The End of Time
Leather Bracer Tutorial
by Craig Goetz

Tools Needed:

~leather (8oz or thicker)
~ hammer + punch set or rotary punch (gay)
~box cutter (util. knife)
~3 ft of latigo or durable boot lace
~oil-based leather dye (optional)
~sponge (optional)
~latex gloves (optional)
~posterboard or cardstock
~paintbrush (optional)
~spoon (seriously)


Hello, and welcome to my newbie guide to armor crafting! We're actually going to skip all the opening stuff and jump right in. This is my workspace:

What I've got here is some 12-14oz (Amtgard-legal 2pts armor) saddle skirting. Pretty cheap stuff and it works well for tooling, shaping, and thick armor. So i've got this set up on a piece of plywood atop two saw horses. this is my preferred method, but feel free to figure out what works best for you, be it kitchen table, real work bench, or bedroom floor at 3 in the morning (not fun).

Here is my toolbox, just so you know. Left-right, top-bottom we have eyelet setter/stud fixer, hammer-punch, buckles, stitching needles, wax-linen thread, rivet caps, rivet posts (large and medium), snap fronts and backs, tons o' studs, X-Acto Knife, various size paint brushes, mechanical pencils, sponge for dyeing, punch pad (white block, pretty much just a kitchen cutting board that Ipaid too much for), red dye, black dye, black latigo lace (Note: I cannot break this stuff with pliers or by hand!)


Okay, let's get started. Take a piece of posterboard or cardstock and put your arm in the dead center. (Excuse my bad picture-taking; it's hard to get good photos when you're holding tools/hardware in one hand and Now fold each side up and make a mark where the center of your arm is on both sides and at the top and bottom. Unfold and draw straight (or whatever) lines from wrist to forearm.

Fold the paper in half (the middle of your arm) and cut throught both layers of paper with a box cutter or scissors. Once you have done this, make a line from the center fold about a half inch from the wrist edge. This is done to let the bracer wrap around your wrist and not let it dig into the bones of your wrist. Trust me, this is important. At the other end, draw half of what you want the backside of it to look like. With this pattern, we're making a simple angle-to-point. Fold it back in half and cut on the lines. Voila.

Draw and cut rounded corners all around (except the point part at the elbow, if you made it that way) so you don't get poked by cowhide in battle. Lay the pattern out on the leather anywhere you want, but it helps if you get close to the edge. Also be sure and check the thickness of the area you're cutting from, as you don't want a thick wrist and not-so-thick elbow part. That sucks. Draw around it wth a colored pencil or 6B drawing pencil or mechanical pencil or whatever. Just don't mess up if it's got color or ink. You'll regret it when dyeing and/or finishing. Toss or save the pattern and begin to make firm (not pressing as hard as you can, though) strokes with the box cutter along your lines. it should tae 3+ swipes with the knife to get all the way through the leather. If not, you're pressing too hard and run the risk of cutting on the inside of your lines, resulting in unsightly gashes in the meat of the armor. From here on out, I will be using a pre-cut piece of leather from a couple of days ago, since Ialready have it and Idon't want to cut another bracer out right now. It is a slight bit larger, but it all works the same way.


After your arm stops hurting (if using 12oz+ leather...) and you wipe your brow, it's time to get your cut piece and fill your sink/bathtub with tap water (best if water is softened, hard water is fine, though) just enough so the leather sits completely under water. Be sure to put it under with the flesh side up (the rough side), and it should have about a half inch or more of water clearance. Check out the nice bubble-action!


Take the leather out of the water when all the bubbles have stopped. (This can take up to 15 minutes, depending on the size and thickness of your piece.) I usually take a towel and brush the surface and press the leather with the towel to get the excess drippy-ness out. Put your leather onto your work surface and get out your spoon. Shown in this picture, I am using a $7 tool from the leather store, but a spoon works fine, trust me. Take the round side and rub the edge of the leather in the direction of the grain.(You'll know which direction the grain is after you try this. Go both directions to see the difference; it won't hurt anything. Just make sure the final product is going with the grain.)

