Roman soldier with scutum

A scutum is a Roman war shield. The name is Latin for shield. The scutum had a rectangular framework of wood, canvas and skin that curved slightly around the soldier's body. A metal boss gave added protection against sword blows and projectiles. The scutum was standard equipment for Roman legions. Concealed behind walls of scuta, the Roman legionnaires formed an almost unbeatable force.

Prepare three sheets of plywood. Each should be a little more than 3 feet long and a little less than 3 feet wide. The three together will equal the thickness of a typical scutum, just under 1/2 an inch. Bend the three pieces of plywood into a slightly concave shape and glue them securely together.

Cut a sheet of canvas that is larger than the outer suface of your scutum. The piece of canvas must be large enough to cover the outer surface of the shield and extend over slightly onto the back. Pull the canvas tightly over the front of the scutum, allowing the extra to go onto the back. Secure the canvas on the back with tacks or small nails.

Trim a piece of calfskin or rawhide to approximately the same size as the piece of canvas. Stretch this over the canvas and secure it in place. Prepare two thin strips of metal to fit over the top and bottom of the scutum. The strips should fold over the top and bottom almost like long clips. They should cover the top and bottom of the shield and also extend slightly onto the sides. Fasten them in place with metal screws.

To create a boss for your scutum, use a metal disk. You can also use a hubcap or the central portion of a hubcap if it is too large. The boss should fit over the central part of the front of your shield. Attach it to the front of the scutum. Paint the boss in whatever designs you prefer. You may also paint the shield.

Create a handle for your shield by using leather straps or making handles out of wood or metal. Fasten these to the back of the shield roughly midway between the top and the bottom. Place each strap or handle near one of the sides. You should be able to fit your arm through one strap or handle while grasping the other strap or handle with your hand.

Things Needed

  • ['Plywood', 'Canvas', 'Calfskin or rawhide', 'Thin metal strips', 'Metal disk or hubcap', 'Leather straps, metal or wood for handles']


  • Experiment with other shapes. Scuta could sometimes be in the form of ovals.