Shield fabrication

Time taken: 5 hours
Materials: 4mm expanded PVC foam board, wonderflex, leather strapping 25-30mm wide, 2 buckles to fit the leather, hot glue, super glue, 9mm 810 cap rivets (other rivets would do as well but that’s what I had)
Tools: Craft knife, pen, metre ruler, heat gun, glue gun, edge beveller, hole punch, rivet setter and anvil, hammer.
Techniques: Plastic thermomoulding, leatherwork.
Difficulty level: Moderate.

I’m going to start with the assumption that the template has already been made (covered in the tutorial ‘Template Making’). For this, it took about an hour and a half to get the right shape and then cut it from the foam board.

I was struck by how much like the breastplate the shield looks. This is good, I like when a theme develops. Anyway, once the shape was cut I also scored down the inside of the vertical running lines, where there will eventually be a fold in the ‘metal’ of the shield. This should make the lines that show on the outside crisper.

With that done it was off to the shed. I try to do as much as possible of the thermomoulding out there because this stuff gives of noxious and carcinogenic fumes when it’s overheated – I figure if you can smell it then it’s fuming, and I’d rather not be breathing that in. In a pinch I’ll do it in my room with all the windows open but I’d rather be outside. Anyway, about 20 seconds with the heat gun on each of the folds and the curved bits until the tips more or less joined, and this part was done. I really love how quickly this stuff sets compared to Wonderflex – it meant it only took half an hour to bend the plastic.

However, this stuff doesn’t stick to itself well and so back inside, I added hot glue to the inside of each seam to join them, then put a patch over the whole lot with Wonderflex (which does just stick), to reinforce the joins.

I would have used more Wonderflex here but I was waiting for my new sheet to arrive and only had scraps. As it turns out the shield can handle normal wear and tear pretty well with this, and more reinforcing will go on as part of the finishing process.

Next up was putting the handles on the back so it can be either held or worn on the back. For this I looked up “How to strap a shield” in google. I actually found the image search most useful, but the linked site shows ways of strapping pretty well. They are not period-authentic but they work. Also, I discovered that Cullen’s shield isn’t really a heater shield or a kite shield, but kind of a cross between them. I’m calling it a heater because I think that’s the closest? And the straps are apparently called enarmes.

So anyway, I cut my straps from a bit of leather I had lying around, but you could just as easily buy them I guess. I cut one long one to form the handle and the bulk of the strap that it will hang from when worn on the back (as I recall it was 96cm long – measure your model’s gauntleted handgrip, add about 5cm each end of that for where it’ll attach to the shield, then add the length that’s needed to go round the neck and back down to the other side). Then I cut two shorter bits, each just over 30cm long – one to hold the buckle for the neck strap and also to form the tongue of the adjustable arm strap, and the other to hold the buckle for the adjustable arm strap and attach back to the shield.

You’ll see there are also two tiny bits there – they are for keepers. Pretty much everywhere you have buckles, you need keepers. I hate making keepers, they take ages for what they are, but without them everything is messy and unfinished looking and your buckles come undone. Also, I bevelled the edges of all the strapping (including the keepers). This hides any cutting mistakes, smooths the sharp edges of the leather, and makes them look finished. It’s well worth doing and very satisfying.

I also punched holes in the straps at the points where they’d be attached to the shield (which I found by marking where my model’s hand would naturally go), and cut 7 x 7cm squares of the PVC board to attach the straps to. Then it was off outside to rivet them together thus:

Finally, I superglued each of the plastic squares in place on the shield:

And that was the end of dealing with the back for the time being. I’m sure there are other ways to attach the straps that are stronger – I toyed with the idea of doing another layer of PVC throughout the inside of the shield and riveting the leather to that, for example. But because this shield won’t be used in fights and being lightweight is important, I went for a slightly weaker method to save weight and materials.

Next step for this – adding the heraldry and painting.

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