The Ravens Warband


Anglo-Saxon shields were made from a circular wooden board, at the centre of which was fitted an iron 'boss' (fig. 1). The board behind the boss was cut away and a grip fitted across the opening, by which the shield was held. The shield was often covered with leather and decorated with fittings of iron or bronze.

The size of Anglo-Saxon shields recovered from burials is inferred from impressions in the soil, the position of remaining fittings and the dimensions of the grave. The evidence suggests that boards varied significantly in size, between 0.34 and 0.92m (1-3 feet) in diameter, with the majority in the range 0.46 to 0.66m (1½ to 2¼ feet).

Figure 1: Shield

The board can be made of 9mm thick plywood or to be more authentic make up a board of solid planks of alder, poplar, willow or lime. Join planks to form a board using wooden cross battens and attach the boards to the battens using wooden pegs and glue. Cut the board to shape using a jigsaw.

If you wish to paint your shield do so next. Use matt paint (e.g. emulsion) of an appropriate 'natural' colour and keep any pattern plain, e.g. stripes or sectors (no heraldry). Shields can also be covered with leather or linen which can itself be coloured.

The shield grip can be made of wood and/or iron. A simple iron grip (1" wide x 5-6" long) can be cut from 3-4mm sheet steel, filed smooth, and the middle bound with wool and/or leather.

You will require a shield boss which can be purchased from armourers. Place the boss on the centre of the board and draw round it (in pencil). Mark a second inner circle ¾" in from the first and cut a hole for your hand.

To rivet the boss and the grip to the board you will need some iron nails, steel washers which fit closely over the shaft of the nails and a drill bit of the same size. Drill five holes, equally spaced around the boss and through the wood. Push the nails through the holes so that their heads lie on the boss. Cut or clip the nails so that l-2mm protrudes. Place washers over the ends of the nails which do not pass through the grip, and rivet the ends of all the nails. The washers should prevent the rivet head pulling through the wood. You must ensure the head of the nail rests on a firm, hard surface during riveting. Next rivet the grip to the board. Drill a hole in either end of the grip. Place the grip across the hole in the board but off centre so that there is space for the knuckles when the shield is gripped.

If your shield is not covered with leather or linen it should be rimmed with leather or, preferably, rawhide. Rawhide can be obtained from pet shops as 'dog chews' which should be soaked in water until soft and cut into 1½" wide strips. Drill holes round the edge of the shield every 2-3" and sew the hide strips to the rim of the shield using linen thread or leather thong. When the rawhide dries it hardens again and prevents the edge of the shield from splintering.

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