Tuesday, 16 June 2009

How to Make a Roman Shield for a Six Year Old

This may turn out to be one of those gift projects that's more fun for the maker than the recipient, but young L likes his Romans, so I decided he needed a shield for his sixth birthday (now weeks past, natch). Here's how it works:

1. Buy two sheets of hardboard. I got 4mm thickness, but thinner would be better. B&Q sawed mine to size, which was v.handy. Get one sheet cut slightly narrower than the other: 900mm x 400mm and 900mm x 395mm. Give all the edges a quick sand. Don't need to round them off, just make sure they're not too sharp and, you know, edgy.

2. Prop the edges of the wider sheet on something 40mm high, shiny side down. I used books, but ideally you'd want a couple of long chunks of wood or something. Spread lots of PVA wood glue on, and put the narrower sheet on the top, making sure it's centred.
Weigh the board down the middle, so it bows downwards and just touches down on the surface beneath. I used heavy dumbells - you need a lot of weight. Leave overnight.

3. Take your now curved board (we'll call it a shield from now on, I think), marvel at how the edges of the two layers just about match, due to pi and that. Sand off the excess glue and ram a bit of pollyfilla in anywhere there's a gap between the layers. Sand off when dry to leave a nice smooth finish.

4. Apply primer to the edges of the shield and the front. Bit tricky to mask the back, because of the rough texture, but worth a go so you don't get messy edges.

5. Drill holes for the bolts which will secure the handles. I used M6 x 12mm Homebase Roofing Bolts, and a 6mm drill bit. Where to put the holes depends a bit on the nipper in question, but about 20mm down from the top edge is about right for the top one.

Try to drill in towards the centre of the curve, so the hole is perpendicular to the surface. You can do fancy stuff with a spirit level if you want, to make it more accurate.

6. First coat of paint is yellow. This is actually the detail, rather than the background, but the background's red and that's a stronger colour, so hard to paint over. Bung on bright yellow gloss, edges first, then the rest.

7. Then you have to apply masking, to protect your details while you paint the red 'background' on. I used Frisket, which has a backing, so is great for drawing on in pencil, cutting with scalpel and repositioning once on... but is mainly for masking airbrush jobs and turns out to suck big time when it comes to being daubed with brushfulls of gloss. Lesson learned: masking tape next time.

8. Slap on your gloss red over the masking. Leave to dry.

9. Handles go on next. I got a belt from a charity shop and cut lengths from it. About 25cm for the larger handle (a looser strap, to put your forearm through), slightly shorter for the other one, held in the hand. Drill or somehow gouge holes in the belt where the bolts are going to go. Put in your bolts. Round bit on the front, nut on the back. Use a washer to spread the pressure of the nut on the strap.

Fill the Xs on the bolts with polyfilla, and paint some primer on them when dry.

10. Paint the bolts and retouch the other details.

11. Apply a coat of clear gloss varnish.

12. Wrap, present to child, beam with pride, set about child with improvised weapons such as wooden spoons and frozen peas to demonstrate efficacy against swords, hails of arrows etc.


Lucy Fishwife said...

James honestly. While I admire your dedication and application, don't they sell them readymade at the British Museum?

Lucy Fishwife said...

PS It's a very lovely shield though!

JS said...

Ha! I'll take the Pepsi Challenge with any of that British Museum tat... and thank you.

Fergus Gallagher said...

Hi - just build one of these with your great instructions. Thanks.

One problem is that the bottom corners are deteriorating rapidly from bashing on the floor - any suggestions?

JS said...

Hi Fergus, that's so great that you built a sheild! ... though I'm worried about the corners. I wonder if you could hack some of those corner-protector things people put on furniture to protect them from kids. Or perhaps some Sugru? (great product). I'd love to see a photo of your sheild ... J

Fergus Gallagher said...

Hi JS,

Just FYI:

1) I used 3mm hardboard, a bit bigger than yours (my child older) but it was bloomin' heavy. I was a bit concerned about toe damage.

2) I glued mine with rough sides back to back, so the back was easier to paint. Mine is more curved than yours, I think - I knocked up a wooden jig to clamp it into shape.

3) I sprayed mine (it was cheaper as I don't think I'll have any other use for those colours). To make the pattern I covered with sticky-backed plastic after the yellow coats. I printed the designs on plain paper, glued them onto the sticky-backed plastic and cut. Really easy.

Still popular after a month and all his friends are jealous (and so other parents hate me!)

I'll try something with the corners - I've seen Sugru but I'm sceptical it can get enough purchase on the material and will get knocked off. A lot of the knocks are to the side, I would guess. Glueing something on I would expect to just rip the hardboard surface.



JS said...

Fergus, I think you've taken this shield-making method to a new level! All those improvements - rough/rough glueing, spraying, sticky backed plastic - are genius.

Be good to hear if you solve the repair issue, and I'm sorry I couldn't help you more.