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Andres M. Chesini Remic




Location: Buenos Aires, Argentina
Joined: 17 Dec 2008

Posts: 33

PostPosted: Thu 11 Jun, 2009 3:40 pm    Post subject: Historical construction of Kite Shields.         Reply with quote

Hi!
I was doing some research on construction of shields aroud the tenth century (roughly, 8th to 12th centuries), and I found a fair amount of information about round (ie: "viking") shields -Though I couldn't find some specific procedures I was interested in- (And I'm aware that about this there's enough to discuss to fill a whole new thread), but really not much about kite shields...

I found several sites of reenactors building kite shields with plywood, wich seemed to work out fine for them, but... I'm interested on the real procedure of building, not just something that looks "quite much the same".
I was looking for some book or paper about some archeological finding, but I didn't find anything...
Wich leaded me to ask myself: There's a lot of information that one can get through images and sculptures but... is there any recovered kite shield?

I'm interested in the kind of shields depicted in the bayeux tapestry, for instance (that is, rounded top shields), but any information on other kinds will do (I guess)

Thank you all!

Andres.

"El que no viene por donde debiera, no viene a lo que dice - P. B. Palacios ~ Almafuerte"
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Hadrian Coffin
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Location: Oxford, England
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PostPosted: Thu 11 Jun, 2009 5:37 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hello,
You said you were primarily interested in the kite shaped shields from 1066 so that's what I will mainly discuss. Unfortunately there are no kite shaped shields currently in existence from this period, the earliest (I am aware of) is the Seedorf shield dating from circa 1200, the shield currently is in the triangular "Heater" shape fashionable in the 1220s. Originally the shield was kite shaped, but the rounded top was sawed off in keeping with the changing style. The shield is covered in blue leather and bears the silver lion of Arnold of Brienz. The shield is named after the Seedorf abbey founded in 1197. Arnold died in 1225, so the shield can fairly firmly be dated to around ~1200. The shield now resides in the Swiss National Museum, Zurich. I remember it was of linden wood but do not remember whether it was planked or layered.
In pre 1100 the shields seem to be only lightly concaved, but the 12th and early 13th century shields seem to have a much more drastic curve. Thoughts on the method of construction differ, some believe that the shields were planked, while others seem to think they were layered rather like plywood. It is possible the method of construction also changed with the change in shape. Many of the shields on the Bayeux tapestry seem to have a boss like earlier round shields, that combined with the mixture still of round and kite shaped shields would leave me to believe that at least the earlier pre-12th century shields were planked rather than layered. It is all conjecture though because of the paucity of finds.
The edges also seem to be edged in either leather or rawhide. I would personally guess it was thick leather rather than rawhide, if you look at the scene when the Normans are crossing the English Channel, the shields are on the outside of the ship (like on earlier viking ships). This would mean the shields would have much contact with water and sea spray, thus a rawhide edge would very quickly become soggy and moldy unless treated with some form of protection like wax. A protectent like wax would be expensive; leather (to me) seems like a more economical choice.
Just my opinion.
Best of luck,
Hadrian Happy
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Andres M. Chesini Remic




Location: Buenos Aires, Argentina
Joined: 17 Dec 2008

Posts: 33

PostPosted: Thu 11 Jun, 2009 8:04 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Since I'm interested on more primitives designs, before reading your post I was looking at earlier sources (such as "St. Edmund, King and Martyr" manuscript, the Bayeux tapestry, the Winchester Bible, and the chess figures of Lewis Island), and my impression was that even if there seems to be a progression in the concavity in the progress of time, it depended a lot on the bearer (and in the artist as well, but I left this variable aside, comparing only within the same source).
I found some strongly curved shields on early sources as well as I found a few almost flat shields on later depictions but, as you say, there seems to be a strong tendence to emphasize concavity in time (wich I must admit, never noticed before reading your post).

So, after reading your post and making some further (and rather quick) investigation online, I decided to go back to printed material, and after a while looking at some depictions of inner lining (some were clearly fabric, others look like leather, and others are of unknown material to me) I found one curious image of a shield that seems to be either covered or made of some sort plaited stripes.
I'm just guessing, but this might show just a fancy squared fabric, or it might be, indeed, plaited stripes of either cloth or leather. If it's fabric, it obviously a lining, but if it's leather, is it just a lining, or the shield itself is built out of plaited and boiled leather?
I'm looking for further information on the image (the place where I saw this is a copy of a borrowed book, so I have no bibliography of it), but this alone is astonishing to me.

