Some of you dear readers know or have guessed, my interest and pursuit of historic things is more than skin deep. I like to recreate, in both uses of the word. “To impart fresh life” is one of the definitions of the word. I have been making another shield. My wife asks me from time to time, how many I must keep in her kitchen, and if I will move some.
This one is not made of scrap. Instead I purposefully purchased clear pine planks for it. They began as 3/8″(nominal) board five and a half inches wide and three feet long. You can get board like this, or could, from the hardware store for a fairly reasonable price.
They are already surfaced, very fine and smooth. The edges may not have needed planing, but I went ahead and did them anyway.
If you have limited facilities, you must improvise. You can see above how I worked it out. For the plane purists out there, the knife was removed from the plane you see sitting face down on the table. It is on the rag next to it. Which brings me to an important thing to remember about planing:
Some of my friends have had trouble getting the hang of hand planes. It is very important to have a sharp knife in them. Depending on the wood and how you are using them, they lose their keenness more or less rapidly. The moment you feel the plane is losing her effectiveness, take the knife out and dress it. Sometimes I dress the knife once in the time it takes to sing a song. It is also important not to set the knife too deep. If the plane seems not to want to move, or if it skips when you push it, or if it tears the wood: stop, and check the adjustment of your depth. For me, I find it best to start more shallow than I need, and increase the depth. For making a shield it also leaves less ridges to smooth later.
There are lots of good tutorials and explanations of how to plane edges for a tight joint. I am not a master of the craft, or even a journeyman. I can tell you, if you are planing edges for a joint, and one long ribbon comes off, you probably have it right. If I have trouble with edge planing, I fit the edges together and mark the high points with a pencil. By careful degrees I can bring them close again. This is usually necessary for me with rough wood. For this shield, using the material I bought, it was not needed for most of the boards. Only a few really needed trimming. Mostly on the ends, where the factory planer had missed. One or two licks and they were tight and smooth.
My small clamps are sufficient to do two boards at a time. I did two together, waiting for the glue to dry and cure a little, then another two. Below I will show again the picture from the beginning of this article, for clarity. This depicts a rub joint. Instead of using clamps, you apply the glue and then slightly rub and press the joint together. I hold mine in place for a little bit by hand, and fiddle it to make sure the joint is straight and even. For all gluing, I use a little brush or my finger, to spread the glue evenly over the joint. Titebond can be thinned a little with water, five percent I believe. I did not thin it for these joints, but I used a damp brush. Once you have the planks joined in a pleasing manner, I leave it alone, tension of the glue holds it in place. I do hover in the area a bit, to make sure no errant cats or children go banging into it. That will ruin the joint depending on how long it has been sitting. It causes a bit of mess and can vex me. If it happens to you, just clean the glue off and apply some fresh. Then have another go.
I did this same rub joint process with the remaining boards. I put six of these together and came up a little short of my desired width. About two inches short on either side I believe. I went ahead and fixed a nail in the center of the board and described my circles. One is about seventeen & 3/4″ from the center. I tie a string for this to use as a compass and use the pencil to draw the line. I get a total width of thirty five & 1/2″ with this. This is about enough to cover my body from shoulder to knee. The other circle is just enough to fit my hand. Something like two & 1/4″, which gives me about 4 & 1/2″. I will later rasp this inner circle so that it tapers toward the boss.
I was short of width, so I put some 1/4″ board in place and using my string compass drew off what I needed. I cut and trimmed these pieces and then using the same rub joint, glued them to the edge. Being an 1/8″ thinner is okay, since the shield is chamfered to a 1/4″ around the rim. This is done to make the shield board lighter at the ends and weightier in the middle. It takes a fair bit of time, because I do it slowly in stages. I get the face of the shield done first and then sand it smooth. After I do this, I can face the shield. Then I chamfer it more on the grip side.
This shield I am facing with a tough fabric. My wife got a lot of it and gave it to me. It is thin and fairly tightly woven, but with holes large enough to let the glue pass through into the face of the shield. For facing, I use hide glue. This kind of glue is as old as man is. It is mostly made of rabbits nowadays. It comes dry, and you soak it in water for a time. You then get it hot in a double boiler. When it is thin and like a hot runny syrup you brush it on. Before I get the glue ready, I clamp the fabric, smooth and without wrinkles, across the face. Clothespins supplement my pony clamps. Also I position the fabric on the bias. That is to say, I make the threads go in a diagonal, or forty-five degree angle, to the joints of the planking. This might seem like a small detail, but it adds a bit of strength.
When the glue is ready I start to brush it on starting from the hole in the center. I work evenly all the way around as best I am able. I make sure the fabric is smooth and in place as I go. I also make sure the glue soaks all the way through and behind the fabric. I use a few different brush strokes to make sure it happens. While doing this I listened to “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight”, translated by Professor Tolkien.
When the board is faced and glued entirely, it tightens and will warp the shield. I build a bit of curve into the shield for this purpose. No matter what, I weight the center in such a way that the board finishes as flat as possible. When the glue is dry I trim off the remaining fabric. It gets turned into charcloth. Or composted, depending on the size and how I feel towards it.
I was going to make a grip out of a piece of maple I had. I hit a piece of metal in it and got several pieces of it embedded in my face. Always wear safety glasses. I used another piece of wood for the grip after that. Some stick of pine I had in the shop.
I round over the back of the grip and on the ends also. When I get it the right shape, I draw a little knotwork on it with a pencil. I burn the knotwork in with an iron for that sort of thing. The wood burning or carving is partly for adornment, but also it gives a little more grip, and feels better in the hand.
I glue it on with some hide glue from the fridge, reheated in the boiler. While I wait for it to cure so I can take the clamps off, I smooth and burn the back of the grip with the iron. That done, I go back to slowly and gently chamfering the edges and working my way back to the center of the shield.
As of now that is where the shield sits. I have been listening to the rain as I sit on an early, dark winter morning. I have very much enjoyed writing to you dear reader. I hope you have enjoyed the article as much as I have. Until next time,
Fare well wherever you fare,