One option that I use is to also use the sword for added defense when it is not attacking. Now the sword will can be on 95% defense except for that moment that it is actually attacking (shield still near 100% defense). This is done by fighting from a guard with the sword blade blocking the opening on the right side of the shield or above it. The sword attacks from there and returns to there. The effectively gives 195% turtle defense. The only way to really hit a person is to time your attack to strike as he attacks or try to turn him.

note: there are some very good reasons to also fight from a "sword back" position and a shield. You can use the shield to hide the position of the sword. You can also generate more power. This might be useful with a heavier sword, mace or axe.

Heaters


Kites


Oval


Rectangular


Round/Wankel


Now consider Center grips verse forearm strapped shields.

Center Grip shields are a different fighting style then the ones strapped to the forearm. Center grips are typically used in a punch-block method. They attempt to stop blows where they originate, their opponents shoulder. They tend to be smaller and lighter to tire the arm less because they are fought more extended (or at least make some extended actions). They don't necessarily stop a shot dead in its tracks. The shield-arm gives to absorb the blow from its extended position. A forearm strapped shield is usually heavier because it is stopping the blows at their destination. At this point the blows have had time to accelerate to full momentum and power.

There are advantages and disadvantages to every shield type and their associated fighting style. A large center grip can be very unstable, especially when I start hitting and poking at the edges. They are a lot easier to safely hook because they are fought so extended. When a forearm strapped shield hooks a center grip, the fight is usually over. One way that center grip fighters stabilize their shields is to support it with either the shoulder or sword-hilt (or both in a charge). This reduces the offense and defense capabilities. A center-grip can give some additional offensive options over a forearm strapped shield.

I have seen some very effective use of light center grips. There are no good or bad shields, just different ones. They each have their own fighting style.

Focusing on why people adapted to one shield vs another. I think that kites were popular early on because they covered more of the body when wearing mail or light armor. Getting hit over mail can still break bones or bruise a muscle to the point of immobility. By 1250 they started wearing greaves with their mail and using shorter heaters that favor more head defense. So they might have felt a little more at ease with greaves and knowing that the lowlegs can be hard to hit because of range issues. I also find that shorter shields like heaters make it easier to get over things like bodies laying on the ground. After the 1300's you see the rise of cities and merchants. In a city it is generally more convenient to have a smaller buckler as you walk the town. In the country a noble rides a horse and you can easily hang all sorts of larger things on the horse.

No athlete/youth can fight tenaciously who has never received any blows: he must see his blood flow and hear his teeth crack... then he will be ready for battle.
Roger of Hoveden, 1174-1201
www.poconoshooting.com
www.poconogym.com
View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website AIM Address
D. Austin
Industry Professional



Location: Melbourne, Australia
Joined: 20 Sep 2007

Posts: 208

PostPosted: Mon 17 Nov, 2008 10:09 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Without being an expert on shields, I would hazard a guess that it may have been a compromise between practicality and fashion.

Round, I guess, is an obvious shape for a shield to run around with, and not be too irritated by. It would make sense to me that a kite shape would then allow better protection for the lower part of the body and thus, may be a natural evolution. A heater shape would be similar but perhaps more manageable, particularly on horseback. After this period, we see a sharp decline in the use of shields, probably due to the choice of weapons of the time. When the shield was used during the renaissance, I have a feeling that the round shape may have been a harkening back to the days of old, similar to the use of Roman or Corinthian style armour.

Disclaimer: This is all purely speculation.

On a better researched note, there is a feature article on shields here at myArmoury but I'm not sure that it goes into too much detail with the "why" of shield evolution:

http://www.myArmoury.com/feature_shield.html

Darren.
View user's profile Send private message
Gene Green





Joined: 13 Mar 2007

Posts: 62

PostPosted: Fri 21 Nov, 2008 6:46 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks - lots and lots of info !

Vassilis - would I be correct thinking that what made kite different from heater was not the round top but rather size ? The kite #9 looks a lot like a heater, but I assume it's longer & protects most of the body.

BTW, judging by some artwork I saw, the kite had survived in Eastern Europe until late 1400s, and the heater was very rare.
View user's profile Send private message
Bill Tsafa




Location: Brooklyn, NY
Joined: 20 May 2004

Posts: 599

PostPosted: Fri 21 Nov, 2008 9:31 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Gene Green wrote:
Thanks - lots and lots of info !

Vassilis - would I be correct thinking that what made kite different from heater was not the round top but rather size ? The kite #9 looks a lot like a heater, but I assume it's longer & protects most of the body.

BTW, judging by some artwork I saw, the kite had survived in Eastern Europe until late 1400s, and the heater was very rare.


