Arm Yourself!




About: Find me on Reddit, Tumblr and Twitter as @KitemanX. Buy my projects at


This Instructable is nothing to do with weapons, but rather the creation of an heraldic "coat of arms".

There is only one organisation that can legally grant arms, and that is the College of Arms, which has been in existence since medieval times.

It costs nearly 4000GBP for an individual to be granted arms, but that doesn't stop people going through the motions for their own enjoyment.

Step 1: What Are "arms"?

"Arms" are the original identity badge.

They are the colours and patterns used by knights to identify themselves, and those they control, in the heat of battle or the confusion of the tournament field.

In a full "Achievement of Arms", the actual arms are the pattern on the shield in the middle.

The arms may have supporters (heraldic animals like lions and eagles), holding up each side of the shield, a helm above the shield and, above that, a crest.

It should be noted that the crest is just the bit above the helm - a three-dimensional badge that can be worn on the helm in real life.

Beneath the arms there may be a compartment and a scroll bearing a motto.

There may also be a badge, usually taken from part of the full Achievement, that can be used as just that, a badge - you could have it embroidered on the jackets of your pages (or branded into the shoulders of your henchmen?).

What Arms are not.

Arms are not badges that show a particular surname. If your surname is Windsor, you cannot wear just any Windsor's arms, you must wear the arms of a paternal ancestor (who may not have been called Windsor), or petition to have your own arms created anew.

Step 2: Creating Your Arms

Despite the ornate appearance of the "full achievement", and the complexity of the arms of European royalty, a good design is simple and bold.

Whilst it is usual to include references to the individual for whom the arms are created, too many references makes things messy. It is, though, traditional to include at least one pun in the design.

In proper heraldry, the final design is entirely under the control of the herald who draws up your arms, and there have been rumours of heralds including subtle puns in the design, just to show disapproval of the bearer of the arms. Be careful who you upset - their revenge could follow you down the generations.

Start with a general list of things you want in the arms; references, designs, links, even favourite colours.

I am going to go through the way I created the arms that head up this 'ible, and I am going to start with a pun; the shield itself will be a double pun on my username here.

Although the vast majority of arms are drawn up on shields that have a flat or wavy top, parallel sides and a curved-to-a-point bottom, I am going to use the same shape of shield used by the Normans - a rounded top, and long, tapered sides, it is known as a kite shield.

Doubling the pun, there is also a kind of kite called a shield kite.

  • Nobody said the puns had to be funny.

Step 3: Filling in the Blanks.

A plain shield might be good for Sir Anonymous, but I want to be spotted across the battlefield.

I want to get a few references in, but subtly.

  • My surname: Langford. It means wide river crossing.
  • My interests: this site, scouting, science and making.

Some things would be too obvious - there's no way I'm going to include a scouting arrowhead, or even an image of Robot.


Ah! In scouting, we have to know various trail signs. I can combine two signs ("water ahead" and "obstruction ahead") to show both scouting and my name.

Science and making...

Turning to online dictionaries for inspiration, I find that making has connotations of devising, qualification, development and manufacture. Science conjures up skill, learning, knowledge and reasoning.

Ah! In both making and science, a lot of fire and heat are used. When drawing diagrams of scientific apparatus, the source of heat (usually a Bunsen burner) is signified by a single, vertical arrow.

I already have a vertical arrow on my design - I'll just make it red!

I don't want a white background to my shield, so I'll make it... orange! (guess why?)

Step 4: Saying It Proper.

There is a language to heraldry.

It is complicated, and it's French. Sort of. With a bit of Latin.

So, I don't really get it.

But I'll have a go. The College of Heralds website wasn't much use on translation, so I used this online text to refer to.

What we have here, I hope, is an arrow gules rising, bisecting a river azure, thus quartering a field tenne. That is, a red arrow, pointing upwards and cutting a blue river in half, making quarters of an orange-brown background. I think.

Step 5: Your Motto

A motto should be something pithy, or stirring and dramatic.

It should be in Latin.

Unfortunately, I don't speak Latin, and I couldn't find a free online translator that was actually working.

