Shields have been used to protect against hand and projectile weapons for as long as humans have been waging war. The first shields were made of animal skin or wood. In the Bronze Age metal shields were in use. The kite shield is a wooden shield from the Middle Ages which was popularised in the modern era by movies, television and medieval re-enactment. Whether you would like a shield for decoration or for Medieval role-playing, a wooden kite shield can be made easily with a bit of preparation.
Draw the design for your shield on a ¼-inch thick sheet of plywood using a pencil. Kite shields are typically 20 to 24 inches wide and 40 to 48 inches tall with a flat top and a tapered bottom.
Cut the shield design out of the plywood using a power or hand saw. Sand the edges smooth with coarse grit sandpaper.
Spread wood glue on the front of the shield using a paint brush. Place the canvas sheet on the front of the shield and smooth out any wrinkles with your hand.
Stretch the canvas sheet tight across the front of the shield and wrap the excess material around the back of it. Hold the canvas in place with Vise Grips and place the shield aside, allowing the glue time to dry. The glue should dry within an hour.
Remove the Vise Grips from the shield. Secure the canvas to the back of the shield by nailing carpet tacks into it around the back edge. Space the tacks approximately one inch apart and about one inch from the edge of the shield. Remove the excess canvas using a pair of scissors or a razor knife.
Make an arm pad by folding cotton linen into a 12-inch-long by six-inch-wide rectangle. Wrap the pad in the excess canvas material and secure it to the back of the shield by nailing carpet tacks around its edge. The pad should be placed slightly diagonally about one-third of the way up the shield. Drill holes near each corner of the arm pad using a power drill.
Cut four to six inches off both ends of a leather belt with a pair of scissors to create leather straps. Drill holes about one-fourth of an inch from the cut ends of these straps. Turn the shield over and place two bolts through the right-most holes. Secure the straps to the back of the shield with the bolts and nuts. Make sure the straps will buckle together just as a normal belt would, but be snug enough to stay on your arm.
Cut a six-inch length of leather from the belt and repeat Step 7 with this strap and the other two holes. You will use this strap to hold with your shield hand once it is equipped.
Brush artist's gesso on the front of the shield. This will act as a primer for the paint. Allow it about an hour to dry.
Draw a design on the front of the shield using a pencil. Paint the front of the shield the desired colours and allow the paint to dry.