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Topic: (Girl's) Leather Armor Tutorial  (Read 74050 times)
Tags for this thread: cuirass , leather , armor , tutorial , narnia , featured_project , craftster_best_of_2009  Add new tag
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« 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 https://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 Historically, it was originally made of leather, which is where its name originates, but was later made with metal.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):


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.)



I hope this was helpful!
« Last Edit: March 14, 2018 01:11:40 PM by kittykill » 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.


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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.
« 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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mmm.. fabric...

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« Reply #7 on: August 29, 2009 03:04:43 PM »

This is AMAZING!!

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Gotta go - kids chewed thru their straps...

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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

Come check out my etsy shop - vintage, eco-friendly and all kinds of crafty goodness Smiley

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« Reply #9 on: August 29, 2009 03:18:00 PM »

This is amazingly, utterly fantastic!!!!

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