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Robert Rootslane




Location: Estonia
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PostPosted: Fri 23 Sep, 2011 6:24 am    Post subject: Medieval kite shield contruction         Reply with quote

Hi everyone.

So my reenactment group has finally decided to start using wooden shields instead of the cheap plywood ones.

i have given it a little bit of thinking and research but i have been unable to find some things, so i hope someone here knows the answers or can direct me to good sources.

As soon as i have enough information wel start making the shields, and i think il post the pictures about the progress here.

*Firstly the kite shields in 12th century were made of wooden boards/planks not some medieval plywood, right? Surprised

*I have read that the round shields from Gogstad were made of pine, but what wood would be used for kite shields.

*In case of any archaeological finds, how wide would the planks have been? The boards in those times were not made by sawing them but by "ripping" them apart from the trunk. I have done some of those boards for skis and in a viking age house reconstruction experiment. However i have no idea how wide would the ones for a shield have to be, if theares any certain with at all...

*The kite shield were curved. It is easy to make a curved shield from plywood, but one from planks seems to be a bit more complicated. I think they should be treated with steam and than set under a press or something like that.

* The book from Theophilus rights that shields were glued together, but im not certain that only glue would hold it together. I think that some horisontal boards should be added to reinforce the shield... Any bright ideas?

*the grip. In bayeux tapestry they seem to hold shields in a manner that would suggest a 45 degree or a horisontal positions of handgrips. That also seems the most comfordable way for me.

* The cover. On bayeux tapestry and some illustrations, i can see no boards. That should either mean that the shields were covered with a layer of paint so thick that the boards wouldnt show, or with something else that was later painted.
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Gregory J. Liebau




Location: Dinuba, CA
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PostPosted: Fri 23 Sep, 2011 6:56 am    Post subject: Re: Medieval kite shield contruction         Reply with quote

Robert Rootslane wrote:
*I have read that the round shields from Gogstad were made of pine, but what wood would be used for kite shields.


Pine is a soft wood, and we suspect that combat shields were most likely made from harder woods like ash and oak. Before the 13th century there are few surviving Medieval shields to look at as evidence, though.

Quote:
*In case of any archaeological finds, how wide would the planks have been? The boards in those times were not made by sawing them but by "ripping" them apart from the trunk. I have done some of those boards for skis and in a viking age house reconstruction experiment. However i have no idea how wide would the ones for a shield have to be, if theares any certain with at all...


I would suggest getting a hold of in the German publication from the 1950s, , which I believe was a dissertation by the author, Jan Kohlmorgen. Or, you can look through it here:

http://michael-engel.io.ua/album325285_0

His detailed descriptions of about a dozen surviving German shields from between 1150-1350 tell a great deal about the construction and function of shields. My german is pretty bad, so I usually just pick out stats and stare at the pictures to figure out what the hell I'm trying to figure out.

But, these shields seem to have plank constructions with anything between three and seven or eight planks! A lot of it depends on the sort of curvature you wish to produce and how thick the shield is going to be, methinks.

Quote:
*The kite shield were curved. It is easy to make a curved shield from plywood, but one from planks seems to be a bit more complicated. I think they should be treated with steam and than set under a press or something like that.


The planks need to have angles cut into them and once they're glued together you will have the beginning of your curvature. Sanding will be required to smooth them out. The more and the smaller the planks you have the more of a curve you can achieve this way.

http://lebendige-geschichte.ch/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=4576

Check out how that guy put his shield together. The second page shows a photo of the shield blank with just the planks glued together.

Quote:
* The book from Theophilus rights that shields were glued together, but im not certain that only glue would hold it together. I think that some horisontal boards should be added to reinforce the shield... Any bright ideas?


Only glue does hold it together. I have a glued, 1/2" oak board shield and it is quite sturdy. It's not as sturdy as plywood, but historically shields were not made to last forever. A proper, planked shield would rely entirely on glue and possibly on its edging of rawhide or overlapping canvas to hold it together. Viking shields were known to have a long cross-piece which centered out in the grip running across the planks (such as the Gokstad examples) but by the time kites were fully-fledged this would have been a thing of the past.

