Making a shield for SCA Heavy Combat


Richart von Brandenburg

yellow (historical pattern with mundane tools)

Dear readers,

In this tutorial I will show you using the example of two shields I made how to create a nice shield for SCA Heavy Combat. Because for this kind of fighting, shields must be really sturdy, I betake some modern utilities. For everyone who wants to make their shield with historical techniques, I recommend the german Book ” “Der mittelalterliche Reiterschild” from Jan Kohlmorgen.

.: Materials ::

2 Boards of 4mm birch-plywood in the shield’s size
Artist’s Canvas or linen fabric
Stripes of Rawhide 6mm wide for shield edging
Cardboard or packing paper for the testing shield
Shoemaker’s tacks 8mm
Iron nails with broad heads
Piece of thin leather and a rest of wool
2m 2,5cm Leatherstraps + buckles
Acrylic Paint
Transparent synthetic resin paint (e.g. for parquet) (optional)
Leather for punching (optional)
Leather glue (optional)
Leatherpaint (optional)
Metalplate for washers (optional)

.: Tools ::

Cheap Duct Tape
Pencil + Marker
Leather punch
Tape Measure & folding ruler
Brushes for glue
Brushes for paint
Tension belts
U-Profiles (8mm)
Clamps and pieces of wood
Leather punching tools (optional)
Cutterknife (optional)
PC + Printer (optional)
Tin snips (optional)
File (optional)

Step 1: Creating the Test Shield


The packing paper or card board is folded in the middle and the desired (half) form of the shield drawn.

A good size, which can also be found in historical originals is: Shoulder to Shoulder, Chin to Crotch.

After cutting out and expanding you now have the full shield. To prevent the paper from rolling up, you may add duct tape reinforcements.

Now make more changes to the test shield until you reached the desired form.

Step 2: Making the Shieldblank


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Take one board of the plywood and cover it generously with the wood glue. Then put the secont board on top concisely


Use the tension belts to shape the desired curve.

Tip: On the picture you see only three belts. Recommended are five to six belts as well as U-Profiles for the sides to reach an evenly result.



The result after drying should somehow like this. I let it dry for one day.

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Put on your test shield, fix it with tape and trace the contours.

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Saw out the blank and sand it fairly.

Step 3: Fabric Covering



Stretch out your artist’s canvas or linen on a big surface in the size of the blank.

Tip: For the size of front and back you can use both times the blank’s front.


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Spread enough wood glue first on one side of the blank and glue on the fabric. Dash out any air bubbles and cut of withstanding material. Repeat with the other side.

Tip: Artist’s canvas has to be glued on with the fabric side!

Step 4: Making the Leatherfigures (Optional)



Punch the desired motive into the leather in the right size (here pictured with punched contour for mor plasticity).

Cut out the figures with a lot of patience, a good cutter knife and a good drink.

Step 5: Painting the front



See if the leather fits and draw the contoures of your desired device.


Paint the background with acrylic paint and the leather figures with leather paint. If you don’t want to use leather figures, paint the whole device with acryl paint.

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Finished painting on the front sides.

Step 6: Determining of the strap’s positions



Grap the upper front edge of the shield together with a weight on a string. Trace the so determinded line.

This method makes sure that the shield will sit right on the arm and is easy to carry and move.



Mark the positions of the straps for the arm and hand. This is a bit tricky. The easiest way is to do this with three persons. One helper holds up the shield, the owner places it’s arm along the line in the desired position and hold the hand straps. A second helper traces the contoures of the straps.

Add the desired positions of the holes to the shield and straps.

Tip: Consider that the hand has not 90 degrees in it’s natural position. Don’t bend your wrist, hold the straps in a natural and comfortable Position.



When you drilled in the marked holes, you can paint the backside.

Step 7: Preparing the Straps and buckles


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As an option, you can punch and paint the straps and make some nice washers out of the metal plate (e.g. brass).


Prepare your straps and buckles and add holes where you marked them in the previous step.



Now fasten the straps with the iron nails. Here you also use the washers.

Tip: The detailed technique to crook the nails can be found in Step 10.

When you are done with nailing, put on another layer of paint.

Step 8: Making the arm padding



For this step you need the thin leather and the wool. Measure the space between the straps and transfer it to the leather. Cut it out and repeat the same with the wool, whereby you cut of some more on all sides.



Try if everything fits and in which angle you need to fix it. Also try out if you can press down the leather edges without having the wool visible.



If everything fits, fix the edges with the shoemaker’s tacks.

Step 9: Fixing the Leather figures (optional)



If you decided to have leather figures, put on leather glue on their backsides and nail it down with the shoemaker’s tacks. Regard to fix especially tiny and thin parts properly. Try to set the nails as unobtrusive as possible.

Tip: You now can put on the synthetic resin paint according to it’s instruction. With the paint I used, I needed to add three layers and I am absolutely happy with the result!

Step 10: Attaching the shield Edging

Before you start, put the rawhide into lukewarm water for at least a day. This will make it flexible.


Set the rawhide around the shield edges and let it protrude on the tops. Attach everything with sufficient clamps and wood pieces on both sides. Afterwards let everything dry indoors for at least 3-4 days. If you take of the clamps too early, you often have to start from the beginning because the rawhide will roll up.

Tip: The warmer it is the faster the rawhide will dry. When you think it is dry enough, better wait 1-2 additional days. I had to wait a week sometimes to ensure it is completely dry.



If finally everything is totally dry, take of the clamps and cut of the protrusion. The shine on my shield comes from the parquett paint.



Repeat the same procedure for the top edge.



When the top edge is also dry, mark the points for the nails. Regard that you have a preferably consistent distance and to have all three corners included. I used a gel liner or marker.

Step 11: Fixing the shield edging



After drilling the holes as marked, drive the nails in and cramp them. For this, you first drive all nails in, then bend the tips with tongs and hammer it down as shown in the picture. To protect your painting and still adding enough force to your hammering, put on the nail’s head on e.g. a small anvil with a towel on it. (The towel will be damaged).

Tip: Drive in alle nails of one edge before you start cramping. That prevents shifting of the rawhide.
Practice this technique on a piece of wood first until you are sure that you have it down to a fine art! (Even then it is not garanteed that every nail will be successful)



When you have all nailes in and cramped, hammer the nails again on the front side to prevent them of standing out. This is really important for SCA Heavy Combat!

Step 12: Please yourself

You made it! Congratulations and have much fun with your new shield. I hope it will last for a long time. Don’t forget to send me a picture of your work to!

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