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Dan D'Silva





Joined: 28 Apr 2007

Posts: 108

PostPosted: Sun 24 Apr, 2016 9:35 am    Post subject: Ideas for a conjectural shield         Reply with quote

I'm taking a woodworking class this semester, and in my spare time I've been making shield blanks. I've got time and material enough for one more (a small one, a scant 16 inches/40cm), and I'd like your thoughts on designing it.

For various reasons I wanted one contemporaneous to the Trojan War from West Asia, specifically in or near the area that would later be Hyrcania. I don't think any information exists, but figure it's better to ask before committing to anything.

Otherwise I'm picturing it as circular and center-gripped, with either a boss, or a wooden grip that stands off the back so a cutout and boss aren't needed, or paired flexible grips like a dhal.
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Jeffrey Faulk




Location: Georgia
Joined: 01 Jan 2011

Posts: 578

PostPosted: Mon 25 Apr, 2016 10:02 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

For the Trojan War you're looking at Mycenaean shields. Figure-eight, tower, proto-dipylon.

Here's a very informative website:

http://www.salimbeti.com/micenei/shields1.htm



Essentially you are looking at a wooden frame covered with thin bent slats or basket-work, then covered in thin metal or leather.
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Dan D'Silva





Joined: 28 Apr 2007

Posts: 108

PostPosted: Mon 25 Apr, 2016 1:12 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks. Well, I'm not looking for something actually from the Trojan War, but contemporaneous to it.
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Matthew Amt




Location: Laurel, MD, USA
Joined: 17 Sep 2003

Posts: 1,278

PostPosted: Mon 25 Apr, 2016 1:48 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Plus, the "tower" and "figure-8" shields actually predate the Trojan War by a century or more. Everything described in Homer is round, and simple layers of hide, sometimes with a bronze facing. No wicker or wood at all. Geometric art shows mostly round, with some Dipylon style, and even a few square!

But for Asia, something Hittite? Pretty sure that someone over in that direction was using small rectangular shields, sometimes with a little rectangular projection on the top (kinda looks like a one-stud LEGO!). The Hittites had their own version of the Dipylon, with convex top and bottom and concave sides. But I think it was bigger than the materials you have, and it's frequently shown with a sort of brick-wall pattern, which implies wicker to me.

Been too long since I looked at this stuff!

Matthew
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Dan D'Silva





Joined: 28 Apr 2007

Posts: 108

PostPosted: Tue 26 Apr, 2016 10:17 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I think wicker and hide are at least as plausible as wood, but wicker is beyond my capabilities. I'm probably thinking round because, well, I like round shields. Though the Dipylon is a very cool shape. There was a bronze one (or just a facing) in the Axel Guttmann collection described as Hittite, although I suspect the provenance is shaky. It's also described as Persian, but it's clearly different from the Persian violin shield.

There's a variety of bosses or shield facings, or things that look like them, often attributed to the Luristan bronzes, which, if correct (a big if, of course), is pretty close in space but a few centuries later. Going that route, I'd thought of using a small cymbal, which some of them look like, usually appearing quite shallow. But it turns out cymbals are pretty expensive...

Together with examples from the Aegean, the way the Sea Peoples' shields seem to have handles sticking off the back, and the lack of bosses on Neo-Hittie shields, the impression I get is that the large boss and cutout system was rare or nonexistent at this time. That should simplify things.

Edit: Something like this. Does this look practical from a combat perspective?


There are reconstructions of Andronovo people with various shields, but I can't figure out what if anything these are based on. I'm finding that JSTOR is less helpful than I'd expected.
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Jeffrey Faulk




Location: Georgia
Joined: 01 Jan 2011

Posts: 578

PostPosted: Thu 28 Apr, 2016 9:10 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Wicker might not be an option for you, but I believe there was a report from someone who did something similar with a Greek aspis... I want to say it was Christian Cameron, but I'm probably wrong... It was in a thread here on MA though, so you can probably find it by searching for Greek shields.

Anyway, what he did was he bought a thick plank of hardwood, sliced thin strips off it, soaked them in water until they were pliable, and then wove them into the general shape that he needed and affixed it to a solid rim before covering it with linen or whatever. I don't know if that's an option for you, but I can see it working out, especially if you aren't doing any particularly complex shapes like compound curves.
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Dan D'Silva





Joined: 28 Apr 2007

Posts: 108

PostPosted: Thu 28 Apr, 2016 10:14 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

That's a good idea! Yes, it was Christian's Chigi Vase aspis, although the photos on his build threads here and at RAT are gone. I know Matt also built one from wood strips though the weave is different.

