With Jerod making his J.1 buckler, I decided to continue to improve on the prototype design while not copying some of the design factors of Jerod’s buckler so we could test different design features independently. This blog post captures the design, construction, and performance of the D.1 buckler.
After the P.0 buckler failed, it was back to the drawing board. The failure point of the rivets and the board had me going back to the historical evidence on bucklers. Herbert Schmidt pointed out that many wooden bucklers used layered planks perpendicular to each other so I decided to explore that as a durability feature.
I was not convinced that Jerod’s design with the two planks would pass the durability test (a fact I was later proven wrong for) so I decided to use eight planks. Four would make up the front with four running perpendicular on the back.
Another issue seen in the J.1 design was the overall weight. I hoped that the plank design would allow me to cut down on overall thickness without sacrificing durability. Another change I tried to improve this was to use a smaller boss for the buckler.
Unlike the J.1, I continued to use a raw-hide wrap. However, instead of using rope to hold the raw hide in place, I would use nails to secure the liner.
I decided to change the wood to a red oak similar to the J.1 design. This felt like a better option than the original poplar wood used and proved to be light and durable.
Finally, in the spirit of history, I decided to use the wood from the P.0 buckler because historical bucklers have been seen featuring recycled wood (likely from damaged bucklers).
Creation of the Buckler
I started my construction with 3” wide boards of red oak. After measuring and cutting the planks, I applied linseed oil which I hoped with reduce the risk of cracking while nailing the boards. However, the linseed may have caused issues during the assembly process which I touch on later in this post.
Next, using a compass, I drew circles on the four boards that would be cut to make room for the hand behind the shield boss.
After cutting the circles, the planks and handle were glued together to form a square-shaped buckler.
Immediately after gluing the planks and handle together, I stained the wood with an epoxy, making measuring and cutting difficult. I will not be doing that again.
Unfortunately, during the curing process of the wood glue, the planks had warped, resulting in gaps on the edge of the buckler. This was addressed by gluing the edges, clamping them down, and restarting the timer for wood glue curing for the assembly.
I suspect this occurred because the linseed was still soaking into the wood and the changing temperatures in my garage did not create the most ideal environment for the planks. Luckily, the clamp fix worked and the edges were cut down during the rounding process of the buckler.
Next, it was time for the raw hide. The raw-hide bone was softened by soaking the bone in water and then wrapped around the buckler. Clenched nails were used to secure the raw hide to the buckler (which added a significant weight). Some of the more raised areas of the raw hide were clamped down for the drying process. After a few days, the raw hide had dried into a strong and durable liner for the buckler.
The final step was to nail the handle to secure it while also nailing the boss to the buckler. The over-use of clenched nails was more for practice than for practical use. Ultimately, the nails secured the buckler but there was a fair amount of looseness in the boss that I will need to avoid for the next buckler.
To add a bit to the aesthetics of the buckler, I used the epoxy stain on the raw-hide to try and change the color a bit. Jerod ran a test to show that coffee can stain raw-hide during a drying process which may get used in a later buckler.
The final buckler was 12” in diameter and 1337 grams in weight. This weight was heavier than I wanted (likely because of all the nails along the buckler's circumference). However, the buckler weight was manageable and ready for its testing to begin.
The buckler withstood sparring against a messer, a longsword, and another sword and buckler. The buckler took the hardest hits by the messer and while some of the nails came loose, the clenching prevented the nails from resulting in a failure of the buckler.
For another fun test, the buckler was used against someone fighting with two sabres. The buckler took incredibly hard hits during this test and ultimately only experienced superficial damage to the liner.
At the time of writing this blog post, the buckler has done through 3 classes and is 25% done with its longevity test. I have used wood glue to prevent the nails' looseness. Nothing else noteworthy has occurred with the buckler thus far.
Stay tuned for more updates!
While the buckler has been described by one of my students as looking like “Goblin Tech,” I am pretty pleased with its performance. The raw hide still seems like an excellent choice for a buckler liner because it can bind against an opponent’s blade resulting in a tacky feeling in a fight. This is a huge improvement over metal bucklers for techniques like the shield-strike.
One issue I had with the buckler from a technical perspective were cuts along the circumference of the buckler. The raised handle often resulted in the cut getting stopped along the buckler. This was most apparent when throwing cuts from first ward.
Notes for the Next Version
The J.1 buckler proved that tacks are the way to go for the liner of the buckler. Even 40 tacks did not measure up to a gram on my scale. This is a dramatic weight reduction over the 30 grams of each 1.5” nail added. The nails are also relatively far away from the buckler's edge because I feared cracking the wood. Tacks would allow me to cut the raw hide back further, allowing for a cleaner-looking edge of the buckler.
Unfortunately, the smaller boss did result in some of my preferred off-hand gloves not fitting into the buckler. As much as I love the newer boss because of its large dome shape, I think I will have to go back to the generic bosses found with the wider diameter and smaller profile.
Another change that will be needed is to reduce the handle's thickness. The Grommet Leathercraft buckler handle design has proven to be effective for me with I.33 techniques so I may use that as inspiration for the next buckler.
This post is by Jerod who is one of the students at VBHF. He has graciously volunteered to work on this project with me. This also marks the first ever guest writer for Funky Buckler!
With the testing of the first prototype wooden buckler completed I sought to increase the longevity and durability of the buckler. the first prototype failed in fewer than 4 matches which is a pretty low benchmark to try and improve on.
First, I selected red oak as it is a harder wood and would hopefully be more resistant to gouging and chipping.
Second, I went with 2, 3/4“ thick boards that were 7” x 14”. My hope was that the simpler construction would eliminate joints that could be prone to failure.
