leather working question

Discussion in 'Historical Re-enactment' started by urbanharlequin, Dec 17, 2003.

  1. urbanharlequin

    urbanharlequin Golden Marshall, 3rd Wing

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    I am looking for some suggestions on books for leather working. I am interested in armour (function, not show), and etching (I don't know what it's called when you ingrave, emboss, put pretty designs on it that are not decals, permanent stuff... I think you get the point). Any clues. Pretty much I saw the stuff on LotR (Rohan armour) and I fell in love with it. So, why not spend exprbadent amounts of time and money I don't have and make some. But I don't know where to begin. I do make masks for stage use out of leather so I have some experience in tooling it (THAT'S THE TERM... TOOLING!!).
    Thanks, any help will do.
     
  2. Christophe of Grey

    Christophe of Grey Cordwainer to Royals

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    Here are some sites that might help:
    http://moas.atlantia.sca.org/topics.htm
    http://www.byu.edu/ipt/projects/middleages/LifeTimes/boiled.html
    http://www.daviddfriedman.com/Medieval/Leather.html
    http://www.dagorhir.com/HowTo/cbgryml.htm
    http://www.personal.utulsa.edu/~marc-carlson/leather/hl.html - probably the best reference here
    http://www.zianet.com/egil/advice/leatherarmor.html

    That should be enough web sites to get you started.

    The best book I have found on how to use all those leather tooling tools is the Tandy Leather Tech Tips book at http://tandyleather.com/prodinfo.asp?number=6605600&variation=&aitem=2&mitem=43. This book shows you all the tools and how to use each one properly.

    The "etching" you refer to as seen in LOTR is either tooling/carving or applique. Some of the armor seen in movie 2 and 3 are appliques over metal bases. Very striking! There is a technique of leather working where the pattern is burned into the leather using wood burning tools. Usually this technique is used for scenics rather than knott work or the like.
     
  3. Harrison

    Harrison The Best Beatle

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    Say Christophe, where do you get your supplies?
     
  4. Christophe of Grey

    Christophe of Grey Cordwainer to Royals

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    Gamigar,
    When I lived in Florida I used to get my supplies at the Leather Factory. Now I live in North Carolina and get my supplies at Zack White. I don't buy enough leather to take the risk of buying sight unseen. I can only afford to buy pieces that I can get the most out of. i.e. I am currently working on a commision belt for a gentleman that has a girth of 60 inches. To make a suitable "period" belt for him I need a full 90 inches length. Not all sides provide that much length. Also some hides will have either brands, tick bites, fence scars or other marks that make the hide unsuitable for my needs. And for some projects I prefer neck pieces from old cows. There are wrinkles in the leather that give the project a wonderful "texture". I prefer to get my supplies from suppliers that supply either the shoe industry or horse tack industry. They seem to have a much better and varried inventory. I've been doing leather stuff for about 10 years now and have some serious preferences for materials. I find thes more "seasoned" suppliers have a better selection of the materials I need.
     
  5. Harrison

    Harrison The Best Beatle

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    Ah, I need a good set of leather tooling tools, I get leather at Hobby Lobby, I buy it in big bags of scraps, most of them are scratched and marked all over, but hey, it's cheap, and I'm living on allowance. I'm making a pair of bracers now, I used some of the few good peices, I'll post a picture when I'm done, I plan on tooling a design into it in the leatherworking section of art class.
     
  6. Christophe of Grey

    Christophe of Grey Cordwainer to Royals

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    Gamigar,
    Tandy has an extensive selection of tools along with the Leather Factory (ought to, they are now the same company!). Hide Crafters also makes very nice tools. While leather working tools are expensive to buy, spend enough money to get ones that have good clean crisp designs. There are some out there that are inexpensive and the problem is the design is not clean. When you use it your work isn't clean and you wont be happy (sloppy impressions)

    If you are planning on doing some tooling here is my recommended starting list (the tools are refered to by letters and numbers and the reference is consistent among the manufacturers): A good swivel knife with a filigree blade - used for cutting the design into the leather. Bevelers, one small i.e. B9367 and one medium i.e. B203. I use the smooth faced belvelers 90% of the time. If you are going to do any backgrounding I recommend the stippled pattern made with A104. A114 is good for doing larger areas. Of course, if you like the basket weave look there are tons of different basket weave tools you can get. It just depends on which one you like best. I would also get a good poly head hammer, but don't buy it from your leather supply shop buy it at Home Depot or any hardware store. Cheaper! And it's the same hammer. You will also need a tool called a modeling tool. It has a rounded point on one end and a spoon shape on the other. Sometimes you can find these in hobby stores in the clay section. You will use this to transfer your design to the leather and smooth out any tooling marks. As you have some scrap leather practice before you work on the real thing. The real art in leather tooling is consistency and smoothness. You should not be able to see individual tool marks in the finished project. When you do your tooling you will need a very hard flat surface to tool on. You can get marble window sill pieces at Home Depot. If you get lucky and find a broken one, as the department person if they will give you a discount on the piece. Sometimes, and if you can look deperate enough, they will just give it to you. Failing this, use two pieces of masonite glued together. And work on a sturdy surface. My tooling bench is made out of 2 by 4's and has a large 1 inch thick slab of marble (rough) on which I put my tooling slab which is 2 inches thick and about 6 by 12 inches in size.

    Remember the process, case the leather - get it wet, damp not soaking wet, trace your design onto the leather, cut design with your swivel knife, bevel the design, background the negative areas. Let it air dry. Color/dye/stain/antique to taste. Attach hardware if needed. Wear with pride!

    I have made some tools out of wood dowels. They work OK but are not as clean as the metal tools. Check out garage sales for leather working tools. I got a chest with over 200 tools in it at a garage sale for $50. Considering the tools run $7 to $12 a piece I got a steal!