Plus, I couldn't actually decide on a suitable motto. Here are a few that didn't quite fit the bill:

  • I am what I am.
  • Finite reality
  • Measurable infinity
  • Per ardua ad apostrophe
  • Yes, I am a rocket scientist
  • Fabricati diem, punk
  • Pullis corvorum invocantibus eum
  • Omnis quis coruscat est or

Score! I found an online Latin motto generator

  • Ex scientia veritas
  • Scientia sapientes vocat
  • In scientia fortitudo

(Do I detect a trend here?)

The same site also had a list of Latin phrases:

  • A re decedunt
  • Ab honesto virum bonum nihil deterret
  • Abnormis sapiens
  • Ad eundum quo nemo ante iit

Have you spotted the Star Trek reference yet?

  • Bene legere saecla vincer
  • Ceteris paribus

I'm going to stop there - I'll let you browse the site yourself, rather than quote it all here.

I've found a couple of goodies, though:

  • Felix qui potuit rerum cognoscere causas - Happy is he who has been able to learn the causes of things. (Vergil)
  • Veritas vos liberabit - The truth will set you free

Step 6: Finis

That's it for my arms.

I decided against supporters or a crest, because they didn't look right with the kite shield.

Maybe I could have put Robot on one side, and a jackalope on the other?

Have a go yourself, either for yourself, or a friend. Or for Robot?

Maybe add your arms to the comments? Or use it as an avatar?

Or get a tee-shirt printed up with it on?

Whatever you make, let me see what you've done.



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    27 Discussions


    Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

    Google translate says "Young Ravens which cry" I think it means in the sense of "cry out", "call" or "shout".

    I prefer another version: corvi clamantibus


    Reply 3 years ago

    Invocat is a more emphatic way of saying vocat. It also has a slightly more religious connotation than vocat.


    Reply 3 years ago

    I just love the word red itself. It can be used to mean so many things.


    8 years ago on Introduction

    after some time to think (and looking up refference in some book) i think you missed some rules of heraldry... there are 6 colors (red, blue, green, black, purple and rarely orange) and 2 metals (gold/yellow and silver/white) and colors should never touch colors and metals should never touch metal... but its good to see some people are interested in heraldry; nice ible


    10 years ago on Step 3

    Here's my cruddy attempt to blazon this coat of arms: Orange, in pale an arrow gules, per pale chevrons of nine azure. There's probably a better way to refer to the water and arrow symbols, and I don't really know what to do with a big charge in the middle dividing charges on either side.


    10 years ago on Step 2

    The shield typically used is called a heater, and they always have a flat top. The wavy or pointed tops are fantastical designs. Some later escutcheons have points on top, but they have different shapes altogether.


    10 years ago on Introduction

    A favorite motto of mine is, "No le busques Tres ies al gato sabiendo aue Teine Cuatro" If you can guess what it says I'll give you five stars. (Its spanish.)

    5 replies

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    actually theres quite a few spelling mistakes in this sentence. it should be: "No le busques tres pies al gato sabiendo que tiene cuatro" "dont look for three feet of a cat, knowing it has four" (the translation might be grammatically incorrect in english but the meaning is still there)


    10 years ago on Introduction

    my favorite Latin mottos are:

    Fortuna Audentes Juvat (or written with some other way)
    Mensana In Corporae Sano (sound mind in sound body)
    Aux Armes! Deus Vult! (OK, I know that was not Latin, but it still rocks - "To Arms! God Wills It!")

    my coat of arms would show a torchship, because I have a thing with nukes and space travel...


    10 years ago on Introduction

    My personal choices are

    My primary school's unofficial motto:
    Non mea culpa est (it's not my fault)

    My secondary school's more serious but slightly Zen Esse quam videri- be rather than seem to be

    The impractically long Ita in vita ut in lusu alea pessima jactura arte corrigenda est (In life, as in gambling, skill will make the best of the worst of dice throws) stolen from Moonfleet.

    A Star Wars pun that sums up the Tae Kwon Do club I used to belong to: There is no Tae Kwon Try :D

    1 reply

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    ...Esse quam videri...

    I like that, a lot, but my spell-checker thinks it should say; Essex, qualm provider.