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.
The buckler has completed 50% of its longevity testing. After week 1, I used wood glue to prevent the nails' looseness. However, this did not solve the looseness of the nails. After week 2 of longevity testing, cracks have formed near some of the nails.
Fortunately, this crack only occurred on the interior layer of the planks, so the buckler is still functioning. The boss is loose, but the nails keep it connected to the buckler.
I suspect that the cracking observed is due to the looseness of the nails. I had drilled rather large holes in the planks before hammering the nails in. When constructing D.2, I used smaller holes which did not result in the wood cracking. This has led me to the suspicion that the pre-drilled holes were too wide, which has allowed the nails to be loose. This looseness in the nails allows for strikes against the wood from the nails while using the buckler, which creates enough force to crack the wood.
One way this could be solved is by removing the nails and rotating the boss. Then new holes and nails can be used to re-secure the boss to the wood. I have decided not to do this repair until after the month-long longevity testing to see the extent of damage this failure point will cause. The D.2 buckler will be tested with the smaller holes and clenched nails to test the hypothesis that this is what is causing the cracks in the wood.
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.