You are correct Gene. The most important characteristic of shield classification is not its appearance, but how it is used. 8,9,10 in a 38" length or more are all bottom heavy. Even if it has top corners it is bad leverage to tilt a corner up and block as you would a heater. #8 is interesting because in a 32" length or less it functions very much like a round shield with a little extra leg protection.

If you shorten #9 it begins to act as a heater. As you loose weight off the bottom, you can more comfortably tilt the corner up and block with it.

I use a #3 heater and I am most familiar with it. I am anxious to try a #13 kite one of theses days. I am certain that that design can balance the length and width is such a way that it can be used as a heater or kite. I also suspect that if I do this I will find that it will not work very well as either. As a heater I would tilt the forward corner up to block my head. That leaves my leg very exposed because on this shield type there is less length below the forward corner to block the leg. As kite I would hold it center with the top middle corner blocking my head and shift it back an forth. The leg is covered because the shield is held lower in this manor. It leaves a lot of openings to your head and requires supplemental sword blocking. In order to make it workable as a heater or kite, I would have to shorten the length so that it would be too short for an ideal kite. That same #13 with a very shallow top-point will work better as a heater. So I think a person must decide what he wants and go with it. I wanted to bring out how shield use is the main defining characteristic from which shields used in the same manor are called the same.

Historically, I suspect what shield type people used was a regional consideration. It makes the most sense to use whatever weapons or shields the people around you are using because they can train you in their use. If everyone has rounds and you want to use a heater, there won't be anyone to tell you how to strike around your own shield. You'll hit your own corners as you strike. Likewise if everyone is using heaters and you use a round, the blocks they show with the corners won't work if you don't have corners. When it comes to training, at least initially, you have to follow the pack.

No athlete/youth can fight tenaciously who has never received any blows: he must see his blood flow and hear his teeth crack... then he will be ready for battle.
Roger of Hoveden, 1174-1201
www.poconoshooting.com
www.poconogym.com
View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website AIM Address
Lafayette C Curtis




Location: Indonesia
Joined: 29 Nov 2006
Reading list: 7 books

Posts: 2,689

PostPosted: Sat 22 Nov, 2008 6:53 am    Post subject: Re: Noobie question #2: Various types of shields - pros and         Reply with quote

Gene Green wrote:
Why did the kite developed into a heater ? What was the advantage of one over another ? Kite seems like a perfectly workable design.


It seems like the top got chopped off the kite because more protective helmets (the great helm?) supplanted the curved upper part's role in protecting the lower half of the face, while the lower point got shortened when the adoption of plate greaves/schynbalds(?) removed/reduced the need for the shield to protect the lower leg. In fact, the kite shield seems to have remained in use somewhat longer among troops who didn't have extensive lower-leg protection, mostly infantry forces.

Where did I read about that, I wonder? Oakeshott? Nicole? The time is long overdue for me to go and reread my old favorites....
View user's profile Send private message
Bill Tsafa




Location: Brooklyn, NY
Joined: 20 May 2004

Posts: 599

PostPosted: Fri 28 Nov, 2008 9:19 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Here is a very interesting video on shields that includes tests on traditionally made shields of the 10 th century.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VsZnTCQptWc


The key points are:

0:53 Thick cow skin used to cover both sides. That skin looks like 10oz. Thick leather adds a lot of weight.

1:28 1/8 thick limewood sandwiched between 10 oz rawhide. This is probably heavier the 1/4 plywood without any leather.

3:09 Small shield is heavy for its size. I'm guessing at least 6 lbs.

3:46 1/8 shield gets destroyed by arrow and thrown axes. I estimate that shield at about 2.5 lbs. This shield is completely useless.

4:40 Rawhide covered shield protects against light weapons but not heavy ones.

5:50 Heavy duty shield protects against mass-weapons.[/b]

No athlete/youth can fight tenaciously who has never received any blows: he must see his blood flow and hear his teeth crack... then he will be ready for battle.
Roger of Hoveden, 1174-1201
www.poconoshooting.com
www.poconogym.com
View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website AIM Address


Display posts from previous:   
Forum Index > Off-topic Talk > Noobie question #2: Various types of shields - pros and cons
Page 1 of 1 Reply to topic
All times are GMT - 8 Hours

View previous topic :: View next topic
Jump to:  
You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot vote in polls in this forum
You cannot attach files in this forum
You can download files in this forum






All contents © Copyright 2003-2018 myArmoury.com — All rights reserved
Discussion forums powered by phpBB © The phpBB Group
Switch to the Basic Low-bandwidth Version of the forum