Distressing Leather

So, you have created your armor or leather scabbard but it looks like a costume that you pulled off the hanger. That is because your work looks too new. It doesn’t have the age effects that a real piece of clothing that has been worn for years by a dwarf in many battles would have. Most cosplay costumes suffer from this, and even a lot of costumes in Hollywood films. So, let’s distress your leather work to make it look a lot more real.

Here is an example of how differently it can look.

before and after

before and after

The piece on the left side of the black mark is basically new. The piece on right was worn by a dwarf rancher for 13 years as he raised crops and fought goblins. Or at least that is how it looks. I distressed the right side.

This is a arm band that I just made last week.

brand new

brand new

See how new, and fake it looks? It doesn’t have any indications of age that dwarf rancher piece above has. On an actor, this would look like a “costume”.

First thing I will do is to remove the sharp edges. I use a bevel tool or edge tool. It shaves off the sharp “freshly-cut” edge.

bevel tool

bevel tool

This is a cheap tool you can find at Tandy Leather online, or any leather store.

bevel the edge

bevel the edge

how it looks after

how it looks after

The edges look softer, and more worn, and not new anymore. The next thing I did is to add some stains. I used some leather dye, and a small artist’s brush.

stains

stains

paint on stains

paint on stains

I painted small random stains with the black dye.

small brush

small brush

Next I abraded the surface. I roughed it up with some sandpaper.

sandpaper

sandpaper

Especially hit the high areas. This is what it looks like so far.

sanded

sanded

Next I brushed some acetone on the surface in random spots. Acetone will remove the finish from the leather, and leave it rough, and dry looking.

acetone

acetone

My next trick is brush on motor oil and sawdust.

motor oil and sawdust

motor oil and sawdust

getting messy

getting messy

Brush on the oil, then coat with sawdust.

pour on sawdust

pour on sawdust

This is dirt and grime from being on the range.

oh yeah.

oh yeah.

Now wipe it off.

wipe off

wipe off

You can leave some stuff in the cracks.

done

done

You don’t have to cover the whole thing with oil.

top is distressed

top is distressed

You can see the difference. The top is distressed, the bottom just has a few black dye stains.

right is distressed

right is distressed

I know the leather on the left which is new still looks good as well, but the distressed piece looks like it has many more years of service

heavy wear

heavy wear

again

again

well used

well used

buckle

buckle

old and new

old and new

Here is the rancher distressed piece on top of my brand new leather armor I am crafting.

square is distressed

square is distressed

In the above photo you can see what a heavily distressed piece looks like on top of brand new leather armor.

When leather is worn, a few things happen.

*Sharp edges get worn down.

*High spots get abraded or roughed up because they are rubbed so much during daily use.

*The finish gets rubbed off in places.

*When it gets wet, then dries out, the leather cracks and looks really dry.

*Dirt and debris collect in hard to reach spaces.

*The owner either neglects the leather and it gets dry, or the owner takes care of the leather which means lots of oiling, which makes it soft and dark. To show neglect or old leather, like goblin armor for example, try acetone to leave the finish dry. To show well-taken care of armor like the the King’s guard, use oil or vaseline to make a dark rich soft finish. Either way, leave some dirt in the deep cracks.

*Leather will get stains on it. Not even the King’s guard would throw away leather armor or a scabbard because it had a stain.

*Sweat or dirty hands will leave a mark on the leather. You decide if it is dry abrasion, or a well-oiled darkened area.

Here is an old leather saddle for some reference.

a real saddle

a real saddle

Notice the dark spots from sweat, and the dry abraded parts. Notice the stains, and how uneven the coloration is.

Go ahead, make a mess, add some years to your leather, have some fun.

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