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Peter Messent




Location: Texas
Joined: 03 Jan 2009

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PostPosted: Sun 16 Sep, 2012 8:34 pm    Post subject: Viking round shield weight         Reply with quote

Howdy folks!

I was wondering if there is a generally accepted range of weights for viking round shields? I just made one, definitely on the larger side (35", 1/2" ply, backed front and back with canvas, 2.5mm steel boss) but still within historical limits and it weighs a whopping 20lbs, which amazed me - I was expecting 10lb at the most. It's not completely dry yet so I expect some weight to be shed, but I'm not anticipating that much. Upon doing a pierce test with my spear on some scraps of 1/2" ply I had left over, the spear pierced enough (about 1/4") to make me think that it would be a bad idea to go down to 1/4" ply, so I'm thinking of cutting about 5" off of the overall diameter - if my calculations are correct (they might be, you never know) that should save me between 3-4lb, which just doesn't seem like much! I don't particularly want to do that either, as I am large also (6'4") so a larger shield does seem appropriate -but I don't want to blow the historical weight range out of the water, either.

In conclusion: it would suck to swing this sucker around in anger.

Any help would be very much appreciated,
Pete
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Tom King




Location: florida
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PostPosted: Sun 16 Sep, 2012 9:31 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I'm not an expert, but viking era shields were relatively disposable items, as light as 1/4 of an inch wouldn't be out the the question. This guy actually demonstrates it pretty well in one of his videos
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q74SOH9Bgp4&am...age#t=123s
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Philip C. Ryan




Location: Omaha, NE
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PostPosted: Sun 16 Sep, 2012 9:51 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

http://members.ozemail.com.au/~chrisandpeter/shield/shield.html

Here is a nice website showing several archaeological finds and the dimensions of them. Table 2 shows the thicknesses of many shield fragments. If you pay attention to the examples that are just boards (no handle thickness) you will see that thickness was approximately 0.5-0.7 cm....appx. 0.25 in. Also note that an actual correctly made shield would have been thickest around the boss, and slightly tapered outward toward the edges. I have only done that to one of the round shields I have made. Mine are all 0.25 in. boards (or plywood for combat shields that get hacked up) all over. By gluing on a layer of linen to both sides, and adding a rawhide edge, you drastically increase the strength of this seemingly thin wooden shield.

Skjaldborg Viking Age Living History and Martial Combat
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Leo Todeschini
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PostPosted: Mon 17 Sep, 2012 12:57 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Philip C Ryan wrote
Quote:
If you pay attention to the examples that are just boards (no handle thickness) you will see that thickness was approximately 0.5-0.7 cm....appx. 0.25 in. Also note that an actual correctly made shield would have been thickest around the boss, and slightly tapered outward toward the edges


From what I know, I agree with Philip. The plywood is almost certainly a hardwood veneer and will be quite heavy in contrast to a light wood like poplar or lime and also the shields were tapered so were say 12mm thick at the boss dropping to 6mm at the rim (1/2" down to 1/4").

Making some assumptions here, the taper would lose say 30% in weight and moving to a light wood would save another 25% or so then I think your 20lb shield could easily get down to 10lb. The boss sounds a little heavy, though I can't think of thicknesses off my head but I would have thought 1.8-2.0mm would be fine. Losing diameter will off course lose weight very quickly.

Nailing the rawhide on as opposed to sewing it also adds unneccessary weight.

Tod

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Jim Adelsen
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Location: WI
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PostPosted: Mon 17 Sep, 2012 4:34 am    Post subject: Re: Viking round shield weight         Reply with quote

Most the shields I make are about 28" diameter. A shield made with 1/4" poplar planks with canvas face, linen back, and leather rim weighs about 6lbs. A 28" diameter 1/2" plywood shield will weight between 7-8 pounds depending on the rim. I don't usually use a facing or backing with plywood. You might try some cutting tests to see if you need the canvas for plywood. It's necessary for a planked shield, but much less necessary when using 1/2" ply. Plywood is usually pretty soft in the middle allowing deep cuts so I don't think 1/4" plywood would be very good. Poplar on the other hand is much harder and more resistant to cuts when hit against the grain.



Peter Messent wrote:
Howdy folks!

I was wondering if there is a generally accepted range of weights for viking round shields? I just made one, definitely on the larger side (35", 1/2" ply, backed front and back with canvas, 2.5mm steel boss) but still within historical limits and it weighs a whopping 20lbs, which amazed me - I was expecting 10lb at the most. It's not completely dry yet so I expect some weight to be shed, but I'm not anticipating that much. Upon doing a pierce test with my spear on some scraps of 1/2" ply I had left over, the spear pierced enough (about 1/4") to make me think that it would be a bad idea to go down to 1/4" ply, so I'm thinking of cutting about 5" off of the overall diameter - if my calculations are correct (they might be, you never know) that should save me between 3-4lb, which just doesn't seem like much! I don't particularly want to do that either, as I am large also (6'4") so a larger shield does seem appropriate -but I don't want to blow the historical weight range out of the water, either.

