Medieval Heater Shield




Introduction: Medieval Heater Shield

Last year I designed my own family crest, but just having the crest hanging on the wall wasn't enough for my taste. So I thought: "What could be cooler than a functional shield hanging on my wall?" Thus came the idea of making my own heater shield with parts from the local hardware store.

Some may ask why, but I ask why not?

This was a fun weekend project and in the event that my home is ever invaded by the French, well I'll have a slightly better defense.

Step 1: Gather Your Materials

Initially I tried to make this shield in a cost-conscious manner, but that quickly fell apart. All said and done, this project cost me approximately $150, though if you skip the canvas part and already own most of the tools, then it could be done for significantly less.

3 sheets of 5mm thick 24" x 48" plywood - $21

200 Thumbtacks - $2

8 x 1.25" x 1/4" round head bolts w/ associated nuts - $2

100 1/4" washers - $2.75

Gorilla Wood glue - $7

2.5 sq. ft secton of 6 oz. leather - $10

Waxed cord - $2

Leather needles - $3

Leather hole punch -$19

Leather sewing hole punch - $10

Pack of 1.5" D-rings - $5

Pre-printed canvas - $60 (optional)

Knife scales (shield handle)- $8

Something round to bend plywood around -$???

All materials were obtained mainly at Home Depot and Tandy Leather Factory, with the wood for the shield handle bought from Woodcraft. Costs may vary significantly if you already have some of the tools that I needed to buy in order to finish the project.

Step 2: Measure and Draw

Generally for a heater shield, the proportions are as illustrated in the first image, but I wasn't a fan of how it would look with those proportions, so I made my shield slightly taller. The proportions you pick are up to you.

I had already printed out a canvas at the size that I wanted, so I just needed to draw out that size on the plywood.

It is important to trace out where you will be cutting before bending the wood as it would be significantly harder to do so afterwards.

My shield measured 23" across the top, with an 11" vertical section, then 23" radius arcs on both sides, intersecting at a point to give you your traditional heater shield shape. This makes the total length of the shield about 32". To make the soaking/bending process easier, I went ahead and cut the plywood to be 35" long instead of 48".

You only need to draw out the shape of the shield on one sheet of plywood. This will be our innermost sheet because it is much easier to cut out a shield from the concave portion of the rounded plywood than the convex portion. (see later steps)

Step 3: Pre-bend the Wood

With the type of plywood I was using, I wanted to be able to pre-bend the wood before gluing it into place. Theoretically you could go ahead and glue it at this stage, but I had my doubts about applying glue to soaking wet wood.

In order to get wood to bend instead of break, it needs to be wet. I accomplished this over two days by laying all 3 sheets of plywood in the largest container I could find full of water. Because only half of the wood could get wet at a time, I would go outside every 2 hours to flip the wood. After two days of this soaking, the wood was pliable enough to be bent around my form.

You can use any round object as a form for your shield, be it a large tree, 55 gallon drum, formal shield press, whatever. I used my homemade pommel horse trainer and it was the perfect size.

Make sure the plywood with the drawing is the innermost piece and that the drawing is facing the form. Add a few pieces of scrap plywood to prevent the straps from leaving dents in the wood, then ratchet the whole thing down. I let it sit in this mold for approximately 36 hours in the sun.

Step 4: Glue and Clamp

Once the wood has been pre-bent, it is much easier to paint on wood glue, arrange the pieces again and re-clamp.

After gluing and clamping again, I let it sit outside in the sun for a day.

Unfortunately I may have re-arranged the sheets when I glued them together, leading to the rather large defect seen in the third picture. This was later fixed, but it would have been best to avoid making it in the first place.

Step 5: Cut Out the Basic Shape

Now the fun part! Using your cutting instrument of choice, cut out the shield shape that you drew on the innermost part. It is much easier to cut things from the inside of the shield than it is from the side facing the enemy.

You may notice some gaps where the glue didn't quite take, but these can be fixed by isolated clamping and gluing. The rivets added later also help to keep the sheets together.

Make sure you sand the edges of the shield now or you will be subjected to splinters later. Now would also be a good time to apply any sealant like linseed oil or polyurethane. I chose not to seal my shield because it will be kept indoors primarily, but if you want to actually use it, then I suggest sealing it.

Step 6: Do a Little Leatherwork

From the large piece of 6 oz leather, you should cut out several 1.25 inch wide strips. Each of my strips ended up being about 14 inches long, but whatever you have, just make it work somehow.

In these pictures, I am making the wall-mounts/shoulder strap mounts as well as the bottom wall-mount/handle for the right hand.

