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Leatherworking - A Raven Guard Present

Given that none of us in the Bunker are professional hobbyists we can't make our living that way. So we've all got "side gigs" to support the main job of painting miniatures. I think I've got that the right way round... Well, anyway, I am unbelievably lucky and my day job is also a creative one, I am a leatherworker. While this is absolutely how I make my coin, the thing I love most is when I can make a one-off piece for a friend. It's using my talents to make others happy and that's gold to me. With my most recent piece, we finally see my two worlds collide in a fashion that we think you all would find interesting! You see, I made this...


Now, a couple of quick things before we get going. One, this was a present for a friend, not a product I stock. I do not have the licensing* to do that so don't ask me! That having been said, see the end of the article if you want something flash of your own design. Two, I wasn't really planning this as an article, more as an entertainment for my fellow quarantined-in-their-bunkers nerds on our WhatsApp thread. But as it was pointed out that it could be a fun post, here we are! Thus if any of the pictures aren't tippity top, that's why. With the boring caveat and addendum phase over with, lets make something groovy!


Beyond the first design work - which usually happens in the bowels of my computer on Inkscape and Photoshop - the first stage is to prepare the blank. I'm using 3mm thick, full-grain, vegetable-tanned leather. Otherwise known as The Good Stuff. I won't go into a whole lot of technical nonsense on here, it's supposed to be a light look at the process, not an instructional. I make a lot of these shapes of dice bags so you can see my card template down there which I've used to shape the 3"x15" strip of leather on the top right (yup, undyed leather is pale salmon pink depending on species). I also print out my carving reference with some checkmarks to ensure the printer and my measurements haven't ganged up on me and wrecked my day. With this all in place we can begin the carving process!


You'll notice we're taking some big jumps at the start, that's because this was more "progress reports" rather than build-along-with-Jeff at this stage. Here, the marks have been transferred from the paper to the leather. I do this by first "casing" the leather - wetting it until the water will only just still soak in - and then pressing through the paper with a ball-point. That gives me the rough aiming marks. Now the real work begins. Using a swivel knife (pictured), which is kind of like a pin vice but for a fat blade, I draw the designs with the blade, cutting only a mm or so into the surface.The blade has to be wickedly sharp and freshly stropped or you risk puckering the wet leather. At this stage any mark you make on the leather is there for ever. No undo key. I've had the texture of a jumper I was wearing transfer to the leather so you have to be really careful where you place weight and with what.


Once we have the lines cut we now move to bevelling, this is pushing the cut edges down and giving a three dimensional quality to the piece. To do this we have specialised carving tools like a blunt chisel (pictured). These are hammered down into the wet leather to leave a permenant shape in the material. The line you see going over the 'XIX' is a scar from the animal's hide brought up by the water. The stone surface below is the anvil on which we will "carve" - really, more emboss - the leather. It's a massive slab of granite I got as an offcut from a kitchen countertop maker. They have to pay to get it taken away so they're usually cool about someone who needs some and won't take the mick.


After an hour and a half of hammering the lines are now impressed into the leather. The mark in the middle is my makers mark and is done with a stamp I got commissioned from a company that CNC them out of brass. Thus I can just give it a whack and my mark is always perfectly transfered.


You can see the colour of the leather is once again pale. It has dried a little ready to get dyed, so cue creepy gloves and spirit-based dyes. You get more colours in water-based but the penetration and coverage is less predictable so I prefer to stick to the "oil" dyes. Note: There are lot of weird terms in leatherwork, I'll try to keep you in the jargon free realms.


We now have a correct colour for that most LiveJournal of chapters. The Raven Guard. Trouble is, their mark is pure brilliant white. White is a bit of a git to dye in leather. The natural colour is several shades darker anyway. So instead we use a sort of flexible acrylic paint. Not a million miles from the stuff we paint miniatures with. You can see on the right there my test bit of scrap leather to see how it performed as this was the first time I'd ever played with it. Well, may as well strap on a portable spine and get on with it. After all, it's only a day of work I'm ruining if I mess it up. Meep.


The results of the first two layers on the Goth Budgie. To say that this paint's coverage is... patchy is polite at best. It took six. damn. layers. to get the colour true.


But dayumn if it didn't look pretty. Very, very pleased. Now we can move on to the preparations to make this from an oddly shaped coaster into a dice bag fit for a beaky captain.


The process starts with selecting, cutting and dying some much thinner panels for the sides. In this case I went with goatskin, thinner, strong and still flexible. Pigskin is more flexible but less sturdy and this was going to be the main structural support of the bag. I've successfully used sheep nappa before but had none in a pure black and, well, pandemic.


