How to Make a Leather Plague Doctor Mask




Introduction: How to Make a Leather Plague Doctor Mask

About: I'm a man with a plan and a craft box.

Oh crap... Looks like your town is infected with the plague... AGAIN.
Time to go get your mask on and go to purify the infected, oh wait, you don't have one... Now what kind of pseudoscience doctor doesn't have a creepy mask to ware while sticking on leeches and poking people with sticks while chanting? Guess you'l have to make one; but you don't want a paper one that will crumple at the first infected's fevered thrashings, it's time to make one that will last...

Here is what you'll need to accomplish that.
- Vegetable tanned leather (The thinner the easier)
- Leather sowing needles and thread
- Power drill with a small bit
- Leather stain (Your choice of color)
- Rivets (Look up "Rapid Rivets" on Amazon)
- A mask with a human face that is close to the proportions of your own
- Some bottle caps (Big ones)
- Colored Lenses
- Scissors
- Lots of paper
- Leather Glue
- Hack saw (Or some other saw to cut through plastic
- Wire
- Some form of sanding tool
- Painter's tape.

Grab this stuff up, make sure you have some time on your hands, then go barricade your door and get to work.

By the way, be sure to send me your masks, I love seeing other people's take on this.

Step 1: Forming the Template

Alright, these next few steps are THE MOST IMPORTANT.
Take your mask (I used a Guy Fawkes mask from "V for Vendetta") and use your paper to make a template, get at least one side looking just how you want it. 
Take your time, paper is much cheaper that leather, and you will thank yourself later for this step.
In the photo I got the whole left side done just the way I wanted it to look.

*If you aren't comfortable with leather work (I assume you are, or else you wouldn't be here) this is a good time to stop, Papier-mâché the template, and use it like that.*

Step 2: Cutting the Template

Next, depending on if you got the whole mask looking the way you wanted, or just one side, were going to cut it  right down the middle, at the bridge of the nose, and at your jaw line (Roughly). 
That's right, I said cut it. Should have quit while you were ahead bub, your here for the duration now.
Quite frankly, as long as it's is in three major pieces it should be fine, just as long as those cut are horizontal.
Remember that the less you cut now, the less you will sow later.

After you have those pieces were going to take the forehead, and the bottom jaw/ Beak and put them on another piece of paper, fold the paper in half and place the line you just cut down on to the fold. Trace it, then cut it out again. This seems a little weird, but trust me, it will make sense at the next step. 

Step 3: Reforming the Template

Did I mention that these steps were important? Did you not believe me?
Well whatever.
Take the now four pieces and put them back on to the mask, does it look right? Do you like the way it looks? If not, go back and do it again. This is the time for doubt and mistakes, not later in the process. Leather costs money, it juts doesn't grow on cows or anything like that.
You heard me...

Cut them out again if you need to to assure some overlap on each piece, so you can tuck them under each other.

Step 4: Cutting the Leather

Grab your Vegetable Tanned Leather piece, trace the templates you made, and cut them out. This is the time to be cheap, position your paper in a way to waste little leather.

Step 5: Sowing the Beak

This is where things get tough, this type of leather isn't very forgiving. It's been betrayed before and isn't willing to let anyone else hurt it again. Don't be discouraged, just work through it and later you two will open up to each other, and things will be great.

Drill holes in the top of the beak with your drill, then sow them together.

Step 6: Manhandeling the Leather

So this is where your wire comes in, you can use clamps if you have them, I didn't, so I used wire.
Drill and hole through each layer of leather in the same place and run some wire through that hole.
Do that in the indicated places in the picture.
Then affix it to the mask again. 

Step 7: SOAK IT!

The great thing about vegetable tanned leather as that while it may be stiff, unyielding, and generally hostile at first, it is pliable, warm, and inviting after you soak it.

Place some tape on the mask to keep it on, the tape will also serve to keep it in shape while in the next step.
Soak it in warm water while still attached to the mask. How long you soak it depends on what thickness you got. Mine seemed to do well after 30 minutes of soaking. 

Step 8: DRY IT!

Let it dry.
This would be a good time to get a sandwich, because we want it completely dry when we go for the next step.
I let mine dry overnight.

Step 9: Time for Glue!

