There is something quite unique about a Viking shield. It has a rustic homemade appearance which is perfect if you want to make one yourself.
And who wouldn't want one? I mean how cool does an angry Viking look when running towards their enemy with just a sword and shield?
The weapons used by the Vikings weren’t uncommon. They were mostly swords axes and knives. But one thing that’s distinct about their weaponry is their colourful wooden shields.
If you’re like me, you’d feel pretty ecstatic about owning one of those. Of course, you could just buy one, but making one gives you the accomplishment of creating it yourself.
So, in this article, we’re going to teach you how to make a Viking round shield that is as close as possible to what the real Vikings would have used.
Step 1: Create the shield boss
One of the primary components of a Viking shield is the shield boss.
The shield boss is a rounded piece of metal located at the centre of the shield. Its primary purpose is to inflict damage when the carrier performs a punching motion toward the enemy. Essentially this allows a simple defensive shield to also attack.
To make a shield boss, use a piece of sheet metal and cut it into a 10” diameter circle. Then, shape it into a bowl with a metal rim on the outer edge by hammering it, ideally with an anvil.
If you don't possess an anvil use something else that will not get damaged in the process. For example, we carved a bowl-shaped hole into a log and hammer the sheet metal on top of the carved log to achieve our desired shape.
Once you are happy with the shaping, drill equally spaced holes for your nails to attach to the main wooden part of the shield.
Pro Tip: Don’t worry if the shield boss has rough dents. This actually helps bring out a look of being used in a war. If you want, you can even give it a brown barrel finish to give it a dark rusty "old" look.
If hammering sheet metal sounds like too much trouble, you may be able to find a suitable-sized metal bowl. Just make sure to lightly dent it otherwise it will look too perfect and out of place.
Step 2: Cut the Shield
Next, get a half-inch thick board for the main wooden part of the shield. If the timber is too thick it will be very heavy and slow to move around. But if it is too thin then it will not be able to withstand heavy blows during battle. So choose your timber wisely.
When choosing the timber you could use a large sheet of plywood or for a more traditional approach, glue many smaller pieces of timber together to reach the desired width and length.
If you take the second approach, you will need to allow much more time to allow for the glue to dry using clamps. Also, you will need to add supports at the back of the shield (during step 3) to firmly hold it all together. Otherwise, it may fall apart in battle.
When you have your timber ready, draw a 30” circle and cut it using a jigsaw. You can adjust the diameter based on the size you want.
Next, cut a smaller circle about the size of the concave part of your shield boss in the centre of the shield. This will give you the space for your grip. Just make sure not to cut this hole too large as your shield boss still needs space to attach.
Pro Tip: To give it a more used-in-battle look, lightly axe the shield in different areas to make some dents and scratches. Make sure you don’t axe it too hard or you might end up destroying your shield before it is finished.
Finally, sand it to smooth the entire surface. This will help ensure that the paint will stick and that there are no splinters or chips left before painting.
Step 3: Make a Handle
To make a handle, cut a 1x2” wood to a length that's just a little shorter than the diameter of the shield. Then, use the edges of your shield as a curve pattern to create an hourglass shape at the centre of the wood (right where you’ll grip the handle).
This will make it easier to grip the shield. Just make sure to sand out the edges to avoid getting splintered.
Screw the handle across the centre of the shield. Make sure that the hourglass-shaped handle is right in the middle where the hole is.
You can also add other smaller supporting pieces of timber to add strength to your shield as shown in the image below. This is essential if you glued many smaller pieces of timber together to make the main wooden piece.
Step 4: Paint It
The Vikings had rather colourful and creative shields so you'll need some creativity for this step. You can use patterns, multi-colours, or just one colour. Of you may even choose an intricate design if you find a stencil and feel like going all out.
For the purpose of this article, we’re going to use a simple red and give it a distressed look using a brown wood finish to achieve Ragnar Lothbrok’s shield from the tv series Vikings.
First, paint the surface with the colour of your choosing (in our case, red). After it dries out, wipe a dark wood finish on the entire surface. Then, wipe off 90% of the wood finish.
This will leave some dark spots in the cracks and dents that we created with the axe in Step 2, giving it more emphasis. Plus, it will give the shield a more dark rustic look. Don’t forget to paint the back part of your shield too.
Depending on the type of paint you used, this might take around 6-8 hours to fully dry.
Step 5: Add the Details
Attach the shield boss at the centre of your shield. To make it more realistic, you can use rod iron nails which will give it the old medieval look. Just make sure to use small nails so they don't come through to the other side.
Another detail you shouldn’t leave out is the rim around the shield edge.
Traditionally, Vikings used leather around their shields to hold the edges of their shields together. To accomplish this, they would sew leather strips into their shields, however, since modern tools are available to us, you can attach it faster with a staple gun.
In the TV series Vikings, Ragnar Lothbrok’s shield uses metal rings with about an inch surface around the edges. If you’re willing to spend money on this project or have some extra sheet metal available, using metal rings instead of leather is a great option.
To attach the metal rings, drill equally spaced holes around the metal ring. Then, hammer down your rod iron nails gently. Make sure the length of your nails will not go through the other side of the shield.
There are plenty of ways to create a Viking shield. With a little creativity and guidance, you can come up with different designs for your shield.