Introduction: Excalibur, Antique Leather Sword
I was planning to make something different but the rules say "something you hold that adds a “wow” factor to your costume" so here it is.
Antique leather sword.
This is a universal prop which is good for any event whether it is Halloween or New Year or a children's B'Day party. It is also a safe prop and can be used around kids. It is an awesome addition to virtually any costume you wear. And it is also a great decor item which does not take space in your closet all year long waiting for the next party but can rather be mounted on a wall above your fireplace having your guests wonder if this is a real thing. This sword can be a great conversation topic. You can not lose with this thing.
I am going to share with you my unique coloring technique and show you how to make leather look like antique brass which developed amazing patina over the ages. You can use it on just about anything you make out of leather, it is pliable, it can be bent without cracking, it looks absolutely amazing on anything from pencil holders to handbags, to leather armor to leather jewellery. And due the nature of vegetable tanned leather your item will develop its own patina with the time and use which will make it absolutely awesome and unique.
The tooling pattern is my original drawing and I included it along with the cutting pattern of the sword which is also my original work. All patterns are full sized and ready-to-print. You can use these patterns to make your own items and you can sell those items in your shop but please do not sell the patterns as this is my work. Use it just don't abuse it please. I will appreciate it.
Step 1: Tools and Materials Needed.
Here is a list of what I used:
~ vegetable tanned leather 10oz (the heavier the better) for the sword core
~ vegetable tanned leather 6-7oz for the upper layer (the tooled one)
~ vegetable tanned leather 1oz for the handle wrapping
~ 2 conchos or any other decorations you want to use
~ leather scissors and knives (a rotary knife, utility knife, leather shears, etc), must be sharp
~ clean water, sponge stylus to transfer the tooling pattern to leather
~ granite block (for tooling)
~ tooling kit (swivel knife and stamping tools) and a modeling spoon (for tooling)
~ leathercraft cement (glue)
~ For coloring:
- antique leather stain (black)
- Eco-Flo professional waterstain (silver)
- Eco-Flo professional waterstain (pearl)
- "Rub'n Buff" wax (color - patina)
- acrylic paint (gold)
- finishing lacquer (spray)
- wooden block and a piece of an old t-shirt (for block dyeing)
~ gloves and sheepwool (or sponge)
~ divider (to mark the stitching line)
~ pricking irons (or a stitching wheel) to mark the stitches
~ waxed polyester thread 1mm (I used Ritza 25 Tiger thread) in natural color and two stitching needles
~ edge beveler
~ sandpaper or sanding foam block (120-180)
~ edge finish
~ hole punch (to set the conchos)
~ antique paste (any brand)
~ wax finish for leather (any brand)
Step 2: Patterns
I am including full sized cutting and tooling patterns for you to use. You can download them as a PDF file which can be found in the end of this step.You will need an Adobe Acrobat Reader to open the file and to print it. It can be downloaded for free here:
Print the patterns out on a standard home printer at full scale.
Assemble the parts and use a glue stick to connect the lines. Cut them out.
Step 3: Cutting the Leather
Place the paper patterns on leather and trace them with a scratch awl (an ordinary round awl). Do not trace deep, just enough to see the lines.
Use a rotary knife for straight lines and a utility knife for curves. You can use a round leather knife if you feel comfortable working with it.
Cut two sword core parts out of thick 10oz leather and two upper parts out of 6-7oz leather. The thicker leather the better as it will hold the shape nicer.
Step 4: The Core
Skive the edges on the inside of the core parts. Somewhere around 1/4" should do. Apply the glue to the inside and put them together. Tap them with a flat hammer so they really stick to each other. Use your fingers to connect the edges and then use a pair of duckbill pliers to fix them properly. Now level the edges on the handle part.
Step 5: Tooling
Use a sponge and clean water to wet the leather. Apply a couple of generous layers of water and then after it is absorbed into leather leave the pieces for an hour or so to dry a little bit. When the surface looks dry and the color is light but it is still cold to the touch the leather is cased and ready for tooling.
Apply wide sellotape to the flesh side of the leather so it does not stretch and distort during the tooling.
Use some sellotape to fix the paper pattern to the leather so it does not move.
Take a stylus and carefully trace all the lines applying light pressure. Do not press too hard, just enough to see the lines on leather under the paper.
Use a swivel knife with a narrow blade to cut all traced lines. Do not cut too deep, no more than a half way through the leather.
Now, in "how it should be" world you would need to use bevelers to bevell all those lines along the cuts. If you want the detailed tutorial on how to do the proper tooling check my other tutorial where I explain it and show everything step-by-step:
Today we will only need a couple of matting stamping tools for the background and a modeling spoon to smooth the lines a bit. An "antique" sword has corrosion which affects and deforms such a delicate thing as tooling so I thought some roughness will be just what is needed to achieve that look. You can do a nice and clean beveling but then it will look "too perfect" and too "not believable" :-)
Anyway, this is completely up to you how you want it to look.
Use a small matting stamp in the tight corners and a larger one in larger areas.
Once you are done use a modelling spoon to smooth out the edges a bit (like if the got smoothed out over the years of use).
Step 6: Dyeing Black
Now the fun part starts!
First we need to make our own mix. You will need 50% of black Antique Leather Stain (Fiebing's), 40% of Silver Eco-Flo professional waterstain and 10% of Pearl Eco-Flo professional waterstain. This is approximately. You can vary the proportions to your taste (adding more os less silver and pearl).
Mix it well and use a piece of sheep wool to apply this on leather. Rub it well into leather until it looks dry. Use a clean piece of sheep wool to buff it up a bit.
