Historically accurate kite shield construction?
I have been trying to find via internet research the proper construction of a medieval kite shield, and I have not found any evidence (from medieval drawings or sculptures) of them being constructed out of planks, yet I find it hard to believe that they were made from curved plywood in the middle ages. (the picture is way I plan on making mine, I would like to know how historically accurate the construction is,) Thanks in advance.

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Down at the bottom, there's a picture of the Trondheim shield, with the two layered construction. I don't know if this was common or not. https://sites.google.com/site/archoevidence/home/wooden-shields
I was expecting the experts to weigh in with lengthy advice, but until they do I'll give amateur advice.

You should change some important things to make it more historically accurate. Keep looking for information. Surviving Celtic and Roman large shields were made of planks shaped to curve around the body, and flat circular Viking shields have been discovered that were also made of planks. While I'm not aware any Norman shields that have been dug up, I think its safe to say they were made of planks until we dig up evidence to the contrary. It may be inexact to tell you how to make a kite shield by showing you Viking shields, but the Normans were just Vikings who settled down in France. Shield technology might have been similar throughout Northern Europe in the Viking Age.

As far as we know they weren't made of plywood. You may be surprised to know that they did not have wooden or iron crossbars to which the planks were nailed, and that they held together without such things, but Viking shield experimentation suggests that if you glue butted planks together side by side using glue made from cheese and vinegar or the modern equivalent like latex glue and then cover that with leather that's fitted to the face, and then you fasten a rawhide rim all around the edge, it will be sturdy enough for its medieval purpose. You might want to make it of plywood if you will fight with it, since that would extend its life, but I think planks would be most accurate as far as we know. The facing of the shield is very structurally important. The Hastings era shield blocked missiles and strikes by flexing and distorting a bit on impact, and even if the glue between the planks didn't hold or the planks cracked then the facing and rim would hold it all together. Shields back then were somewhat disposable, so you're justified in either over designing your shield or using plywood for durability.

Mike Loades shows a popular theory about how the Viking shield is made:

shields took damage something like this:


The Classic Norman Kite shield had a leather strap and handle system which could be used, it seems, according to the user's preference, at least if the Bayeux tapestry can be trusted.


I assume based on the fact that your design has a round top that you're going for Viking Age to First Crusade time period, i.e. 950-1100. If that's so, I suggest you put a shield boss on it. If you're doing after 1100 then some of the information I suggested might be slightly changed. For instance, by 1180 many knights had large flat-topped kite shields that looked roughly triangular. At some point they stopped using shield bosses. By 1250, small triangular shields were popular among knights and large kite shields were still used but were much less common. Decide on a specific time period for the best historical accuracy.

Also, you want to build your shield to curve around you in a gentle semi-cylindrical fashion. You wouldn't have that bend in the middle that makes it V shaped from above. If you think you saw it in a picture then it's probably just two-dimensional perspective. Try making it over a slightly curved cylindrical form.

Hopefully somebody will give you better advice than me. Rock on, and good luck.
Thanks alot for the info, the 950-1100 is the time period I was going for; I had never thought about the leather around the rim as support to help hold it together (does anyone where to find some?) As for the shield boss, I was planning on getting away without it because even though most are drawn with shield bosses not all in the bayeux have them; they may have just forgotten to draw them though. Even though me and glue are arch nemeses, I think i'll try to glue it and see how it goes.
My understanding is that while they didn't have plywood, they did have the ability to shape pieces of wood. From what I've been told, they were just made from two pieces of that had been curved, and then layered, with leather on top. I'd recommend checking out Arms and Armor of the Medieval Knight by David Edge and John Miles Paddock. I don't have it on me, but they cover the evolution of the shield, along with the rest of the panoply of arms.
shield construction
Some notes on later shields at:
The book you need is Der mittelalterliche Reiterschild
Copies can be found at http://www.abebooks.com/servlet/SearchResults...1&y=14
Actually it was very silly of me to assume that Norman shields were made the same way as viking shields without doing further research. Looks like I have to do my homework on this too.

It seems this question has come up before in another thread.


Brad, could you perhaps elaborate about what you mean?

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