While those panels are drying - and with the white cured - we can turn our attention to the edges. If you zoom in you'll see the cut edges are kind of fluffy and bitty. Well, there's not a lot you can do with that if you are using chrome tanned but we've got the Good Stuff. So, we can run a little bit of Gum Tragacanth (it's the sap of an Arabian legume, no word of a lie) along the edge and then either rub it like crazy or use my fancy rotary tool attachment we can bind the fibres together and get a much nicer edge.


With that done we can mark out the stitches. You want to have the actual edge established so your stitches don't wander off on you. I take the stitch width - in this case 3mm from my pattern - and using a scratch compass transfer it to the leather.


Then, using a stitching iron - essentially a row of teeny diamond shaped chisels - and my nice 2kg maul (a round hammer), I follow the stitch lines cutting tracks for the needles to follow later.


Always start from the ends and work in. You will always, always have either a pesky long stitch or a pesky short stitch to deal with so leave it somewhere unobtrusive like the base.


The stitch marks are now all punched through, the panels are dry, time to get to some assembly. First step, make the bends for the corners.


This is done by wetting the leather in a line where you want the bend to be, then holding that line with a bone folder or similar while you ease the leather into the sharpest bend it will tolerate. That gives you nice sharp corners and a flat base rather than a teardrop shape.


I pull the bend radius from the corner and transfer it to the panels, clipping off the corners. This prevents an ugly puckered point in the corner as the stitching turns the corner. I've said corner too many times now. Cornercornercorner....


A couple of quick smacks on a punch with the maul gets us our side panel drawstring tracks.


And finally we are ready to glue up. Cue vicious contact cement and a respirator. The glue is basically rubber dissolved in toluene so it's not to be messed about with.


Taking shape! Technically you could stop here. The glue is hella strong but it would fail one day and that would be sad. So, we need to get ready for stitching.


With the panels in place I can use light taps to punch through the goatskin and have clean stitching channels all the way through. Where it is awkward to use the irons I use an awl to push through the leather. The awl is the traditional leatherworkers tool to create the stitch holes. A flattened diamond-shaped spike, sharpened on the two widest edges. It's wickedly sharp and will cheerfully glide right through your thumb/hand if you let it so no fingers in the field of fire.


Traditional leather sewing uses the saddle stitch, an extremely sturdy stitch using a needle at either end of the thread. The needles are blunt (ish, stick one in you and you know about it) so they won't carve their own paths but instead look for the pre-cut channels. The thread I'm using is 0.8mm bonded polyester from Ritza usually called "Tiger thread". It is so hardcore that it will cut channels in my skin long, long before it breaks. Awesome stuff.


Once you have taken the thread through the first hole, you even it up so you have the same amount of thread on either side, grab a needle in each hand and go for it. You push the backside needle through first, grab it in an x with the frontside hand holding the frontside needle and then push the frontside needle back through the hole.


You end up with two loops of thread, pull them tight then do it all again. A couple of hundred times.When you reach the end of a row, clip off the excess and use a lighter to neaten up the cut ends.


Use the edge of the granite slab as an anvil and tap the stitches down with a rounding hammer. This closes up the stitch holes and flattens the thread neatly. Contrast the left side with the right in the picture above.


I trim the edges with a skiving knife (a big wide, shallow knife designed for making thinner edges on leather) and then rub beeswax into the trimmed edge. Finally I use that rotary tool again to buff up the edges. Then I do it all again for the next side.


And there you have it! The completed dice bag for the captain of the 5th company, 19th Legion: The Raven Guard. Really happy with how it turned out, even if the white was a pain. And why do we do this sort of thing? Well...


Because when the pandemic postman delivers your surprise package... that is all kinds of happy making. Happy birthday Tom!



Want to know more? Want to get something shiny for yourself? Want to just perve at pretty things? Well, I'm all over all of those options. Come find my website (https://www.scarisbrickcrafts.com/) for details on contacting me. To keep up to date with all things kit-form-cow you can follow me along on instagram too (https://www.instagram.com/scarisbrick_craft_studio/). It'd be lovely to see you all. Back to miniature painting next time, I've got chaos on the workbench and no-one can stop me... buah ha ha haaaaaaa! Until then, lovely people, stay safe and

TTFN

*It is important to emphasise that no challenge to Games Workshop's trademarks or copyrights is intended or should be inferred. Scarisbrick Craft Studios does not and will not make money from other company's IP. This was a present for a friend, not a stock item.

Comments

  1. It also smells brilliant! In fact, it is brilliant. Now I just need to find a source of black d6s with black dots...

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    1. the most goth, most stealth, least useful dice evor ;)

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  2. That looks fantastic!!! Rubber dissolved in toluene, hey :-@ I have worked with worse (platinum waste dissolved in aqua regia, anything dissolved in pyridine, blaaargh), but that is pretty horrible.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Marc! And Jeez, that sounds like some hardcore chemistry right there :D

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