How to Construct a Roman Scutum

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Constructing a Roman Scutum

I (Tiberius Claudius Marcellus) created this original shield design in the summer of 2009, with modifications adjusted from Khalon Antonius' Gen II Scutum design currently in use by Legio XXV Fidelis Constans. This shield design attempts to recreate the original Roman scutum, or tower shield, as accurately as possible for use in Belegarth. This shield is a punch, and as such requires significant hand and arm strength to wield effectively. Since it is a punch, extremely aggressive shield tactics are possible by bashing straight into the upper torso, by turning the shield 45-90 degrees and checking with the edge / corner into torsos, by edging to jam weapons, shields, and the arms using them, as well as swiping to the side with the face of the shield to perform a horizontal-type bash. Being a punch, it also can be held out and away from the body, thereby reducing the effectiveness of close-in fighters. It's curved edges reduce the effectiveness of some wraps as well. The overall weight of this shield is approximately 12 lbs with dimensions of approximately 30" across by 42" high (however tall the barrel is, plus foam).

Materials

  • 55 gallon blue plastic barrel
  • 3 rolls of blue camp pad
  • 1 8" diameter POOF soccer ball
  • 4, 3 ft lengths of slotted metal stock. Aluminum is lighter but more expensive than steel.
  • Jig saw and (optional) Hack saw
  • Rough and fine grit sand paper
  • Power drill w/ 1/8" drill bit
  • About 15, 3/4"x1/8" (l x w) round head bolts
  • 30 thin washers for the bolts
  • 15 nuts for the bolts
  • 1 small tube of super glue
  • 1 can of DAP
  • 1 roll of Duck tape.
  • 1 roll of double sided sticky (carpet) tape
  • 3 yds of highly durable "barn red" or "Roman red" cloth
  • 1 yd of highly durable gray cloth
  • 1 yd of highly durable yellow cloth
  • 1 yd of highly durable white cloth
  • Durable synthetic thread and sewing needle (Red can be used well for the whole thing, but using white and yellow as additional thread colors is an option).
A horrible paint image of the major steps in Roman Scutum construction when using a blue plastic 55 gallon barrel as a core.

Procedure

Core Preparation

  • With your jigsaw/hacksaw, cut off the top and bottom of the barrel. These pieces make fine buckler and strap shield cores if you want to save them.
  • With your jigsaw/hacksaw, cut out a 28"-30" wide section of the barrel from top to bottom to serve as your core. Round the corners.
  • With your jigsaw, cut out a 7" diameter circle in the center of the shield core.
  • Using first heavy grit, progressing to fine grit sandpaper, smooth the edges of your core so they do not cut into the foam or injure other fighters.
  • Place lengths of Duck tape in three layers along all the sawed and sanded edges to reduce the cutting ability of the edges. Try to use as little as possible for both weight and thrift purposes.

Hardware Attachment

  • Place three of your metal stock lengths along the inside of your core at the top, middle, and bottom. Keep them about 2" from the top and bottom edges, and make sure that the middle length goes across the center of the hole you cut out for your handle. Clamp in place if necessary or mark with a magic marker.
  • Use your drill to create evenly spaced holes in the core so that you may bolt your metal stock to the core.
  • Place a washer on your round head bolts and insert them with the round head on the face of the shield, shaft sticking out on the inside.
  • Cut your fourth piece of metal stock to length so that you have two pieces that can reach across the hole for the handle and be secured tightly. This will serve to thicken your handle and make the center of the shield sturdy. (You will have some scrap left over.)
  • Wrap the ends in a couple pieces of Duck tape in order to reduce the cutting ability of the edges.
  • Place a second washer on the bolt shafts on the inside of the shield.
  • Thread on your nuts and use a couple dabs of superglue on the underside of each so that when you tighten them down and the glue dries your hardware will be rock solid.
  • With your hacksaw cut off the excess ends of the bolt shafts.
  • Bend and shape the metal to the desired curvature. It will hold the plastic shield in place.
  • For handle comfort, wrap in duck tape, cloth tape, leather, or other suitable material to shape and pad the metal stock grip. Wear gloves.

Foam

This method of foam attachment is known as "sandwiching" or "staggering". It provides the best strength for the materials. Make sure to rotate the directions and locations of your seams so that you do not have weak spots.

