Homemade Viking Shield

Luke Bubar's Guide to a Practically Sourced and Mostly-Historically-Accurate Viking-style Round Shield

Sources

  1. Hurstwic Page
  2. Skallagrim's Video

Overview

Round shields from the period are softwood planks, butted and glued together, with a center grip that runs nearly the entire length of the shield.

There are a few exceptions to this I have seen, where metal strips are used to support the length of the shield and the wood handle only runs through the center hole. I need to find the source for this again.

A hole is cut out from the center of the shield to make room for your hand, so that the grip can be as close to the center of mass as possible. A metal boss covers the hand.

If you want more info about the true historical construction, the Hurstwic Page is a great source. I will show you here how to source and make a shield in the 21st century.

Equipment

Materials

Tools

Instructions

  1. If you got your wood from a pallet like I did, start by disassembling the pallet.
    1. The best way to separate the planks from the cross-beams of the pallet is just to cut the cross-beams off with a sawzall, circular saw, or hand saw.
    2. If there are three or more cross-beams, cut the ends off to separate the planks from the end two cross-beams, and carefully use a crowbar or pry-bar to pry free where the boards are connected in the center cross-beam.
  2. Lay the boards out in the size that your shield will be, with a little extra space. I had a 32" diameter shield, so I laid out enough boards to make about a 34" square. Lay the boards out so the thickest of the lot will be closest to the center, and leave the thinner ones closer to the edges. Don't use boards with holes or major cracks.
  3. Optionally, you can sand the long ends of the boards so that where the boards connect, there will be as little a gap as possible for when we glue them.
  4. Now glue the boards together, butted against each-other, and let them dry. The way I did it the first time, was I would glue one on at a time, wait for that one to dry, and then glue the next one. This is fine, but it takes a long time. You could glue all the boards at once, and you don't even have to use clamps.
  5. Now that you have the glued array of planks, it is time to cut the hole in the center and cut the round shape (we are making a round shield after all). First, trace both circles out by using the pencil-on-a-string method (see the video below). The outside circle will be the size of the shield, and the inside circle will be the hole your hand will fit in. A 4" diameter is sufficient. Find something to saw the shield on. I used a plastic garbage can. Use the jigsaw (or handsaw) to cut the circles. For the center hole, start the cut by drilling a hole with the screw gun and a wood drill bit.
  6. Now sand (and optionally plane) each face so the boards that you will want to put the fabric on (at least the front, optionally the back). Do it so that each face is nearly seamless where the boards join. It doesn't have to be a perfect finish, just smooth enough.
  7. Now for the handle. It does not have to run the entire length of the shield, but that will give it some extra strength. I shaped mine from a 2x4 cross-beam salvaged from a pallet. I used a chop saw to cut the length, a table saw to get the basic shape, a band saw to cut in more detail, shaped it with a belt sander, and finished it by sanding it by hand. You will be fine with just a band saw, belt sander, and sandpaper. Keep in mind that you do not want the handle to go away from the center of the shield in any way. My first handle did that slightly and it made it much more difficult to hold. I recently redid my handle the right way, with the grip closer to the center of gravity, and the difference was like night and day.
  8. Handle
  9. By this point, all the wood-working is done! We just need to assemble the pieces. Start by setting up the shield on that table or surface you used to cut it again.
    1. Liberally apply your wood-glue all over the front face that you spent all that time sanding and planing. Now place the fabric your are using over that face, and make sure there are no bubbles or wrinkles. Once that is dry, flip the shield over and begin gluing the fabric to the rear side.
      1. If you are just covering the front, you should have an inch of a lip where the fabric folds over on the rear side. Once the lip is glued and dried, cut the excess away.
      2. If you are covering both sides, simply do the same for the rear side, only don't go over onto the front.
  10. Now screw or nail the shield boss over the handle in the middle. Make sure you have the boss on the front side!
  11. Finally, drill or nail the handle onto the other side

Congrats, your shield is done! If you want, you can paint the face of it or add a strap.