For about a year and a half, my parents have been building an apartment in the back of their house. With all the construction, they ended up with a surplus of scrap wood that I collected for future use. As the months went by the wood remained in a pile taking up space. I am not one for being an inconvenience, but I could not think of what to do with the material until I found inspiration.
If you read my book “Back to Valhalla” (check it out (http://a.co/bTui8sN)) you can tell I am a fan of Vikings and Norse Mythology. I find their way of life and beliefs fascinating. Their morality and concept of heaven hinged upon dying in battle and most of the Norse Pantheon are personifications of war. I would not have written a book about it were it not awesome.
However, when it comes to rating warrior cultures, the Romans take the cake. Their training, tactics, and impact on the world are a treasure trove of military history. For such an antiquated period, Rome had the most modern conception of an army. They had a salary, unit organization, and equipment designed to be as efficient as possible when meeting a foe.
The most important piece of equipment was the shield called a scutum. It was cumbersome and awkward, but was an essential component in the legionary’s arsenal. It was so effective at crowd control when up against groups of hostiles that police riot shields take after the scutum. Next to the late Imperial Era body armor, the Roman shield is iconic, and I wanted to build one.
For practical use or otherwise, I wanted to make a scutum. Maybe I would use it at a protest to bash Antifa thugs in the teeth or for exercise; I did not have plan. My only concern was putting one together. After two first attempts I did not bother documenting because I was embarrassed, I figured out a system to put build a scutum that was functional and semi-faithful to the original design.
The first problem was the curve. Your standard Roman shield is rounded plywood, but I did not have sheets that size or the tools to bend it into shape. To compensate, I made a stencil for two curved crossbeams to hold panels or fence slats to simulate the curve. To protect the user I settled on a shape and length to hold nine panels between 2.5” to 4” wide. I also took an artistic liberty and made the beams with ½” steps in a fashion similar to a Viking long ship.
Next came assembly. The beams were positioned nine inches from the top and bottom ends of the panels and pinned with shaven chopsticks. I wanted to use bolts, but 22 metal bolts with nuts can be expensive and one of my goals was to use materials that were already available. The pins were also glued in place with expanding epoxy. The carry handle was placed at the center on the third and seventh panels with two pins. Once the glue was dry the panels were sanded down.
The final step was painting and I cannot paint to save my life. Using stencils I drew beforehand, I had a better time of it. I also learned to never touch spray paint ever again. Scutums were usually pained red and gold, but I wanted the shield to look contemporary. Many argue America is the new Rome, so I decided my shield should reflect that sentiment. After masking off the gaps from the back, I settled on a dark blue field with gold trim.
Borrowing from history for the main design, I picked a Roman eagle perched atop the acronym SPQA. Originally it was SPQR, “Senatus Populusque Romanus” or “The Senate and People of Rome.” Latin Nazis will correct me, but in my case I switched “Romanus” with “Americanus” to fit the contemporary aesthetic. Beneath that I added a pair of thunderbolts and crowned the whole thing with 13 stars, representing the original American Colonies.
Weight and handling aside, I was very happy with the end result. I finally figured out how to build a semi-faithful scutum while making it artistic. Whether it would be useful in a riot or reenactment remains to be seen, but I feel good knowing I accomplished something.
I shared my work on social media and people were more or less impressed. A friend of mine wanted one and I could not help but oblige. Being of short stature she did not want the scutum to weigh a lot and requested I paint a Gorgon head on the front in reference to the Aegis of Athena. To capture the detail of the design, I drew out a Gorgon on paper, and traced the lines onto the wood with a thick piece of wire. I then followed the indention with white paint across five panels. After finishing the design I went back to touch it up.
My friend and I settled on a price for my effort and I am working on getting the shield to her in the near future. I really enjoyed building these scutums and I want to make more. If you like my work and want your own, please use my email below. If you want a design other than a scutum or a particular color scheme, I would be willing to work with you. Prices may vary depending on labor and transportation required.