I wanted to be as accurate as possible with this shield, so the only thing that's accurate is the dimensions of the shield.... (she said ironically)
You can make your shield as big or as little as you want, but the bigger it is, the more magic required. I made mine with no tutorial or direction, I just winged it, so my tutorial is going to be a bit different than how I actually built it. I've since thought of better ways to do certain parts. So let's get started!
1/2" EVA foam - the play mats work well
BLACK 1/4" craft foam (you can use the 1/2" if you want for a thicker shield)
Basic craft foam
Exacto knife with extra blades
Giant circle (or string and a pen)
Heat gun (oven works fine)
Hot glue gun with lots of glue sticks
Sewing machine (optional)
Part 1: Construction
There's two ways to do this; the way I did it, and the better way. I'll direct you how to do the better way.
First, you need to make your circle, however big. I chose 32" which is the smallest Viking shields go down to. It was just what I had available for material to fit. If you're using the connecting mats, you only need two. Try to get all black.
Connect them together. Now if you already have a circle to trace, go ahead and trace as much as you can. If you do NOT have a template, get a string and tape it or hold it in the centre of where your circle will be.
To find the centre of your circle, divide the diameter of your shield in two to get your radius and measure in from the edge of the foam on two sides to the middle. Connect the points and voila.
Tie a pen to the other side of the string and cut it to the radius length. Hold the string in the centre, and hold the pen straight. Draw around the mats to get your circle. Make sure you double check and measure a few spots in case your pen slipped wide or too close! Adjust where needed.
Now cut around the line of your partial circle. Take the excess parts and re-connect them at the top of the mat to fill in the rest of the circle! This is to reduce the amount of foam wasted. Finish tracing your circle and cut it out. Take your hot glue gun and glue in between the connectors to seal the circle together.
There's multiple ways to create your hand hold on the back, so I'll leave the design up to you. Your strap(s) can be made out of folded and sewn fabric for extra strength. Measure your arms width and leave allowance in your strap for it. Cut slits at either end of the strap into the foam.
Using the smooth side as your back, slide your straps into the slits and fold it over and glue it as flat as possible to the rough side. Imagine it like a flip flop construction.
**NOTE: This is the part I didn't do, I attached my straps afterwards and they're not as reinforced.
Set your shield aside and take out your 1/4" foam. Cut out panels for your wood. If you have large enough sheets you can just go edge to edge, but I only had 9x12" sheets so I just cut them in half length wise.
When you have your panels cut, start carving in your wood grain pattern. Make every piece different! Don't cut all the way through the foam. Give your fingers a few breaks if you need it.
When they're all carved, blast them with a heat gun and watch the lines expand into beautiful opened details. If you don't have a heat gun you can set them on a baking sheet in the oven at 400 degrees. DO NOT walk away from your foam in the oven!!! Keep a very close eye on it, and as soon as your foam lines starts to open up, take it out.
Arrange and glue all your pieces to the rough side of your shield, over the straps. This hides the rough side of your foam, and double reinforces your handles on the back.
Part 2: Details
Before we add the smaller details, it's best to paint your wood to make it as flawless as possible. If you have writing all over your panels, start with a black or dark brown acrylic to paint over the details and clean it up.
We will be using a rough bristled brush for the wood painting. Take your color of choice, squirt it on some extra cardboard or paper. Dab a tiny bit on your paint brush and then brush it off on your extra cardboard. You want as little paint on the brush as possible. Brush over your panels going in the same direction as your panels are laid out.
Do this until the whole shield is covered. If you get any paint in your carved details, quickly take a toothpick, or something small and scrape it out. You want your carved lines to stay bold and black through the paint.
For your details, you can use thin craft foam to build up details, or anything you want. Whatever your theme, go crazy with your shapes and designs. If you're painting the details a different color than the craft foam you used, start with a quick layer of white paint to prime it. Your color will stand out much better without needing additional layers of paint.
To really make your details pop, paint the edges of every detail with white or black paint. They will really stand out in images and it adds a finished touch.
Have fun with your new shield! If you have any questions, drop a comment, or find me on social media.
This shield I made is specifically for a shield maiden princess cosplay group I will be in for Edmonton Expo. Keep your eyes peeled for that!