Monday, April 9, 2018

The Perfect Armor Improved: Water Hardened Leather

Some years ago, I wrote an article on how to make hardened leather armor, using beeswax. Since then, I have concluded that although the method I described works reasonably well for SCA purposes--I have fought in my wax hardened klibanion for a good many years now--it is quite unlikely that it is the method used in period for armor.
I reached that conclusion for three reasons:
  •  Beeswax is a lubricant. Furthermore, stiffening the leather makes it easier to cut, just as it is easier to slice meat if it is half frozen. So although wax hardened leather provides protection against the sort of blunt weapons we fight with, it would be of very limited usefulness against sharp swords, arrows, and the like.
  • Although I have found no period descriptions of the process for hardening leather, the period term for hardened leather is "cuirboulli," which translates as "boiled (or cooked) leather." That is not the natural way of describing the wax hardening process.
  •  I have found an entirely different way of hardening leather which does fit the term and which produces armor that is much better protection against real weapons. This article describes that process. As it happens, in addition to being a better guess at what was done in period, it is also a somewhat better technology for making SCA armor. 

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Leather Easy Projects

Yiguan synthetic leather wholesale

Easy Projects

Making flat pieces such as lamellae or scales is easy. Because it is hard to predict the exact amount of shrinkage, you may want to first to water harden the whole piece of leather, then flatten it under a cutting board or something similar for a few minutes, then cut out your lamellae with a utility knife and add holes with a  glitter leather punch; at this stage in the process the leather can still be cut fairly easily.
If I want my lamellae slightly curved in the horizontal direction, to provide a little additional stiffness and to better fit my body, I take a cooking pot with a diameter of a foot or more, line up the lamellae around it while they are still flexible, tie them on with a strip of rag, and let them dry that way.

Making a vambrace, a rerebrace, or any other piece that is curved but not stretched--any shape you could make from a sheet of paper--is equally easy. Cut the piece of leather a little bigger than you think you need (remembering to allow for shrinkage), harden it. Wrap a towel around your forearm to protect it from heat and provide extra thickness to allow for padding (or wear your gambeson, if it covers your arm). Tie the piece of leather around your arm with strips of cloth (string will leave marks on the leather). Leave it there for fifteen minutes or so. Untie it and take it off, being careful to keep the shape--at this point the leather is still fairly flexible. Trim off any surplus. Leave it somewhere to dry. Instant vambrace.

Further Details

For SCA fighting, you should probably start with at least 8 ounce leather, which the hardening process will thicken to about 10 ounce. 12-14 ounce is better--but harder to stretch over forms. In general, you will want thicker leather over vulnerable points such as knees and elbows--which means either starting with thicker leather or leaving your leather in the hot water longer to get more shrinkage.
Sometimes something will go wrong; you pull the piece of leather intended for a bazuband out of the water only to discover that it has shrunk too much to fit your form, or that a thin section you didn't notice has shriveled up, ruining the piece. All is not lost. Flatten the piece out and cut it into lamellae. Enough mistakes and you have a free klibanian.

One minor problem with the process is that the leather gradually turns the water you are using brown. For a simple project, such as making lamellae, this may be tolerable; you can stir the piece of leather to the top of the pot every ten seconds or so to check its condition. For something more complicated, such as a bazuband or greaves, you may want to heat fresh water for each piece--which is a nuisance but makes it easier to see what you are doing.

