Making a Re-enactor's Viking shield 101 ( Leigh's work )

Reference. Viking shields from Archeology.

Needs :-

  • Boss of appropriate period design enough boss nails to suit 4 usually
  • 8mm 3ply - thicker will make finished shield too heavy. Ideally the diameter of shield is the measurement from elbow to elbow with knuckles together ( Fig 01 ) {more advanced technique calls for 1cm boards}
  • Calico / canvas enough for three layers over face of shield
  • Aquadhere/water 50/50 or casein (milk glue)
  • For accuracy a layer of leather for the face (thin stuff for weight) if affordable
  • Paint in desired colours
  • A tomato stake the diameter of the shield almost
  • Thick leather or rawhide dog chews for the rim
  • Strong linen thread (leather thonging snaps)
  • Baldric pins (Fig 02) and leather strap for Baldric (buckle optional)

Fig 01. Fig 02.

Tools :-

  • handsaw
  • disposable glue brush
  • drill
  • jigsaw
  • rasp
  • hammer/mallet
  • locking pliers
  • sewing needle
  • scissors
  • patience
  • helpful assistant

Method :-

  1. Using diameter measurement, mark (nail and string method works well) and cut circle of ply to make shield face carefully mark deadcentre on the back. (as this is important in boss placement later)
  2. Score 3 -5 lines across what will be the back of the shield going with the timber grain (this is to represent the boards of a plank shield) this grain will be visible and run horizontally. (Fig 05)
  3. Use glue to layer the fabric on the front and edges of the shield (best to allow some drying time between layers) Leather face if desired/affordable is last layer.
  4. Mark second circle slightly smaller than boss hole. Drill hole and then use jigsaw to cut hole. Rasp edges for future hand comfort.
  5. Paint shield face when glue is dry. Preferable to have an accurate reference if in doubt plain red. (colours that were available red, yellow, black, blue, white)
  6. Rim for historical accuracy needs to be sewn on. Thick leather is best for shield longevity. If using rawhide use large dog chews cut in half lengthwise. Soak leather for ease of use. Drill holes as you go either 1cm apart or two very close holes every 3cm (later method protects stitching). (Fig 03) (Fig 04) Trim all leather and/or calico hanging out the back of the rim.
  7. Grip Use a wooden lath almost the entire length of the Diameter of the shield. Tomato stakes work well shape the hand grip so it is comfortable and taper the ends.(Fig 06)
  8. Attachment The top and bottom / vertical nails need to go in first (these go through the grip also) (Fig 07) Position Boss on shield neatly matching edge of the hole. Mark and drill top and bottom holes only. Pass top nail through and use it to dent grip in the correct position. Make sure this mark is centred then drill push nail through boss, shield and grip. With this nail holding the grip in place the rest of the holes can be marked and drilled fairly easily. Once nails are in place (Fig 08)use pliers to slightly bend tips away from the boss (Fig 09) then put shield down with nail heads on an anvil or equivalent and hammer the tips down to bite firmly into the shield, facing away from the boss, to hold boss, shield and grip in place (Fig 10).
  9. Baldric All period shields seem to have had a baldric. Make two as per (Fig 02) split pin 50- 60mm if using modern one gal needs to be removed(soak in coke or heat to red hot) washer may be brass ring to 2cm diameter. Drill holes in required position see (Fig 12) to choose positioning. Position 1, 2 strengthen grip, shield bonding making it more secure. Cleat split pin as per (Fig 11). Baldric should just be a stretchy strap put a buckle on if you want.
  10. Your sheild is now completed. (Fig 13) (Fig 14)

Fig 03. Fig 04.
Fig 05. Fig 06.
Fig 07. Fig 08.
Fig 09. Fig 10.
Fig 11. Fig 12.
Fig 13. Fig 14.


  • Make sure the grain and board marks are horizontal to the grip which runs vertical to the ground across the shield.
  • It is easy to put the holes in the grip off centre check and recheck after marking spot with nail through boss/shield.
  • The shield should have a baldric.
  • This is all pertaining to Norse shields other groups and periods have different designs and methods of making.