This holiday season, I decided I wanted to come up with a neat gift idea. I also wanted to make something tiny with my new laser cutter. During a car ride conversation with my shop mate Will, we brainstormed the idea to make little drink coasters that looked like the guards’ shields from Skyrim! They are the perfect shape and, being completely flat, would accommodate a glass (try doing this with the glass shield, it won’t work).
I grabbed the texture images from in-game and used them to lay out a b&w image that I could translate to laser etching. The trick here was to flatten the image so that it would read as a depth map. Fortunately, the texture file didn’t have any environmental lighting on it and after running a “high pass” filter on it and adjusting the levels, I had something I could use!
I fed that file into my laser cutter and, in about 5 passes, had a super detailed texture on a piece of acrylic plastic that would serve as the master for my tiny shields. I also laser cut a ring to go around the edge of the shield.
Using a round bit on my Dremel, I slowly added a “hammered metal” texture to this ring.
With the ring texture prepared, the two pieces were glued together. Another acrylic plastic disc was added to the bottom of the shield to give it a little thickness. Then the edge was filled in, beveled, and textured with a little Bondo.
I knew I was going to want to make a bunch of these, so I threw the master under some silicone (Tap Plastics Silicone RTV). 8 Hours later I was able to pry the master out and I had a mold ready to make some tiny shields!
I wanted to create that real metallic finish on the edges of the shield, so I opted to use a “cold casting” method for these wee guys. The mold was dusted with aluminum powder before pouring in polyurethane resin (Smooth-On Smooth-Cast 300).
Once the mold was dusted with a thin layer of powder, the two-part plastic resin was poured into the mold. In about 10 minutes the liquid cured to a rigid plastic.
The back sides of the cast shields were sanded flat on the belt sander.
To finish the “cold cast” look on the edges of the shield, they all got a buffing with some steel wool and aluminum polish. This way I wouldn’t have to paint on metal later.
All of the shields needed a base “wooden brown” color, but I didn’t want to paint over that nice metallic finish that I had just achieved. So I made a circular template to lay over them as I sprayed on the brown spray paint.
The decals for each city were a tricky beast. Fortunately I have a vinyl cutter, so making the stencils for a bunch of these wasn’t as painful as it could have been. I drew up the vectors in Inkscape and had the plotter cut them out of a low tack “paint mask” vinyl. These were each carefully weeded out and applied to the shields.
Finally it was time for color! Following the advice of my pal Harrison over at Volpin Props, I sprayed down some clear spray paint before adding the color layer. This helped keep the color paint from bleeding below the stencil.
Once all of the color was sprayed, I carefully peeled back all of the stencils to reveal the pretty shield logos below!
This technique was fine for Whiterun, but Riften and Windhelm have two different colors. The “color splotch” was added first using another temporary paint shield, like I did with the brown wood paint earlier.
Once that layer of paint dried, I was able to put the logo stencils on and spray them in a lighter color over the background.
I repeated this process 80 times.
For a little bit more realism and contrast, I did a dirty wash on all of the shields. This is just a mixture of black and brown acrylic paints and water. The clean shields were brushed completely over with the paint and then wiped mostly clean with a paper towel.
After spraying on a matte clear coat of paint on all of these guys to protect them, I added one more finishing touch: Laser cut cork circles to glue onto the bottom of each one.