Do this with firm pressure, not all wimpy-like and stuff. Make your way all around the piece, being aware of the grain direction on all edges. For perpendicular-to-the-grain edges, go either way, whichever feels best. Get those corners nice and rounded! Now for the part that I always skip, but it's a bad habit to get into not doing. Flip the leather over and do the whole process of rounding the edges and corners to the underside. It looks nice, and it doesn't cut into you, or so I'm told.


Okay, if you have any artistic skills in drawing or designing, time now for tooling. I don't have too much skill in the way of designing tooling patterns, but I enjoy doing it. You don't need expensive tooling... tools. You just need something like a paintbrush (use the backside, round plastic end) or a golf tee (use pointy end, my personal favorite, but it's not too easy to hold and tires the hand out quickly. best for small detail work).

Hold the tool like I'm doing here, but opposite because most people aren't left-handed. From this point on, I will be wearing latex gloves. I really don't need them until we start dyeing the leather, but I just felt like putting them on now. Holding the tool like this, with your ring finger against the outer edge of the piece will keep a semi-steady groove without the use of expensive saddle-stitch groovers. I am so cheap. Go around the entire piece, add flourishes at the corners if you want, do whatever. I'm keeping it simple for now, because I'm in a time slot between class and work.


Here I am putting some dye into the leather, using a circular technique with a firm hand. Not much to it, just kind of common sense. By the way, don't go all the way to the edge of the piece, just go close to the groove we made earlier. Now take a paintbrush of some thickness and begin painting up the the groove all the way around the leather. Not difficult, either. Just don't slip into the outer edge, heheh.

You can see that I am putting a different color around the edge for a sweet effect, but what is it? It's actually just red, but it's darker-looking for two reasons. One is that the leather is wet, and it causes dyes to look deeper than they will when it dries completely. The second reason is that I was an idiot and used a paintbrush that I had previously used for black (two days before). It bled the dried black pigment into the red and caused undesired effects. Oh well, this is just a simple tutorial, nothing too showy. Anyway, anytime you dye your leather, you should brush/sponge the edges and a little of the backside as well. This looks better as a finished product, and you want it to look at least halfway decent.


Take your golf tee or sewing needle or something nice and pointy and mark along the two forearm edges where your lacing holes will be. I opted for six because I like spacing mine about an inch or so apart. I'm not terribly accurate, and no one's going to criticize my inaccuracy in lace-holing while in mid-combat. Use a punch that is anywhere between 1/16" and 1/8" bigger than the diameter of your choice lacing. In the PIP on the right is a very clean view of a super-good-looking hole. Getting the punch out of wet leather is a chore, but it looks good afterwards, and it's easier to punch wet than dry.


I decided to take it a step further and do a little more tooling around the edges. I used a sewing needle in a pair of Vise-Grips (for extra handle length) and a 1/8" punch that was knocked less than 1/16" into the leather. I wanted to do just a little jazzing up, because it looked sort of bland around the edge.


Now it's time to roll the edges out a little, just for a little flare effect. It's completely optional, but it looks really good and keeps the leather from poking your arms an causing discomfort. Pretty basic process, and since the leather is still fairly wet, it stays very well.


Well, not exactly shoe laces, but you could use them. I just hope you're not that cheap... This is latigo lace, and it's really strong (as Istated in the beginning). 25yds for $17.99. A little expensive, but worth it. You can also buy boot laces in 48" lengths, which I personally don't have experience with, but I believe it would be an excellent alternative. Boot laces tie knots better than latigo, but I don't have that problem. I don't even tie mine! I just tuck the ends of the laces up under my glove and off I go! Thread the lacing in a pattern which you prefer. This is how I do mine (obviously). It is clean and very even, but that's because Ihate it when one is longer than the other. Anyway, after you lace them up, you're finished!


Let the whole thing dry overnight with the laces pulled as snug as it would fit your arm, or better yet, even tighter. That way when you go to put them on, they'll hold in place with a tighter fit and not rotate or slip on your arm. This is a very basic tutorial, and it is very adaptable to many other types of armor. Questions or comments welcome. Email me at [email protected] or drop me a line at deviantART. Username is craiggoetz.

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All images taken and copyright 2005 CGi (Craig Goetz and direct affiliates)
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