Another thing that I saw here and there before and now captured my attention is a pattern of vertical irregular lines in the inside of the shield.
Are these just marks to "fill in" the drawing? Is it showing some sort of lining? Or (and this is what i preffer to believe) is it showing the streaks of the wood?
Perhaps the whole shield is carved out of one piece?
It might sound crazy, but considering the concavity, it could be cutted (I believe the propper verb might not be "cut") out the same way wood planks were (like for norse longships), just following the natural rings of the log...
I know that there were (and are, still) drums carved out of one single piece of wood (wich are made with fire, another technique wich might be as well used for the shields, I guess) so, if such a process worthed it for a recreation artifact, why wouldn't it worth it for a war artifact?

Hmm... theories... theories...



*sigh* I wish there were museums of medieval history here Worried


Andres

Pd: Forgive me for my *rather poor and* inaccurate english; technical vocabulary is not exactly what one learns at school... Blush

"El que no viene por donde debiera, no viene a lo que dice - P. B. Palacios ~ Almafuerte"
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Michael S. Rivet





Joined: 12 Apr 2006

Posts: 101

PostPosted: Thu 11 Jun, 2009 9:01 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

It is indeed possible that such shields were carved from a single piece of wood. Other cultures certainly made large shields that way. Some examples:

http://www.oriental-arms.com/item.php?id=2472
http://www.oriental-arms.com/item.php?id=3592
http://www.oriental-arms.com/item.php?id=3356
http://www.oriental-arms.com/item.php?id=2738

Some of these examples even bear small resemblance to some of the dueling shield forms found in Talhoffer's manuscripts, so one could speculate that they were made in a similar way, but I've not found any examples of that technique being used in Medieval European shield construction. I do seem to remember seeing an image someone posted that appeared to show a craftsman carving a jousting shield from a single piece of wood, but I can't find it now to verify.

There is an article by a gentleman named Theodore F. Monnich in Chronique, The Journal of Chivalry, Issue #8 on the construction of the Medieval shield. He uses mainly heater-shaped shields as his examples, but he suggests that shield boards of that type were made either from a single piece of wood, steamed and bent to provide the curve, or else a single large piece of wood was made by gluing smaller pieces together. This is not entirely the same as the Viking-era plank construction inasmuch as the resulting block of wood would be made extra thick so that it could then be carved down into a curved shield.

Again, it's at least partly speculative, but I would expect that kite shields were made in a similar way.
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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Sat 13 Jun, 2009 3:13 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Andres M. Chesini Remic wrote:
It might sound crazy, but considering the concavity, it could be cutted (I believe the propper verb might not be "cut")


Plain old "cut" is the correct verb. There's no such thing as "cutted" or "cutten" in modern English.
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Michael Doughty




Location: Arlington, VA
Joined: 23 Nov 2007

Posts: 30

PostPosted: Mon 30 Nov, 2009 3:58 pm    Post subject: Rawhide vs. leather edging         Reply with quote

I edge my shields in both rawhide and in boiled leather. Rawhide when soaked in water becomes very rubber-like and forms very nicely to a shield edge. I agree that a rawhide edge would very quickly become a soggy mess if left exposed to water, but there are many ways to waterproof them, at least to some extent, using wax, tallow, or pine pitch. Wax may have been an expensive item, but tallow or pine pitch would have been an inexpensive alternative.

Soaked leather forms less nicely, unless it's boiled. boiled leather will form to a shield edge almost miraculously, but must be worked quickly. the downside to a boiled leather edge is that it would have been rather brittle, and easy to crack with even a modest blow.

A wooden shield, regardless it's quality of construction will not hold up for very long to repeated headlong blows from an iron weapon. In use, they were not used so much to directly block incoming blows, but to deflect them. I'm guessing that for many, a shield was a disposable item, with only the iron boss and perhaps iron strapping & grips being recycled back into new shields.

I don't see much point in spending much money or effort in building a shield that would, in all likelihood, survive only one battle before having to be replaced.

Just my personal experience.

Michael
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Johan S. Moen




Location: Kristiansand, Norway
Joined: 26 Jan 2004

Posts: 259

PostPosted: Tue 01 Dec, 2009 1:13 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Just a comment on construction;

There are several later period shields that might provide some clue as to how to construct a kite shield. I'd suggest picking up Jan Kohlmorgens "Der Mittelalterliche Reiterschild" in that respect. Just bear in mind that it features shields mainly from the high middle ages.

Anyway. Many of the shields seemt to be made out of several thick boards (3 or more) that are first pegged together with wooden plugs. One might peg the ones on the side at an angle to provide a starting point for the curvature. From there on, there's simply a lot of axing involved until the shield reaches its proper shape, and then it is finished in a number of ways, very often with cloth and perhaps gesso covering.