In conclusion: it would suck to swing this sucker around in anger.

Any help would be very much appreciated,
Pete

www.viking-shield.com
www.thevikingmuseum.com
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Elling Polden




Location: Bergen, Norway
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PostPosted: Mon 17 Sep, 2012 6:18 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

For reenactment fighjting, we usually make round shields out of 8 or 6mm(1/4in) ply, with a a cloth cover and rawhide edges.
Though these shields are light, cheap and disposable, they can take a surprising amount of abuse from blunt weapons before wearing out.

Everything depends on what you want yout shield for. If you are after a full reconstruction, a planked and tappered construction is what you are after. If you just want a shield for trying out, or decoration, a light ply shield will work just fine.

"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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Matthew Harrington




Location: Michigan
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PostPosted: Mon 17 Sep, 2012 7:30 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

This is around the same topic, how would I make a piled viking roundshield? Layers of wood and a shield press?
~See you in Valhalla, brother.~
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Scott Woodruff





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PostPosted: Mon 17 Sep, 2012 9:34 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Leo, Viking Age bosses were usually around 3-5mm thick. Any bosses that I have made out of mild steel less than 2.5mm did not hold up very well. Roman Iron Age and Migration Period bosses were much thinner than those of the Viking Age.

Peter, I made a similar shield for my first reenacting shield. Everyone I saw was using these massively overbuilt shields so I thought it was necessary for them to survive. Now I am finding that a lighter, more flexible shield will actually outlast the heavier shields if used correctly. My suggestion is that you go light on the plywood and as thick as you can on the boss up to about 5mm. One trick of construction that has served me well is overlap your facing or facings at the edge and use at least 2 layers of cloth on the front facing. This really helps to reinforce the edge, which is what should take the most punishment. A layer of very thin cotton batting or some felt under the cloth facings and rim really helps extend the lifespan of the shield. That minute bit of padding helps eliminate the cutting board effect, in which the plywood acts as a cutting board against which the blunt weapons can cut your facing. Padding under shield facings is historical as this shield from Latvia shows: http://members.ozemail.com.au/~chrisandpeter/shield/tirskom.html As to rims, I have found that in my part of the world a rim of partially tanned rawhide waterproofed with some sort of fat holds up the best. Reenactors from England and Canada have told me that they prefer modern vegi-tanned leather because they think that rawhide gets too brittle. My rims usually outlast the boss, board and facing and can be reused at least 2-3 times. To treat your rawhide, gather up either some high-tannin leaves and bark or some scrap vegi-tanned leather and make a strong tea, soak the rawhide for a couple weeks up to a couple months, tack the ends of the wet rawhide so that it stretches straight from point to point and then use a stick or something to stretch it out onto the rim. This will give you an extremely tight, smooth rim.

Mathew, are you wanting to make a convex shield or do you just want to make a more authentic plied, flat shield as described in the Gulathing laws?
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Matthew Harrington




Location: Michigan
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PostPosted: Mon 17 Sep, 2012 9:53 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
Mathew, are you wanting to make a convex shield or do you just want to make a more authentic plied, flat shield as described in the Gulathing laws?


An authentic, piled flat shield. As I'll be using it in re-enactments.

~See you in Valhalla, brother.~
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Matthew Amt




Location: Laurel, MD, USA
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PostPosted: Mon 17 Sep, 2012 12:38 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Is there any reliable evidence for the use of multiple layers of wood for a shield in that era? I had thought they were all single-layer planks.

Matthew
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Elling Polden




Location: Bergen, Norway
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PostPosted: Mon 17 Sep, 2012 3:32 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

As far as I can see, the Gulating law calls for a "shield that at the least has three iron bands across, and a handle fastened with iron nails." Where do you have the reference to a piled construction?

If you are looking at the Hurstwic site, the first description is of the 950s Gulating law.
The "later revision" is however from the 1270s Law of the Land (based on the Gulating law), and describes a heater or kite shield with a minimum of three handstraps on the back.

When it comes to colour, the laws, and price lists, distinguish between "red" and "white" shields. My theory is that the "red" shields had a parchment facing. All but the poorest men where required to own such shields.
The iron bands described as a minimum is probably in order to kepp the boards of a unfaced plank shield together.

