Here is the process I went through to make my leather armor for my Samurai.
Step 1: Forming Leather for the Darth Vader Helmet
My first step and most importantly is the leather samurai helmet. It is a very iconic symbol, so I did not want the shape of the leather helmet to too far off from the original.
I first got a Darth Vader helmet and wet formed the leather around the helmet to get the basic shape that I wanted.
there are many ways to do this; however, the easiest way that I have found out was using the steps that is shown in detail on a youtube channel called "Evil Ted Smith" He goes in detail how to make a EVA foam helmet. so what I did was used the process that he provided to make my card stock templets that he used to cut out his foam pieces. All I did differently was I used 8oz veg tan leather instead of EVA foam when I formed it around the helmet.
I first wrapped the helmet in aluminum foil then covered the aluminum foil with a thin layer of duct tape. I then used a magic marker and drew a line where my seems would be on the leather helmet. the high points of the helmet is where I drew the lines. next I cut out the duct tape templets from the helmet (be careful not to cut to deep or you will cut into your Darth Vader helmet) once I had the duct tape templets cut out, I then transferred them to poster board (or card stock) to make the seems more clean and true to each other.
I then used a 8oz veg tan leather (he used eva foam in his videos) and cut out my leather pieces for the helmet. I made sure the leather was wet enough to be plyable and then married up the seems onto the Vader helmet and then covered the leather in a layer of cling wrap. I then sat the helmet out in direct sunlight so the leather would dry to make the shape that I desired. once the leather Is dried, it will stay in the shape that you formed it in.
Step 2: Hand Sewing the Leather Helmet
once the leather pieces are dried and keeping their form, I cut out strips from scrap leather so I could sew the leather pieces of the helmet together. as you can see in the pics above I used three strips to sew the helmet dome together. I cut out the binding strips and added the holes from a three hole punch and then I placed the strip over the seems of the leather and then used a leather awl to put a indention mark on the leather where I will be using a hand hole punch to make the holes. once all the preset holes are finished. I then hand sewn all the pieces together. I also added a adjustable helmet liner from a construction helmet for fit and comfort. If you do not have a helmet liner, you also can use 1 " foam and glue it to the inside of the helmet. I have gotten the foam from walmart for only a few dollars and then cut the foam in strips and glued them in place using a all purpose 77 glue spray. put a fine mist on the inside of the leather, then a fine mist on the foam. then put it in place.
once I had all the leather pieces sewn into place, I then adde the faceplate of the Vader mask and done a test fit. I just drilled tapped the mask and attached the mask to the side of the leather helmet with some small machine screws that I also used to attach the adjustable head piece.
Step 3: Dying the Helmet
Once I had the helmet sewn and fitted to my head the way I liked it. I then used a Tandy eco flow black leather dye to dye the helmet black. I also got a sheet of sentra plastic and drew up cut out the Empire logo. I then super glued two machine screws to the back of the Empire log and punched two holes in the helmet using my hand hole punch. then bolted the logo to the forehead of the helmet.
Step 4: Duct Tape Dummy to Wet Form Leather to Fit the Body
I then went on youtube and search for tutorial videos on "how to make a duct tape dummy" of myself. there are 1000s of tutorial videos on how this ins done in detail.
Once I made a duct tape dummy of myself, I then used poster board to make the templets of the armor that I wanted to make. this is a very simple process and the templets that can be made are endless.
After I had the desired templet for my body armor, I then traced out the poster board templets onto my leather. For the main body armor I used 15oz saddle leather from Tandy. This is a very thick leather and will make your hands tired; however, is is so worth it because it holds its shape very well after it dries.
I then hand tooled all my designs onto the leather and then formed the leather around my duct tape dummy. after the leather was dried I was able dye the leather and add the buckles to the back to fasten everything together.
Step 5: Leather Chest Box
This was a very simple process, all I did here was after I cut out the basic shape to the leather. I then hand tooled the design into the leather. the jewels are some cheap fake jewels that I bought at walmart's craft section. the buttons on the bottom of the chest box are nothing more than pencil erasers. even the red one is a white eraser that I painted red. to attach the items to the leather I used Barge contact cement. a light coat on the leather and a light coat on the jewel or eraser. I used a hair dryer to speed up the drying process of the cement. Once the cement was tacky I added the jewels and erasers to the leather. It is called cement for a reason. they will not come off if done properly.
Step 6: Hand Tooled Leather Arm Bracers
The process that I done here the make the bracers are pretty much the basic hand tooling process. Tandy Leather on youtube has a vast amount of tutorial videos on how to hand tool leather.
The first pic here are a couple of pictures that I drew up. Once I had the pics that I wanted. I then covered the picture in clear packing tape, front and back. I then wet the leather to make the leather soft. I placed the pictures over top of the leather and then used a ball stylus to trace the outlines of the picture directly onto the leather. once I had the picture on the leather. I then used my swivel knife to cut out the design and then I used my hand tools ( at the time all I had was the basic hand tool set from Tandy.com) to make the impressions into the leather.
as for the painting, I went a different route. I use airbrush paint, I did not use my airbrush to paint on the leather. I hand painted the colors on the leather using paint brushes. once the paint was dry, I used a can of acrylic gloss sealer to seal in the paint onto the leather. ( I have worn my costume over a dozen times and traveled with the suit in my truck over 1200 miles going to different conventions and the paint is still vibrant and not wearing off the leather. I am very happy with the airbrush paint and acrylic sealer to make the Emperor and Maul masks.)
Step 7: Leather Waist and Groin Armor
I wet formed the waist armor and used poster board to make my templets of the groin armor. to sew everything together I used red and blue 550 parachute cord. I bought the cord off of ebay.
Step 8: Leather Scabard
Once I made the katana lightsaber from red acrylic and spare sink parts. I needed a leather scabbard to carry the katana lightsaber in. I bought a cheap katana from ebay and I used the wooden scabbard as a form for my leather. I used a 6oz veg tanned leather and wet formed the leather around the wooden scabbard. once the leather was dry, I removed the wooden scabbard and to attach the leather scabbard together. I used a water base leather cement that I bought from Tandy.com dyed it black and it is ready to add the armor to make it complete.
here are a few pictures form a photo shoot of the leather that I made.
thank you for ready on how I made the leather suit of armor and I also need to thank Tandy Leather for making it possible to make it easy on purchasing high quality leather for this project.
Step 10: Supplies
Several supplies that I used to make the costume are:
Basic leather kit from Tandy Leather
Veg Tan Leather from Tandy Leather
Several tutorial videos on basic tooling leather from tandy Leather on Youtube.com
Tutorial on how to make a foam helmet from Evil Ted Smith on Youtube.com (instead of foam I used veg tan leather to make the helmet)
My next item that I am striving for is a Laser engraver so I can take my leather costuming to the next level. The possibilities would be limitless if was able to laser engrave my art onto leather. I can see a full leather costume that is laser engraved completely from head to toe. fingers crossed