That being said, there was, once upon a time, a shield from Trondheim that as far as I remember, was kite-like in shape. It was constructed of layers of thin wooden slats, I believe not unlike a Roman scutum. Unfortunately, it has been lost. Sad

Johan Schubert Moen
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Michael Doughty




Location: Arlington, VA
Joined: 23 Nov 2007

Posts: 30

PostPosted: Tue 01 Dec, 2009 4:37 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Johan S. Moen wrote:
Just a comment on construction;



Anyway. Many of the shields seemt to be made out of several thick boards (3 or more) that are first pegged together with wooden plugs. One might peg the ones on the side at an angle to provide a starting point for the curvature. From there on, there's simply a lot of axing involved until the shield reaches its proper shape, and then it is finished in a number of ways, very often with cloth and perhaps gesso covering.



I have, on occasion, constructed kite shield bodies from 6 - 8 trapezoidal strips, beveled slightly inward, running lengthwise. Once butted together and glued, this results in a faceted curvature. The facets can then be rounded over with a draw knife, or simply sanded, to form the curved front and back.

I cheat and do this on the table saw. The bevels must be rather precise to assure a good bond between the slats. This would be difficult to do with hand tools, but certainly not impossible.

I only do this for hard-core authenticity weenies, and I charge a premium for the work.

Michael
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Sam Gordon Campbell




Location: Australia.
Joined: 16 Nov 2008

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PostPosted: Tue 01 Dec, 2009 4:39 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Well, I too would like too know, as only today I tried 'steaming' some plywood in order to get a deep curve in a heater-style shield. I ended up burning it and the wheelbarrow Laughing Out Loud
As far as I've been able to deduce over my various experiments, simply gluing, weighing down and then cutting to shape seems the easiest (pft yeah Worried ), or at least lest specialised way.
But yeah, I'd love to make a really steeply curved kite-shield, so any other method would be of great interest.

P.S. I'm trying to make one for WMA use, and not really intended too last forever (unlike SCA uber-shield).

Member of Australia's Stoccata School of Defence since 2008.
Host of Crash Course HEMA.
Founder of The Van Dieman's Land Stage Gladiators.
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Michael Doughty




Location: Arlington, VA
Joined: 23 Nov 2007

Posts: 30

PostPosted: Tue 01 Dec, 2009 4:45 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Sam:

I've built a jig to bend plywood around to form kite shield blanks. I usually use two layers of 1/4" plywood, but more layers of thinner plywood works even better. I've tried to attach a photo of my jig, without success. If you'd like, you can look at my process on my facebook page here:

http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=43115&a...52eba7afbf
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Sam Gordon Campbell




Location: Australia.
Joined: 16 Nov 2008

Posts: 677

PostPosted: Tue 01 Dec, 2009 4:53 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hey Michael,
Maybe using a jig was one of the historical ways? Big Grin
I mean, why not? If one has to churn out of lots of shields, why not make a jig for 'em?
Come to think of it, that makes some sort of sense, as shield I've seen in manu-pics seem to be of the same shape (excluding the use of cavalry/infantry distinction) ans simply painted differently.
Hm... Think I'll do some experimenting myself on the 'morrow.

P.S. I might have to make myself one of those Cool

Member of Australia's Stoccata School of Defence since 2008.
Host of Crash Course HEMA.
Founder of The Van Dieman's Land Stage Gladiators.
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Michael Doughty




Location: Arlington, VA
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Posts: 30

PostPosted: Tue 01 Dec, 2009 5:10 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

If glued thin plies were indeed used, as some suggest, a jig of some kind was almost certainly used.
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M. Eversberg II




Location: California, Maryland, USA
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PostPosted: Tue 01 Dec, 2009 6:48 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Try a tree and some rope.

M.

This space for rent or lease.
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Elling Polden




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PostPosted: Tue 01 Dec, 2009 7:12 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

We generally use two layers of 3mm (ca 1/8") ply and two layers of cloth for our reenactment shields. These are light and quite durable.

As for the historical construction, as Johan mentions, almost all the preserved high medevial shields are boarded, consisting og 3-4 planks, about 10 mm thick. +/- a comple of mm
The cover is typicaly parchment. However, these are all "best quality" shields, made for german nobles.
The norwegian laws has tripple iron fittings across the shield as a "minimum" soulution. Presumably, a parchment or cloth cover was considered superior, as a covered shield woudl be less likely to fall apart when struck, and be slightly more resistant to arrows and such.

