veg tanned leather, 4-6 oz
olfa knife (box cutter) with a fresh blade
bevelling tool (optional)
tragacanth gum (also optional)
burnishing tool/edge slicker (even more optional)
hot water (not optional)
acrylic paint (preferably soft bodied) and/or leather dye (assuming you want to paint the mask after)
All of the leather masks are made with vegetable tanned leather. Everyone has a preference; I prefer to work with 5-6oz leather, which has a weight and thickness that I find molds best and yields the best results. Some prefer lighter leather, but I like a bit of substance – much heavier though and we would be better off making armor.
Step 1: Trace Desired Mask Pattern
Step 2: Cut Out the Mask
Once the mask blank is cut out, the edges need to be examined: often they will have snags or burrs, especially at tight corners. Any delicate corrections can be made, before moving on to the next step – bevelling the edges. Some people skip this part but I feel it makes the finished piece look that much more finished. If you don’t have a bevelling toolthough, don’t fret! Your mask will be fine.
Step 3: (This Step Applies If You Have a Bevelling Tool)
Step 4: Soaking and Molding the Mask
I started molding while it was drying. When it is removed from the water, the leather should be flexible and soft. Lay it on a towel for... well, you have a while. Initially, the leather is too wet to maintain any form. You can heat it with a hair dryer or in the oven (on VERY low heat!), but I prefer to let nature take its course. After a while, you will be able to mold it and the leather will start to hold the shape. The best way to make sure that the mask is a comfortable fit is to mold it from time to time upon your own face, or the face of the intended wearer if they are accessible.
Step 5: Let It Finish Drying, Then Paint
Once you are satisfied with the shape, prop it on your face, or a convenient replacement, until it dries fully. Depending on the leather, humidity, heat of the water and such, you will likely have up to a few hours afterwards where small reinforcing pinches or tweaks can be made to the design, but the overall mask is the way it is going to be. Let’s let it dry for a day or two, and you’re ready to paint!