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Forum Index > Historical Arms Talk > New Horseman's Shield by Tod Reply to topic
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Tobias Capwell

Joined: 17 Jan 2007

Posts: 61

PostPosted: Wed 10 Sep, 2014 8:33 am    Post subject: New Horseman's Shield by Tod         Reply with quote

Hi All,

The problems involved in building accurate and functional C15th horseman's shields have vexed me for a long time. Especially when you need to be able to achieve something of quality, without busting the bank, because the things are intended for use in jousts and they get smashed up and you will always need more of them.

The shape is the most difficult issue. How to achieve those deep, complex curves, while still maintaining a thickness great enough to withstand repeated lance blows? The real things do not normally just bend in one direction or plane. Modern jousting shields are usually made out of laminated plywood, hence, they tend to curve in only one way. Unless you laminate the thing very thickly and then carve out huge amounts of material. A big pain.

But the shape is the key to good functionality. Without the deep, complex curves the thing will not sit well on the body, and it cannot extend down over the rein arm while remaining in isolation from its movement. If the shield is too flat, when the rein arm moves forward, the shield tilts, providing the oncoming lance with a convenient ramp to your face. Not what it is supposed to do.

Anyway, after years of frustration, it finally occured to me to bring this problem to Tod. Why I didn't do so years ago baffles me, but there is no time like the present.

Tod came up with a great solution, which we thought the members might be interested in. Tod feel free to chime in anytime.

The deeply curved shape was easier to achieve with a thin piece of material. Too thin to function as a shield. But it was a start, to establish the shape. To thicken that shape, Tod resorted to an authentic construction method for jousting shields, tiling. Some of you may already know that a number of surviving shields for the German joust of peace (Gestech) are made of a thin base layer of wood, onto which are mounted thick tiles of horn or bone. We used thik tiles of poplar (right Tod?) but the relative smallness of the tiles allowed us to follow the complex shape of the base layer, making it much thicker while retaining that shape.

A few images:

And then painted and in action....

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Leo Todeschini
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Location: Oxford, UK
Joined: 12 Nov 2006
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PostPosted: Wed 10 Sep, 2014 2:30 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

This was a fascinating project and thanks to Toby for bringing it to me.

Toby's brief was to have a shield that was functional in form, robust enough to survive and would 'hold' the lance impacts to stop them skidding dangerously off.

The form was based on a decorative shield that Toby had found which happened to have hit the nail on the head as regards shape. Toby came to my workshop and we set out the straps exactly correctly. Needless to say in the field with a horse and armour this changed 3 more times until it was right.

To make the shield robust enough we followed the structure of original shields in that there is a thin backer and this is then tiled with approximately 20mm square tiles. It has to be tiled because of all the curves, so these are shaped as best as possible to sit each next to its neighbours and then settled on a bed of glue. The rather rough and inevitably lumpy finish was sanded smooth. This gave a finished board thickness of around 15mm, again comparable with originals. I pondered which wood to use for the facing tiles. (The originals were I believe horn, but this was out on cost grounds). I did discuss poplar with Toby, and considered ash, elm and lime as well, but in the end settled on ash as being tough as hell and a bit denser so closer to the weight of horn than the other alternatives would have been.

Toby jousts for real and so the lances are real too. What this means in practical terms is that if a lance skids off the shield upwards it can impact on the neck, downward and it can hit the stomach or cantle. Neither is good and so the lance needs to embed into the shield enough to prevent this; the wood allows this to happen.

The tiled wooden surface that results is of course not pretty and so this is covered with linen and gesso front and back and this takes the finished thickness up to around 17-18mm.

I was not at the joust where it had its inaugural outing, but according to Toby it performed excellently.

Not having seen Toby in all his finery, I must say that that is one truly magnificent set of kit.

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Kel Rekuta

Location: Toronto, Canada
Joined: 10 Feb 2004
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Posts: 616

PostPosted: Wed 10 Sep, 2014 4:50 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I think its fair to say that many of us look at stuff we want and try to discover how Tod would make it. ;-)

I have to say its a very different tack than my research into the ecranche. Looking in exasperation at the example in the Musee de l' Armee, it occurred to me to take a page from ship and roof building. Medieval carpenters regularly obtained limb cores purposefully harvested from trees for their key joints. Ships like the great caravels could not be built without them. Likewise coopers prefer to select rough boards with some natural bow so as to reduce the work of steaming to shape. Tension wood in tree branches and large crotches have a tremendous capacity for springiness - so much so that joiners despise them. They good for little more than firewood to a joiner or cabinetmaker. It seems to me this is a lost art in the modern woodworking community.

Until we get access to a CT scan of that or similar ecranche, we will never know for sure. However to that end, I have been collecting limb wood since that visit in 2011. At some point, Dale Gienow will put the shield through its paces. I think I've got pavise construction to my satisfaction, that one's next on the list.

Congrats on a successful project seen to its conclusion Tod and Tobie!
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Rod Walker

Location: NSW, Australia.
Joined: 05 Feb 2004

Posts: 230

PostPosted: Thu 11 Sep, 2014 12:30 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Very nice.

I had a go at making something like this last year. I layed up the plywood for the curve and then cut out two sections with the cuts facing each other like this () and with a bevel. Joined them together to get the shape. They are glued, pinned and finally fibreglassed and then covered and painted. Not a period technique but gave me the shape I was after.

This is the orginal prototype and is only 15mm thick and I didn't get as deep a curve as I wanted. I have had a thicker blank sitting on the former since December last year. I haven't gotten around to doing anything with it as yet as I had a bad motorcycle accident in January that shattered my left thumb and I have on;y just been getting back on top of jobs and projects.



"Come! Let us lay a lance in rest,
And tilt at windmills under a wild sky!
For who would live so petty and unblessed
That dare not tilt at something, ere he die?"
--Errantry, John Galsworthy
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Tobias Capwell

Joined: 17 Jan 2007

Posts: 61

PostPosted: Thu 11 Sep, 2014 2:01 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I should clarify - we don't regard this tiled idea as a historically authentic construction method. It is a modern method, inspired by a historical technique, but employing a different material to create a different kind of shield.

Here what I was concerned with was the authenticity of the final form and function. That and routine practicality and economy. Another benefit of the tiled construction, as well as thickening the base layer with no loss of shape, seems to be durability. If a hard impact and penetration starts a crack, the crack can only travel as far as the edge of the particular tile. At least theoretically. It would be interesting to use the thing for a few seasons and then strip the cover off and see what's been going on.

But it certainly seems to be pretty tough. It went through two weeks of solid lance jousting in July and remained entirely undamaged apart from the localised coronel bites themselves. Now of course several of the other participants' shields performed perfectly well too. There are obviously lots of good ways to build shields...
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