This is the first iteration of the historical buckler project. The objective of this buckler is to make a historically accurate buckler with a raw-hide wrap that can meet all the requirements documented in the main post of this project.
Disclaimer: This is not a “how-to” post for buckler creation. I am not a professional craftsman and I will be learning along the way with these buckler iterations. I thought it would be worth documenting my progress to help motivate others to try this experiment out for themselves.
I started with a simple design. I wanted to make a planked buckler, given how common wooden ones are in the Book of the Buckler. This would create the main design challenge to overcome for this process because multiple planks will be less structurally sound than 1 large board. I also wanted to try using a rawhide wrap for this project. I have done linen wraps for shields in the past and thought rawhide would be a neat challenge that was historically accurate.
This buckler was loosely-inspired by the images in I.33 as well as the c954 buckler found in The Book of the Buckler.
This design features the first mistake I made when creating the buckler. 4”x1” planks are actually 3.75”x0.75” in dimension which resulted in me cutting two of the blanks down to meet the 12” diameter buckler design.
The buckler was made using the following items:
After the planks were cut, I marked the boss on the center of the boards to get an idea of where I will need to cut the planks next. This is where I realized the boards were not 4” and were shorter. I cut the two inside boards to create the 12” diameter I wanted for the buckler.
I quickly realized that I did not want the outside diameter of the boss. Instead, I wanted the inside area where my hand would go. This was when I decided to cut a square instead of a circle (a decision I would later regret when testing the buckler).
The cuts I made ended up being sloppy since I was using a jigsaw and saw horses. The planks were cut in a jagged shape, resulting in the buckler having areas where the planks were convex instead of flat. Ultimately, I do not believe this compromised the structural integrity of the buckler.
Finally, it was time to cut the buckler into a round-shape. This was easier than expected but resulted in a more oval shape due to the misunderstanding in plank sizing. This ultimately did not matter once the rawhide liner was applied.
After sanding, gluing the planks together, and staining the wood, it was time to add the rawhide. I soaked a rawhide bone for about an hour to soften it up and unravel it. Then I used a box cutter to cut a strip for the buckler. I also applied two patches of rawhide over the handle to add more structure. In hindsight, I think scissors may have been better to create a more uniform cut.
Rawhide did not adhere to the buckler the way I expected. In my mind, the rawhide would apply similarly to Paper Mache, holding its shape. This was not the case. I ended up using zip ties and a rope to hold the rawhide in place while it dried.
After letting the rawhide dry a few days, it was time to untie it and see the results. I was pleasantly surprised with how well it held its shape without applying adhesive. Next, I drilled holes to prepare for the rivets.
The end result was a fairly well-balanced buckler that felt nice in the hand. It was now time to battle-test the buckler.
The planked rawhide buckler ended up being one of the heaviest 12” bucklers in my collection. However, because most of the weight was from the boss, the buckler felt easy to maneuver in the hand.
Ultimately, the buckler failed in the 4th round of sparring. It was hit directly near the rivets with the crossguard of the sword resulting in the wood splitting near the rivets. This was likely because I used rivets that did not completely go through the wood and also because the rivets were placed near the edge of the planks (a design flaw created by the square cut out for the boss).
A full discussion from the team, including the buckler-breaking shot, and the post sparring inspections of the buckler can be found in the following video:
Ultimately, this iteration of the buckler was a failure. If I were a cleric studying from I.33 in the 14th century, I would not want a buckler that could not survive 4 sparring sessions. I suspect bucklers were designed to last far more my buckler did.
While not a catastrophic failure, the handle did become loose after the 4 sparring sessions. If the face of the buckler had not failed, then the handle was likely the next failure point. There were also complaints about the feel of the square handle.
However, the advantages the rawhide and wood material created in sparring were noticeable. The material sponged blows and resulted in the buckler binding against the opponent’s sword. It helped me set up some shield-strikes as well. Overall, I prefer this type of buckler over a steel buckler when it comes to executing I.33 techniques. While this is circumstantial evidence, it does highlight that bucklers are not just round discs held in the hand. They are tools that can add their own flavor to the fight.
Notes for the Next Version
To avoid the design decisions that resulted in this buckler’s failure, I will need to do the following:
Another feature I will need to consider is the handle. I plan to round of the handle and possibly wrap it with a twine rope to add comfort for the user. The rawhide used to secure the buckler ultimately did nothing. I will need to explore better ways to keep the handle from becoming loose.
I also plan to use wood glue to secure the rawhide to the buckler. This will be done to add more structure to the buckler overall.
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