Friday, March 08, 2013

Viking Shield

What does a Canadian do during the long Northern winter? Besides drinking wine and shovelling snow this Canuck, a self proclaimed history nerd, constructs a Viking shield. After completing my Norse spear and acquiring a Hanwei antiqued Viking axe it seemed a logical step to take

After researching Norse shield designs I decided to take a few liberties with my first shield. Rather than use planks I opted to purchase a solid sheet of hardwood to avoid the need to glue since I don't possess wood clamps.Often a shield was rimmed with rawhide but I substituted suede from an old jacket. Might not be historically accurate but it worked.

In true Canadian fashion I created the handle from an old hockey stick wrapped in some leftover suede. A shoulder strap from an old briefcase became the shoulder sling because I did not possess any suitable rope. Since I did not use planks it was not necessary to place supporting strips of wood on the belly of the shield other than the two small strips use to support the bolts of the shield boss.

In hinesight I should have made the circumference of the hand grip area larger but since the boss was the last addition I was loathe to make it too large. On backorder with Reliks the boss was finally restocked last month.A barehanded grip is snug especially holding both the strap and either a seax (long knife) or throwing axe in the traditional manner. I may well remove the boss and trim the grip area larger.

That was fun but I think my next project will be to create a full size shield(this one is 60 cms in width so on the small side) using the traditional method of planks and rawhide. Some shields were often covered in linen so that may also be an option. I suspect I will use this shield as a test dummy this summer to see how well it holds up to the abuse of arrows, axe, spear and sword.

Geo's Theory on Shields

I suspect shields were considered expendable in the dark ages. They were primarily used for defense to parry attacks and create shield walls.Hollywood portrays warriors using swords to defend themselves in blade on blade, edge to edge action but that was just a way to destroy precious steel. Since swords were expensive to produce and usually just the priviledge of the aristocracy I think they were treated as gently as possible.

A shield on the other hand was made from wood. It would splinter and shatter but was essential in protecting the user. The Viking/Saxon round shield could also be used as a weapon. Since it was held by the hand it could be used on a punch or swung with the leading edge. It could also "trap" the opponents sword or axe if they bit deep into the wood. A simple twist of the shield could then disarm an opponent or leave him in a vulnerable position for a counter stroke.

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