Workshop: Build Viking Shield

Build an Authentic Viking Shield
Instructor: Arthur Von Eschen, Jarl of Ásfólk
Two-day or four-day workshop (depending on options)
You can choose the specific days: March 17, 18, 24 & 25

Workshop Overview
This two-day (or four-day) hands-on workshop is designed for those with little to no woodworking experience. Guided by the highly experienced Jarl of Ásfólk, Arthur Von Eschen, each student will build their own authentic Viking Age round shield. Participants learn how to:

  • Build an authentic Viking Age round shield
  • Maintain and repair a Viking Age shield
  • Use Viking Age tools
    • Modern power tools available to speed up construction, but highly recommend you at least try Viking Age tools
  • Work with wood, rawhide, hide glue, beeswax, oils and other Viking Age materials


In this workshop, Arthur leads participants through the major tasks of building their own Viking Age round shield. This includes gluing up thin planks into a panel, finalizing the thickness of the shield, cutting it to shape, chamfering, carving your handle, applying a wood finish, attaching the handle and a hanger and the shield boss, and stitching the shield edge. For those that choose to edge their shields or both face and edge their shields, the workshop will also include prepping the rawhide, attaching rawhide and finishing the rawhide. All of this will be taught with Viking Age tools. Modern power tools will also be available for you to use if you would like to speed up the process.

At the end of the workshop each student will have a completed, authentic, Viking Age round shield; optionally with rawhide edging, or rawhide facing and edging. An authentic Viking Age shield boss is provided for you to attach to the shield (this is done in class).

Participants will be working with materials that have had a fair amount of processing already performed. The wood, nails, rawhide and other materials are in a state where you can immediately start using them, so you can focus on the major building tasks. This is what enables us to complete the workshop in two to four days instead of a great many more. Please keep in mind that this is a hands-on, DIY workshop. Even though 15 to over 40 hours of work have been completed ahead of time, there will still be a good 8 to 20 hours of work for you to do (depending on options chosen). I say this because you need to be prepared to work.

Arthur Von Eschen has a PhD in Operations Research. He has brought a structured and disciplined approach to researching Viking Age shields, which he has done for over a decade. He has built hundreds of authentic Viking Age shields, some for museums and researchers. In addition to working with several museums, he also spends a great deal of time running experiments (experimental archaeology) on Viking shields. You can find many videos and references to his work throughout the Internet.

Who May Attend?
This workshop is open to everyone, no prior woodworking experience is required. Students under the age of 16 must have an adult with them to provide supervision and assistance (they work on the same shield so there’s no additional cost). You do NOT have to be one of our martial arts students to participate in this workshop UNLESS you are 12 years old or younger.

Benefits of Being a Current Member
In addition to the $50 discount (over $100 discount for youth), current members also get the following:

  • Free material to repair their shields should they ever suffer damage (more info in the F.A.Q. below)
  • Free historical paint to paint their shield (more info in the F.A.Q. below)
  • Free leather cord to make a shield strap
  • Access to a payment plan so you only need to pay 1/3 of the total at registration (see below for details)

Determine the Diameter of Your Shield

How do I register? What is the cost of the workshop? These depend on the options you select and the size of your shield. So first, let’s figure out what the diameter of your shield should be:

* The distance between the middle of your hand and your body / chest when your arm is straight out in front of you

** Ásfólk Students Please Note: All Karl, Víkingr & Áshrafn ranked students MUST size their shield according to the calculator to get their membership discount & use it in class - Arthur will measure you in class to make sure it's accurate; Svinfylking ranked students and above may size their shield +/- 1 inch from the calculated value

Shield Options & Registration
PAYMENT PLAN IS AVAILABLE FOR CURRENT MEMBERS - you may either pay the full balance right away or make payments. The payment plan requires 1/3 of the total at registration, 1/3 of the total before the end of January and the final 1/3 before you attend the workshop. Non-members must pay the full balance at registration.

