Mar 20, 2018

Making Leather Armor


For those who may like to create something unique for themselves, but have no idea where to start, this thread will document my progress creating some new leather armor for my character. Hopefully some others can take inspiration from it to try to make something new.


Step one:

Whether for clothing or armor, if you need to make a pattern, it helps to first have a form.

This is a torso I got online for under $20, then added cut up pieces of old towels until the measurements at waist, chest, shoulders and neck were about right.



Step two:

If you drop an old tshirt over it, you can now easily use markers to block out the forms and basic look you want. You can even draw variations on each side.

Here I started with an old orange highlighter, didn't like most of those designs, so picked out the few lines I liked in black and kept revising. So the lighter color you start, the more you can experiment.


Step three:

This step can vary. You can then cut up the shirt to make your patterns, but I prefer to then draft my shapes into cereal box level cardboard.

This let's me have a rough simulation of how leather doesn't like to bend in more than one direction without forming, but also gives me a pattern I can reuse easily if I need to recut any leather later.


During this rough assembly you can also begin to better visualize mechanics such as buckles, straps, etc.


Once you have a rough assembly together in cardboard and duct tape, you can also try it on to double check your fit.



Step four:

Choose your materials. I picked Leather.

For my armor I'm using vegetable-tanned tooling leather. Tandy Leather had a decent price on double shoulders, and this leather is great for leather carvings and takes takes dyes and finished well. This should give me enough to also make bracers, greaves, and hopefully spalders as well.


You can also use simple water to form and / or harden this type of leather. Just be careful you don't heat it too much or too long or you'll go too far down the hardness road and end up in brittle.


At the moment I may do some shaping, but probably will only do hardening on the spalders, bracers and greaves that will eventually join this breastplate in battle.


Step five:

Get to work!

Here I've traced and rough cut the major pieces to get them into manageable pieces. Heavy duty clothing shears worked well enough.


They then need to be nicely trimmed (I'm using exacto blades I have onhand). Depending on the level of finish and time you want, you can stop there. But if you get a beveler, you can give your pieces a much nicer, more finished look without much additional effort. And they are easy to use.


Progress check:

Here you can see the front and back pieces all trimmed and roughly set into place.


If you're not going to do any leather carving, from here you can cut your strapping, get it all stained, and start final riveting/ assembly.


If you want something more decorative, get some tracings and iterate some designs on paper to finalize your plans.

Apr 22, 2018



More progress:

Pauldrons designed and cut out.

This is where the cardboard patterns really start coming in handy. You just flip them over and cut out a second time to get the other shoulder.

Apr 22, 2018

Step Six:

Leather carving and tooling.

This takes a few steps and some practice.


First you need to case your leather.

By getting it damp you can easier transfer your designs to the leather with a simple scribe. My first few I did with the rounded edge of my beveling tool while waiting for my stylus to show up in the mail.

Here I personally do not fully case my leather, I only get it samp enough to slightly soften the top layer. I save doing a ful casing for when I'm ready to do my tooling.



Once your image is transferred, you can lightly score your lines with a knife. This works a bit better while it's still a touch damp. Depending on how much you want your edges to stand out, or if you're going to paint the lines with dye, your project may not need this step.




When I'm actually ready to tool the design, that is when I then finished casing my leather. I get my best results wetting both sides. But don't fully saturate your leather. If it's too wet, your edges will be soft when you bevel. At least for me, I keep it just barely wet enough to get a little floppy. First I run a beveler around all of my edges.




This let's me get a fairly decent impression quickly and see how the leather is behaving, and gives me a good look at the design so I can decide if I want to do any backgrounding. Keeping it at the semi damp casing through all this time still leaves me the option if I want to fully harden it when I'm done tooling by finishing saturating the leather after I'm done carving.



Apr 22, 2018


Progress Check:

By repeating similar designs on multiple parts, I think the armor will have a nice overall look.

Here you can see the pieces that will make up most of the breastplate along with the first bracer.



Then here are both outer bracers fully tooled, and the first of the pauldron pieces.

