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If you want to make any simple shield from a round piece of plywood, then a boss is easy to attach and will instantly make your creation scream “shield” to all and sundry! Even if you are going to use straps (enarmes) a boss will still considerably improve your work’s overall visage. Our bosses are super heavy duty 14 gauge steel, they weigh 558g each, and measure 20.1 cm across. The dome protrudes a fraction over 5cm. They are an appealing subdued grey colour (rather than silvery and polished) and have six holes for mounting.
A shield boss (or umbo) is a cup that covers the wielder’s hand. It is placed over a circular hole in the centre of a shield. A simple flat vertical piece of wood placed over the reverse side, will then serve as a handle (bar grip). This produces a superior centre of gravity than if the wielder simply grasped a regular protruding handle on the reverse. In effect the shield will balance upon the wielder’s fist, and will be less top-heavy. Such shields usually had a sturdy guigue: an adjustable carrying strap (for the shoulder), so that most of the time the weight of the shield would not have to be supported by a single arm. A boss was also useful to deflect blows from the centre of a shield, but this could not have been their main purpose (in my opinion) as the older type of shields were not that manoeuvrable, and mainly served as an almost inert barrier to protect the torso . They could not have been wielded with sufficient dexterity to regularly catch blows upon the centre.
By the early Middle Ages, new designs of shield found favour, and a boss’s main function of cupping the hand became obsolete, but the umbo itself infrequently remained, as it added a certain aesthetic quality to a shield, furthermore, having a central steel dome on a shield face could only add to its strength.