Swords, Shields & Polar Bears

artisan workshop
My school is throwing its annual Fall Fair this Saturday (Nov. 21). It’s a one-day open-house extravaganza where we open our doors to all to show our students’ achievements both in academics and the arts. At the Fair we offer artisan workshops in fabric, clay and candle making, and we sell handmade craft work that students’ parents volunteered to make (and of course there will be great food).

The parents who volunteered to join the Fall Fair’s workshop in wood have been building all kinds of animals, swords and shields. Some of our parents have had prior experience in woodworking; others were complete beginners. We met the parents every Tuesday morning and they have been a terrific group: whittling, gouging, sawing, rasping, sanding and painting.

artisan workshop20151103_100118While my colleague, Ms. Poliakine, oversaw the zoo (animal carving), I was busy coaching our “forge,” producing a small armory of pine swords and their complementary plywood shields. The structure of our swords is very simple. We used a cross halving joint which we cut using the band saw to connect the blade to the gourd. Then we roughly shaped the swords’ blades and their guards on the band saw and glued the two together. Once they dried, we faired the shapes with spokeshaves, rasps and sandpaper. Check the illustration below for ideas on how to make a simple wooden sword and shield. 

The shields are made from 3/16″ plywood and include handles that we also cut on the band saw. 

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After finishing sanding we used gesso and acrylic paints to decorate the swords and shields. Lastly, we wrapped a rope around the sword’s handle using the common whipping technique. 

Come visit us Saturday  (10 a.m-4 p.m.) if you happen to be in the City: Rudolf Steiner School in Manhattan, Fall Fair, 15 East 79th Street street between 5th and Madison Ave, New York, N.Y., 10075.

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artisan workshop

I cut the stencil from a sheet of Mylar foil. Then I affixed it the shield with masking tape and dabbed the stencil with a sponge charged with acrylic paint.

artisan workshop

artisan workshop

The finished shield

artisan workshop

The shield’s back side and its handle. The handle was cut on the bandsaw.

DSCN2750artisan workshop— Yoav Liberman

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Yoav Liberman

About Yoav Liberman

Yoav S. Liberman is a woodworker and a teacher. His pieces have been featured in several woodworking books, most recently in Robin Wood’s CORES Recycled. Yoav teaches woodworking at the Rudolf Steiner School in Manhattan, and also frequently guest teaches in craft schools across the country.  Between 2003 and 2011 Yoav  headed the woodworking program at Harvard University's Eliot House. Yoav’s articles have appeared in American Woodworker and Woodwork Magazine. He frequently contributes woodworking web content to a number of digital publications   Yoav has a degree in architecture and later held two competitive residency programs: at The Worcester Center for Crafts in Massachusetts, and the Windgate Foundation Fellowship at Purchase College, New York. He lives in Chestnut Ridge NY.

7 thoughts on “Swords, Shields & Polar Bears

  1. mbholden

    Sounds and looks like fun. A side note, a short article on how you wrap the handles would be interesting. hint, hint.

  2. terrynjon

    Sounds like a great school. Our high school just started having a building class two years ago. There was nothing before that for students who wanted to make things and were not aiming for college.


    1. Yoav LibermanYoav Liberman Post author

      Jon thanks for your comment.
      Since we rightly immerse our children in the imaginary world of fairytales, fantasy and mythology I feel it is only natural that we will allow them to play with swords and other related props. After our 4th graders finish their first project (a mallet) they can choose to make a wooden knife. 5th graders make spoons and forks and when this project is completed they can choose to build other object including a sword.

    2. josephjmclean

      Ha! I attended the Waldorf School of Princeton and my father was always baffled at the swords and shields. He’d say, ‘You aren’t allowed to pretend a stick is a gun, but they give you swords?!’. He also argued that dragons were an endangered species and we shouldn’t hunt them anymore.

      1. Yoav LibermanYoav Liberman Post author

        I never understood why it is ok for a kid to play with a Star Wars lightsaber but not with a wooden sword or a toy gun. And I agree that we should put the dragons under the endangered species act. We have vilified them for too long..

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