Harder Projects

One advantage of water hardening is that when the piece comes out of the water it is stretchy--more so than leather that has been soaked for a much longer time in cold water, as described in my earlier article. This makes it possible to form pieces. You must work quickly, since the stretchiness goes away in a minute or two.
Elbow cops are easy. Start with a roughly oval shape, about 10" by 7.5", as shown in the figure. Find two bowls, diameter about 6.5", that will nest together. When the piece comes out of the hot water, put it into one of the bowls, forcing it down with your fingers to stretch the leather into the bowl, then put in the other bowl, so that the leather is being stretched between the two.
Finally, take out the inside bowl and make sure that the leather is fitting into the other with no folds, crinkles, etc.--if necessary smooth those out with your fingers. Let the leather dry. Sew or rivet on straps and you have an elbow cop. For a knee cop, do the same thing, making the piece about 14" x 7.5" and using about 7.5" diameter bowls. Details will vary according to the size of your elbow and knee and how thick your padding is going to be.
A bazuband--the Islamic forearm and elbow piece described in the previous article and shown here--is a more complicated shape. There are four ways to try to make it.
 1. Use your arm, wrapped in a towel, as the mold. This will probably work better with two people, giving you three hands to stretch leather. I have not yet tried doing the initial stretching that way, although I usually put the piece over my arm for the final adjustments.
 2. A positive form. Get something roughly the shape of the inside of the bazuband. A steel bazuband is ideal if you happen to have one lying around, but lots of other things will do. For a less precisely designed form, but one somewhat easier to obtain, use a wine bottle with relatively steep shoulders.
With a positive form, you take the leather out of the hot water and stretch it over the form. I find that it helps to tie the wrist end of the leather around the form with strips of cloth, then do the stretching at the elbow end, which is where it is most needed. then tie that down to the form with strips of cloth. This is like making an elbow cop with only one bowl, by stretching the leather over the bowl--but harder. You may find it useful to do some preliminary stretching over a rounded corner of the kitchen table, or something similar.
 3. A negative form. Get something that is roughly the shape of the outside of the bazuband and stretch the leather into it--like forming your elbow cop in the inside of a bowl.
4. Nested forms. This is the best way--once you have the forms. I've done it using a pair of steel bazubands. They don't have to be steel--once you have made a cuirboulli bazuband you are happy with, you can use it as your negative form for the next one, nested onto whatever form you used to make it.

Alternatively, you could make both positive and negative forms out of wood--by the next version of this article, I may have finished that project, using lengths of 2x4 sandwiched together and pegged. In theory, you end up with forms that can be made narrower, for thin people's arms, by removing the central piece, or wider, for big people's legs, by adding another piece.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Caring for Leather Furniture

1. Avoid seemingly harmless cleaners such as oil soap; it will stain and darken the glitter leather . Don’t use soap or detergent, no matter how mild. We can use mild soap on our skin because our skin is still alive and will replace the oils that soap washes off, but a leather sofa doesn’t have that ability. It will eventually become brittle, dry and damaged. Why not wash with soap and then apply oil? Because the oil will stain the leather. And mild soap, though gentle on dish washing hands, not only will remove the dirt but just might remove the color on the leather as well. Saddle soap may be good for that catcher’s mitt, but keep it away from leather furniture.

3.Avoid placing leather furniture in direct sunlight. Virtually nothing is safe for long in the light and heat of the sun. Avoid extreme temperatures that would cause leather to dry and crack. If you’re too cold or too hot in a room, so is the leather. Don’t place leather next to air conditioners or radiators.

photobank (28)_5

4.Blot spills quickly using clean terry cloth towels or paper towels. If you spill grease or oil, use talcum powder or baking powder to help absorb it. There are also leather-furniture cleaners that would work, available from upper-end furniture stores and from some manufacturers of leather furniture.

5.If leather furniture is brand new, protect it right off the bat with a professionally applied leather protector. There are also products available for do-it-yourselfers on the after-market. If the furniture is older, have it cleaned professionally and apply the leather protector. Keep the furniture free of dust and occasionally wipe it with a barely damp cloth.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Buying Leather FurnitureⅡ

1.Look for leather upholstery with zippered seat cushions. While the leather can last decades, the seat cushion may not and you'll want easy access to get it refilled.

2.Leather takes on the temperature of your body within 12 seconds, so the notion that leather is cold is a misconception.

3. A leather sofa has to suit your lifestyle first. Is it going to work for the way you're going to use it? What room will it go in? If it's a busy space that gets a lot of wear and tear, go with a little heavier finish and protection so that you can just wipe up a stain.

4. When considering price, remember that a leather sofa will last at least as long as three fabric sofas.

5. Avoid a leather-vinyl combination. While the two materials might look good together, leather will always outlast the vinyl.

