In order to mould leather armor,
soak it in water until it becomes pliable and soft.
Then place it in the mould until it dries and hardens.
The application of heat will
make the leather harder. If you were making a cover
for a shield, for example, or other pieces of leather
amour, the leather would be dipped quickly in boiling
water before being moulded. This is called ‘cuir bouilli’,
a process employed in making leather armor.
Using vegetable tanned leather
with at least a weight of 8 ounces, soak the piece in
cold water. This will ensure a uniform absorption when
the leather armor is placed in the boiling water. Heat
a pot of water to 180 degrees Fahrenheit, then immerse
the wet leather for approximately thirty seconds to
a minute, until it darkens and begins to curl.
Remove the leather from the water
and stretch it around the mould you have prepared, tacking
it in place. Allow for shrinkage if you are cutting
the leather armor from a pattern. Of course you can
water-harden a larger piece of leather, flatten it under
a cutting board, and then cut out the individual pieces
of leather armor you want, and then mould them to the
desired shape. At this stage it will be very stretchy.
The boiling process makes the
leather armor thicker and harder, with a degree of shrinkage
dependent upon the leather itself and the amount of
immersion time. The longer it remains in the water,
the more pronounced the effects.
A twenty second immersion can
result in a shrinkage of 7/8s, with a thickening of
25%, while a forty second immersion results in a 2/3rds
shrinkage and a doubling of the thickness. As in any
aspect of leather working, it is best to experiment
with scrap pieces of leather first to get the effect
Types of Moulds / Single Mould
Moulds can consist of one or
more pieces. Folding the leather around the actual object
for which a cover is being made, where the mould is
the object, is an option when making a case for a gun,
an arm guard in archery, a sheaf for a knife or eye-caps
for binoculars. Use tacks to hold it in place while
A Two-piece Mould
A two-piece mould acts like two
slices of bread, with the leather being the sandwich
filling. In this way, leather armor shields were made.
The leather armor is left in the mould until it dries.
A Three-piece Mould
A three-piece mould allows the
creation of items like bags and eyeglass cases without
using a gusset. The leather is sewn on three sides.
Two pieces of the mould are inserted on either side
of the interior of the wet leather, and then a wedge
is driven between the middle. The forms are left until
the leather is dried.
Tools to Use
* Wooden mould * Brass or steel
* Make a mould to form the leather
to the desired shape * Wet the leather * One piece mould:
fit the wet leather armor over the mould * Two piece
mould: sandwich the leather between the mould * Three
piece mould: fit the pieces inside the leather * Leave
the leather armor to dry before removing
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