I'll see. The semester's only another two weeks, so I may not be able to plan, get the material and do the necessary shop work in time.
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Jeffrey Faulk




Location: Georgia
Joined: 01 Jan 2011

Posts: 578

PostPosted: Fri 29 Apr, 2016 9:09 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dan,

If you only have two weeks and you still want to do a shield, I suggest just roughing out a press and forming one with plywood. Unless there is a requirement that it be done 'traditionally', a plywood shield covered with canvas will resemble a historic shield pretty well.

Failing that, it *could* be done... but it would require quite a bit of time and commitment and I imagine you have other concerns what with the end of your semester coming up.

If you are taking a similar class next semester, perhaps reserve the 'historic' version for that.

Not trying to be a wet blanket, just trying to offer my two cents Happy
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Dan D'Silva





Joined: 28 Apr 2007

Posts: 108

PostPosted: Sat 30 Apr, 2016 12:25 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I could pick up some sizable plywood if I get down to Oxford Valley in the next couple days. There's no particular requirement that the construction be historical; actually, if I had to guess, I'd say the two-ply method I've used for several shields is probably anachronistic most of the time.

And ah damn, speaking of which, I ruined the planks I was working on. I must not have distributed the weights correctly, because there's a big gap between much of the front and back layers. And the glue's waterproof, so... yeah, ruined.

When I have more time, I'll definitely try the woven wood strip method.
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Jeffrey Faulk




Location: Georgia
Joined: 01 Jan 2011

Posts: 578

PostPosted: Sun 01 May, 2016 6:29 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I hope it's not too late Happy

But if you are going to turn out a plywood shield, I suggest the 8mm Lauan. It's pretty cheap (one 4-by-8 sheet will run you less than 20 bucks, likely), three-ply, and holds together well. I've formed a few decent shields out of it. Of course regional availability might be an issue, so if it's not at your local hardware store don't mind me.

If you want to really shell out, Baltic birch is about as good as you can get. 'Cabinet grade' is only done with good veneer, the interior plies aren't worth it and it doesn't come thin enough to bend anyway. I haven't tested the 1/4" pine stuff, but it's kinda splintery, don't think it would take bending very well.

And of course there's exotic Scandinavian aircraft-grade plywood out there if you want to get spendy and have a 1/8" thick shield... :P
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Dan D'Silva





Joined: 28 Apr 2007

Posts: 108

PostPosted: Mon 02 May, 2016 6:47 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jeffrey Faulk wrote:
I hope it's not too late Happy

Sorry, too late Happy

I was in Oxford Valley yesterday, so I picked up some 1/2-inch birch ply. Seems to be three layers, pretty heavy, but I think this is not the final product -- when I learn to weave wicker or laths, I can replace the cores and reuse some of the other parts.

It's 24x48 inches (actually a hair more than that this time, unlike how the 6-inch poplar planks are really 5-1/2 inches...). Planning to do a 16-inch round with a central wooden grip and possibly a shallow boss, and a 32-inch violin shield. Both will of course be fully-faced in rawhide with either buckskin or linen backings when finished.

From what I can gather, people seem to think that Central Asian shields in the Bronze Age were either hide or woven. I don't know what if any archaeological evidence exists, but it occurs to me that the Plains Indian shields which were based around solid rawhide might be a good analogue. They used various grip systems, and I've seen at least one antique with paired central grips.
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Dan D'Silva





Joined: 28 Apr 2007

Posts: 108

PostPosted: Sat 14 May, 2016 3:49 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

By the way, does anyone have experience using split rawhide as a facing? I understand thinner rawhide works well enough but I'm wondering if it should be top-grain for strength. Tandy sells double bend splits which are large enough for medium-sized shields, and I've been keeping an eye out for when they go on sale.
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Matthew Amt




Location: Laurel, MD, USA
Joined: 17 Sep 2003

Posts: 1,278

PostPosted: Sat 14 May, 2016 6:04 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Yeah, I once made a nice poplar plank base for a Bronze Age shield, even dished out the back a little. I formed the rawhide as carefully as I could, with plenty of weights, and it turned my shield into a potato chip. It was only just a couple weeks ago that I stripped off the hide, reversed the board, and covered what used to be the back with hair-on cowhide (tanned). So now it's curved in the right direction!