Your Age: 12 or less* 13+ 13+
Shield Option Your Shield Diameter: 28” or less 36” or less 36.25” - 40”
Base Shield $125 $300 or $350** $400 or $450**
Base Shield + Edging $190 $395 or $445** $460 or $510**
Base Shield + Facing + Edging $270 $550 or $600** $715 or $765**
Base Shield + Facing + Edging + Premium Wood*** NA $675 or $725** $895 or $945**

* Youth may ONLY take this workshop if they are current members or currently enrolled in the Youth Karl Program. We’re sorry for the inconvenience but we lose a fair amount of money on each youth that attends this workshop. We do this to promote younger people’s participation in Viking martial arts. Also, even if you are 12 years old or younger, if your proper shield diameter is over 28” you will have to register and pay using the “13+” column.
** The first price is for members or people currently enrolled in our Karl Program, the second price is for everyone else
*** Wood is stronger and more stable. It has fewer knots and defects and better grain alignment (greater percentage of it has rift to quarter sawn grain alignment, it is considered modern old / slow growth wood – not to be confused with what was used in the Viking Age); This option is only recommended if you plan to use your shield with sharp weapons.

How Do I Register? Click on the price in the above table for the Shield Option you want. This will take you to the appropriate registration page.

When Do I Attend? It will take you at least 2 days to complete a Base Shield but you should plan on 3 days. All other shield options (with facing and/or edging) will take you at least 3 days to complete but you should plan on 4 days. You are welcome to attend any (including every) day of the workshop to work on your shield. There is no “kick-off” day for the workshop so you can really start whenever… just make sure there are enough days left in the workshop to finish your shield. You also don’t have to show up at any specific time, although I would suggest NOT showing up when there is less than 2 hours left on that day. The workshop will be running on:

• Saturday, March 17, from 9am to 3pm
• Sunday, March 18, from 1pm to 7pm
• Saturday, March 24, from 9am to 3pm
• Sunday, March 25, from 1pm to 7pm

Here are some frequently asked questions. We will add to this list as more questions come in.

Why is the price higher on the registration page than on this page?
The prices on this page do NOT include sales tax. The amounts listed on the registration page do include sales tax.

When will registration close? May I pay at the door?
Registration will close on Saturday February 17th. You may NOT pay at the door to attend this workshop. Since material is only ordered when someone registers, and that material has a lot of pre-processing work that is required, it's not possible for us to accept drop-ins or late registrations.

Is there a payment plan?
Yes, but only for current members. 1/3 of the total is due at registration, another 1/3 is due in January and the final 1/3 is due before you attend the workshop in February. If you end up registering in January then 2/3 of the total will be due at registration.

What about painting?
We will NOT be painting shields as part of the workshop. However, if you are a current member and of rank Karl or higher, I will be providing you with historical paints, for free, but only to paint your shield as appropriate for your rank. For non-members, or non-school paint jobs, we will be selling historical paints starting in February.

What if I break my shield during construction?
You get an early lesson in repair. There are no extra parts available. If you use the hand tools to build your shield, it's really difficult to "break" anything during the construction process. I'll discuss this during the workshop too, but basically, if you take your time, anyone can be successful regardless of existing woodworking skill.

What if I break my shield while using it?
Although these shields will be tough, damage may occur. The vast majority of damage that does occur to a shield is easy and quick to repair. The most common types of damage and how to repair them will be discussed and demonstrated in the workshop. If you are a current member and your shield suffers damage, most repairs can be done for free at the longhouse. Current members will have free access to edge clamps, hide glue, stitching material and other common consumables to repair shields purchased from Ásfólk or made in one of our workshops.

Is there any way to practice before building my shield?
We will be providing scrap for people to practice on. Additionally, if you are a current member and of the rank Karl or higher, you may build a shield for the school first (no cost to do this). Let me know if this is of interest to you.

Will the shield be 100% authentic?
No. A 100% authentic Viking shield can easily cost $1,500 to $2,500 in raw materials. The shield is nearly 100% authentic in terms of handling characteristics. The two ways your shield will NOT be 100% authentic are, 1) the steel/iron is modern instead of being bloomery iron from an appropriate ore source, 2) the wood quality is nowhere near as robust as that used by people during the Viking Age.

May I get a refund if I'm unable to attend the workshop or am unable to fully pay for the workshop?
No. There are no refunds available. If you do not fully pay for the workshop you will be unable to attend AND you will forfeit any payments you made. This workshop is part of our educational outreach and we lose money on every attendee. The cost of the workshop doesn't even cover the cost of the materials. The moment you register for the workshop we will be purchasing the materials and begin processing them for you (even though you may not have fully paid for them yet).