Learn to Dish by Building a Buckler




Dishing is an essential skill for building armour. It's used to some extent in almost every piece of plate armour you'll ever build. Whether for knuckle gadlings on gauntlets, panels for a spangen helm, a breastplate or elbow and knee cops, dishing is used everywhere.

The main part of this project will be dishing the Boss on the buckler


Step 1: Tools and Supplys

For this project you will need:

-sheet metal
I recommend 16 gauge, that's 1/16" thick for you Americans, and 1.5mm for most everyone else.
-a jigsaw with metal and wood blades
-A dishing hammer
-dishing form(s)
-files or a grinder or something to de-burr your edges.
-a 14" steel drum lid and clamp (or other edging material)
-assorted clamps
not necessary but REALLY helpful
-a drill and 1/8 or 9/64 drill bit
-riveting supplies
https://www.instructables.com/id/How-to-peen-a-rivet/ i dont remember how else to link this.
-safety equipment(glasses, gloves and hearing protection)

Step 2: Time to Get Started

OK, first things first, you'll need to decide how big you want your boss to be. In this case it's meant to fit my girlfriends hand with a glove on. So it fits pretty tight. If you'll be waring gauntlets or something behind it then it will need to be bigger. also make sure to leave 3/4 to 1" of space for a flange around the outside. I allowed for a half inch and that made things much more difficult for me in the next few steps.
For this one i figured a large coffee tin was pretty much right, i couldn't find a sharpy, so i traced it with a nail. This was much harder to see than it looks in the photo and i don't recommend doing it that way.

Anyways, once you have it marked out cut it out with the jigsaw and use a grinder or a file or what have you to deburr the edges and put a bit of a bevel on them. if you have one, i really recommend a belt sander with a slack belt. It does work the best for this.

Step 3: Time to Dish

Now for the fun part.
For this step you'll need a dishing form, and a dishing hammer. If you don't have either then a large ball peen hammer and your back yard can be substituted, but you will have to work a bit harder and your final result will have a texture kind of like a sack full of marbles.
My dishing forms are made from melted down tire weights, and my dishing hammer is a 3# mini sledge that has the faces ground down into domes. More on that when i make my armouring tools Instructable

For the first pass I'm going to use my shallow dish and just give it a quick once over just to get it started. this isn't necessary, but I find that it makes things go easier.

For the second pass I switched to the deep dish, and the deep dome on my hammer. This is also where you need to start paying attention to where your hammering. Always work in a spiral from the outside to the center and try to overlap each hammer stroke by half.
On this project i had a LOT of trouble with the flange rippling. Whenever you see a ripple starting to form make sure to hammer it down flat again. This problem can be helped a lot by leaving 3/4 of an inch to 1 inch of flange at the edges. My half inch flange just didn't have enough meat to support itself and ended up needing to be flattened out every 5 minutes.

Now just keep doing passes from the outside to the center and hammering out ripples until your boss is as deep as you like. Mine took 4 passes until I was happy, but half way through the third pass I gave up on the flange and decided that I would flare it out after the fact. this was another bad idea and made a lot more work for me in the end. Oh well. Live and learn

a few tips for dishing
-experiment to find the sweet spot on your dishing forms. there is usually an area a little in from the edge where you get the most force into your workpiece with the least bounce back.
-always try and keep 3 points on your workpiece in contact with the dish. you'll know when you don't because all the vibration will get channeled right up your thumb. it really stings.
-if you just cant keep 3 points touching then use a pair of vice grips to hold the piece. make sure you pad the jaws with leather or something similar to avoid gouging up your project.
-wear a glove on the hand thats holding the piece, you'll really appreciate it when you accidentally pinch your finger, plus it cuts back on the shock your hand has to absorb, and lets you work longer.

Step 4: Bouging

Though it didn't really show in the pics, after dishing the boss it was fairly lumpy. Now i could leave it like that, but it doesn't really look finished, so I decided to bouge out the dents.
Bouging is a lot like dishing, were still working from the outside to the center, with overlapping hammer blows, but instead of using a dish, I'd ideally use a flat smooth piece of steel, like the top of an anvil, I beam, or just a hunk of flat plate steel. However, I didn't have access to any of that, so the next best thing was my shallow dish.

So, switching back to the shallow dome on my hammer just do a few passes, hitting it just hard enough to flatten out the lumps, but not to re shape the boss. It's better to use a lot of light hits instead of a few hard ones.
If you want a smoother finish still you can planish it after you bouge, it's a similar operation, but done from the outside with a polished, flat faced hammer. In this case, the boss would be backed with a ball stake. personally, I seldom planish anything because I like the hammered finish left by bouging alone.

Now, if you keep your flange in place then your ready to start on the rest of the buckler. if, like me, you didn't, then read the next step.

