Heraldic "Pit Bull" Shield


Good friends of ours hooked us up with a great and unexpected Christmas gift when we were dropping our pit bull Soc off to hang out with his girlfriend Gracie for the day. I knew I had to do something. 

Here's two of them hanging out at the gym - Gracie always looks mischevous and Soc looks like he's in trouble after their shenanigans.


An idea was born - both are huge fans of pit bulls and the husband is a veteran of law enforcement. They also had a big empty spot on the wall above their fireplace, so the wheels in my head started turning. As a lover of everything medieval (well except witch hunts, plagues and decapitation type stuff), whether it's castles, knights or weaponry - a shield over the fireplace sounded about right. I've already done a shield for "Harry Potter" project before, but my skills have improved quite a bit, so it was time for Shield 2.0.

First sketch - pit bull head over the US Flag with a thin blue line in the middle.

I've looked at a bunch of various shields and pit bull shapes - this was one of the earliest mock ups.

I definitely liked the silhouette and the shape of the shield - so I fired up the projector for the top layer and started tracing.

All cut out and ready for sanding.

Traced the shield outline over another piece of plywood and cut out the full shield. Then marked off the center line and measured the lines to cut.

The backing all cut and mocked up against the full shield. The dog silhouette quick sprayed  just to see how the black will look - making sure it's not too dark. 

This was my first time try at dry brushing to give it the aged look. It really should be done - one layer of main paint (like the red up top), then dry brush some black and then second coat of the main paint. But I didn't really read any tutorials and just had a rough idea - it worked just fine, I just had to be a little more careful balancing the paints not overpowering each other.

Painted the gold as well. Left a strip in the middle to do a blue chevron in homage to the thin blue line while keeping everything medieval. 

Next I tried cutting two pieces of cardboard to make the template for the chevron itself. The black outline isn't attached to the backing yet - just overlaying it to get an idea.

The eyeball method wasn't working out all that well, so I switched to more scientific approach.

The chevron cut out and mocked up in place - not attached yet. The black is showing up through the red and gold paint quite well.

Next up I traced the dog over the chevron to cut it in properly. For depth and better structure the chevron was cut out of 1/2 inch plywood, while the pit bull and shield outline were made out of 3/4 inch.

At this point two things dawned upon me: a) the red would clash with the blue line and make it all too cartoony and b) the shield outline is a bit boring and needed some pizzaz... So I dremeled out some circles to mimic the rivets (or whatever shields are put together with). Right away it added some visual interest and coolness.

Only months later I found out that there's a magic wire brush tool for the drill to help strip paint off, but here I just used an orbital sander and it took quite awhile to get the red off. 

Eventually, it was all back to bare wood. Taped off the gold to not get any paint on it, dry brushed some black and was ready for the top layer of paint. Painted the outer shield black again to cover up where I dremeled the circles.

White painted on - I used some random paint I already had and it ended up covering up the black a lot better than the other paints. Painted the faux rivets same gold as lower part of the shield.


Final mock up before putting it all together. The white looks much better than red. I used a regular sanding block on it to age it and the black started coming through a little better. It doesn't show in photos as much, but in real life it's quite clearly visible - it's a delicate balance to not over-do.

I used some double sided sticky tape on both the dog and chevrons to keep them in place as I drill through from the back side - I like using screws instead of glue. Just don't trust glue for some reason.

It did need a few screws. The rectangular piece holds all the separate shield boards together. 

Hung it up at my house and made sure it looks good. All was well. It was weathered just enough to not look brand new, but not too overdone.

Wrapping it was a bit of a process.

My friends loved their new art piece and it looks great over their fireplace. It was an awesome project that took a couple of days and some thinking. 

And we don't really need a good excuse to have a couple more pics of cute dogens - here's Gracie.

And here's Soc.