With the recent popularity of fantasy films it’s no surprise there has been renewed interest in swords and sorcery among children of all ages.
Get the kids off the iPad and into the workshop with these fun projects to make their own pretend medieval weapons.
Use leftover items
The material costs are low, especially if you have a tiedown strap lying around plus leftover primer and paint, as the swords and shield are made from discarded tree branches and offcuts of plywood.
To keep it real, you can quite easily make these weapons without power tools, using a boot knife to whittle away the bark and a hand plane to shape the sword blades.
A coping saw will cut the ply easily while a bit and brace will handle the drilling duties.
TIP It’s best to use an auger bit to bore the holes for the cross-guards unless the branch is in very good condition, as a spade bit is more likely to split or splinter the timber.
Put safety first
Designing the weapons, finding the branches and painting the shield are all tasks that kids can do with a minimum of supervision, but as soon as sharp cutting tools are involved, an adult must take charge.
Be particularly mindful that your young helpers are wearing goggles or safety glasses, and give them earmuffs if they are nearby while you’re using noisy power tools.
Even if they are made from timber, swords and axes can still cause nasty injuries, so it’s best if the weapons don’t see actual combat.
The best use for them is as a majestic display on the wall, but they can be taken down and used for authenticity when children are playing dress-ups.
Mounting the weapons
This armoury features a shield, a two-handed sword and an arming sword or one-handed sword.
Mount the weapons so they can be easily removed but with the fasteners kept out of sight.
CHOOSE A BACKING BOARD large enough to show off your weapons. We used laminated hardwood that had been salvaged from
a discarded tabletop.
MARK THE POSITIONS of the weapons then wind in square screw hooks at balance points such as the hilt and near the end of the blade.
DRILL MATCHING HOLES using a 3mm twist bit at an angle into the balance points on the weapons then hook them onto the square hooks.
TIP Hang the shield directly on its straps.
Use this template to build the shield. This template uses a 50mm grid.
For a double-handed sword, find a branch about 650mm long and 40mm in diameter. Strip the bark then plane down about 450mm of the branch for the blade, leaving a 200mm hilt. TIP For an arming sword, make the hilt 130mm and the blade 470mm.
Use a 16mm auger bit or spade bit to drill through the top of the hilt. Strip the bark from a 160 x 20mm branch and rasp it down to 16mm in diameter then secure it in the hole using exterior PVA. Use a rasp to shape the grip and taper the blade to a point.
Enlarge the shield pattern with a photocopier or on a 50mm grid then use it to cut out a template from an A2 sheet of cardboard. Trace two shield outlines on a HandiPanel or offcuts of 3mm thick plywood then cut out using a coping saw.
Ask your young knight to hold his or her arm across the shield to mark comfortable strap locations, one across the palm and one across the forearm. Drill 3mm holes centred 25mm apart at the ends of the strap positions then cut out the slots using a chisel.
Cut 25mm nylon webbing long enough to go around the child’s arm plus at least 30mm extra at each end. Feed the ends through the slots then apply PVA adhesive and sandwich the ends between the front and back of the shield. Clamp and leave to dry.
Apply primer followed by two coats of acrylic in your chosen colour. Use a scalpel or precision utility knife to cut out the fleur-de-lis pattern on the cardboard template then use it as a stencil to apply spray paint and complete the design.