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.
Completed Testing and Closing Thoughts
After a month of testing, utilizing the buckler for multiple sparring sessions every week, its condition remains largely unchanged from its initial sparring session. The crack that developed did not propagate further, the handle remained tight, the lining was nicked but intact. Throughout the month a number of the tacks holding in the lining liberated and were lost, but were easily replaced with no tangible effects on the buckler’s use. After a month of use I also came to appreciate the extra 2” diameter that the 14” buckler gives over my usual 12” diameter buckler. As a result I will likely work on a 14” design that is thinner, like j.2, and that reduces the overall weight.