So here is where we left off last week; we had cut, dyed and formed our piece of leather. Now it is time to add additional pieces to our work.
Now this is where your creativity is valuable. The first step I wanted to add Spaulders to my armor, this will protect my shoulders and upper arms.
I did not have much leather left over after I created the breastplate, so I needed to find a cheap alternate source. With my budget set for this piece, I could not afford to buy another large remnant of leather. So I went to several hobby stores and bought bags of leather remnants for under $10 (U.S.).
These bags of remnants are chopped full of different colored and size pieces of leathers. So beforehand try to figure out what you want so you can judge if they have what you need. Remember in the last blog, I had mentioned about altering your piece to what you have available, this again may be the rule you need to adjust to.
Once you have your pieces of leather, and your design, repeat the steps I outlined in the first part of this post. After, cutting, dying and forming the pieces you now need to attach them. You can use leather or even suede strands, just as long as they are strong enough to hold the pieces together.
There is an additional step you may want to consider. Unlike many leather products you can buy, I wanted to waterproof mine. I also wanted to use a traditional method of waterproofing. I choose to cover my leather with beeswax.
Beeswax can be used as a protective covering, but to do this you must turn it into a liquid. I use a stove and a heat gun to melt it. Put the beeswax into a small glass container, and then place it into a pan with water on a heat source. When the water boils, you will see the beeswax then turn into a liquid. Using the heat gun, I warm up the surface of the leather, and then similar to the dying process, I paint the beeswax on.
You will notice sometimes the beeswax will get a white look to it. Reheat it with the heat gun, and brush it again and you can remove this milky color. I am putting this step, if you want to waterproof your piece, here instead of later because it is much easier at this step than when the items of your piece are attached or have decoration in them.
To attach leather together, you can sew them, tie them or rivet them to your main piece. Sewing them will require using an awe. This device will allow you to tightly secure the pieces together, it does take some practice to master, but is worth the effort.
Tying them require a stand(s) so they can be attached. You can use leather or even suede strands, just as long as they are strong enough to hold the pieces together. This process of extra strands can also be used in riveting. Riveting leather will require getting the proper sized rivet, and also a punch. This will take some time to figure out, but riveting I believe is a stronger bond than the other two.
No matter which way you attach the pieces together, you will need holes in the leather to accomplish it. This is an easy process to do. If the hole you need is close to the edge you can use a hand held punch to squeeze the hole. If it is in the center, you can use a punch to drive the hole in the leather. I came up with a new solution; I used a small drill and twisting it back and forth in my fingers I was quickly able to drill a hole in the leather.
Now that you have the pieces together, you might want to add studs or other items to the leather. As for me, I added several series of rings for protection, and also some studs and spikes. I must say that spikes were not used in traditional medieval armor, but I am using this piece also as one of outfits when I enter the ring in wrestling. Taking in the wrestling aspect, I decided I needed some flair to it.
As with the process of attaching the leather, to attach studs, etc., you need to make holes in the leather. For items, like the spikes, which uses a small screw, use a drill or hole punch. The studs I used had small prongs so I used an exactor knife and cut in small slits for these prongs to go through.
Since the photo I posted on my last blog, I added Tassets which is armor protecting the upper thigh.
In the midsection, I also added leather pieces riveted into position, this added extra protection to this area.
If you notice I added a flat codpiece. Being flat as mine is was initially how this piece of armor was developed. It was not until much later that the codpiece began to “resemble” the area, it was protecting, and then because of nobility vanity, they soon were exaggerated in size and shape.
In this article I wanted to give you the basic of working with leather to see if you wanted to try it. There are many other steps you can take to decorate your leather, such as cutting in a design or painting. If you wish to try to work with leather, my recommendation is to do as much research as you can, but mostly be creative and enjoy yourself.
As for the tools, you can go and buy many supplies which are geared for leather only. I personally found most of them in my tool box. An example of this would be if you wanted to engrave a design into the leather, you could go buy a gouge specially designed for leather; instead I used a chisel I use for wood working.
My final piece might now be perfect, but it suits what I wanted it for. I enjoyed making it and it did not cost me over $1,500 to make (was more like $150). I also learned so much about the process of making leather armor, and that in itself is worth more than the money I spent into this project.
I may someday return to making leather armor, and this time I think I will try to fashion a leather helmet. If I do, you will be one of the first to see the finished product.
Next week: Back into the time machine as we head for a Medieval Christmas
W.A. Rusho is a professional wrestler, amateur historian and author of "Legend of the Mystic Knights".