Scratch-building a shield

Now that my Macedonians are finished, I’m choosing to ignore what I really should be doing (DBMM terrain) and looking around at the other painting projects that I’ve had on the back burner for a few years. Two of them are vying for my attention: an adventuring party (just for fun) and brightening up my Space Hulk terminators.

I thought it’d be nicest to work on the adventurers, mainly because I’ll be painting each figure on its own and that seems like a real luxury after years of bulk painting. I’ve got a dozen miniatures covering the whole gamut of classes from barbarian to bard, from two of my favourite sculptors: Tre Manor from Red Box Games and Kev White from Hasslefree Miniatures. In true nerd style I settled on painting them in the order that they were introduced into the D&D canon, so first up are the fighter, cleric, and wizard.

For the wizard and fighter I have two retired minis from Red Box Games, Herbert Hedgewyrd and Vilhanna of the Shield. They’re both ready to go, just needed minimal cleaning up and undercoating. The cleric took a long time to find – cleric minis can be boring figures, usually a dour individual in chainmail carrying a shield and a mace looking very judgemental. However I really like Mother Morrigan from Hasslefree, she’s interesting and powerful-looking enough to join the ranks of my crew. I didn’t think either of her weapon choices were particularly fitting for a cleric though – either one two-handed warhammer or two smaller warhammers – to me the iconic front-line cleric should always have a shield.

Making the shield

I had a look through my bits box and didn’t find any suitable shield, so figured I’d have to make my own. I started by blu-tacking together the arms and a suitably-sized piece of plasticard to check it for size – I’d hate to have made up a shield and then found it was the wrong size.

I googled images of medieval knights with shields to get a rough gauge on size as a starting point. They were smaller than I thought, roughly from foot to groin, but it still took me a couple of goes to get it right.

Next step was to take the plastic rectangle and make it actually shield-shaped. For this I googled more images, found a shape that I liked and that suited her armour style, and made a couple of measured cuts to get the basic shape. From here I took a file and rounded the whole shape off, then did another test fit to make sure I was still on track.

However it looked a bit boring, especially compared to the detail on the rest of her character. Sure, I’m going to be able to add some detail when I paint it, but I wanted some physical detail so it didn’t look like just a bit of shaped plasticard.

First step was to bend it – this was pretty easy, I just found a small round cylinder and pushed the shield up against it until it maintained a curve. Second step was to add a lip around the face of the shield. For this job I used one of my favourite modelling materials, that nice foil that you get around the corks of sparkling wine. It’s great stuff – pliable, able to be neatly smoothed, but easy to cut and shape. I put the shield over a sheet of it, cut out the shape, then free-handed a shape out of the middle which left me with a rim I could tidy up and superglue to the plasticard.

I was very happy with it at this stage, so I removed the second hammer and glued everything together. Two little steps left do to: smooth out the edges of the shield with putty (I used Prince August’s mastic plastique) and make the leather straps that Morrigan will use to actually hold the shield. I used the wine foil again to make thin strips then used superglue to attach them.

Once the straps were on I felt that the shield detail matched the rest of the miniature, and she was ready for a coat of paint. If it was originally sculpted it would probably have wood grain but that can easily be painted on.

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