So I’ve finally got round to finishing off the armour. I’m quite pleased with the result. This has been something of a learning experience as this is the largest leather piece I’ve ever made so I needed to be very careful in planning what I was doing. many of the steps involved are ones you can’t easily move back from if you go wrong.
I thought it would be cool to do abit of a walkthrough as to how I went about dying the leather, but first a few pics of the finished piece.
The mechnical detailing was made from various pieces of brass including some gromits for grandfather clocks. I made the pressure gauge from scratch using transparent acrylic, brass tube and some printed out detailing. The tubing is scale braided cable from a model making website.
So I used Fiebings leather dye to colour the leather here. I’ve used it previously but since I’ve no formal training with this stuff I’m sure I’ve been doing it wrong all this time! I’ve found that my previous attempts have all come out rather dark compared to some leatherwork I’ve seen.
As I’ve been using an airbrush this last year or so which works more in terms of subtle shades and washes rather than one simple layer of colour, I wondered if it would work better if I diluted the dyes and applied them in lots of thin washes rather than one application.
Turns out, it does.
I also wondered if it might work if I actually tried to airbrush the dye onto the leather. I reckon this would work but I wasn’t willing to try for the first time on this project! I also wanted some areas of the piece in certain colours, something that (for me at least) would be difficult to accomplish with an airbrush.
I started off by masking off the chainmail section. I also tested the dye out on some scrap pieces that you can see by the collar. I didn’t want to whack it on without first trying it!
Next step was to wet the leather with water before applying the diluted dye. I find this helps the dye flow better into the leather.
Here’s one side finished. It looks alot brighter than I’d originally envisaged, but I knew it would darken down once I got to the next step.
The next step is to apply a layer of black resolene. This gives it a sort of ‘antique’ look. I think you can just use this to give a piece a final finish, but I tend to use it to highlight detailing. I did this by whacking a load on and then wiping it off with a cloth, leaving it settle into the detailing.
Once I’d done this something wasn’t quite right. I couldn’t really put my finger on it for a while but I eventually realised that by wiping the resolene away in straight lines it had created to regular a pattern. I found that spattering some on, a little like spilt ink, and using a cloth to randomise it gave it a more natural look.
Here’s the leather with the first layer of resolene applied. It does make quite a difference to how it looks.
The final step was to add a layer of clear acrylic resolene to seal the leather. This is basically a varnish I suppose – it’s a little like a watery PVA glue to be honest. It does give the leather a nice finish however.
Here’re a few more pics of my leather steampunk armour. It’s not looking particularly steampunky at the moment I suppose but I’ve ordered the dye so once I’ve got a decent finish on the leather I’ll be able to start adding mechanical detailing.
I’m slightly surprised in that it actually fits and is comfortable to wear!
I’ve been doing more on the armour. Mostly sewing pieces into place. This is really beginning to take shape now and you can see how the final piece will likely look. I’d originally used some fake black leather to mount the chainmail on but I found that only after a few minutes your chest would start sweating! I’ve therefore replaced this with a bit of old curtain which breathes a little better. It’s still quite tough and so it should hold everything in place OK.
I’ll be completing the detailing over the next week or so and adding some brass gizmos too. I wondered if it might have some gadgets that add some sort of forcefield in addition to the armour, so a series of ’emitters’ here and there might look cool…..
I’ll also be ordering the leather dye. I’m thinking of doing it mostly light brown with a few small pieces in green. Need to experiment abit before deciding though.
A quick update on the armour. Here’s some leather detailing work I’ve been doing.
And here’s a pressure gauge I’m working on. This is the first one I’ve tried to make myself – all the ones I’ve bought are too big to comfortably attach to the armour. This is just a rough – I’ll be printing out some decent detailing for the gauge itself and adding a dial etc.
I’m continuing to work on the armour. I’d previously had it held together with some thread and tacked in places with hot glue. Once I’d worked out all the the sizes I then pulled it apart into it’s individual parts ready for detailing.
Here’s the back piece. I’ve used rivets to hold the main panels in place but the majority of the pieces will be sewn together. Rivets are cool but do take up more space than thread.
I’ve needed to plan ahead on this piece, more so than many pieces I’ve made. I usually let ideas naturally flow as I build, but in this case I need to plan quite meticulously as there are so many pieces. Additionally I can’t afford to screw up any of the detailing work as if you go wrong with leather it’s very difficult (or usually impossible) to correct.
Here’re some sketches I’ve been working on. It’s quite unusual for me to draw anything really but it seemed necessary in this case. I’ve actually quite enjoyed it. Might have to try and do it abit more often 😉
I also did a quick sculpt to try and figure out how the overall piece would look. I was finding it very difficult to envisage what the final piece would look, even though I had a rough idea in my head.
I’m making a suit of steampunk armour. The original idea for this started when I started making some chainmail. I didn’t originally have much of an idea as to what it would finally be but I did have a vague idea that it might form part of some sort of waistcoat. When you go to steampunk events there’re always plenty of amazing corsets on display made out of leather with amazing designs. I don’t see any equivalently awesome waistcoats for the guys though, so this has sort of become an attempt to redress that balance.
I’m aiming for it to be somewhere between clothing and armour, so it’s going to decorative as well as being protective. Leather’s inherently tough, but can also be very nicely detailed.
I’ve almost finished testing out the sizes of the various pieces and will soon be pulling it all apart again and starting work on the detailing before finally assembling and dying it.