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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Halloween Accessories: How to Make a Buckler

My Halloween costume this year never quite came to fruition, but over the last couple weeks I nevertheless managed to create a number of successful accessories.  Here, then, is part one of my guide to making a passable buckler, battleaxe, and sword.

Part I: The Buckler
A buckler is a small shield, generally metal and 15-45cm in diameter, gripped in the fist.  I honestly used to think that a buckler was actually a small shield which straps (or buckles, hence the name) to the forearm, but Wikipedia leads me to believe that this is actually an inaccurate view arising from Dungeons and Dragons.  A buckler has a number of advantages as a Halloween costume prop over a larger shield: it takes less material to make, and it is also a lot easier to carry around at a party.  The easiest way to make a buckler is to go to a thrift store which carries dishes and find a round metal bowl (in Toronto, the two best places to look would likely be Honest Eds or a Value Village).
The suitably shaped bowl I used to make my buckler.
Turing the bowl into a buckler is then simply a matter of attaching a handle to carry it.  If one is looking to put more distinction between one's buckler and simply a bowl with a handle, an additional option would be to attach a central spike (bucklers were not only defensive, but could also be used as a punching weapon and were occasionally adorned with spikes or sharpened edges for that purpose).  Although the traditional buckler handle was in the direct centre, I found it easier to control by placing a handle slightly off centre with a corresponding forearm strap.  In order to get away with only a central handle it would have to be anchored fairly strongly to prevent the buckler from twisting in one's grip; using a strap and a handle is more forgiving.
Buckler handle and forearm strap.
I wasn't particularly careful with the appearance of the handle, as the underside of the buckler would generally be hidden.  In order to give it some rigidity, I started with a wooden chopstick.  I then took an old sock which I used to protect my hand when tousling with the cat (not to worry, I have several pairless socks which have been donated to this cause, so she will not mourn the loss of this one) and used part of it to wrap a layer of cloth around the chopstick.  This provided both extra thickness to make the handle easier to hold and "tabs" which I could tape to the surface of the bowl to hold the handle in place.  When using tape to secure anything which will need to support weight, it is best to align several strips in alternating perpendicular patterns.  After I attached the handle I used the remains of the sock to place a pad on the inner surface of the bowl to prevent my knuckles from rubbing against the bare metal.

My initial strap was a thick rubber band which was also held on with tape, but it ended up snapping in what we believe to be a cat-related incident.  Since I had the hot glue-gun out anyway for the sword, I decided to use it to secure a new strap made from two lengths of string wound together.

That wraps up the simplest of the three accessories.  Altogether it cost me $3.50 for the bowl, an old sock, some string, a random chopstick I found in our kitchen drawer, some duct tape, and a couple dollops of hot glue.  Here is an image of the buckler being held up to parry a strike:

Buckler parrying an axe.
The axe will be described in the next part.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Master of Vision

As those who follow this blog may have noticed, I again entered a bubble of silence since mid-summer.  Rather than another bout of writer's block, however, I was instead under deadline pressure to finish my Master's thesis, and time spent writing other things seemed wrong.  I am happy to report that on October 5th I defended my thesis, which was accepted without revision.  For anyone who is interested in plowing through it, a finalized copy of my thesis can be downloaded from here.  Now that my thesis is finished, it is time for me to get busy on my PhD and all of the small items (like marking) which got pushed to the back-burner leading up to the defense.  I am hoping that one of those small items which I will now have more time for is blogging regularly again.