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Sean Eaton




Location: Vancouver, WA
Joined: 04 Jun 2013

Posts: 16

PostPosted: Mon 15 Jul, 2013 4:12 pm    Post subject: Basswood (and others) too fragile for shield use?         Reply with quote

Historical shields were sometimes made from basswood... But basswood is commonly used for carving because it is so soft. How do these shields hold up in combat? I'm putting one together now, 3/8" thick and going to have canvas glued to the front, with rawhide around the edges. Thoughts?

I've tried a few variations in combat; So far I've used:

Pine - Not too bad, but not great
Fir - same as pine in my experience
Poplar Light, but seems to break easy

All have been 1/2" thick with glue/canvas on the front. Tips on making classic plank shields more durable? I want to stay away from plywood, but the durability of it, it seems, can't be beat.

Sad

EDIT: Forgot to say the shields are used in SCA style combat, with rattan weapons.
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Mark Moore




Location: East backwoods-assed Texas
Joined: 01 Oct 2003
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Reading list: 1 book

Posts: 2,251

PostPosted: Mon 15 Jul, 2013 6:44 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

For durability, I would go with the plywood with a linen or leather covering. For historical accuracy, I'd suggest elm or oak.......a laminate for toughness, but a historical look. My two coppers.......McM
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Sean Eaton




Location: Vancouver, WA
Joined: 04 Jun 2013

Posts: 16

PostPosted: Mon 15 Jul, 2013 7:39 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks Mark. Yeah, plywood is king for durability. That's not my prerogative though. Historical accuracy! So yeah, oak or elm could be good? I haven't heard anything of those two woods being used for shields. Where did you hear that? All that I've read says pine/spruce/fir have been found from dig sites, but basswood is in talked about in the sagas.

For covering I'm going to stick with linen/cotton/canvas, because a thin leather covering is still 3x as expensive as the others... and I'm using these in SCA combat Happy I buy leather from Tandy all the time for other projects, and just recently started buying large dog bones from petco for shield lining.

Again, thank you greatly for your input. Everyone on this forum has a lot of good info in their heads.
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Mark Moore




Location: East backwoods-assed Texas
Joined: 01 Oct 2003
Likes: 6 pages
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Posts: 2,251

PostPosted: Mon 15 Jul, 2013 9:20 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I'm not really big on the subject of shields and targes, but I've heard that oak and elm were prized for their strength and flexibility. The oak, moreso for the tensile strength...the elm for the flex-quality. I can just imagine a combo of the two in a laminate would be hard to beat. But for pure "beater-tough''....I just put my Hanwei claymore through a piece of 3/4 inch plywood with a pine 2X4 as a cross-piece. In a full overhand swing, at full speed, I went through the plywood, down to the 2x4, and penetrated nearly one inch into it. Had to lever the claymore out. I'm sure, with a good plywood back and a leather or linen facing and hardwood cross-slats......you should have no problems. Forgive me if my 'shield terminology' is incorrect. I just know what works and doesn't. Big Grin .....All the best........McM
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Matthew Bunker




Location: Somerset UK
Joined: 02 Apr 2009

Posts: 483

PostPosted: Mon 15 Jul, 2013 10:53 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Despite being synonymous with Anglo Saxon planked shields, 'linden' (lime, basswood etc) is not the most common wood found in excavated examples.
In the study of 103 examples by Dickinson and Harke, it came equal last (alongside ash and oak) with just 3.3%, with alder and willow/poplar being equal first at 36.7% each.

Thing is, for a historically accurate shield, you need that flexibility that you get from the less dense woods. The board should flex to soak up the force of the blow rather than remain rigid, which is what elm or oak would try to do.

On it's own, as you'd imagine, a planked board made from a single (no ply construction) layer of thin (the majority being 6-8mm thick) planks would shatter easily but once it's encased front and back within it's leather or, more ideally, hide facings, it's durability increases dramatically.
This is the real key. Linen or other fabric just isn't going to do it. To create a light but durable shield, you need that hide facing, front and back. Once that's applied, the board will flex under impact but, even if there is splintering of the planks within, the overall structural integrity of the board endures.

Also, don't forget, these boards were to defend against thrusts and blows from sharp weapons, particularly spears, not subjected to the constant battering of blunted steel bars that modern reenactment shields suffer.

For that, it's really hard to beat plywood.

"If a Greek can do it, two Englishman certainly can !"


Last edited by Matthew Bunker on Tue 16 Jul, 2013 1:32 am; edited 1 time in total
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Bjorn Hagstrom




Location: Höör, Skane
Joined: 25 Oct 2007
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PostPosted: Tue 16 Jul, 2013 12:03 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

A simple way to increase the durability is to add an extra layer (or two) of fabric covering. And don't forget to also cover the back side! This sandwiching adds surprisingly amounts of strength compared to a single facing of fabric
There is nothing quite as sad as a one man conga-line...
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