How to … make a Highland targe

Our new exhibition “Set in Silver” opens tomorrow so today we are bidding goodbye to the Jacobites with our final Jacobite themed “How to…”.

A targe is a round shield usually made of wood, leather and brass. Highlanders would have carried these into battle to defend themselves against swords, bayonets and bullets. They had a metal cone called a shield boss in the middle, to strengthen the shield and deflect sword thrusts. Sometimes they had a long, sharp spike attached to the boss which could be used as a weapon. They were often decorated with brass studs and the leather often had designs carved into it. Here is an example from Kings Museum’s collection.

To make your own Highland Targe you will need:

  • 2 circles of corrugated card measuring 35cm in diameter
  • 1 strip of corrugated card measuring 40cm x 5cm
  • Stanley knife or scalpel (ADULTS ONLY)
  • Roll of sellotape
  • Roll of double sided tape
  • Gold card
  • Scissors
  • Pencil
  • Pritt stick
  • PVA glue and spreader
  • Brown tissue paper
  • Gold paper

1. Using the Stanley knife cut 2 parallel 7cm slits in one of your circles of card, 9cm in from the edge, as seen below. This step should be done by an adult.

2. Pass the strip of card through the slits, leaving enough room for your hand between the strip and the circle. Turn your circle over and tape the ends of your strip down to secure it. You may need to cut off excess card.

3. Using double-sided tape stick two card circles together, making sure that your handle is on the outside. Original targes were made using two circles of wood. They would be attached together with the grain running in opposite directions to make it very strong. You can do the same when you are sticking your circles together, just make sure the lines in your corrugated card are vertical in your bottom circle and then lay your second circle on top with the lines running horizontally. You may need to reinforce your edges with sellotape.

Next you need to make your shield boss. Draw around a roll of tape on the reverse side of the gold card. Make sure you draw around the outside and the inside of the roll so you have two circles, one inside the other.

Cut around the outside circle then draw a point in the centre of your circle. Cut a straight line from the outside edge right into the point and snip around the edges of your circle from the outside edge to the inside circle.

Bring the edges of the long slit in the circle together until they overlap  and create a gold cone with a white interior.  Sellotape the edges together on the inside and pritt stick the overlap on the outside. Fold the snipped edges around the circle upwards so that your cone lies flat.

Stick your shield boss down in the centre of your targe using sellotape.

4. A real targe would now be covered with a layer of leather. Instead you should cover your targe with strips of brown tissue paper, stuck down with PVA glue. You might need to stick down any loose edges when you are overlapping your strips. Make sure you cover the snipped edges of your shield boss with the brown tissue but leave the cone free.

5. Finally decorate your targe with gold paper. We have used gold circles to imitate brass studs but you could decorate your targe with any shapes or designs you choose.

At our Jacobites…Up in the Hills Family Fun event children made their own targes and modelled them while pulling their best warrior faces.

If you make your own targe at home we’d love to see it. Send us some pictures to and we’ll pop them up on the blog!

That’s the last of our Jacobite themed activities.  We’ll be back soon with new activities inspired by our photography exhibition.

Posted by: Lynsey and Sarah


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