Step 5: Flaring Out the Flange

SO, since i decided not to keep my flange in place while i dished the boss, i have to flare it back into place. this turned out to be more of a pain than i thought it would be.

to begin with, I recommend using either a machinists, or a cross peen hammer. the reason for this is that the shape of the peen causes the metal to stretch only out to the sides instead of pushing it all around the face of the hammer. make sure that the peen end of your hammer has the edges ground off, leaving a nice rounded surface, otherwise you'll leave gouges behind that can easily turn into stress fractures as you stretch and work harden the steel.

Now, Start by re-marking where you want to flare. I chose to mark the outside, but some people find it easier to mark the inside. Whatever works best for you is the right way.

Ideally I'd use the edge of an anvil, or something similar for this, but once again, no such luck in the shop at work. So i clamped a piece of 2x4 into the vice and used it to hammer the flare over. Like everything else, you have to do this in a number of passes, if you go to fast you could warp the boss, or cause the flange to crack or tear. Just keep going, pass after pass until you get the flange down to about 90 degrees and even enough to make you happy. I found it worked best to do a pass with the peen end, stretching the metal, then a pass with the face to fold it out, and just kept alternating until i was happy.

After a lot of digging around the shop i found a piece of 1"x1" bar stock to use as a stake to clean up the flange. I wish I had found it when I was flaring it out in the first place. Anyways, a quick trip to the grinder left me with one nice edge to work on and a smooth area on the top.

Once I had my stake made up cleaning up the flange was as simple as holding the flange against the top of the stake and making a few passes around it with the flat face of the hammer to make the whole flange flat. Then to sharpen it I made a few more passes, gently hammering the crease itself against the corner of the stake with my dishing hammer. Any hammer with a curved face will work for this, but the dishing hammer was what I had.

Step 6: The Body of the Buckler

First thing you'll need to do is decide how big your buckler will be. In my case I've got a small barrel clamp that says my buckler is going to be as big as the lid it was meant to go around.
Now just mark out an appropriate sized circle and cut it out.

If your fortunate enough to scavenge a barrel clamp like mine, you'll need to remove the clasp from it. This is actually really easy to do. All you need to do is slide a chisel under the clasp and give it a few solid knocks to break the spot welds holding the clasp onto the ring. To break the other half of the clasp free use a hacksaw to score it at the base of the lever, then bend it back and forth to snap it off. now just clean up with a file and your good to go. I recommend keeping the little loop thing so that you can hang up your buckler when it isn't in use. If you do want to take it off, then cut it in the center, pry it open then slip the chisel under it and take it off just like the rest of the clamp.

Step 7: Edging Your Buckler

You don't need to edge your buckler with steel, other things I've seen used include rope, leather, rawhide, even old bicycle tires. However, since I've got this awesome ready made rim for my buckler I'm going to go over how i mounted it.

From what I understand, historically a steel rim would either be riveted to the edge, or held on with clamps. I don't have enough overlap on this rim for rivets, so clamps it is.

The first step is to figure out how you want your clamps to look, and where you want to put them.
I'm opting for 2 large clamps, and 2 small clamps, spaced evenly around the edge.
I built my clamps out of pallet banding, the larger 2 from 1 1/4", the smaller 2 from 3/8". To form them I scrounged up a chunk of appropriately sized bar stock to use as a punch of sorts, and used the jaws of the vice as a die.
simply put, i laid my banding across the vice, with the jaws opened just a little more than the width of the bar stock, then laid the bar stock across the banding and bashed it with a big hammer.
From there I cleaned up the shape with some pliers and put nice ends onto them.

Once you have clamps made mounting the rim is just a matter of clamping the clamps in place and riveting them down.
I recommend starting opposite the opening in the rim and working your way around so that the split is done last. that way you can make sure that each clamp is holding the rim tight against the wood underneath.

This should be obvious, but make sure you have 1 clamp over the split in the rim when you are done.

Step 8: Mounting the Boss and Building a Handle

At this point I realized that I hadn't drilled any rivet holes in the boss. So, if you haven't done that yet drill 4 or more evenly spaced holes around your flange. Once you've done that lay the boss where you want to it and scratch an outline on the buckler. Use a sharpy to mark where the holes go, then take the boss off and mark out a second ring on the inside. Now just pick up the jigsaw, cut out the inside ring, and were ready to rivet on the boss.

If you pre-drilled your holes like I did, then you'll most likely have to fiddle around a bit to get them to all line up again. If not, plop your boss down, drill your holes, slip in some nails, clip em to length and peen them nice and tight. I didn't use any washers on mine, but it's probably a good idea to put some on the wood side. just to make sure the nail doesn't pull through the wood. all kinds of weird stresses are put on gear in combat.

There are a few ways to build a handle. The easiest is probably a length of hockey stick riveted or bolted in place, I'd say next up comes a length of electrical conduit with the ends flattened out. I opted for a bar with scales.

The first thing I did was cut some 1/8" bar stock down to a length I liked and cleaned up the ends a bit. Then I marked out the area that would have the scales on it, and bashed up the rest with a heavy hammer to give it some character.

