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Topic: (Girl's) Leather Armor Tutorial  (Read 42491 times)
Tags for this thread: cuirass , leather , armor , tutorial , narnia , featured_project , craftster_best_of_2009  Add new tag
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embercostumer
« on: August 29, 2009 11:49:23 AM »

(Note: This is NOT dial-up friendly!)

I noticed a couple of threads a while back asking about how to make leather armor, and specifically the challenges of making it fit a girl--with boobs. My family is making all the costumes of the Pevensies from Narnia (Prince Caspian Battle outfits) which are in general detailed in another thread http://www.craftster.org/forum/index.php?topic=314280.0, but I wanted to have this armor tute for anyone to see and use in it's own place.

What we're making here is actually a cuirass:

Cuirass: (kwi-rass)a cuirass is armor consisting of two parts, a breast and backpiece fastened together at the sides by means of straps and buckles. Historically, it was originally made of leather, which is where its name originates, but was later made with metal. (From http://costumes.narniaweb.com/caspiansusancuirass.asp)

What we got at the end (minus embellishments):


Inspiration:
 

Part One: Make a Plaster Mold

In an incredibly messy process, John dipped strips of plaster cloth stuff into plaster mixture and covered me with them. He bought at Hobby Lobby in a big roll--two rolls covered my front and back.



The two cardboard "wings" were so that we could do both the front and the back and then separate them without cutting the fragile plaster, but they didn't work at all--or at least, we didn't really get to try them out. The plaster got so heavy as it dried that it began to pull down and make my boobs look saggy.



So I just layed down on the ground for twenty minutes so it could dry in the right place. I was counting on my bra to keep things in position, and it worked.



Our mom was able to wash the plaster out of the clothes no problem, so while I suggest wearing old clothes, it won't ruin them forever.)

Part Two: Make  a Resin Mold

John coated the inside of the mold with resin, which took ages. It was smelly and toxic, so he could only do a little at a time, leaving it outside at all times to dry.



This is what the resin mold looked like when the plaster was taken off.



Part Three: Soak Leather in water


This is armor grade super-thick leather, soaking wet. Hot water works best, and if you don't get it all wet at the same time you risk making water spots on it.



Part Four: Mold Leather

John clamped it over the mold and pressed it into the correct shape, cutting it down to a more approximate size. The clamps are rubber coated and have leather scraps between them and the cuirass--otherwise they leave big dents in the final product.



Part Five: Cut and wax leather

John cut it to the right shape and the coated it with hot wax. He uses tin snips and a sharp boxcutter to cut this super heavy leather into the right shape. The waxing process used an industrial heat gun, a pot of melted wax, and a brush. He spread the hot wax onto the leather while blowing the heat gut on it and just brushed it in until it was all the way soaked in. It shouldn't feel waxy to touch, but hard like vacuumformed plastic. The dark color is the part of the leather that has soaked up the wax, no dye used.



Compared to the resin mold, post cutting and waxing:





Part Six: Add Rivets

We cut holes in the leather where the rivets needed to go and then hammered the rivets onto the armor. There are special leather working tools that just punch holes into the leather of the size you need. John got his at Tandy Leather: http://www.tandyleatherfactory.com/. For leather work he puts the leather on a plastic cutting board on top of a granite slab supported by foam sponges and then hammers the tool with a rubber mallet. We've found that this is the quietest way of hammering with the least amount of damage to tools and surroundings. (Hammering directly onto granite--without a cutting board--will break your tools!)

Then we added the rivets over the holes, hammering them into the holes we already cut.





Part Seven: The Rest
The back was much simpler to make, as we just got the leather wet, shaped it against my body, and then let it dry overnight. We thought about waxing it also, but for comfort's sake decided that the back should be more supple. John then cut the back piece to the right size and added rivets. Finally, we dyed the back piece and some laces (cut from leather) to match using a dark mahogany dye. It took about three coats to get it to match the front, and then a coat of dye sealant so that it wouldn't stain anything.

The Mostly Finished Product!

We plan to add some decorations, though not as insanely many as the ones on Susan's armor in the movie. There will be a stamped trim along the top and bottom, and some medallions riveted to it to add visual interest. I plan to wear this with a ton of costumes, not just Susan! And with the side seams open like that, it accommodates for weight loss/gain and for wearing my chain mail shirt that John made underneath it.

Here's me modeling the armor without chainmail or any other accessories we (lol John) made! (I made that dress several years ago for madrigal dinner at UT.)

