Yesterday, I had mentioned to Lorenzo that I was wanting to make a bracer for archery, but not anytime soon, and he sent me a link to one he had made. This led me on a merry rabbit trail to this, and this,and that, and also this! So then, I was like, I’ll just cut out a practice one on some scrap armor bend leather “just to see”. “Just to see” is a trap, as indicated by the tooled cuirboilli bracer drying on my kitchen table.
After much internal debate and looking at the examples, I went with an imitation of this bracer, the fanciest one, mostly because my stamp set had similar stamps (acorn, leaf, and flowers). However, I do want to make the point that this is a much less accurate method for reproduction. The decoration on the Mary Rose example is embossed rather than stamped, a more time consuming process. Thus, the only real similarity in the decoration is motif rather than method. In addition, I used a much heavier weight leather (14-16 oz), because it was scrap leftover from armoring and thus free. 😉 The Mary Rose bracers were constructed from approximately 8 oz leather. The example I used was approximately 5 inches long. The scrap I used was 5 and 7/8 inches long, which I figured would be fine given the leather shrinks in the hardening process. So far, the bracer is now at 5 1/2 inches long, but has not finished drying. It is a little small in width at 4 and 7/8 inches wide, but given that I am a wee short lass and not a burly Tudor yeoman, I figured that would be ok. I probably would have made it a little wider, but my scrap wasn’t that wide.
It was unclear to me from the pictures whether both corners of the example bracer were curved, or just one side, and the other flat, so I just went with the latter as I thought this would conform more naturally to the shape of the arm.
It is super cute and also super annoying when you are trying to cut a curve into 14 oz leather with a box cutter and your cat decides it’s time for him to groom your arm.
Once I had it cut out, I traced it onto a piece of computer paper and roughed in a design. Since my bracer was narrower than the example, I omitted the upper lettering portion, found my center points, and laid out the design with the aid of a straight edge and the stamps, which I traced onto the paper.
I have never tooled leather before, so I looked up a bunch of different how-tos, all of which gave different advice. They all generally agreed you have to wet the leather, but not too wet, and it will be all soggy and won’t hold the impressions. Too dry, and it won’t take an impression at all. I went with this method, because I was too excited about this project to do the techniques that want you to let the leather dry over night. It was also probably the most helpful video out of all the ones I saw. Basically, I wet the leather down several times over the top grain, till it felt cool and pleasantly damp, but not soggy, a little bit like firm clay. Then I waited about 30 minutes, until it started to turn back into the lighter tan dry color. While I waited, I set a pot of water to boil and used a dead pen and the paper design to trace the straight lines of the design onto the damp leather, making a light impression.
Hopefully you can see how it’s just lightly pressed in. At the bottom edges, the leather is beginning to turn its normal color. I began tooling shortly after this point.
I’m missing several important tools (seeder, beveler, backgrounder), but I do have a skiver and the stamps I need for the design, so at least there’s that.
I’m clearly a novice, and you can see where my stamp slipped on an acorn and a couple leaves. The dots on the edging could also be more even, but over all not too shabby for my first attempt.
I wish I had thought to take a video of the actual curboiling process. That may be a subject of a later post, when I have a better camera (read: better phone). Anywho, I boiled it according to the method described here. I prefer this method of hardening leather because I believe that this was most likely the period way of hardening leather, at least in the west. After boiling the leather according this method, I removed it from the water, wiped off the excess drippage, then placed it on my arm, which was protected by a towel I had prewrapped around my arm. I used a long hair band to hold it to my arm, as tightly as was comfortable. You can use a form like a glass bottle or something, but I prefer to use myself. 😉 Ensures a perfect fit! You need the towel though, and for the first few minutes it will be uncomfortably hot. Wiping the excess water off helps with this, less scalding water soaks into the towel. You have to do this fast, btw. The leather is extremely flexible right when it comes out, but stiffens quickly. If you want a close fit (which I did), as soon as it stops being uncomfortably hot I removed the bracer, then redid the binding to my arm, this time without the towel. Then, for the next 10-15 min, I went about my daily tasks with it strapped to my arm.
Then I took it off and left it to dry for a day. I left the hairbands on it, not super tight, just to keep it from relaxing too much in the drying process. This was probably overkill, as it was already pretty stiff at that point.
Here you can see the design has lost crispness in the hardening process, but nothing too awful. You can still tell what the stamps are supposed to be, at least. I wonder if this is less of a problem with embossing? It would be an interesting experiment.
Then I painted her like one of my French women! 😀 With about as much subtlety. 😉 All I had on hand was acrylics, so it’s very…vibrant. The original was painted, and gilded in the places where I have painted it yellow. Yellow acrylic is not even a good halfarsed attempt to substitute for gilt, so it would have been better to leave it brown. But hey! It’s cheerful.
The lighting in my project room is terrible, but I riveted the strap on with some hardware store nails. I cannibalized a thrift store belt, which is always nice because the buckle is already put on there for me. 😀 (I hate riveting) However, you can see I did make an attempt to mimic the shape of the period straps, a “Y” shape. The bracer is now functional and done, I just need to remember to take a picture of the final product. 80% of this post was written a month ago, but I derped and published it on the wrong blog. Ooops! Gave me time to get around to riveting the darn thing, at least.