Step 7: Patina
There is a great little magic called "Rub'n Buff". It comes in small tubes in lots of different colors and it really does magic. We are going to use the color which is called "Patina". It is green-ish blue and it adds the look of oxidised brass. Gorgeous effect!
Squeeze a little bit of wax out of the tube and rub it with your fingers (use the gloves!) onto the tooled areas. Keep rubbing and it will change the color to green/blue. Then use a piece of folded paper towel to wipe off the excesses. Do not use a sheep wool for this as it will remove the color from the tooled lines and grooves. It dries quickly so do not wait long to wipe the extra color off.
Step 8: Gold Stuff
Now get a wooden block and a piece of cotton cloth or a t-shirt. Wrap the block into the cloth and stretch the cloth tightly. Add a drop of ANY acrylic gold paint and spread it evenly with something suitable (even an old butter knife will do). Make sure you spread it into a very thin layer so the paint is almost all absorbed into the cloth. Now wipe the tooled area with one careful move in one direction. Do not rub back and forth, just a nice pass over the surface with a light pressure. You will see if you need to add more paint to the block and do it again. Depends on the look you want to achieve. You can add a thin golden layer or a thick one.
Step 9: Lacquer
Now take your leather pieces outside and spray them with lacquer (in a spray bottle). First a light thin layer and then another one when it is dryed (like in five of minutes or so). Then let it dry for half an hour or so.
Step 10: The Applique Pieces
Trace the applique pieces pattern on 6-7oz leather, dye it black and then add some gold (light layer). Cut the pieces out, bevel the edges with the beveler and then paint the edges with the acrylic gold paint.
Get the conchos.
Mark the placement of the conchos on leather, punch the holes.
Rough out the surface on the tooled pieces where the applique will be and apply some glue. When it is dry - place the applique and apply pressure (just press it with your hands).
Punch the holes all the way through the both layers of leather, big enough to insert the conchos.
Set the conchos adding some glue to the screws for better fixing.
Step 11: Stitching the Applique
Punch stitching holes (or mark them with a stitching wheel).
Hand stitch the applique to the tooled pieces. For detailed saddle stitching instructions see my other instructables.
When done tie a couple of knots on the flesh side of leather. It will be glued later.
Step 12: Assembling the Sword
Rough out the core part with sandpaper or a knife or paint peeler. Apply the glue to the core part and to the inside of the upper parts. When it is almost dry place them nicely together, first the core on one upper part, in the middle, then cover with the other upper part. Press them all together lining up the edges nicely. Now trim the upper part's corners near the handle so there is some space there (around 1/4")
Step 13: Stitching the Sword
Use a pair of the dividers to measure 3/4' line from the edge. This distance will become more narrow when closer to the tip of the sword, follow the shape of the sword core there.
Mark the stitching holes with a stitching wheel or punch them with a pricking iron. Stitch all around. You will need thread length four time of the stitching line length.
Step 14: Edges
Mark a line 1/4" outside of the stitching line. Carefully cut the excess of leather.
Bevel the edges.
Now you need to smooth the edges with a sandpaper. I applied first a solution for edges which I bought on ebay (some chinese mix) but any acrylic finish will work. The goal is to stiffen the edges a little bit so they can be sanded.
When you are sanding the edges do it in one direction only. Do not rub back and forth, just one direction. Sandpaper should have two grids at least. Start with approximately 120 grid and then finish with at least 180. Better if you have one more, 200-240 grid. Always sand in the same direction.
When the leather is smooth to the touch paint them with the acrylic gold paint.
Let it dry.
Step 15: Wrapping the Handle
Initially I was planning to leave the handle painted in black and gold with gold edges but then as I was working on the sword I decided I want something different. I want a leather stripe wrapped around the handle.
Bevel the edges of the handle. Skive the triangle (on the applique pieces).
Now I am by no means an expert in wrapping and braiding so I am completely improvising here.
I took three pieces of leather stripe. Two with the length of approximately 1 meter and one 1.5 metres.
Wet them thoroughly (place in a bowl of clean water).
I also cut out (very roughly) three more or less square pieces (two smaller and one larger one), put them into water, too.
I made cuts towards the centre of the square pieces and wrapped the round tips of the handle applique. I started to wrap the stripe around as you see in the pictures. One side and then another. Fixed them ends on the handle temporarily (see the photos). Then did the same procedure with the handle itself. See the photos for step-by-step process.
I am sure you will be able to do it much better than I did, as I said I was improvising here.
When the leather is dry it will tighten a little bit fixing itself tight on the handle.
Step 16: Antiquing the Handle
I antiqued the handle, added some antique paste for color. I used Fiebing's antique paste but it can be any brand.
Rub the paste into handle with your fingers (use the gloves!). Use paper towel to wipe off the excesses. Rub wax conditioner into the handle while the antique is still wet.. Let is absorb a bit and then wipe the excess off.
Now leave the sword overnight to dry.
Step 17: Finished
The sword is done and you now have an awesome piece of art in your hands which you actually created yourself.
Hung it on the wall above a fireplace, use it as a prop for any celebration or for a fancy photoshoot or even give it away as a present. This sword will live for years developing a wonderful patina as vegetable leather does and along with this unique coloring it will make this piece just gorgeous and really antique looking. You created one of a kind universal piece for almost any occasion you might come across. Use any color for patina, use any cool hardware (conchos, rivets, etc), make the sword slimmer or wider 0 whatever your imagination dictates you. It will still be a unique and gorgeous piece!
Good luck with your projects!