Additionally I altered the fasteners used and clenched 4, 2” long wrought nails to secure the handle as well as solid rivets to secure the boss to the planks.
Construction of the buckler began by cutting the board into 2, 14” planks with the remaining wood to be used in part for the handle. With the 2 boards now the length and combined width needed to create the buckler, j.1 is 14” in diameter, I temporarily fastened the two boards together to measure out the inner and outer diameters of the buckler.
I then cut the handle from the remaining wood and using the belt sander rounded the grip, tapered the ends and smoothed the edges to make it more comfortable for the user.
Next I individually rough cut each board with a jigsaw to get the general inner and outer shape. Then, ssing a belt sander I removed the remaining material to reach the desired inner and outer diameter as well as to smooth the surfaces.
To join the two boards I applied wood glue to the butt joint, clamped and let dry for 24 hours. Once the wood glue fully cured I attached the boss with the solid rivets. Linseed oil was applied to the wood to allow the grain to “pop” as well as protect against moisture and cracking.
For the lining I used a single, full grain leather leather strip that was 2” wide. Softening the leather in water for a few hours made it more pliable and easier to work with while attaching. I measured out the leather to the circumference of the buckler (a flaw that would be identified later in testing) and fastened with upholstery tacks.
The final step was to drill out the holes for and fasten the handle. For this I utilized 2” wrought iron nails that would be clenched on the backside to add extra strength.
Fully assembled the 14” diameter, ¾” thick wooden buckler weighed 1920 grams.
In test sparring matches the buckler has held up remarkably well with a few noteworthy findings.
First, while the buckler is 2” larger than most used by Vier Blossen it results in a fairly heavy buckler. In use most testers didn’t find it to be an unbearable strain to use considering the weight, but it is worth noting. Future iterations will attempt to reduce the overall weight.
More importantly the leather lining has held up remarkably well and does a good job at absorbing the energy of a blow and reducing an opponent's blade “bouncing” making recovery from an attack slower. However an issue emerged in one of the first tests with how the lining was wrapped around the buckler. In construction I butted the two ends of the leather strip together and tacked it to the buckler. This resulted in a small, but undesirable flaw. A blade is capable, and did, split the gap between the two ends striking the wood directly. This resulted in a hairline crack that runs all the way to the boss and is fully through the thickness of the wood. As a team we decided to allow “field” repairs, or simple touch ups between matches that could quickly and easily be accomplished with minimal tools. In this case I applied some wood glue to the crack to try and minimize further propagation.
Otherwise the buckler has only sustained superficial damage, such as dents to the face of the wood, 2 of the lining tacks coming loose, scratches on the boss. None of these have resulted in a loss of functionality or protection that the buckler provides. Additionally the clinched nails to secure the handle have resulted in a tight bond between the handle and buckler body and has yet to loosen.
Considering all the findings the buckler has sustained approximately a month of testing with minimal issues. My goal is for future iterations to maintain the robustness of the design while reducing the overall weight.
Making a Historical Buckler
Bucklers and their material can impact certain aspects of the modern HEMA fight. For example, plastic bucklers make similar sounds to hard plastic gear when struck, resulting in fencers sometimes thinking that they have hit their opponent when they have not. In addition, metal bucklers result in the blade bouncing off of them as opposed to wood bucklers which sponge the impact more. But are there more factors that can come from medieval bucklers that we do not see with modern constructions?
In this series of projects, I and one of my students will be creating bucklers loosely based on examples found in The Book of the Buckler by Herbert Schmidt.
The primary requirements we have for the bucklers is the following:
Rationale for the Initial Durability Test
The durability test was designed to test immediate failures in the buckler design before continuing to the longevity testing. Based on experience, messers in modern HEMA sword and buckler tournaments appear to deliver the hardest hits so being able to withstand blows from those swords seems pertinent to testing the design. Furthermore, two other sparring matches will be conducted to add a variety of hits to the buckler to try and create an early failure.
Rationale for the Longevity Testing
As a cleric who may study I.33 and expect to use their skills for defense in duels or self-defense, it seems reasonable to assume that their buckler should be able to be trained with as well as assist in their defense to get them from one town to the other and then home again. After all, bucklers were considered military equipment in the Saxon Mirror so it was a bit of an investment. It likely would not have been acceptable for their bucklers to be replaced once a month just due to use during training.
Because of this, we set the success criteria for our bucklers to be able to last for at least a month in our regular HEMA practice routines, 12 practices including drilling and sparring. If our bucklers can last for the full month, they will be deemed acceptable from a longevity perspective.
To assist in this success criteria, we are allowed to do minor repairs to our bucklers including re-tacking the lining, adding wood glue, re-hammering nails, and other simple repairs we feel we (or a professional) could have done for us in the early 14th century.
Unfortunately, success criteria of 12 practices is a bit of a shot in the dark. I would love to find better historical examples of expectations of the life of a buckler to better refine this requirement we laid out for this project.
Summary of the Project So Far
P.0 Buckler: Failed Durability Testing
J.1 Buckler: Passed Durability Testing and currently in Longevity Testing
D.1 Buckler: Passed Durability Testing and currently in Longevity Testing
J.2 Buckler: In construction
D.2 Buckler: In construction
Total Weight of the Bucklers
While the weight of the buckler is not a primary requirement, the bucklers must be usable for drilling and sparring. Because of this, the weight must be taken into consideration.
Below is the current weight of our created bucklers compared to purchased bucklers:
More Information on Each Buckler
J.2 Buckler - Coming soon!
D.2 Buckler - Coming soon!