Quote:
*the grip. In bayeux tapestry they seem to hold shields in a manner that would suggest a 45 degree or a horisontal positions of handgrips. That also seems the most comfordable way for me.


The fact is that there seems to be a lot of methods for grips. Several reconstructed images in that book I linked above will give you an idea of the variety. Kite shield grips are shown on the Bayeux tapestry to suggest a padded square with four loose leather thongs around its edges. This way you could grip it by sliding your arm through any of these you wish and grabbing the thong opposite, etc.... Lots of diversity allowed that way.

Quote:
* The cover. On bayeux tapestry and some illustrations, i can see no boards. That should either mean that the shields were covered with a layer of paint so thick that the boards wouldnt show, or with something else that was later painted.


Canvas (typically linen based) would usually cover both sides of shields by the 11th century, and so you would have no exposed boards. Almost every surviving example from later attests to this, and the fact that you can see no boards, as you've pointed out, makes it clear that this was probably the case by the 11th century.

Hope this helps.

-Gregory

(Edited for a couple bad links!)


Last edited by Gregory J. Liebau on Fri 23 Sep, 2011 7:19 am; edited 2 times in total
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Johan Gemvik




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PostPosted: Fri 23 Sep, 2011 7:08 am    Post subject: Re: Medieval kite shield contruction         Reply with quote

Gregory, since you beat me to it I'll just add and comment some things to your post instead.

There are pine shield finds from viking age. Not many shields found though so not much to go from. Lindenwood is an even softer wood and although no finds have it so far it's mentioned in historical sources as the best material. Both are fairly strong but light woods. Lindenwood is almost as light as balsa, and still plenty strong. I've use it for light axe shafts, and it's stronger than quite a few other wood types.

If facing in fabric are used you can laminate it to the boards to increase the durability of a shield several times over. Glue lamination also helps making a nice canvasy surface for heraldic painting. Looking at 13th to 15th centuy pavise shilelds I've studied tears in the layers in you can see it's wood, covered with one or more layers of leather, then on top of that linen, all laminated together, then painted. This might have been used for earlier shield too, in full or in part.

"The Dwarf sees farther than the Giant when he has the giant's shoulder to mount on" -Coleridge
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Gregory J. Liebau




Location: Dinuba, CA
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PostPosted: Fri 23 Sep, 2011 7:24 am    Post subject: Re: Medieval kite shield contruction         Reply with quote

Johan Gemvik wrote:
Gregory, since you beat me to it I'll just add and comment some things to your post instead.

There are pine shield finds from viking age. Not many shields found though so not much to go from. Lindenwood is an even softer wood and although no finds have it so far it's mentioned in historical sources as the best material. Both are fairly strong but light woods. Lindenwood is almost as light as balsa, and still plenty strong. I've use it for light axe shafts, and it's stronger than quite a few other wood types.

If facing in fabric are used you can laminate it to the boards to increase the durability of a shield several times over. Glue lamination also helps making a nice canvasy surface for heraldic painting.


Johan,

I remember that the Gokstad shields were of pine or some soft wood of that sort, but are these necessarily combat shields or were they just ceremonially tagged onto the boat? I know there is debate about that... It would also make sense to use a less precious and more available wood to make shields which were not intended for combat use, such as those on the burial ship. But, your citation on lindenwood is interesting! This may throw the pine idea out of the window. I also admit that I haven't read through Der Mittelalterliche Reiterschild well enough to know what sorts of woods were used later... I need to get into it more closely.

As far as the facing goes, fabric and leather seemed to dominate during the high middle ages. The form given to a number of the shields that Kohlmorgen reviews also seem to have used liberal amounts of stucco or rawhide to form the various dimensional images. Quite interesting... There's a likelihood that a few of those he researched are obviously ceremonial, though! The one with the eagle sticking out so very far, for example... Funerary pieces, I suspect.