Side:

Back:


I hope this was helpful!
« Last Edit: August 29, 2009 11:53:39 AM by embercostumer » THIS ROCKS   Logged

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« Reply #1 on: August 29, 2009 12:00:40 PM »

That's awesome it came out looking great.
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« Reply #2 on: August 29, 2009 12:02:57 PM »

holy cow!!! that's some serious work! great final product
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« Reply #3 on: August 29, 2009 12:25:58 PM »

So is so much AWESOME, i can barely keep my self contained! This came out so wonderful, and it looks great on you. I would love to attempt this for my self.

YOU ROCK!
GORGEOUS!!!
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« Reply #4 on: August 29, 2009 12:26:43 PM »

A very nice tutorial. I'll probably be using this when making my next costume.
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« Reply #5 on: August 29, 2009 12:37:46 PM »

Wow, will you adopt me?
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« Reply #6 on: August 29, 2009 02:32:09 PM »

this is awesome; I LOVE IT.
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« Reply #7 on: August 29, 2009 03:04:43 PM »

This is AMAZING!!
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« Reply #8 on: August 29, 2009 03:17:34 PM »

 Grin Seriously awesome. You must have the patience of a saint Smiley
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« Reply #9 on: August 29, 2009 03:18:00 PM »

This is amazingly, utterly fantastic!!!!
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« Reply #10 on: August 29, 2009 05:06:17 PM »

A couple questions:

Is the leather dried on the mold before waxing?

What is the purpose of the waxing, to set the shape?  Or some other purpose?

Thanks!


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« Reply #11 on: August 29, 2009 06:13:31 PM »

Oo, oo, ooo!  I have a question too: what movie/show is that inspiration from?  I love that hair-do and want to see it from more angles to see if I can duplicate it Smiley

You did an awesome job on this!  Are you planning on making the rest of the outfit too?  Good luck and great start if you are.
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« Reply #12 on: August 29, 2009 10:16:20 PM »

Nice tutorial of an unusual item.  It's so easy to find links on how to crochet slippers, but leather armor is much harder to find clear info on.  Way to go you, playing all nice and sharing and whatnot...
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« Reply #13 on: August 30, 2009 06:47:11 AM »

Ingenious! But kinda hot for an Austin summer, don't you think? Oh, to have some Narnia weather!
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« Reply #14 on: August 30, 2009 11:40:43 AM »

Amazing. I'm gonna have to save this one.
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« Reply #15 on: August 30, 2009 01:18:45 PM »

Thanks for the complements guys! My brother is a propmaking genius, I swear. I help by supply him with the textiles and the inspirations.  Wink

If you mean my reference image, it's Susan from the Narnia movie Prince Caspian. The hairdo in my results pic was just me tying in the matching ribbon in my hair so I could take some pics to include on this thread.

A couple questions:

Is the leather dried on the mold before waxing?

What is the purpose of the waxing, to set the shape?  Or some other purpose?

Thanks!


To answer your questions, yes, the leather dries on the mold for a few days and hardens. Hardened leather is tough and stiff, but will become more supple with wear and tear and if exposed to water again, can be reshaped.

The wax is what turns the hardened leather into armor. After the leather has absorbed the wax it is waterproof and as rigid as thick plastic.

This is a really bad picture, but here it is just standing up on a table by itself, so you can see how thick it is and how it can just stand up by itself. 



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« Reply #16 on: August 30, 2009 03:00:07 PM »

Thank you!   Cheesy
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« Reply #17 on: August 30, 2009 03:03:24 PM »

My god, I am so impressed. I really want to make one of those now. Thanks so much for the tutorial!
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« Reply #18 on: August 31, 2009 11:33:09 AM »

I amazes me that there are people who know how to do this kind of stuff in this day and age, and do it, just for the fun of it! You and your brothers need to get a job making costumes like this for films. Amazing!
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« Reply #19 on: August 31, 2009 04:47:36 PM »

If you don't mind my asking where do you get that thick grade of leather from?
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« Reply #20 on: September 03, 2009 02:31:04 PM »

SO FREAKING AWESOME Cheesy
Is it heavy to wear?
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« Reply #21 on: September 03, 2009 06:13:52 PM »

THIS ROCKS THE WORLD!!!!!!  ummm offically the coolest costume piece i've ever seen, it's so legit..that's probably how they did it back in the day ughhhh this is soo cool i can't get over it!!!!!!!!!!
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« Reply #22 on: September 04, 2009 12:34:16 AM »

Very nice and super that you had the guts to do it in real leather!  I had planned on doing that Susan costume also, but I resigned on using leatherlook stuff
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« Reply #23 on: September 04, 2009 05:10:49 AM »

