What is wooden armorHundreds of years ago, armor made of wood was a type of armor people wore while defending themselves in battle or against enemies. It was common among native peoples and didn’t work as well as metal armor. However, it did exist, and it plays a significant role in world history.

In this article, we’ll explain what this kind of armor is and where it existed in the past.

What is Wooden Armor?

Wooden body armor was a protection constructed out of wood that could include helmets, visors, breastplates, and sometimes, even shields. It could be put together from a single piece of solid wood or from many small pieces connected with strips of leather or animal hide.

Where Did Wood Armor Exist?

This kind of armor existed in rural areas that didn’t have access to the technology or raw materials to create armor from metal. If armor that was made of wood could hold up against attack, then people would use it.

People also used wood as a component for making armor when they knew it would be effective against the weapons their soldiers were up against. Wood-derived types of armor stand up against very few forms of attack.

– Tlingits and Haida Tribes of Alaska and Siberia

Native people from Alaska and Siberia created armor from wood, pieces of bone, and strips of hardened sealskin. They created it according to the lamellar method. Instead of being one singular piece of armor, lamellar armor was made by connecting many small rectangular pieces of wood, bone, or hardened animal hide together. The resulting object acted like a singular piece of material and could be used to create a pauldron for warriors.

The Tlingits and Haida also carved intricate wooden helmets, complete with totems, paint, and engravings, for use in battle and ceremonial events. Very few of these helmets survive, but the ones that do give historians insight into how ancient people used wood to make their armor.

– In Japan

Long before the advent of the Samurai warriors, Japanese people manufactured battle ready armor out of wood. However, advancements in using wood for armor ceased when trade introduced the Japanese to metallurgy around 250-530 AD.

During this period the Japanese developed their ironworking capacity, which allowed them to utilize the metal more when making armor. By 538, the end of the Kofun period, armor crafted from wood had been phased out entirely.

– In Mongolia and Siberian Russia

Laminar armor made of wooden pieces was made by Native people in extreme northeast Russia and the islands along the Bering Strait. Instead of being made of many small rectangular pieces of material connected together, wooden laminar armor was made by connecting bands of solid material together in rows. The rows could then be connected together at different angles to retain mobility. Wood was only used sparingly in this process.

– Iroquois, Huron, and Mohawk Tribes of the Eastern United States

In the area that now makes up the northeast United States, the Iroquois, Huron, and Mohawk tribes lived. In the abundant forests of the area, they created armor out of thin strips of wood, connected by reeds or sinew. They were decorated with paint in geometric patterns.

While this armor was similar to the armor made by the Tlingit and Haida tribes in the Pacific Northwest, it has one difference that made it less able to protect warriors in battle. Individual pieces of wood were circular sticks or ‘rods,’ not flat sections or ‘slats’ as used by the Tlingit and Haida.

These three tribes were some of the first to make contact with settlers from Europe. The introduction of firearms, which could easily penetrate even tightly-woven wooden strips of armor, likely led to the complete abandonment of this form of wartime battle gear.

Does Wood Make Good Armor?

Wood is not a good material to make armor out of. This is because wood splits and breaks easily. A soldier with a dented metal breastplate can have the dent hammered out. A soldier with a cracked or split wooden breastplate has no way to repair the material. Whether a civilization used wood as armor depended on access to wartime technology.

– Not Good in Areas With Technology That Destroys Wood

Wood make good armorMost of the tools that became wartime instruments were originally based on implements used in farming, animal herding, or tree-cutting.

This is especially true in medieval Europe, where battle axes and swords were developed from forestry-related tools. If those weapons could easily cut wood, there was no point in making armor out of wood.

The only widely-used kind of medieval armor made of wood was the shield. This was because shields were cheap, could be easily replaced if they broke, and were more accessible to working people than fancier shields made of metal. A poorer medieval knight who wanted to be as prepared for battle as possible would have better luck with leather armor than with wood.

Technology in other parts of the world, such as Eastern Europe and Southeastern Asia, outpaced the defense capabilities of wood so fast that it is not known how extensively armor made from this material was even used by warriors, since metal was known as a more reliable and effective material since before the Ancient Roans conquered the Mediterranean.

– Good in Areas Without Advanced Weapons

Ancient peoples only made and utilized wood as part of their armor if it was effective against attacks and weapons. Native people in Siberia and Eastern Europe used armor from wood because it could deflect and defend against simple arrowheads that were only made from bone or stone.

As weapons grew more advanced in strength and firepower, the use of wooden armor declined. Civilizations were not eager to hold onto a type of armor that wouldn’t keep them safe in battle. It made sense to embrace new kinds of technology, such as metal armor, and leave outdated technologies behind. Only shields survived this change into a world of battlefields dominated by metal armor.

How Do You Make Wood Armor?

Most of the methods ancient people used to make armor from wood are no longer in use or known today. Since wood decomposes rapidly, we don’t know much about the exact construction methods that they used. However, we do understand some basic ideas behind this type of armor’s construction.

First, decide what you want to make. Making a breastplate will be a very different process than making a helmet. Investigate the history and pictures of existing armor artifacts to gain some inspiration and insight.

Then, consider these points:

– One Piece of Wood or Many Pieces

If you are making a wooden battle helmet, you’ll need fewer pieces of wood than if you are making a breastplate. However, those pieces must be larger and you need to be able to carve them. If you plan on creating laminar or lamellar armor, you’ll need many pieces of wood, bone, or leather.

– Slats or Rods

Construct your armor from either flat slats or circular rods of wood. The first is more effective against attacks, but the second may be easier and quicker to construct. You will need to use leather twine to connect the slats together after boring holes through them. For the rods, make sure you’re good at tying knots since you have to tie each rod together to form a solid piece of material.

– Authentic or Modern

It can take a long time to carve or tie your new armor from wooden materials if you use the same methods people used hundreds or even thousands of years ago. Consider using power tools to drill holes in your wooden slats.

This is a big time saver in the long run!

What Wood Makes the Best Shield?

According to the Vikings, Linden wood – which is known as Basswood today – was great when used as a shield. This wood was both lightweight and hard to split. This meant that warriors could easily raise wooden shields to provide instant defense from arrows or spears. Warriors could also count on their shields to resist breakage and splitting, things that could prove deadly on the battlefield.

Unlike wooden body armor, shields made of wood were extremely useful, widely used tools in ancient civilizations. They were often covered in leather and painted to match the colors of a lord or leader.

Conclusion

Wooden armorWooden armor was important protection in the culture and history of early civilizations.

Here are a few key points to remember about armor crafted from wood:

  • Armor made of wood was only used in areas where people didn’t have the technology to make metal armor.
  • Armor made of metal is much better than armor made from wood because it can be continually repaired, while wood pieces of armor are weaker, break more easily, and cannot be repaired.
  • Shields made of wood were the only kind of wooden ‘armor’ that was popular, helpful, and widely used by many cultures and civilizations throughout history.

The history of armor made from trees is a fascinating tidbit in our world’s history. While it has been mostly forgotten by the passage of time, people did use wood for armor in select situations.

We hope this article has answered all your questions about this unique form of armor made from trees!