Thanks for the follow-up observations. Happy

-Gregory
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Matthew Amt




Location: Laurel, MD, USA
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PostPosted: Fri 23 Sep, 2011 1:38 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I would agree that the emphasis was on lightness for the choice of wood, including pine, poplar, linden, birch, etc. Oak and ash are just too heavy.

A while back there was a similar discussion about round shields on the Armor Archive, and we discussed how to make them dished. My thought was that they would not make flat planks and then bend them, but make the planks to the shape they needed. In part I'm reminded of barrel-making (coopering), though for that the staves are indeed heated and bent to shape. Harder to do that with a shield, unless you have a sturdy form of some sort (barrel staves are basically braced against each other for that process). But it would be simple to use an adze to shape the planks to the curvature needed. A modern way to copy the effect would be to start with much thicker wood, say 4 inches, glue several slabs together, then use whatever tools you can get to round off the outside and hollow out the inside.

Matthew
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Gregory J. Liebau




Location: Dinuba, CA
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PostPosted: Fri 23 Sep, 2011 3:16 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

K, so instead of talking out of my *** I decided to sift through the German book and find the wood types used for the shields observed by Jan Kohlmorgen. Here's what I came up with.

The first shield observed, and probably the most popular, was almost certainly a war shield. This is the shield of the Herren von Brienze, dated between 1180-1225. It is probably a war shield because a) it shows signs of having its top removed at some point in time, probably for use, and b) it is relatively thick, at 15mm. This shield is made of adler.

The rest of the shields are mostly considered funerary pieces (totenschilds) but a few were probably war-ready. Out of the next 10 shields examined, all are made of ! But, their thicknesses are usually quite thin, ranging between 7 and 10mm for the most part, with that of Heinrich I. von Hessen (c. 1292-1308) being 15mm and that of Burggrafen von Stromberg (c. 1300) being 12mm. Most have outrageous decoration and were obviously preserved as funeral pieces. At least three are merely painted without any extravagances, though.

Almost all of these shields have viable (and often very unique!) grip positioning, showing extreme variation in German shields between 1200-1300. The later ones are also considered totenschilds and what I get from the glancing is that they were also lindenwood.

Considering that it is highly doubtful that they just used lindenwood because it was for funeral pieces, I retract my earlier statement - if you want to make an accurate war shield from the continent, I would suggest carefully considering the use of linden. It was light, a favorite among continental woodworkers for all sorts of crafts and readily available.

Cheers!

-Gregory
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Mackenzie Cosens




Location: Vancouver Canada
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PostPosted: Fri 23 Sep, 2011 4:24 pm    Post subject: Re: Medieval kite shield contruction         Reply with quote

Gregory J. Liebau wrote:
...
I would suggest getting a hold of in the German publication from the 1950s, , which I believe was a dissertation by the author, Jan Kohlmorgen. Or, you can look through it here:

http://michael-engel.io.ua/album325285_0
...


Thank you for posting the link to Jan Kohlmorgen - Der Mittelalterliche Reiterschild.
I did not know of it and it looks very interesting, if I could read German Happy. I guess I could learn...


mackenzie
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David GaŠl




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PostPosted: Sat 24 Sep, 2011 1:19 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I would like to recommend you to look at the first volume of Sir Francis Laking's A record of european arms and armour at the begining there is a topic norman period and general history A. D. 1100-1320. Not the same but also read The true shield of the XVth century topic from the second volume. And perhaps look at that: http://www.hurstwic.org/history/articles/manu...hields.htm Here you can find the book: http://www.archive.org/search.php?query=A%20r...0centuries
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Sam Gordon Campbell




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PostPosted: Sat 24 Sep, 2011 8:19 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Well, looks like I'm going to have to learn German.
The references he uses, and archeaological examples are sweet Big Grin

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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William P




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PostPosted: Mon 26 Sep, 2011 12:34 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Matthew Amt wrote:
I would agree that the emphasis was on lightness for the choice of wood, including pine, poplar, linden, birch, etc. Oak and ash are just too heavy.

