Viking shield by Iron John Logan
I was asked if I was interested in taking on an awesome project - to make a Viking shield like seen in the television show Vikings but made exactly like they would have a thousand years ago. Made entirely by hand from felling the tree to the alchemy of making period pigments. It has been a long but rewarding project!
Almost a year ago to the day I went out into the snow to find a tree. Most people would think you would want Oak or another hard wood for a shield, but the Vikings a thousand years ago choose woods that are light in weight and strong against splitting. One of the favorites for shields was the Linden tree, which its relative here in the US is known as Basswood. I found such a tree, felled it with an ax, and dragged it home
The first order of working green wood is to get the bark off to allow the wood to dry. Both Linden and Basswood bark is an amazing material on its own, being one of the strongest fibers found in nature. I will save the bark and ret it to use as cordage in the project
I then bucked the log into pieces and split each of these in half to begin to form the planks of the shield.
After a few months of drying, and splitting, and carving (did I mention Basswood does not split easily?) I got the planks down the shield shape.
Original Viking shields are very thin - 1/2 inch or less, to be as light in weight as possible. The planks are glued together with milk paste, then straps from the same tree are trenailed on with splinters of the same
The shield is together and the wood is continuing to dry. It is coated overall with milk paste to strengthen and hold everything together.
This is the bark of the tree after retting, ie allowing it to controllably rot leaving the fibers behind. This will be washed and twisted into cordage for the strap of the shield
The Alchemy! Making the pigment that I will use for the paint of the shield. After a lot of research searching for the color they used in the television show I decided on what is known as Green Bice.
The pigment is formed from the mixing of Blue Vitriol and baking soda (copper sulfate and Sodium bicarbonate)
The only picture of raising the shield boss
Another misconception of shields is that they had hard iron rim to protect from sword cuts, though most shields found in archaeology have either wood or leather rims - again to keep everything as light in weight as possible. I went with wood to continue to only use material from the one tree
Final photo of the back of the shield showing the trenailed wood straps and the bark cordage sling
Final photo of the shield