The bottom mount may be entirely unnecessary depending on how you want to use your shield.

In order to sew with leather, you need to make the holes with the leather sewing hole punch first. Then you use the waxed cord and leather sewing needles to securely sew the leather. For the bottom mount, the leather strip was only doubled over once, but for the top mounts, they were doubled over twice.

Do not make the same mistake I did. MAKE SURE THE D-RING IS WHERE IT IS SUPPOSED TO BE BEFORE YOU START SEWING. I got halfway through sewing two of these before I noticed that the D-ring was sitting to the side, not in the loop of leather I was sewing.

Once you have your mounts sewn up, use the 1/4" hole punch to center a hole on the mounts for the bolts.

Step 7: Attach Leather to the Shield

Determine exactly where you want to attach your mounts on the shield. I wish I could have found a way to use rivets, but I didn't have access to a blacksmith shop, so I settled for round head bolts.

These are 1/4" bolts, but I found that a 5/16" hole was necessary to pass the bolt. I even had to widen my leather holes to 5/16" using my power drill. Make sure to use two washers with each bolt and tighten them down with a wrench.

Step 8: Install Padding

At this point, you need to take a large piece of 6 oz. leather, and trim it up so that it is roughly twice as wide as your forearm. The point of this piece is to stop impacts to your shield from breaking your arm. You need padding under the leather piece to accomplish this. I simply used several layers of scrap fabric cut to size and packed tightly under the leather.

I found a good place on the shield for the padding mostly through trial and error. I then pinned in in place with thumbtacks, slid the padding underneath the leather, and slowly added more and more thumbtacks, keeping the leather stretched tight until the padding was fully enclosed.

The elbow portion of the padding ended up with a small imperfection, but that was bound to happen when dealing with an irregular shape on a curved surface.

Thumbtacks should be more than enough to hold the leather in place, but if you are concerned, you can use glue around the edges to ensure the leather does not detach from the wood.

Step 9: Attach the Handle

The shield handle is a little too complex to go into much detail here. I will create another instructable shortly on how I made it. Basically though, you can potentially use anything for a handle. I chose to go with wood with double D-rings so I could tighten the leather straps and make the handle as snug as I wanted.

I Installed the leather straps for the handle in the same way that the leather wall mounts were installed, using rounded bolts and nuts.

The lower restraining strap is made of two leather strips sewn to each other for added strength. They are necessary to keep the shield oriented on your arm properly.

Once everything is installed, you have a functional, battle ready shield and you can stop at this point if you so choose.

The last image shows how you can use the wall-mounts as points to hook straps onto, so that you can carry your shield on your back for when you are not actively engaged in combat.

Step 10: Stretch Canvas Over Shield (optional)

If you happen to have a pre-printed or blank canvas, now is the time to attach it to your shield.

I had to cut my canvas to size with a 2 inch border initially. I then needed to cut perpendicular lines approximately every 1.5 inches along any portion of the canvas that would go over a rounded edge or else it would wrinkle and not fold over properly.

I clamped the canvas in place first with clamps, then with thumbtacks. Then I painted on a very thin layer of wood glue to secure the canvas in place as I went around, securing all of the edges with thumbtacks.

Step 11: Cut Canvas to Size (optional)

This step is pretty self explanatory. Cut off the excess canvas and you are finished.

Step 12: Admire Your Work

I went ahead and hung the shield on the wall right under my family crest. This was a really fun project and I hope to keep the shield as decoration for years to come.

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    6 Discussions


    2 years ago

    I AM SO CURIOUS! Weight is an absolute must when considering what materials to use. I want to make a shield for my 6 yr old son but am learning that traditional woods may not only be cost prohibitive but also too heavy after completion. How do we lighten up a 45lb heater?


    Reply 11 months ago

    To lighten it up for your 6yo, definitely make the measurements to their size for starters. Measure from shoulder tip to shoulder tip, then from collar bones to top of the inseam. From there, if your child is getting into heavy combat practice, you can make the shield from a single sheet of plywood, edged with heater hose that is fastened by Paracord.

    If this is for your child to cosplay with, or just run around with for fun to play pretend knights, you can make the shield itself from thick closed cell foam, and while securing it in the shape and bend you desire, use a heat gun (on a low temperature setting) to solidify the foam. Hope this helps!


    Question 2 years ago on Introduction

    Would you contact me to give me more insights as to your build? I have many many questions. For example: what type of wood did you use? What species was the plywood and how thick was it before you started?


    2 years ago

    Very interesting. Our group will soon have to build new shields. This could come in handy. Thanks.

    Btw, how heavy is this shield?