26 February, 2017

Archery Bracers

I haven't been posting much lately, because I've been making costuming and props for my regular LARP game. The most recent thing I wanted to produce was something along the lines of these.

The first couple of times I used my LARP bow, I ended up with welts and bruises up the inside of my arm when the bowstring hit it repeatedly. So I decided that I needed to make something that added a bit of protection to that area. In ongoing use, I found that the bowstring hit my inner arm far less, so I probably don't need the protection any more, but in the heat of battle, with bowstrings drawn quickly and arrows shot off instinctively, the bracers will still prevent the occasional arm hit from the string.

For the material used in this project, I had bought a few leather jackets from local second-hand stores, some black, some dark brown, some light brown, a range of leather thicknesses. On average about $6 each ($4-10) for an assortment of leather ready to go.

The first thing I did was get a measuring tape to get the length of my forearm, from wrist to inner elbow, then measured around my wrist and just below the elbow. With these measurements I drew up a template on paper, cutting out a concave curve on the inside of the arm (allowing for elbow flexibility) and a convex curve (allowing for a bit more protection on the outside of the arm). A second paper template was created through trial and error by wrapping tissue paper around my hand, cutting it to a vague shape...testing that template on my hand...adjusting it again and cutting a new template to match...retesting...and once it felt like a decent and comfortable fit, I cut a final template.    
Applying the template to the back of one of the jackets, I try to find a symmetrical spot where the left and right hands will have matching seams from the existing jacket design. Even though the two Bracers will be asymmetrical, they need to look like a matching pair.

As a benefit, cutting the bracers from the back of the jacket leaves the sleeves intact, and that means potentially using the sleeves as other components of a leather armour ensemble.

The first drawing of the pattern on the leather was done with a black marker, closely tracing the outline of the template, but this proved a little too dark to see. A second pattern marking was done, roughly a centimetre (3/8 inch) outside the edge of the pattern, this way the edge of the leather could be folded under, and sewn or glued in place to give a clean looking edge.

The left hand (because I'm right handed) holds the bow, while the right hand pulls the arrow and aims. This means that the left arm bracer has the additional element for wrapping around the thumb and protecting it from arrows that slide across it. The right arm bracer has a flat end around the wrist.

To get the smooth edging on the leather, I fold in the corners. Once the corners are dry, I fold the sides nice and straight. The curved edges near the elbows can still be folded over because the soft leather I used for this part of the project has enough flexibility to handle the curvature.

Next, because the leather is so soft, I decided that I needed some added protective elements using some scraps of a harder leather from an earlier project. Most bracers with added protection have a single piece of leather armouring the inner arm, but I wanted something a bit more interesting than that. I made a template of overlapping scales, each of which would be stamped in a way to get a dramatic and interesting look.  

First one side was cut out, then these scales were flipped over and used as templates to make matching scales for the inside of the other arm.A pair of added protective scales had been cut out for the thumb, but these don't need to be repeated.

I scored around the inside of the scales with the leatherwork swivel-blade, then pencilled in some leafy/lotus patterns within the centres of each scale.

One by one, I used a stamp on dampened leather to bring out those designs.

Then used subtle shading techniques with some leather die to bring out those carved and stamped designs even more.

With the completed scales, I punched a series of holes around the swivel-knife scored border. Then hand sewed the patterned, stamped and stained scales one by one to the black bracer. I don't know what the stitch is called (I think it might be "running stitch"), plunging the needle through the leather, moving along, then piercing it back through before moving along to the next stitch (basically like this ... _/¯\_/¯\_/¯\).

Then, I retraced the stitches back around each scale to ensure the stitching formed a complete line on each side. Once done, the next scale was slightly overlapped to ensure the bowstring wouldn't catch on anything if it did hit the protective scales.

The last step was to use a grommet tool to add metal grommets to the edges of the bracers that would be laced together.

After spending a few hours (spread out over a couple of days), roughly $15 on parts (and retaining enough of those components to create a few more projects), and a bit of experimentation... I've ended up with a pair of archery bracers that seem as good as many of the similar pieces I've found online for $100 or more.

I can make plans available for anyone who is interested.
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