"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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Peter Messent




Location: Texas
Joined: 03 Jan 2009

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PostPosted: Mon 17 Sep, 2012 6:17 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Howdy again folks!
Thank you very much for the replies, you guys never disappoint. It seems that I did grossly overestimate the thickness - while 1/2" does not seem unrealistic for the center, it is extreme for the edges. I should have either used thinner ply to begin with or tapered it (I do recall saying at the store "Why the hell don't they sell 3/8" ply!?").

As everything is already attached I am reluctant to take it apart to taper the edges now - but to my amazement, after taking 5" off of the diameter (resulting in a 30" shield) it is down to 10lbs - I guess that it had a lot more drying to do than I thought! It is still large enough that, with my arm half-extended pushing the shield into my father's shoulder (my semi-willing test subject is 5'10"), he lacks enough reach to hit me with my sword, which is large enough I suppose! This stock removal had the added benefit that the canvas had glued much better inwards of the original edge and now looks much tidier (though I will still rim with rawhide) - next time I may glue the canvas before cutting out the circle shape at all.

I think that my next shield project will be a truly historical attempt in the sense of using butted planks rather than ply - and for that one, I will taper it with a plane. For now, I am fairly happy with my admittedly robust shield! I gotta admit though, making this was more enjoyable than I expected - I might have to get a kite in the works, I have some wall space left!

Again, thanks all!

Now, with regards to the use of the shield I like the theory that they were intended to parry rather than simply act as a wall-like barrier (excluding arrows, I suppose, which are rather challenging to parry). It seems to me that thrusts (which would be most devastating as a square impact on the face of the shield) would be the best candidates for pushing aside, potentially leaving the target partially open and temporarily without use of his weapon to counter-strike. Hacking cuts, on the other hand, I feel would do most damage to the shield on the edge (which is conspicuously thin), and would probably be a better candidate for blocking with the thicker middle portion or the boss itself - and, of course, the thin shield edge can trap a blade that does penetrate.

I saw a video a while back of a fellow dodging and parrying with a roundshield and axe as spears were thrown at him. While the spears were not thrown with a terrible amount of grace, his defense was accomplished with surprising ease, and an apparently very light shield. Not once do I recall him simply holding up the shield to take the point of a spear.

Pete
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Elling Polden




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PostPosted: Tue 18 Sep, 2012 4:35 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The round shield can be used in a number of ways.
The basic guard (we use) is a close guard. But rather than holdign the shield flat, it is resting the the shield on the shoulder, with the upper edge either just above shoulder height (for reenactment, or just below eye level (for full body target). Move your rear foot so that you are standing slightly sideways, "hiding" behind the shield. This produces a stance with the shield angled slightly up and to the left.
This is a strong defensive stance, and not very tiring. You can cover the side of your head by lifting the shield slightly, and you front leg by sliping it backwards. You movements should be short and tight like a boxing guard.
When fighting in a line, this is how you will stand.

The edge forward stance is a usefull variation. I use it to controll the range of engagements, and force the opponent to change his attack plan. Over time, however, it is to tiring, and you are totaly exposed to any other foes, so I genrally fall back to the close stance.

One thing to keep in mind is that dark age warfare is not primarily about sword combat. The spear is the primary weapon on the battlefield, with swords being used for close action and skirmishing. More glamorous, but less typical.
(Compare to the primacy of revolvers in western movies... All serious fighting was done with rifles, but the gunslinger with his insane revolver skills is a lot cooler than the rifle marksman)

"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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Peter Messent




Location: Texas
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PostPosted: Sat 22 Sep, 2012 9:37 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks for the experience Elling, it is much appreciated Happy

Some cut tests made me wonder even more how effective a shield really was against a sword or axe as a barrier. As an experiment, I attempted standing with shield and spear and hacking at a test subject (several tests on plywood, one with a sewn-on leather trim and two pieces of aspen, one quarter inch, one half inch, both against the grain). On the 1/2" plywood, with and without the leather rim, it cut about 1.5" deep. Naturally, I understand that the rim is not so much for cut-protection but rather to hold it all together - I'd be very interested in seeing how well it really does that after being cut multiple times on an actual round shield rather than a static test piece. On the aspen, it cut even better, with the cut on the 1/2" piece being about 1.75" and the 1/2" piece being about 2". Interestingly, though, the half inch piece split where the sword merely stuck into the 1/4" piece - I suppose that the thinner wood flexed rather than broke so that it could pinch the blade. The plywood also snagged the blade rather well, and while a minor challenge in a test, would have been a significant handicap in a battle. However, the aspen also developed a long split when the sword dropped on it under its own weight.

This test has definitely taught me a couple things:

1) Don't sink your blade cross-grain into an enemy shield, if you want to keep it.
2) Two plies are better than one.
3) Deflecting is better than blocking.
4) Hitting things with a sword is rather fun.

When I make a historically accurate butted-planked shield, I might just have to make two so I can hack one up and see how it does.
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