Next I traced the grip area onto some scrap plywood, cut it out, and rounded off all the outside surfaces. Then I clamped it onto the bar, drilled a few holes and riveted it in place. Once your grip is assembled just rivet it into the body of the buckler and your good to go.

For whatever reason, I only made a scale for one side. That left me with a D shaped grip that was rather uncomfortable. I solved that by putting a leather shim on the other side and then a cord wrap over the whole thing to hold it in place and add a little cushion. I really dont know what i was thinking with the D shaped grip though, I mean, sheesh, that was dumb.

Step 9: Congratulations It's Finished

Now I just have to let my girlfriend break in her buckler and in no time it'll be almost haggard as mine is.

If you decide to build a buckler yourself send me some pics, I like seeing other peoples projects.



    • Classroom Science Contest

      Classroom Science Contest
    • Arduino Contest 2019

      Arduino Contest 2019
    • Party Challenge

      Party Challenge

    39 Discussions


    3 years ago

    Nicely done. I have used cut sections of logs to put my metal on.it worked but it was what I had at the time. However. Go to your local welding supply house, the place where they fill the big tanks with gas. Tanks have a limited life span. Then they drill a hole in it and send it to the scarp yard. Find out what yard they send these bad tanks to. "H" tanks are the big ones . find one of those at the scrap yard for a few bucks the yard guys will cut the bottom foot of tank off for you. Why you ask? The bottom of the tank is dished in. The steel is really thick . I used a wire wheel to clean it up. I even cut two square knotches on the part where the tank was cut. So it slips down on my anvil. But that's me.


    7 years ago on Step 3

    Ahh the ball peen hammer.... Anything it touches becomes a sack of marbles...

    2 replies

    Reply 7 years ago on Step 3

    does it ever, good if your going for that post apocalyptic feel though


    8 years ago on Step 4

    i was lucky enough to find a press at tafe that was about the same size


    9 years ago on Introduction

     The work is beautiful, I did become alarmed at mention of melting down tire weights to make the dish forms! Wheel weights are made of lead and both lead and zinc are highly toxic even when melted outside one must be very careful when dealing with those elements. Inside the melting lead produces oxides that then become dust particles which are breathed into the lungs. These heavy metals are not eliminated by our bodies and when working with the forms - wear Gloves to protect  against transference through the skin.  In days past Hatters were referred to 'as mad as a hatter' because of lead transference [think insulin and nicotine patches] through the skin and ingested from the lead hat forms they used.  It wouldn't hurt to get a blood test done to see if there are toxic levels of lead in your system.  Having had some close encounters with both lead and zinc, I take the matter seriously and hope you do too.
    As mentioned before, beautiful work.

    6 replies

    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    I;m glad you enjoyed the instructable.
    I was under the impression that it was mercury that made hatters go mad, though to be honest i don't really see where you'd use either mercury or lead to make a hat.
    but yes, i agree both lead and zink do need to be treated with the apropriate safety measures, gloves, respirator, ventelation ectera


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

     Mercury was used in the felting process - to mat the wool so tightly.  Kind of makes one wonder about those wearing the hats afterward as the tiniest amounts of mercury are extremely toxic.

    Pryo Chainlazemaple

    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

     Yeah lol, that's actually where the term "mad as a hatter" comes from.  Hatters would use mercury as a kind of starch for their hides and leathers, and of course, cloth, to give it more form...  and through the prolonged contact, they would often get brain damage from the mercury.


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

     it evaporates in warmer temperatures though... there might be some left behind... but i doubt it would be left for very long...


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

     You know what; you are quite right it was mercury... I just looked it up on Wiki .  So much for believing what I'd been told for decades without verifying for myself.  My sister was a stained glass artist and was found to have high levels of lead in her blood from not using gloves when working. 
    Lead poisoning is toxic to the heart, bones, kidneys and messes with the nervous system and its development.  She did die 4 years ago at a relatively young age.  We can never be too careful working with this stuff.

    I'm going to try bouging some sheet metal :-) I usually work in copper and silver, however your tut has inspired me!
    Happy holidays everyone!


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    I;ve never worked in anything but steel, and a bit of aluminum myself, but my understanding is that most modern armouring techniques are actually adapted from silversmithing.

    Anyways, I'd love to see a pic of whatever you end up hammering out if your willing to show it off.


    9 years ago on Introduction

    Awesome. Got a picture of a damaged suit too? The shield looks so cool!


    9 years ago on Introduction

    Nooo you killed Boromir lord of Gonder  with your orcs for his shield


    9 years ago on Introduction

    this is great ive had a heard time looking for real sheilds but roughly how big is the end product?

    1 reply

    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    These bucklers are both 14" but you can make it any size or shape you really want.


    you don't even need to dig the hole. just lay your metal on the grass and away you go. the ground will compress where you strike while supporting the rest of the metal. it takes a little more work than with a proper dish, but not much.