Buying Leather Furniture

Want stylish, comfortable furniture that actually improves with age? Then invest in leather, a durable and attractive material that comes in a variety of styles, colors and strengths. Here are things to keep in mind when shopping:
1. Leather is four times more durable than fabric, so don’t worry about having kids around it. Just like a leather jacket or shoes, leather furniture gets better with age.
2. Aniline leather is dyed in a drum, which allows the dye to completely soak through for a rich, deep color. No protective coating is added, and it’s the softest and most expensive leather.
3. Semi-aniline (protected aniline) leather is also dyed in a drum and has a small amount of coating applied, giving it slightly better protection against stains and fading than aniline leather.
4. For pigmented leather, color is applied to the surface, not dyed through and through. And while the color isn’t as rich, it’s finished to provide greater protection against scratches, stains and fading. These leathers are less expensive and usually aren’t as soft as dyed leathers.
5. Unlike upholstery, the color of your leather piece doesn’t make a difference when it comes to regular maintenance. Just use a damp cloth to remove dust.

Friday, March 2, 2018

How to Care for Your Leather Clothing

If your favorite way to stay warm when the weather cools down is by wrapping your fingers in  glitter leather gloves, zipping you body up in a leather jacket, and lacing up your leather boots, you also know this luxe material is intimidating to care for — until now. Here’s everything you need to know about keeping your leather clothing in tip-top shape — and cleaning up scratches and faded color after a little wear and tear (it happens

1. Protect your clothing before you wear it.

Prevention is the best form of protection, says Carolyn Forte, director of the Cleaning Lab at the Good Housekeeping Institute: “Treating leather and suede regularly helps them look their best.” Our recommendation? Try Kiwi’s Protect-All.

2. Then, reapply protection at least every three months.

Or more often if it’s a particularly nasty season (will the snow ever melt!?).

3. Select your cleaning method based on the item’s value.

While Forte says all leather is cleaned the same (more on that below) she doesn’t believe you should treat all items equally: “Smaller things are generally less expensive and easier to spot clean at home, but I wouldn’t do a jacket or pair of pants myself.” Instead, she says to take your more expensive items to a professional.

4. Take your time when going the DIY route.

With smooth leather, slow and steady wins the race. Carefully rub in mild soap or leather cleanser onto your item with a damp paper towel, let it sit several seconds, then wipe it clean. Let it air dry afterwards (away from direct heat) and use a leather conditioner to moisturize. However, at the first sign of color bleeding or fading you should stop what you’re doing and take your item to a pro.

5. And always spot-test before you start.

To make sure your cleaning products and method are a match with your leather, test it out on a hidden spot first — like inside the hand opening on a glove.

6. Don’t forget water drastically changes leather.

According to Forte, the biggest mistake people make when caring for leather clothing is getting it too wet, then rubbing the material too hard. “Leather is delicate, especially when wet and the color can come off easily,” Forte says, so don’t saturate or vigorously rub it while cleaning — and never immerse leather in water.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

5 Tips: How to care for leather clothing

If a glitter leather gets wet,hang it to dry, away from heat. Putting it in a dryer or near a heating vent could cause it to shrink and lose its shape.
  1. If you get a stain on a garment,don’t try to remove it yourself unless a leather-cleaning professional has advised you to. “The danger is you start removing the color and then it’s harder than ever to get out and restore,” Orlin says, noting it doesn’t matter if the piece is bright yellow, blue or a natural-looking brown. “We usually tell people who call us that we’d like to see the garment first and tell them what the alternatives are.”
  2. Store leather garments on padded hangersand cover with a plain bed sheet or cloth garment bag. Avoid plastic bags, as they don’t allow the garment to “breathe,” and can promote mold and mildew. Store in a dark, dry place. Sunlight will cause fading.
  3. Avoid letting a leather garment touch your skinin areas where it’s likely to come in contact with oils from your body and hair. Similarly, don’t let perfume or hairspray get on your leather apparel. They are hard to remove and the process of removing them can take color out of the clothing. “Wear a scarf,” Orlin recommends.
  4. Clean leather regularly.What about those who never clean their leather jackets, believing they improve with age? “It’s sort of like not cleaning your sheets,” Orlin says. “Believe me, they get dirty.”