A while back I made a pair of training bucklers for the study of I.33, and they’ve gotten a lot of attention from my fellow WMA enthusiasts. So, I figured I’d make a step-by-step tutorial on how to make what I’ve affectionately dubbed a “dog bowl buckler.” I have to admit, I didn’t come up with this idea myself. In fact, I got the inspiration for these from the YouTube channel I Am Shad—specifically, I more or less followed this video.
Before we get too deep into this, let me just get a few things out in the open. First, this is not at all a period shield design. If you want something way more authentic than this, you’ll have to wait a bit until I get a chance to build some better bucklers. I promise I will document my work and share the step-by-step when I’ve got something to show for it. No, this is a quick-and-dirty buckler design that’s pretty good for slow- to moderate-speed training. THESE ARE NOT INTENDED FOR FULL-SPEED/HIGH-CALIBRATION SPARRING. Got it?
On that note, my design is deliberately destructive. There are all kinds of things you can do to build a shield that won’t fall apart (e.g., edging it in rawhide), but I purposely built these shields to take cuts into the rim to allow them to simulate the bite of sharp steel to a reasonable degree. Will they fall apart? Yes. But, like I said, they’re super easy to make. To build your own dog bowl buckler, you’ll the following.
- 1 x sheet (14″ x 14″) of 1/2″ plywood
- 1 or 2 x dog bowl(s), 6″
- 1 x wooden dowel, 1″ diameter
- 4 x bolts (carriage or stove), 1/4″
- 4 x locking nuts, 1/4″
- 1 x tube of epoxy (JB Weld recommended)
- Sealant (boiled linseed oil/mineral spirits recommended)
- Steel square (14″ minimum)
- Screwdriver, screw, and shoelace
- Permanent marker
- Corded drill with 1/2″ paddle bit and a 1/4″ turned bit
- Saber saw with wood blade
- Router with 1/4″ rounded bit
- Hacksaw or coping saw
- 1″ belt sander (alternative: coarse sandpaper)
- Adjustable wrench
- Dremel (or similar rotary tool) with cutting wheels (EZ Lock variety recommended)
Step 1: Plot it Out
You know the old adage about measure twice; cut once? I’m a big fan. In this first step, you’re going to take your plywood sheet and use your steel square and permanent marker to draw out a 14″ x 14″ square divided into four equal quadrants. I cannot stress this enough: take your time. There’s nothing fancy or complicated here, but as tempting as it may be to skip this step (and yes, technically it’s optional), I highly recommend you do this.
Step 2: Add Circles
Grab a screw and anchor it in the middle of your 14″ x 14″ square. Using that as a base, take your shoelace or equivalent (I think I used some galvanized wire, come to think of it) and tie loops at either end so you get a 3″ piece when you pull in taught against the screw. Err on the side of caution for the inner circle—in fact, you might want to make it just a hair under 3″ so you have a slight tolerance. Remember, you can always remove more wood later. Use this 3″ piece of lace as a compass to draw a 6″ circle, then repeat the whole process with a 7″ section of shoelace (or wire or whatever) to draw out a 14″ circle.
Step 3: Cut Out the Doughnut
Before you go any further, take your dog bowl and make sure that the lip of the bowl overlaps the inner circle. You want to have no marker showing at all if possible. If everything looks good, then take your corded drill and 1/2″ paddle bit and drill a couple holes in the inner circle. Using the holes as starting points, carefully cut out the inner circle with your saber saw. Once again, I caution you to go slow and to cut inside the marker line, as you can always shave off a bit of wood with your router or saber saw if the hole is too tight. It’s unusually easiest to do this before cutting out the outer circle, so be sure you have a good fit with your dog bowl before cutting out the complete plywood doughnut.
Step 4: Route Your Edges
While your buckler is still just a plywood doughnut, you’ll probably want to route the edges to make them smooth. Try not to shave off too much. While you’re at it, you may as well smooth out the hole as well. This is especially important on the inside, but you may as well trim the outside edge too. Just be sure not to carve off too much wood or you’ll widen the hole. Sweep up some of the wood shavings for later. When you’re done, you should still have a nice and tight fit.
Optional Step 4a: Combine Dog Bowls
I admit that when I built my original dog bowl bucklers, I didn’t expect to use them for anything other than slow play. The problem is that I like them so much, I’ve been using them for moderate-speed sparring and occasional full-speed sparring, and the woefully inadequate 22-gauge stainless steel bosses are getting pretty beat up. Now, you can always use real 16-gauge or heavier bosses to build a superior buckler to this, but you can also stack a pair of $4.50ish dog bowls to get something substantial enough to hold up better. And when you cement/rivet two 22-gauge bowls together, you get 16 gauge. Still a stupid hack, but it’s a stupid hack that works.
Step 5: Build a Handle
There are two ways to do this: you can grab a 1″ round dowel (cut down to about 14″ in length) and shave the ends flat with your 1″ belt sander (leaving a 5.5″ round section in the middle for a grip), or you can start with a 1″ square dowel and route a 5.5″ section in the middle to be a handle. The latter option is almost certainly smarter, but I did the former because I happened to have a 1″ round dowel handy. Either way, you’ll end up sandwiching the dog bowl into place with the handle, which should provide a nice and tight fit.
Remember how I had you draw those lines to quarter the original 14″ x 14″ box? This is where that line comes in handy. Once your handle is nicely fitted (this may take some fine tuning), you’re ready to drill your holes and add your bolts. I ended up flipping my carriage bolts the other way around from what’s depicted in this image, but really, either way will do the trick. Buckle those bolts down with the locking nuts (two to a side), and you have something that more or less looks like a buckler.
Step 6: It’s All Over But the Finishing
There are a few finishing touches you’ll want to add to your buckler before you’re ready to take it to the training hall. First, show some spirit, have some pride, and paint the darn thing. I painted mine quartered azure and or (that’s blue and gold for you troglodytes), so that my students could easily see the rotation of the buckler in certain positions, but really, have some fun with it.
Before you paint it though, you’ll want to caulk the seam between the bowl… er… boss and the plywood. I use a combination of JB Weld and sawdust to create a thick paste you can shove in the crack with a popsicle stick (or whatever, but I’d go with the popsicle stick, because popsicle). Finally, give it all a nice seal. I use a 1:0.5 ratio of boiled linseed oil and mineral spirits, which goes on thick and won’t damage the acrylic paint I use, but there are all kinds of sealants you can apply.
Step 7: Bask in the Glory of Your New Buckler
There you have it: a fine dog bowl buckler. Again, it’s not going to win you any awards for authenticity, and if you’re looking for a buckler that can stand up to serious punishment and come out unscathed, this is not it, but if you want a nice, lightweight buckler that costs very little to make, is easy to build, and that provides you with a bit of bind, then this beauty will do the trick.