When it's dry it will keep the shape that it was in when it was wet, that why you need to make sure it's on a stable foundation so that it won't drop or fall on it's side.
Since you listened to me and made sure that there was so overlap in the pieces, it should be simple to glue those pieces along the jaw, temple, and bridge of the nose. Let the glue dry and go get another sammich.
*Read the directions on the bottle for optimum usage.


Drill along the jaw line, temple, and bridge of the nose.
I folded the mask in half to make sure my holes were all symmetrical.
Because I'm OCD and it makes me feel good....
Really gooooooooood

Step 11: SEW BABY SEW!

With the holes already drilled this step should be as easy as catching the plague from one of your neighbors.
Check your doors and rat traps, I think I hear moaning...

Step 12: Tape and Soak!

Last time I sort of glanced over the tape issue. This time I will stress it.
This will be the last soak and your mask will stay in that form. Tape it so that everything is nice and neat.
After the soak, let it dry, but NOT COMPLETELY, we will still want it damp for the staining process.

I also took this time to cut three straps on leather out. that we will later use in the process.

Step 13: Sleep? Sleep Is for People Who Are BROKE! or Maskless...

While the mask is soaking take this time to try out a few leather stains, just to make sure how they will look when they are on the mask. You can do this by dampening some waster leather in warm water, and applying the dye to the leather.

Step 14: On Straps

This is where I decided to put the straps on, Find where the mask would comfortably sit on your face, drill some holes, and rivet the straps to the mask. Follow the directions on the Rapid Rivets box for best results. Make sure to do this quick, we still want the leather damp (NOT SOAKING WET) for the next step.

Step 15: Patience Is a Virtue Little Babies...

This may take a while depending on the dye you chose.
I chose white...
Dye the mask according to the directions on the bottle, you may have to put several coats on.
Don't be discouraged, the lighter the dye the more coats you will need, try getting some alcohol based dye.

Step 16: Huzzah!

Huzzah it's the right color now!
And being creative DIY people you've already put a belt buckle on to one of the strap, some holes in the other, and a loop on the the top one to keep it on your face!
I'm so proud of you guys...
Now for the final step.

Step 17: Goggles!

Here you can be creative and do what ever you want for the eye pieces (As opposed to the rest of the build?)
Here is what I did.
I took the tops of some bottles and cut out the middle, then placed my colored lenses inside and screwed the bottle top into the eye hole AFTER SANDING ALL THE SHARP PIECES OFF, and then screwed the top back on with the lens in the center.

Voila! Congrats.
Now, don your floppy hat and long coat, grab your leeches, poking stick and cross, and go forth to combat the impurities!

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    8 years ago

    Do you think this would still work with faux leather?


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    It would have to be WAY thicker than the faux leather I've used before. The reason it's keeping it's shape is because the vegetable tanned leather is treated in such a way as to do that. You would end up with a really floppy mask, unless you used some wire (Like bent coat hangers) to sit below the leather and keep it's shape.

    On second thought you could really make that look nice, but I just did this instead.


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    I think I might try that, actually. Leather's not really readily available around here as far as I know, and I'd much prefer to use fake the stuff anyway. Thanks!


    9 years ago on Introduction

    Hey, thank you very much for the tutorial, I have a question concerning the leather: How thick is the leather you are using? (:


    10 years ago on Introduction

    This is great. I'm actually planning on doing the same thing, what a coincidence that someone else did it!


    10 years ago on Introduction

    How much leather did you end up using, square foot wise? I'm looking at 2 sq foot on eBay (12X24) of ~3oz veg tanned ... can I get away with less (cheaper of course)? Should I get more?


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    I ended up using a single sheet of 2 sqft leather. But depending on your personal design you may need more.


    10 years ago on Introduction

    Sewing IS manly!!!
    Awesome build, I learned a few things about leather thank you!
    Only question I have is where does this "plague doctor" mask come from?
    What's the reference?


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks for the compliment, I'm glad everyone likes it!
    During the Black Plague doctors wore a mask like this and stuffed the beak full of incence and other sweet smelling herbs, partially because it would combat the smell of rot from the dead, and because they thought disease was spread through the smell. For more information look up plague doctors on google.


    10 years ago on Introduction

    Awesome! I hope you plan to enter it in the Masks Challenge!


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    Thank you : )
    I'm happy you guys like it, and flattered it was featured.
    I entered it in a couple of contests.