    And one final comment, I use black thin point sharpies to trace the cutting pattern on the leather, i.e. the basic shape for a vambrace which will then be cut out of the whole piece. MARK ON THE FLESH SIDE! Or, if you will, the inside. If you mark on the outside, the smooth side, and blow it, you just marked your leather. As the Labats Bear says "My bad!" Get a good pair of very heavy duty scissors for cuttng your leather. You can buy leather cutting scissors starting at about $8.

    Good luck and share your finished projects here.
     
  7. Harrison

    Harrison The Best Beatle

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    WOW! Thanks, I don't exactly know what beveling is, but I can find out. I also need some buckles, snaps, studs, you know, things of that sort.
     
    Last edited: Jan 14, 2004
  8. Christophe of Grey

    Christophe of Grey Cordwainer to Royals

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    Gamigar,
    Beveling is tyically done right at the line of your design that is cut. It elevates one side and depresses the other. This is what creates the three dimensional look of your work.

    Buckles, snaps, studs, etc. can be had through Tandy/Leather Factory on-line. Studs, or more correctly refered to as spots, come in rounds, diamonds, pyramids, spikes, and a few other shapes as well as different sizes. I typically use 3/8 inch round spots on my vambraces (see photos in Art Galery section).

    Should you by be able to get a copy of this month's Saddle Makers Journal (library maybe?) it has an article on making cowboy cuffs. This pattern uses snaps. This is also the pattern I used to create archer vambrace/gloves for my wife and I for SCA combat archery (shooting people - oh yeah! Great fun!).
     
  9. Harrison

    Harrison The Best Beatle

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    With beveling do you press down the leather or carve it out? Cool, I made a braclet with snaps last year.
     
  10. Christophe of Grey

    Christophe of Grey Cordwainer to Royals

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    When you bevel you place the leading edge of the tool in the cut and hit the tool with your tooling hammer. The real trick with beveling is to "walk" the tool. Basically this involves developing a steady hammer tap as you "walk" the tool along your cut. "Walking" means move the tool smoothly along the cut line. The result is a smooth depression right next to the cut you made in your design. When done correctly you should not see individual tool marks. I find moving the beveling tool 1/4 to 1/2 its width on each "walk" gives good results. Of course, that also highly depends upon striking the tool with a consistent hammer blow. Practice, practice, practice. And did I mention practice? I go back and look at some of my earlier pieces and cringe!
     
  11. Harrison

    Harrison The Best Beatle

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    Sooooo, do you carve the leather out?
     
  12. Christophe of Grey

    Christophe of Grey Cordwainer to Royals

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    No, carving is actually a misnomer. To carve leather you actually do controled depressions in leather, and it is more correctly refered to as leather tooling. The tools you use have various faces on them. i.e. A pear shading tool creates a pear shaped depression that is used to hollow out flower petals. Backgrounders usually have a stippled pattern but can also have checkered patterns. For foliage there is a random "loose" stippled pattern tool used. Verneirs are used for the traditional Sheridan style seen most often in cowboy gear. There are seeders used for the centers of flowers or, as in my case, eyes of animals. So in answer to your original question leather "carving" isn't actually carving it's a process of controlled depressions that result in a design or pattern.

    If you take a look at this picture in the Art Gallery http://gallery.fantasyvault.net/showphoto.php?photo=222 you will see that the knotts are "lifted" from the background. I traced the pattern on the wet leather, then cut the design, then beveled around the cut to "lift" the knott pattern above the background.

    Now there is a style of leather tooling where you do your tooling on the rough or flesh side of the leather. Results in a very different look to the project.
     
    Last edited: Jan 15, 2004
  13. Harrison

    Harrison The Best Beatle

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    Thanks, I hope to do some of that in art this year, we do a leatherworking section, now I can brag about knowing stuff that other people don't, by the way, how did you get started in leather working? Do you do it for a living or as a side job.
     
  14. Christophe of Grey

    Christophe of Grey Cordwainer to Royals

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    I got started in leather working when my wife and I went to our first SCA event. I needed a 72 inch long ring belt - not the type of item you find in the mall! I went to Tandy leather and to make a long story short, got hooked by a very clever salesman - to whom I shall be eternally indebted. I started by making stuff for myself. However, I do believe I did this in a former life because when I get into a project I work stunningly fast (tooling). I wore my stuff at events, people admired it and asked if I would do stuff for them. It grew out of that. Now it is a side business for me. I'm a corporate trainer by profession. But I have absolutely no reservations about sharing my knowledge with others. It brings great joy to me that people that have my stuff use it reguarly.
     
  15. Harrison

    Harrison The Best Beatle

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    Cool, I just got finished with a pair of bracers, I'll post a picture as soon as I can, I think it's good for being my first serious leather project.
     
  16. Christophe of Grey

    Christophe of Grey Cordwainer to Royals

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    Gamigar,
    You were making a pair of Boramir bracers right? If so, where did you get the design for the tree that is on them?
    :balrog:
     
  17. Harrison

    Harrison The Best Beatle

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    No that's Gud, I'm just making a pair of bracers, not from anything.
     
  18. Christophe of Grey

    Christophe of Grey Cordwainer to Royals

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    Gamigar,
    Sorry. Got my responses mixed up. I just uploaded some new images of stuff I've made to the Art Gallery. I have two new sets of bracers there. The smaller ones I call wrist bracers. The longer ones are regular bracers. Both are of a lighter leather so more suitable for dress.
     
  19. Harrison

    Harrison The Best Beatle

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    Are those an example of beveling?
     
  20. waenlotien

    waenlotien Healer/ Magicuser

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    i don't have the pattern for the tree on the bracers, but i have the tree pattern for the chest plate
     
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