Designing on leather after its hardened

Discussion in 'Historical Re-enactment' started by new_craftsman, Jan 23, 2004.

  1. new_craftsman

    new_craftsman New Member

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    Hey guys

    Is it OK or possible even, to cut into leather to design on it, after it has already been hardened and shaped?
     
  2. Christophe of Grey

    Christophe of Grey Cordwainer to Royals

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    new_craftsman,
    Designs after hardening is generally very hard to do. I do my designs first, then harden the leather. When you tool or stamp leather it usually works best to case the leather. That's a leather workers name for getting the leather damp. Damp leather is like clay and is easy to tool.

    Usually if you are hardening leather you would shape it in the process of hardening it. i.e. for the vambraces I make I tell folks to wet the inside of the vambrace then put it on, forming it to their forearms. Then carefully take the vambrace off and harden it. I recommend they turn their oven on to 200 for about 15 minutes. Then TURN THE OVEN OFF. Put the wet, formed vambrace in the oven for about 10 - 15 minutes, watching it carefully. This hardens the leather and causes it to retain the shape of their forearm.

    Leather hardens because it is raised to 115 degrees F and held there for about 10 minutes. This causes the leather to go through a chemical process called elastomerization. This causes the fibers of the leather to "reshape" and results in hard leather. You can heat leather by boiling it, soaking it in hot wax, heating it with a heat source (camp fire, like in the old days), leaving it in the sun, or putting it in your oven. For a test, put a design on a 1 inch square of leather. Heat some water to a rolling boil then toss in your sqaure for about 10 minutes. When you take it out it will be black, about 3/4 inch square, have no design on it (it shrunk out of existance), and be hard as a rock. Put it on a hard surface and hit it with a hammer and it will shatter! Not good for armor. The piece was over heated. When you harden the leather watch it. There is a fine line between where it hardens but retains its original color and designs and goes over the top becoming black and losing all your hard design work.

    Here is a site that will walk you through the entire process http://www.personal.utulsa.edu/~marc-carlson/leather/hl.html. BTW hardening leather is called Cuir Bouilli.