The Celtic 'Peanut' Shieldby Sir Andras Salamandra
The peanut shield is a wooden, center-grip shield with a metal boss to cover the hand and strike one's opponent. Most were made of wood, some (possibly court models) were covered with sheet bronze and enamel work. One, dated c. 400-200 B.C. and made entirely of bronze, has just been found. Irish stories make reference to razor edged shields. No self-respecting, well-to-do Celtic warrior would settle for a mere shield, you must make it a work of art!
The shield is not really a peanut shape, the side is indented less than half an inch. The basic shield should be about 37" high, 18" wide at the top and bottom and 17" wide at the center. The hand grip should be as close to the pane of the shield as possible. Cut a hold large enough for your hand and gauntlet to fit into and hold the hand-grip comfortable. The next step is to construct a platform to affix the boss onto. Make a pyramid of wooden 'gaskets' which extends forward past your hand (figure 1). File the gasket edges to create an attractive sloped shape. You will need a plumbers helper that has a flange on the inside. Saw off the stiff handle attachment and sand the sawn edge. Drill through the edge of the flange and use leather washers and carriage bolts to attach it to the shield (figure 2). The bolts will have to be at an angle. Cover the plumbers helper by sewing a drawstring to a half circle of cloth and using the 'bag' to hide the rubber. (We haven't found a paint that will stick to the rubber under combat conditions.) For a court shield, use an attractive wooden salad bowl of the boss and glue the assembly onto the shield. Make three-dimensional designs out of wood and glue them on. Carve additional designs into the ornamentation. (Remember that knotwork is a late-comer to Celtic art.) The source books below include pictures of surviving shields that can be used for inspiration.
Here are some tips on how to (inexpensively) make your new shield really stand out. Never leave bare plywood exposed, seal with a light coat of polyurethane before staining. Sand most of the coating off and then stain the wood. This prevents the characteristic striped look of stained plywood caused by uneven absorption of stain. Use (fake) gold leaf to simulate bronze sheets. Paint the edge of the shield dark red, then cover with clear aquarium hose and lace with leather. The hose will be nearly invisible. For a court shield, use half-round basket weaving cane for the edges. Soak it in hot water to make it flexible (15-30 minutes) and use glue and small finishing nails to attach the cane to the edges of the shield. (figure 3). Use fingernail polish to simulate enamel work. Seal all gold leaf with clear fingernail polish before varnishing, or the varnish will react with the gold leaf. I use clear polyurethane varnish. A gold-leafed court shield will cost $20-25, a combat shield will cost $20-30.
The rubber boss has provisional approval from the Meridian Marshallate for use as a weapon, you must be individually approved. Counter blows with a 'punch block' technique to avoid 'tabling ' the shield. This gives tremendous visibility even when blocking a head shot. I am experimenting with a foam 'razor edge' on the top of the shield, more information will follow if the marshals approve it.
Backes, Magnus & Dolling, Regine, Art of the Dark Ages, Harry Abrams, Inc., NY, 1969.
Cunliffe, Barry, The Celtic World, McGraw-Hill, 1986.
A Coloring Book of Ancient Ireland, Bellerophon Books, 36 Anacapn St., Santa Barbara, CA 93101,1978. One of an excellent series.
Kilbride-Jones, H.E., Celtic Craftsmanship in Bronze, St. Martin's Press, NY, 1980.
Henry, Françoise, Irish Art (in the Early Christian Period), Cornell University Press, Ithaca, NY, 1965.
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