Introduction: Hand Tooled Leather Bracer
This is my first instructable, so my apologies if something is poorly worded or unclear. If you need something cleared up, just ask in the comments and i will help.
This bracer is part of the handmade leather steampunk HEV suit I am making, but the basic principles apply. If you want to see progress pics of the full suit, you can visit my website -
Step 1: Get the Blank
to start, draw out your pattern by measuring around your forearm at the wrist and just below your elbow. then, measure the length from your wrist to your elbow. add a couple inches to your measurement around your forearm to account for the portion that will overlap on the finished product. on a blank piece of heavy paper, draw two parallel lines, one the length of your wrist measurement, and one the length of your elbow measurement, and separate them by the measurement of the length from your wrist to your elbow. using a compass, and starting in from your wrist measurement, make a convex arc from one point to another on your wrist and elbow measurements. cut out your paper blank and wrap it around your arm to check fitment. if everything is in order, trace an outline of it on a veggie tanned leather blank, then cut the leather piece out with a hobby knife. (optional: use a leather edge beveler to clean up the edges)
Step 2: Optional: Cut Out the Portion for Your Metal Inset
if you want to add a metal inset, now's the time. i used a 24 gauge brass sheet for mine. you can get 4 by 10 brass sheet from hobby lobby. anything larger than that will need to be ordered online. cut the shape you desire from your blank close to the edge (left edge if it's going on your right arm, right edge if it's going on your left arm) then position the brass behind it. eyeball the brass sheet and cut a portion out roughly half an inch larger than the dimensions of your inset. tin snips work best for this. after this, use a leather punch to punch holes at equidistant intervals around the leather cutout. bend your metal inset around a pole or railing of some sort, then wrap the leather over it with the hole centered up. use a permanent marker to mark on the metal inset through the holes in the leather. then, use a metal punch to punch these holes through the metal. it must be done after the metal is bent around a curved object or the leather will warp. make sure the holes match up before moving on.
Step 3: Prepare to Tool!
For my bracer, i chose a world map. you can choose whatever image you like to overlay on your bracer, or none at all. print off your image, then trace the outlines using a permanent marker on transfer film. you can get transfer film at your nearest tandy leather store. after you trace your outline, give your leather a surface wetting (don't soak it!) and position your trace over it. fix it to the leather using some sort of tape (painter's tape is best) and use a stylus, screwdriver, or ball point pent to trace the outline on the transfer film. make sure you've traced every line, then remove the transfer film. you should have a shallow outline on your leather at this point. now use a swivel knife to make a shallow cut along the entirety of your trace. if you don't have a swivel knife, you can use a hobby knife and follow the cut with a flathead screwdriver (or go buy a swivel knife, seriously it's way faster).
now it's time to do your tooling. give your leather another surface wetting with a sponge or spray bottle. use your craftool stamps and a poly or rawhide mallet to tap your pattern stamps in. if you're in a hurry, a bevel stamp pressed down by hand works well for outlining, but you still need to tap your background stamps with a mallet.
Step 4: Dye Jobs!
now that your tooling is done, it's time to dye! for this project i applied an acrylic based resist to the portions of my leather i wanted to stand out and let it dry, then i coated the entire piece with antique mahogany gel. i let it soak in for a few minutes, then i buffed the crap out of it with an old cotton cloth. once that was done, i took some gum tragacanth and applied it to all edges, then buffed it smooth with an edge slicker wheel. you don't have to do that if you don't want to, but it gives the piece a nice finished edge. after dyeing and slicking, i applied eco-flo super shene to the entire piece and let it dry. then i used a gold metallic sharpie paint pen to go over the gears. it's important to apply the metallic AFTER the super shene to keep it from fading. let it dry, then use rivets and a rivet setter and a marble slab or even your garage floor and poly mallet to set the rivets to attach your metal inset.
Step 5: Finishing Up
well, that was a lot of work, but you're not done yet. now it's time to attach buckles and straps and padding. i'd start with straps. take the buckles you're using to fasten the bracers and measure the inside width. make a couple straps about 5 inches long and as wide as the inside of your buckles. i used 1 inch center bar buckles on my project, because it keeps you from having to attach strap keepers. bevel and stamp your straps if you desire, and then punch holes down the center for the buckles. dye them and coat them with super shene. then punch holes to attach them to the bracer and attach them with rivets. i attached mine to the edge closest to the metal inset. for the buckle holders, cut a portion of light weight leather roughly 2.5 inches x the width of your buckle, use an oblong punch to punch out the very center of this blank, fold it it half, and punch a couple holes for rivets at the outside. then go ahead and stain it and seal it, then fold it over your buckle. determine where to place the buckles by wrapping your bracer around your arm and placing the buckles midway between what would feel tight and loose, then mark the hole punch points for your buckle holers. go ahead and dye and seal them, then rivet them to your bracer. now you have a complete bracer. if you want to add padding, cover some foam strips measured to the width of your bracer with fabric of your choice, then use fabri-tac or some other permanent adhesive to fasten in to the borders. be advised this will affect fitment, so be sure to test the padding out before attaching it permanently.
i realize this is a lot of work crammed into a few steps, so if you have questions, feel free to leave them in the comments, and i will do my best to help.