In the week or so leading up to the fourth weekend of Cottington Woods, I was working on a series of art projects.
I think my biggest project was my new shield, which only took me a single evening, thanks to instructions and help from a much more experienced boffer gear craftsman. (He also picked up all of the supplies in advance.)
Our supplies, all from Home Depot:
two large rectangles of corrugated plastic
one cement float (I think that’s what it’s called… it’s for smoothing wet cement, but we used it because it was the cheapest handle.)
plastic tubing for the edge
foam insulation tubes
an exacto knife
a wide strip of leather
nuts and bolts
black duct tape
a sheet of poster board
My previous shield was an old round wooden one, on loan from a friend. It’s quite heavy for a boffer shield (wood is not the best material for this), the duct tape was splitting and peeling around the edges, and it’s not anywhere near maximum size (one yard, or 0.914 meters for you metric users, in any direction.) When I was last NPCing Clockwork Skies, I battled a PC with a massive shield and never once got a hit past it. It impressed on me how effective a shield can be. People often tell me I should use a shield because the max size would cover much more of me than the average melee fighter. Even though I prefer a two long weapon style (much easier to score a hit,) I knew I wanted my paladin character, Quill, to give a more classically heroic impression in combat. Plus I’m trying focus more on defense — the longer I stay up in combat, the more fun I have. I’d rather last longer than cause more damage if I have to pick between the two.
Both the LARPer teaching me to build the shield, and another who was working on his first boffer sword warned me that the maximum size allowed would be excessively gigantic, but I insisted on making it as big as possible. It actually wound up being a few inches shy due to the dimensions of the corrugated plastic we used. A circle would have been the most efficient shape if we’d been using larger boards, but I wanted a shape that felt more “knight in shining armor.” I found some shield shapes online and picked a basic one.
Before we started, the LARPer teaching me to craft the shield had glued the two boards of corrugated plastic together, one oriented at 90 degrees from the other, so that the shield would be stable and strong when taking hits from any direction. I traced a shape I liked onto some poster board, cut it out, then used it as a guide to cut one side, then flipped it over the cut the other side while keeping it symmetric.
After cutting out the shield, I cut a slit open some plastic tubing and stuck it around the edge of the plastic, before covering that with foam insulation and duct taping it all in place. I cut myself while slitting the plastic tubing open — not too terrible, but enough to warrant a band-aid. Apparently, you can’t learn to make these things without bleeding a little for it.
I didn’t attach the strap or the handle. My more experienced teacher did that for me. There was at least one power tool involved.
And when we were done… Yeah, my shield was gigantic. I decided to try it out for a weekend, and if I didn’t like it, maybe cut down the sides some. Or even just start over — after all, there was maybe $30 of materials in it, and only one evening’s work.
So I tried it at the Cottington Woods event, and found that, yes, it’s a bit harder to hit around, but the defense it offers is quite good. I took fewer hits than usual, and I noticed once or twice that archers were standing beside me, taking cover behind my shield. Practically everyone at the event, when spotting the shield for the first time, remarked over how enormous it was.
But I think I really like it. It’s so much lighter than my old shield, despite being much larger.
Here is my old shield, in front of my new shield (along with my new sword with its hilt custom designed for me by a friend):
Compare me with my old, smaller shield…
…to me with my new shield!
It’s still unfinished, but I rather like it! I’ve already got paints to put Quill’s personal coat of arms on it. Earlier today, I put the first coat of paint on.
I’ve never done anything quite like this before, so it should be an interesting learning process. I’ll post updates as I paint.