A while back there was a similar discussion about round shields on the Armor Archive, and we discussed how to make them dished. My thought was that they would not make flat planks and then bend them, but make the planks to the shape they needed. In part I'm reminded of barrel-making (coopering), though for that the staves are indeed heated and bent to shape. Harder to do that with a shield, unless you have a sturdy form of some sort (barrel staves are basically braced against each other for that process). But it would be simple to use an adze to shape the planks to the curvature needed. A modern way to copy the effect would be to start with much thicker wood, say 4 inches, glue several slabs together, then use whatever tools you can get to round off the outside and hollow out the inside.

Matthew

wouldnt hollowing a dished shape out of planks make it slightly weaker, with bent planks the grain is intact and follows the curvature of the shield. with hollowed out plaanks you have, a broken vertical grain? or am i completely off track?m or am i thinking of horizontal grain?
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Randall Moffett




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PostPosted: Mon 26 Sep, 2011 6:34 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

OK. First off expect to make some guesses as we just do not know and my guess if that most remaining shields from the high medieval period and late period are not what was used in battle. That said they likely follow similar patterns.

Here is an account that at least gives materials-

May 5th, 1410, CPR of Henry IV, vol. IV, p. 224
Commission to Richard Isak, ' sheldmaker,' to take glue, horns, Westminster, hides and timber called 'lynde' and other necessaries for making certain shields for the king's use, and to take also men of his mistery.

Keep in mind this is a minimum as the last part of the account indicates there were other materials used but the detail of the earlier parts should give you what you need to start with.

That said I do not think of shields of being disposable. Nor indestructible, but they seem to be expected to last for some duration. One reason is that anything that was made to be destroyed in short order would require one of several things on a campaign. One is a huge number of extra shields, which you usually do not see, at least compared to other none disposable things. As well you'd need to have a much higher percentage of shield makers than other auxiliary tradesmen which does not happen either. As well men were often required to return the shield along with other arms and armour borrowed. If it was expected they would not survive they would not require them back.

My testing in this seems to be focusing on raw hide at the moment. I am finding that even if the wood gets deformed or broke this holds it together and keeps it rather solid. Leather seems to be one of the reoccurring parts of a shields construction in remaining ones and accounts and those I have seen or read about could very easily be of raw hide like leather.

Good luck and let us know how your shields turn out.

RPM
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Matthew Amt




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PostPosted: Mon 26 Sep, 2011 7:17 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

William P wrote:
wouldnt hollowing a dished shape out of planks make it slightly weaker, with bent planks the grain is intact and follows the curvature of the shield. with hollowed out plaanks you have, a broken vertical grain? or am i completely off track?m or am i thinking of horizontal grain?


That may certainly have been a consideration, I just don't know. If you google up some videos on making barrels (coopering), you'll see some fascinating stuff! It clearly isn't hard to bend wood with heat and moisture, and shield planks would be much thinner than barrel staves. They could be bent before assembly on a simple frame or under stone weights or something like that. Trimming them to the necessary shape (tapered at both ends, with angled edges) would be simple for an experienced craftsman.

What keeps springing to mind is how planks were done (at least sometimes) for Viking ships. Logs were split, and each piece worked down with an adze to leave raised lugs along one side, which were drilled through for lashing to the ribs. So they clearly didn't have any qualms with shaping a lot of wood that way. They were not going from the modern mindset of starting with finished planks from Home Depot, they started with the whole tree and figured out what they could get from it. On the other hand, a shield maker may very well have gotten his wood in plank form of some sort from a lumber supplier, though presumably such planks would be made to specs for the purpose of making shields.

If there was more detailed analysis of the wood from surviving shields, that would help. But as long as most artifacts are written off as being "specially made" for burial, etc., that will limit the data we can work with.

