Leather Armor

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Materials for making leather armor (leather armour):
    1. Leather, 1/4 sole if you want to use it in Aratari Dagorhir, 9 or 10 oz. if you want to use it in Pentwyvern Dagorhir, lesser weight may have other applications.
    2. leather working tools
    3. A aluminum baking pan. Try to find one which is larger than the largest piece of of leather you wish to wax, yet small enough that you can afford to fill it with wax, and it should be able to fit in your oven. It is also advantageous to commit the ban to permanent wax duty, this way you never need to empty it. I chose a cheap aluminum foil type rectangular roasting pan, very inexpensive at the supermarket.
    4. Wax. It can be expensive to fill that pan full of wax. I use a mix of 50% paraffin wax which is cheap but brittle and 50% white candle wax which is more expensive and softer. If you purchase the really large candles you get a better price/lb.
    5. Access to an oven. I think an electric oven may be preferable because I am under the impression it can maintain a low heat setting better.
    6. Fire extinguisher. I am not sure at what temperature wax ignites, but it is always a good idea to have an extinguisher on hand any time you use an oven. Check to make sure it will extinguish a fire which would include burning wax.
    7. Newspaper, and paper towels
    8. Old piece of plywood. This will be the cooling area and will end up with wax drips all over it.
    9. Tongs (like for chicken cooking) and old gloves.

Cut out your leather designs first. Not all of the cuts need be made, but you will find the leather easier to cut before it has been waxed. I often leave hole punching until after the leather is waxed and I have the pieces shaped. That way I know exactly where the holes need to be to rivet the pieces together. You can die your leather before hand or paint it afterwards. If you need patterns for various armour shapes I suggest you consult the many SCA publications.

Before you begin the waxing process, realize that there is a good chance wax will get everywhere. This is something to consider when choosing the kitchen where you will be working on your project. Try to minimize the mess by spreading newspaper on the floor around the oven and other areas you will be working. Put your plywood down in a convenient place for letting the pieces cool (not too far from the oven).

Preheat the oven to about 200 F. Ovens temperatures vary quite a bit, so we will start low and raise it as necessary.
Place the wax in the baking pan. I try to chop it up a bit or grade it with a cheese grader to make it melt faster. Place the pan in the oven.

It will take quite a while to melt, keep an eye on it. If you think your oven is a bit to cold bump it up another 25 F. My oven runs hot, so I keep the settings low. Just be careful not to get too hot, you don't want a fire.

The waxing:
Once in the wax is melted, you can start dipping your pieces. Place pieces in the pan so there is only one layer of leather (don't overlap). The pieces should stay in the wax until you no longer see small streams of air bubbles escaping from the leather (~5 min, depends on thickness).

When pulling the pieces from the wax, it is important to shape them. Use tongs to pull them out of the pan, let excess wax drip back into the pan. You may want to wipe of excess wax with a paper towel. While wearing gloves, shape the leather and hold it. As it cools it will take on the new shape. Place the piece on the plywood to continue cooling.

When finished let all the wax cool in the pan. Put the pan with the wax in it away until next time.
Waxed leather can be worked with most leather working tools, but it may get the blades waxy.

Dagorhir Battle Game Association, Inc.BR> P.O. Box 7162
Gaithersburg, MD, 20898

Permission granted for republication in SCA-related publications, provided author is credited and receives a copy.

More on Leather Armor

Greymeal on boiled leather:

Boiled leather armor (cuir boili, or some similar spelling) is made by soaking thick leather in a SMELLY, DANGEROUSLY FLAMMABLE mixture of boiling parafin and bees wax (the exact percentages of each escape me). (I don't know how long it needs to boil.) The leather becomes innundated (soaked) with the wax mixture.

The wax-soaked leather is removed from the wax mixture (with heavy gloves, unless you're Madonna or Willem Dafoe) and bent until it cools, retaining its shape.

Because of the smell and the danger of fire, I've read that a good way to boil leather is to heat the wax in a container (ceramic, I think, or possibly an old roasting pan) over an electric hot plate OUTDOORS. I don't know if a crock-pot produces enough heat, but its another possible option.

    [FYI, I learned most of this from an article in the Markland PLAGUE newsletter written by one of the original Dagorhir, Halfdan (aka Ron Smith, or Elrohir of the Dispossed).]

Granifar on boiled leather:
Vereshnik, there are several ways of boiling/waxing leather. For the two ways I can think of you need:

    1. your leather
    2. several pounds of parafin wax (found in any grocery store with the canning supplies) amount depends on the amount of leather
    3. standard stove/oven
    4. a double boiler (two pots, one just slightly larger than other)
    5. you probably will want gloves and a fire extinguisher handy...

The harder of the two ways is with the souble boiler. First, boil water in your larger pan, then place the small pot inside the larger one, add the wax and let it melt. Be careful with the heat, parafin wax melts at a relatively low temperature, but it also catches fire when it gets too hot. When you have enough wax melted, proceed with dipping your leather into the wax until the leather is soaked through with it. Set the leather off to the side to cool and proceed with the next piece.

Doing this to your leather will make it very solid and durable. If your armor ever softens from getting beat on too much, you can throw it back into the oven and reheat it. This will respread the wax and harden the leather right up. Also, be careful when working with hot wax, it burns like a ****** when you get it on open skin, hence the gloves. Pliers or some other cooking utensils are usually good to manipulate the leather.

Just for reference, Pentwyvern allows 9/10 ounce leather as armor and it does not have to be hardened.
The Viking Girl on boiled leather:
Some helpful hints in addition to those already posted about the subject...

    1. I make candles, so I have had experience working with wax.. First_ ALWAYS use a double boiler! Before I ralized this, I never had a problem with fires, but its worth the little extra effort.. The best, (ie cheapest) way to do it is to melt the wax in an old coffee can, sitting in a pot of boiling water. Wax never really gets out of a pan, so dont use Moms good Teflon pans! I have pots I got at a thrift store I use only for candlemaking.
    2. NEVER put wax in the sink! It will clog your drains and disposals and is nearly impossible to get clean.
    3. Wax has a low melting point. To keep your waxed leather from "melting" in the sun, add about 3 tablespoons of stearine to each pound of wax. You can buy a bag fairly cheaply at MJ Designs. It makes the wax harder, melt at a higher temperature (eliminating wilted leather) They also sell crystals, but if you can get it, use the powder, it dissolves completely. I got a pound bag for 5.99 at MJ's. Walnut Hill makes most of the supplies that I have seen, and you can get a 10 pound block of wax for about 9 dollars.
    4. A non-messy alternative to dipping the wax, and saves money is by brushing the wax onto the leather. I think that Bain and Hendrick and maybe Fritz have used this technique with good results. just melt the wax and then brush it on the leather. You have to do it a couple times, but it works really well, and can save a lot of time and mess this way. Try it, see how it does, and talk to someone who has done it before.

Just my two cents on the subject...