Forming leather??

topic posted Tue, March 13, 2007 - 7:38 PM by  MaRi'ANo
I want to make some masks with thin 1-2 oz leather, has anyone done extreme shapes? used heating process's to harden?
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SF Bay Area
  • Re: Forming leather??

    Wed, March 14, 2007 - 3:11 AM
    I will presume that you work with vegetable tanned leather

    One rule of thumb: the thinner the leather the easier it is to shape. So if you start out with thin leather you can achieve quite impressive shapes already. But now the problem is, that thin leather won’t keep its shape. But two thin leathers glued together will do so even better than on thick layer alone. Let’s call one the top and the other the lining. If you form the leather over a formed core, shape the lining with the flesh side towards you, it will serve as a support to the mask. Then shape the top over it and work in the details but this time with the grain side towards you. Finally glue both parts together. This way you create tensions between the two layers, that counteract on each other, this way cancelling any deformation of their given shape. The best is to use glue that dries slowly such as white glue. This way you always can undo it and place it until you’re happy ant then let it dry. With contact cement you get one chance only and if you mess this chance up…then you’re in a mess ;O).

    Once the lining and the top are glued to each other over the whole surface they keep up the shape very well and there will be no need for mystic concoctions of waxes gums and secret ingredients or special ovens and what not. A blow dryer will do or even batter put it out into the sun on a warm sunny day.

    wish you a good time on your project,

    • Re: Forming leather??

      Wed, March 14, 2007 - 5:28 PM
      I have had great success shaping and hardening thin leather with both wax hardening methods and water boiling methods. Hardened leather can actually become so hard that it will break rather than deform. The problem with using thin leather to do this is that it will be fragile. Now for making a mask I don't think that will be much of an issue.

      I guess the real question is have you hardened leather before. You generally use the same techniques then shape it before it cools, and let it cool and harden in it's new shape.
  • Unsu...

    Re: Forming leather??

    Thu, March 29, 2007 - 7:30 PM
    I recently made a harlequin/masquerade mask myself out of 3-4 oz veg. All I did was wet it down and slap it on my own face. I guess it all depends on how hard you want it.

    My manager also totes that using 1 part ammonia, 8 parts water and then molding it hardens it without making it too hard to the point where it will crack.
  • Re: Forming leather??

    Wed, October 3, 2007 - 12:44 PM
    I soak my leather in a large canning pot in water heated to about 140F, too hot and the leather does its own thing and is practically useless (found this out the hard way and the mask I ended up with is called "Scorched"). Take the warm wet leather and stretch/shape it over your form or into the shape you want. Secure it so that it can dry in that shape. When it is FULLY dry, remove it from the form and then you can paint or decorate it as you want.

    Note: This will only work with vegetable tanned leather. I don't think it will work with other leathers.

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