Matthew
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Gregory J. Liebau




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PostPosted: Mon 26 Sep, 2011 9:09 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I'd like to note that the use of seems to make some sense from a practical perspective if I'm getting my facts straight. Reading about the wood, even though it is light and soft, it is also supposedly quite a resistant and hard to break wood based on its grain patterns. Its ready availability in central Europe made it a favorite wood for many sorts of crafts in the Medieval era, such as sculpting.

After reading the reports by Jan Kohlmorgen, I'm convinced it must have been a viable and popular wood for general shield construction. I don't think that the fact that a majority of remaining shields are funerary pieces ought to have much to do with the functional nature of the artifacts. Was Edward III's funerary sword or gauntlets made to a lower quality than other items? Have we ever found any reasonable quantity arms and armor buried with a body that obviously weren't at least as good a quality as those used on the battlefield, from blades to helmets? I can't think of any, really.

Shield craftsmen would have had particular woods readily available for any commission at any given time. I assume a majority of shields were made for combat, and have some trouble assuming they kept a pile of "non-functional" wood laying around just for the odd commission of a funerary piece that came up from time to time.

(EDIT)

Almost missed this!

Quote:
Commission to Richard Isak, ' sheldmaker,' to take glue, horns, Westminster, hides and timber called 'lynde' and other necessaries for making certain shields for the king's use, and to take also men of his mistery.


From Wikipedia:

Quote:
Linden was originally the adjective, "made from lime-wood" (equivalent to "wooden"), from the late 16th century "linden" was also used as a noun, probably influenced by translations of German romance, as an adoption of Linden, the plural of German Linde.


Yes... More support for my precious. (I just spent $75 on some linden wood for a shield, so justification is a must!)
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Petr S




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PostPosted: Mon 26 Sep, 2011 2:58 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

There is already similar topic http://www.myArmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.php?t=16750.
The wood should be linden, alder or similar "foamy" wood - the needed property is not to shatter easily, and be light. The sturdiness is achieved by raw hide, and also by covering the shield on both side, so you basicaly have a sandwich raw hide-wood - rawhide, which is reasonably light and very reliable. You can replace rawhide by linen canvas, but it is less durable.
For example, my shield is 140 cm long and 75 cm wide, weights appx. 6 kilos. You can fight with it for hours, thanks to shoulder strap used in breaks. I have it for 3 year, it went through heavy beatings and is virtually untouched.

http://www.curiavitkov.cz
Reconstruction of Czech magnate's courtyard, 1150-1250 A. D.
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Scott Moore




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PostPosted: Mon 26 Sep, 2011 6:27 pm    Post subject: kite shield construction         Reply with quote

From the Anglo Saxon poem" The Battle of Maldon":

The sea-men's army feared not the flood.
Blood-wolves waded west through Panta
Clear through the current's crystal water
Bore they their linden-shields to the strand.

While the battle in question took place a little before kite shields were the prevailing fashion ,it seems reasonable that linden would have continued to be a favored wood.

Grip Fast.
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William P




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PostPosted: Tue 27 Sep, 2011 5:55 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

just a point about weight vs protection for shields as someone with a big shield i can attest that in a war situation lightness is favourable,
i mean im a person who uses my shield vigorously every 2 weeks or so, but mine is a roundshield that overall weighs 4.5kg, after a few bashes my left arm is tired as hell, a thinner shield would be potentially more destructible but your first priority is to survive, and for that you need to be able to be somewhat nimble. so even if pine isnt as strong, (and roundshields were oftenrawhide covered anyway) as oak, even if your shield is smashed to pieces? so what, if you win the fight, you take the OTHER GUYS shield.
its like the arguements about blocking with the flat to avoid damaging ones sword. one line ive heard 1000 times is that you worry about yourself first, and your sword later. you dont not block a stroke for fear of nicking the blade after all. if itll save your life you block it.
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Randall Moffett




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PostPosted: Wed 28 Sep, 2011 5:59 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

William,

Not sure your logic is solid.... you loose your shield then take the other guys shield? He certainly is not going to give it to you in a battle. If your shield is destroyed in battle that is not a so what, that is a my enemy now has a shield and a huge advantage over me (in most situations) and now my chances of surviving have just dived. Now wearing a guy out is great and all but your shield being destroyed in a battle is not a so what moment.

