Getting Started Leather Armor Tips

Video Script of Crafting Leather Armor

Hello again, welcome back, and thank you for joining me.

In this video, I want to cover some of the basics that might help a beginner to get started with crafting leather.

In the last video I demonstrated how to craft a fantasy leather helmet from start to finish and while I wanted it to be beginner friendly, there were some elements of the process that were not deeply explored.

Most of my tutorials and guides in the foreseeable future will be centered around crafting leather armor but to do that we need some general leatherworking foundation so anyone interested in this craft can get value out of current and future tutorials and grow their skills as I make more complex and detailed guides.

Now is this the part where I tell you that you have to go out and spend buckets of money on tools?  Well, no. 

Leathercraft does get a bad rap for being expensive in part because, it often does, simply because as you fall in love with the craft, leather tools are addictive, and you’ll probably want to collect them all. 

But I want to emphasize that leathercraft does NOT have to be expensive. If there is interest, what I can do in a future video is demonstrate how you can do leatherworking on a tight budget.

But for now I want to share with you a few essential tools worth the early investment within the context of crafting leather armor. 

So, what is the number one thing you’ll need to start making things from leather? 

Well, its leather. 

To be more specific, the material we’ll be using for leather armor, and anything we want to tool and shape, that’s called Vegetable tanned leather. Or Veg Tanned for short.

And this is different from the more common garment leather used in things like jackets and is processed in a way that will leave the leather much more firm and able to hold tooling impressions and shape.

The thickness of leather often goes by ounces and for our purposes I would say look for 9 to 10 ounces as a good middle ground or slightly less if you want to reduce weight, or a bit more if you want to partake in recreational combat.

When you buy your first leather, its fine to go for whatever is most affordable.  You’ll normally have to buy larger sections of the hide up front which is often more than you’ll need for whatever first project you’ll be doing but it should last a while and go a long way.  But if you really don’t want a lot of extra leather starting out, kits are probably a good way to go as well.

Now that you have your leather, assuming you have a project in mind, you’ll have to cut out the pieces.  For most of my projects I’ll use the the Craftool Shears to cut the parts, and I’ll use a utility knife, box cutter, or any sharp knife sitting around to divide the leather hide into manageable pieces.  It’s also worth noting that many traditional leather artisans use something called a head knife but I feel like shears are the way to go because you can cut anywhere even if you don’t have a large dedicated cutting surface. 

They are worth the investment but when I started, I did not have shears either, before that I used a utility knife to cut everything on a poly board which is another high priority item.  

You’ll need to get one of these for punching holes as well.  While you can use kitchen cutting blocks, the kind you pick up from a leathercraft supplier will usually have a bit softer plastic that will not be as hard on your tools.

When the parts are cut out, you’ll often need to punch holes into the pieces to allow for assembly and attaching of buckles and other hardware.  The hole punching sets with interchangeable heads are a fairly essential early purchase and should cover any hole size you’ll need for attaching rivets, snaps, screw posts and other hardware.

You’ll also need something firm to back the poly board and for the leather when you go to tool it.  For me, I initially used a cheap anvil from Harbour Freight and shortly after acquired a granite block that is 1 foot squared.  Alternatives for this can be granite cutaways from sink installs which you can usually pick up for free but they are relatively thin and prone to cracking, and machinist blocks which are excellent due to the extra mass, but they are more expensive.

Now we should talk a bit about your hammer.  When I started I picked up a cheap poly mallet and quickly upgraded to a weighted rawhide mallet which made loads of difference.  Over time I grew to prefer mauls but its all to preference.  You can certainly get started with any hammer you may have already but you will wear out your tools very quickly if you do so consistently.

And if you want to get into some of the detailed work you can pick up a swivel knife for making clean lines, it can be the cheapest one, but you may have to hone the blade first. And then one or two basic beveling stamps.  With those things you can do just about any design you want.

The tools I’ve listed so far are the ones I feel will be essential for the vast majority of your projects and can get you very far.  I’ll go into the tools you can use to decorate your projects in much greater detail in future videos, I’m here for the detail after all, that’s what I live for. 

I won’t really talk about hardware and dyes and finishes here because that will vary from project to project.

As for some practical advice, when it comes to motivation and inspiration for getting started, if you’re watching this video and made it this far you probably already have that seed planted.  The best advice is always just to start.  If you’ve watched a dozen How To tutorials already haven’t started yet but want to, just start!  Even if you don’t have the most basic tools yet, just go for it.  Join a leatherworking forum or facebook group, or visit a leather craft store and they will help you pick out leather, tools, and other materials and give you tons of information.  They have every reason to help you succeed.

There is much more to learn about leather and you’ll see many techniques demonstrated directly as I continue with the series of tutorials and project builds.  If you feel like I left anything important out or there are other things you want to know about let me know in the comments.

Once again I want to thank Tandy Leather for supporting me in making these initial videos for you all. Given the theme of this video, I feel like it would be appropriate to tell you a true story about how I got started myself.  Everything I’m suggesting here in this video is coming from personal experience.  YouTube wasn’t around back then and leatherworking and armor crafting was this secretive mysterious thing so I feel fortunate to have been introduced to the world of leather crafting back then.  After being a witness to some fantastic leather work by mortal hands, I knew I had to try it. 

I then found a Tandy Leather and the staff there were incredibly helpful and helped demystify the craft even further.  At their recommendation, I brought home some of the same tools I’m recommending in this video and began my journey on the floor of my apartment with a granite block in my lap.

And it wasn’t long before I became part of a group doing renaissance festivals where I was able to hone my skills.

Since then I’ve grown a business where I’ve been able to make a living making fantasy custom suits of leather armor.   I hope with the videos I will be producing it will sever to inspire and inform so that you too can follow your passion and create something amazing.

Thank you for the support you all have shown for this channel so far. All the likes, comments, subs, and shares are helping to give this channel a great start.

For my next video I am planning on doing another tutorial, most likely something in the same theme as the fantasy helmet, but I have some other videos also in the works that I may finish first.  I also have some project feature and build videos coming as well.  I plan on making the next pattern free for a limited time again for subscribers so be sure you’re subscribed and are getting notifications so you catch it in time!
Thanks again, see you next time!