I'm trying to get 4 rawhide discs ready to stitch together for a Homeric shield, and of course I had to soak the rolled-up hide to unroll it, and of course the discs are turning into rather stiff potato chips...

Beware!

Now, this is all "top grain" rawhide. It's possible that something thinner or split won't have so much attitude. Just be careful. Nail it down to something concrete and let it dry for several weeks. THEN put it on your shield!

Matthew
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Dan D'Silva





Joined: 28 Apr 2007

Posts: 108

PostPosted: Sun 15 May, 2016 1:44 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

That's an interesting thought. My experience with rawhide is limited (one knife sheath so far, 4-6oz. top grain) but it seems extremely hard and tough when dry. How do you get it to form to the core?
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Matthew Amt




Location: Laurel, MD, USA
Joined: 17 Sep 2003

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PostPosted: Sun 15 May, 2016 2:08 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

From what I recall (and probably posted on the Bronze Age Center), I glued the planks, then planed the front around the edges. Then I wet the rawhide and formed it over that, probably stapling it down around the back. Once I *thought* it was dry, I pried it off, chiseled out the back of the planks, and put the rawhide back on. THEN it finished drying and shrinking...

I'm not sure how the 4-layer Homeric shield will go. IF I can stitch the layers together dry, that's what I'll do. Otherwise I may have to dampen them, maybe just around the edges, enough to get them to cooperate. Which may result in another potato chip once it dries again!

Matthew
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Dan D'Silva





Joined: 28 Apr 2007

Posts: 108

PostPosted: Wed 25 May, 2016 7:26 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Oy. I ordered the double bend, but it actually seems pretty thick as far as rawhide goes, and rough, opaque, and generally unattractive.

I'm thinking of sending it back, and buying some top-grain goat rawhide instead, which apparently always comes in at 1-2oz. I know very thin rawhide is considered acceptable for plank shields since its main function is just to prevent the planks from splitting, but do you think it'd work on a woven wicker one? The pelta supposedly used goatskin, though I'm unhappily aware that its method of construction is unknown. It seems likely to me that in ancient times, small goats and sheep would've been more common in most places than the larger cattle, buffalo, etc. from which heavy shield rawhide is taken, and willows which could be used for wicker are native to Hyrcania.
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Jeffrey Faulk




Location: Georgia
Joined: 01 Jan 2011

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PostPosted: Thu 26 May, 2016 12:11 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I suspect wicker was probably *quite* frequently used, for commoners and middle-class soldiers at least. Goat and sheep rawhide also seems appropriate to me, cattle would have been more expensive and only used occasionally for meat/leather. Cattle rawhide would seem appropriate for a higher class shield or a larger one like a Mycenaean figure-eight.

Another possibility is the 'coil' method of basketry-- essentially making a long rope of material (dry grass or straw is a quite common material here) and tying it together in a large shaped coil. This would have an advantage in that it would be thicker than wicker, but obviously heavier.
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Dan D'Silva





Joined: 28 Apr 2007

Posts: 108

PostPosted: Fri 24 Jun, 2016 4:53 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I've given it a lot of thought and come up with a shaky theory based on the few bits of evidence I can gather.

Since Central Asian shields of the Classical period seem to always be made of sticks woven through hide (what I'll henceforth call pseudo-wicker) and this is about the simplest method I can think of other than just solid hide, there's no reason to think that they were using a different method before then. I would guess that the earliest shields were similar to the Pazyryk ones or like smaller versions of the Achaemenid *spara (cf. the pre-Achaemenid spouted vessel from Sialk). Also that the large *spara developed under Mesopotamian influence, and that the pseudo-wicker crescent shield on the Solokha comb resulted from Skythians applying this method of construction to create their own version of the Balkan pelta. This line of thinking unfortunately makes it seem like a round shield would be very unlikely in the Bronze Age.

So, what I would do is get a goat hide and cut a rectangle of around two feet tall, and just weave a bunch of 1/4- or 5/16-inch dowels through it. Fold the edges over and stitch, lace a pair of crosswise dowels to the back near the top and bottom, and a pair of leather thongs in the middle for a grip, with maybe a buckskin pad for my knuckles. Ugly, and certainly not what I envisioned at the start, but more plausible than anything until better evidence comes along.
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