~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)
~latex gloves (optional)
~posterboard or cardstock
EQUIPMENT AND WORKSPACE
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!)
PATTERNING FOR DUMMIES
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.
Oo. TIME TO GET WET .oO
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
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
FUN PART FUN PART FUN PART
OPTIONAL PART OPTIONAL PART
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.
~ TO DYE OR NOT TO DYE ~
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
BACK TO THE MAIN COURSE
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.
A LITTLE EXTRA TIDBIT d-_-b \\=-//
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.
SHOE LACES, SWELL!
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.