As for the flat verse edge.... please lets not.

RPM
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William P




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PostPosted: Wed 28 Sep, 2011 6:23 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Randall Moffett wrote:
William,

Not sure your logic is solid.... you loose your shield then take the other guys shield? He certainly is not going to give it to you in a battle. If your shield is destroyed in battle that is not a so what, that is a my enemy now has a shield and a huge advantage over me (in most situations) and now my chances of surviving have just dived. Now wearing a guy out is great and all but your shield being destroyed in a battle is not a so what moment.

As for the flat verse edge.... please lets not.

RPM

the key word was 'you win the fight'
the assumption was that the guys dead but you sacrifice our shield to do so. you then take HIS once hes already died
for example ive been told numerous times that i was favourable to have unrimmed roundshields so that blades can geet easily stuck in the rim, i mean the damage to the shield is worth you getting a 1 up on your opponent. asuming hes not surrounded by buddies of course. which he may well be.

(id never suggest you take a shield from a LIVE opponent? thatsa disarm id pay to see)

im saying that being able to fight without weighing your arm down is more important than your shield lasting 2 or 3 battles.

that said, of course there are ways of presenting your shield to prevent unneccesary damage.

i think we can agree. that most of US try to make things to last so that were not making a new shield every couple of training sessions.

as for flat vs edge, i WILL be asking the community perspective on that. if theres not a thread already, thats all ill say on this thread so i dont derail it. pm me if theres something more you want to tell me about flat vs edge.
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Gregory J. Liebau




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PostPosted: Wed 28 Sep, 2011 8:58 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

William,

A) Have you ever tried to pry a shield out of a dead man's hand while standing in the middle of a raging battle while surrounded by mortal enemies? Not to mention one that might be wrapped around his shoulder with a guige strap?

B) Have you ever tried to fight with a shield that has a sword stuck in it, much less turn around after you kill its wielder and try to fight someone else with it?

C) Have you considered the damage sustained by your opponent's shield or whether or not he even has a shield you would want to pick up? Do you want to pick up your enemy's shield and then have the possibility of being recognized as the enemy due to some sort of personal or heraldic symbol on the shield's face?

There is not a lot of logic to assuming that you'll get to play with your opponent's arms amidst a battle, and there is little evidence to support such an idea except perhaps dispersed randomly through some heroic sagas or during particular lulls in combat when things like arrows and weapons were recycled to maintain fighting capabilities. Even so, it would be sparse evidence, at that. What *you* might consider doing in combat, having never been in mortal, hand-to-hand fighting with a shield, may have made very little sense to a man who was actually involved in such affairs for a variety of reasons.

-Gregory
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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Wed 28 Sep, 2011 1:06 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I think you want a shield built strongly enough that it will still be usable to the end of a battle but might be too damaged to be worth repairing and would have to be replaced: if the shield fails in the middle of a battle it's not so good. Wink

One would avoid going into battle with a previously damaged shield if at all possible and either have it repaired or replaced first.

Where we might overbuild our modern shields is in wanting them to be able to be usable for a longer time than would have been expected in period.

As to wood type, resilience for shock resistance being the priority and cut resistance wouldn't be dependant on the wood being a very hard so much but rather on surface and edge reinforcements, raw hide and or metal rims, leather or linen glued to the surfaces.

You want to deflect heavy blows when possible and the wood being elastic with blows bouncing off and keeping the shield light and hopefully receiving only light damage and be reparable..

You can easily give up your freedom. You have to fight hard to get it back!
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