  • Cut lengths of foam to cover the inside edge portions of the shield core so that all inside edges and the top and bottom metal straps have incident padding to protect the user. DAP them to the shield.
  • Cut foam to size so that it can cover the face of the shield. You will have a seam. DAP it to the surface and then cut a hole in the foam to match exactly where the handle hole is.
  • Now your shield cross section will be "Foam - Core - Foam". Cut lengths of foam to be exactly wide enough to serve as an edge for your shield. DAP it to your shield.
  • Cut more foam to size so that it can cover the face and side of the edge piece exactly. DAP it in place and then cut a hole in the foam to match exactly where the handle hole is. You now have two face pieces and one edge piece attached.
  • Cut more lengths of foam exactly wide enough to now cover the new, extended "edge" of the shield. Dap it in place.
  • Cut your final face pieces of foam to size to that it can cover the face and side of the edge piece exactly. DAP it in place and then cut a hole in the foam to match exactly where the handle hole is. You now have three face pieces and two edge pieces attached.
  • Cut and DAP two more layers to your edge. When finished, your shield will have three face pieces and four edge pieces.

Boss Construction

  • Cut a square of blue camp pad that extends 2"-3" beyond the circular hole that you have cut for your handle. DAP it in place, centered over the handle hole.
  • Cut 2 circle pieces of blue camp pad that extends 1"-2" beyond the circular hole and DAP them onto the center of the square piece, one on top of the other.
  • Saw/cut your POOF soccer ball in half and remove the plastidip covering. Duck tape strips that get ripped off serve well in this capacity. Be careful not to tear foam from your soccerball.
  • DAP the soccer ball to the circle pieces of foam so that it is centered over the handle hole. Tape it down with double sided sticky tape, but do NOT take off the backing.
  • Place a heavy book on top of the boss while it cures overnight. The porous nature of the foam requires copious amounts of DAP and significant drying time. DO NOT rush this phase. If you let it sit overnight it will bond ridiculously well.

Cloth Covering

Boss
  • Remove the backing from the double sided sticky tape that is holding the boss down.
  • Place additional strips of tape along the perimeter of the face of the foam square beneath the boss, as close as possible to the foam ball boss. Remove the backing.
  • Lay a square of gray cloth, centered over the boss and smooth it down the soccer ball, folding corners as necessary to best fit it to the spheroid shape. Excess cloth is to be pressed down upon the double sided sticky tape that is on the foam square.
  • Place double sided sticky tape along the outside perimeter of the foam square on the face of the shield, as well as where you put it in the last step which will end up being on top of the excess cloth from the boss.
  • Cut a larger square of gray cloth, with a centered hole just big enough for the soccer ball to barely squeeze through (you may just want to cut slits so you don't make it too big by accident) and tape it down so that it neatly snuggles up to the spheroid portion of the boss and covers the foam square with enough to overlap for security onto the face of the shield.
Shield

This shield cover is taped down because of the holes cut into its center to allow for the boss. A drawstring cover would tear the cloth.

  • Place double sided sticky tape across the surface of the shield to give significant coverage. Make sure to place tape around the perimeter of the foam square, on the face of the shield - on top of the extra gray cloth.
  • Cut a hole in the red cloth just big enough to just barely fit around the foam square (you may just want to cut slits so you don't make it too big by accident).
  • Fit the red cloth into place and systematically remove the backing from the double sided sticky tape so that you can smooth the cloth down onto the surface of the shield.
  • When you come to the edge of the shield, put one long length of double sided sticky tape all the way around and systematically remove the backing so that the cloth can be smoothed tightly around the sides of the shield.
  • Trim excess cloth from the back and tape down with more double sided sticky tape.
Decorations

Design your own Roman-style decorations. Wings, lightning bolts, places for unit designations, laurel wreaths, and other things such as signs of the Zodiac or strong animals such as boars, lions, bears, wolves, eagles, etc were very common. Your imagination and skill at drawing and cutting from the fabric you have are your only limitations.

When you cut them out, sew them on to the cover using a blanket/whip stitch or a modified running stitch. There will be portions that are sewn only through the cloth design and the cloth cover, and portions that will additionally go through the double sided sticky tape underneath. This helps to secure the thread in place, however your needle and thread can become "gummed" up. Having access to a rag and mineral spirits will clean your tools nicely.

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