The bracers are already water hardened and shaped, the pauldron is just starting to dry.

Jun 21, 2018Edited: Jun 21, 2018



Step Seven: Stain / Color



Once you have all your pieces cut and your pattern tooling done, you can color or stain your leather.

Here I've used 2 tones - Saddle tan on most, but some accent pieces I dyed with walnut.

I tend to prefer alcohol based leather dye to water based as I find it's less likely to get spots if I get caught in some weather.



I also recommend wiping it all down with some kind of resist after your dye has dried to help

protect your leather.

Jun 21, 2018



Step Eight: Final Assembly

All your pieces and straps should now be ready to go. So you can punch your final holes and rivet, leather lace, or sew your pieces together, as appropriate for your design. As you can see here, I went with domed rivets for a little extra style.


I also assemble the major sections first, so I can align them on my dummy to verify where I want all my straps to sit before punching those holes.


Here are some images of the final product... at least until I start on greaves and tassets. :)


I Hope you've found this helpful and inspiring, and I look forward to seeing what the rest of you build!







New Posts
  • Recently I've been working on on leather crafting and getting some idea's out of my head and into real world. Strangely that seems to be taking to work on Orc armor. Yeah that's not where I started off but it's how it's going. I can't show any pictures right now as I'm just getting the patterns worked out this week for few things and I'm terrible at taking pictures but I can post a reference for a gauntlet that I am working on. No not my work but it's what I'm working from. Working out some kinks with my design of it I might need a bit of assistance. So bit by bit I will work on it as I stand back and work on other parts. Next up archer's or should we say ranger shoulder armor. A single sleeve of leather strapped to my body with a segment of armor going down it to protect when I am firing arrows at friends.......errrrr Foes! Yes FOE'S! *Cough* Anywho the only part I haven't worked out is the actual shoulder piece of the armor but I should have that in a day or so( want to mold it but I'm considering doing slits or darts and bending and stitching. we shall see what comes out.). After that a nice Big Ab belt that will be sistered with chest and back armor. Yup now you can see where the Orc ideas started coming in. But any Tips or tricks you may have for me would be fantastic. Pictures soon, I promise!
  • Ever since Sir Ceannric's first post of portals on the Facebook page, I've been inspired. I've incorporated ideas from it into my character's backstory. And because of it, I've liked the idea of making a self glowing orb. So far, the closest I've gotten is whats pictured above, which is an actual picture unedited and taken in a pitch black room. I used a fillable x-mas ornament with a remote controlled color-changing LED, as well as some plastic bead fillings I found. I'm trying to make it more permanent, so I'll post more about it as I work. So the best colors on this project are purple, blue, and red. Another obstacle I'm facing is the seam from the ornament, which is why I'm looking for a way to make it more permanent like using resin or a substitute of some kind. Or doing such a fine sand job on the seams that its unnoticeable. Also with the purple one above I lightly sanded the outside so the clear beads on the inside looked more cloudy. I'll do that for the final version too. I'm also trying it with a much bigger orb (unpictured) but the LED is too weak for it, so I'm trying different lights for it. I'll update more on this project when I can.
  • Adding pauldrons to my leather jerkin. I had originally made a set of courbullio, wax impregnated leather shoulders for this armor that I used to wear with a chainmail apron, but that was some 20 years ago and they have been lost. With a little care armor pieces will last many years so putting in some time to upgrade this old piece is a good investment. I first made a paper pattern and traced it on the backside of the leather. In armor as in garb the pattern is everything. Also, good planning of resources, notice how I lay out my pattern to make the best use of my leather. After cutting out the pieces I wet shaped them around a pipe and then let them dry. I used a space heater set on low to help speed the process. Then I test fit them on my arm with the armor on to see how the fit . I marked them to make sure when I riveted them to the strapping I got the spacing right. Setting the rivets. Using scrap leather I made two long straps that would hold the pieces together and allow them to float and move nicely. You don't want them to snug or they will lock the lames in place. The top pieces were then trimmed and secured to the main piece. I added a loop to hols the pauldron to my biceps.

© 2019 by LARP Adventures, LLC