This is amazing! My mom and I sat here and gawked over the whole post. I study costume design but we don't learn cool stuff like this. I'm so jealous!
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« Reply #24 on: September 04, 2009 07:02:42 AM »

Thanks! You've done a very nice Armor and a very good tutorial  Smiley
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« Reply #25 on: September 04, 2009 07:07:21 AM »

Wow...this is seriously amazing...great tutorial as well....did John or your study this or did you just pick it up.....anyway wowza!
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« Reply #26 on: September 04, 2009 10:00:15 AM »

Okay this is just straight out AMAZING!!
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« Reply #27 on: September 04, 2009 07:25:04 PM »

holy cow!!! that's some serious work! great final product
I totally second that~!
Looks amazing.
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« Reply #28 on: September 04, 2009 08:46:25 PM »

HOLY MACKERAL! I'M SPEEECHLESS!!
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« Reply #29 on: September 05, 2009 02:48:07 AM »

I NEED ONE OF THESE !

WOWNESS

SPEACHLESS..(almost) hehee congrats on a stunning piece !
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« Reply #30 on: September 05, 2009 07:55:27 AM »

WOW!~!!
That came out amazing! I do not think I would have the energy to do all the work but it is very cool that you did!
Thanks for the tute and pics!
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embercostumer
« Reply #31 on: September 05, 2009 11:33:04 AM »

@uglyshayla  John has a membership at Tandy Leather Factory http://www.tandyleatherfactory.com/. There's one here in Austin where we live, and this is where he gets all of his tools and leather. The staff are really helpful and they even offer workshops to get you started in leather tooling and crafting. Leather comes in different thicknesses, called "grades" and is measured by ounces. The armor-grade leather range from 6-8 oz: http://www.tandyleatherfactory.com/home/9051-02.aspx

@Davinia: No! Use real leather! It's sooooooo cool! But it can get expensive, so it's understandable if you don't use real leather.

@ Angelicus: No, while I took a costume class at my uni, John has learned everything from a combination of the internet, friendly people from SCA, Tandy, and NERO, and mostly Trial and Error!

We're working on a website to include this kind of info so that other people won't have to work quite so hard as we did just to get the information. Of course, we don't do this for profit at all, and just enjoy helping people. Crafters/Costumers Unite!
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« Reply #32 on: September 05, 2009 07:04:07 PM »

Excellent work!
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« Reply #33 on: September 07, 2009 08:41:42 PM »

AWESOME! <3
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« Reply #34 on: September 11, 2009 09:53:31 PM »

That's really sweet I bought something like this a while ago but homemade like this is so cool.
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« Reply #35 on: September 11, 2009 10:35:28 PM »

Simply gorgeous. Thank you so much for posting a tutorial. What kind of resin did he use, just out of curiosity? Usually that stuff is pretty brittle and I'm surprised it could put up with being forced under the weight of clamps and stretching leather!
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« Reply #36 on: September 12, 2009 03:53:26 AM »

This is a fantastic idea and it looks heaps good but alot of work. Smiley
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« Reply #37 on: September 12, 2009 01:21:49 PM »

This got a "Rocks" from me- amazing work, and it looks great on you!  Smiley
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« Reply #38 on: November 09, 2009 06:04:51 PM »

That's awesome! Thanks for the tutorial!!
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« Reply #39 on: December 08, 2009 09:25:36 AM »

Oh my wow.  That is stunning!  Thank you so much for sharing this tutorial -- I see a cuirass in my near future. Smiley

One question.  What kind of wax did you use?  Is it paraffin, beeswax, something else?  Thanks!
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« Reply #40 on: December 29, 2009 09:50:23 PM »

WOW!!! That is just wow. And yes I would love to join your family   Grin
But then mine would be left out, so I'll just do the right thing and stay....
    Seriously though I can't wait to make one myself. I have an idea for one tucked away in the back of my head... One day, one day!
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« Reply #41 on: December 31, 2009 08:48:27 PM »

Ooooooh.... I'm going to be working at Ren Fest this year! I will definitely have to try this.
This is awesome, awesome, awesome!
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« Reply #42 on: January 11, 2010 11:35:34 AM »

I can't wait to try this one out. it looks amazing !
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« Reply #43 on: January 12, 2010 10:16:10 AM »

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« Reply #44 on: July 06, 2010 09:37:46 AM »

Oh wow. I'd love to do this for some steampunk costumes. It looks so great! Thanks for the tutorial.
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« Reply #45 on: July 27, 2010 03:19:55 PM »

I would love to make one of these, but I don't think I have the patience! Great job!! Grin
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