To us, shaping boards into a evenly curved shield would seem quite hard. The needed tools and woodworking experience is no longer very common. But only a few generations ago, such trades as barrel-making where quite common, and demand curves in both directions, as well as a litteraly water-tight fit between boards.

"this [fight] looks curious, almost like a game. See, they are looking around them before they fall, to find a dry spot to fall on, or they are falling on their shields. Can you see blood on their cloths and weapons? No. This must be trickery."
-Reidar Sendeman, from King Sverre's Saga, 1201
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Johan S. Moen




Location: Kristiansand, Norway
Joined: 26 Jan 2004

Posts: 259

PostPosted: Tue 01 Dec, 2009 10:36 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Michael Doughty wrote:

I have, on occasion, constructed kite shield bodies from 6 - 8 trapezoidal strips, beveled slightly inward, running lengthwise. Once butted together and glued, this results in a faceted curvature. The facets can then be rounded over with a draw knife, or simply sanded, to form the curved front and back.

I cheat and do this on the table saw. The bevels must be rather precise to assure a good bond between the slats. This would be difficult to do with hand tools, but certainly not impossible.

I only do this for hard-core authenticity weenies, and I charge a premium for the work.

Michael


Yeah, that's one way to do it. However, in many of the examples I have read about, the starting material appears to have been quite a bit thicker than the end result. In other words, it's not a question of removing a couple of mm of wood to get the curve, but a couple of centimeters. This means you do have more work on your hands removing material, but it also means that you don't have to worry about pegging together the starting boards at perfect angles since you have a lot of material to work with.

Johan Schubert Moen
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Michael Doughty




Location: Arlington, VA
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PostPosted: Thu 10 Dec, 2009 5:39 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Here's a short article about convex round shields:

http://www.millennia.f2s.com/reconstruction.htm
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Shane Dopson





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PostPosted: Thu 17 Dec, 2009 8:35 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

11th-12th c. is my favorite time as well.
I've just started making curved kites as well, with plywood for WMA.
My "Next Generation" will be more historically accurate and use cheese-glued lime/lindenwood. I want to make at least a few "real" ones, for a WMA try-out, reenactment and decoration.

Plywood example:



I'll post pics as I blunder through it.

Cheers and good luck!!
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Michael Doughty




Location: Arlington, VA
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PostPosted: Wed 23 Dec, 2009 10:44 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanx for the photo, Shane. Do you have any of the reverse side?
Michael Doughty
Ald¨lfr the Shieldmaker
Saxon Shield
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Michael Doughty




Location: Arlington, VA
Joined: 23 Nov 2007

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PostPosted: Wed 23 Dec, 2009 10:51 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Johan S. Moen wrote:
Just a comment on construction;


Anyway. Many of the shields seemt to be made out of several thick boards (3 or more) that are first pegged together with wooden plugs. One might peg the ones on the side at an angle to provide a starting point for the curvature...


I'm unaware of any extant evidence of pegging being used in shield construction, can you show me an example?

Michael Doughty
Ald¨lfr the Shieldmaker
Saxon Shield
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Eric Hejdstr÷m




Location: Visby, Sweden
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PostPosted: Wed 23 Dec, 2009 1:51 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Michael Doughty wrote:
Sam:

I've built a jig to bend plywood around to form kite shield blanks. I usually use two layers of 1/4" plywood, but more layers of thinner plywood works even better. I've tried to attach a photo of my jig, without success. If you'd like, you can look at my process on my facebook page here:

http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=43115&a...52eba7afbf


Ha ha, this is really funny. I made almost exactly the same kind of jig for making kiteshields some years ago. I found a bad version on the net and decided against it and "invented" the same one as you did. The strips of wood, the ratchet straps, everything. Though I didn't screw it to the jig and we used to glue two or three shields at the same time. (put a lot of strain on the wooden strips) However the ones we made didn't spring back at all. But we used a brush to get an even layer of glue over the whole surface wich worked very well. But you have to be quick so it doesn't dry before you press it together. We used standard pva woodglue for our shields and sofar I'v only broken three or four out of eleven. If we would have covered them with canvas or something they would have lasted way longer.

I'm a bit curious to make one with hideglue just to see how strong it gets. The paveses we made last spring for our 15th century cannon crew was made with hide glue and it's awesomely strong! The plywood we used was made from birch wich proved very durable and easy to handle. Two layers of 4mm plywood and rawhide edges. It was so strong that I could easily stand on the shield while it was "flat" on the ground...
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