The Crystal Anvil Review, part 1

The Crystal Anvil CoverI collect a lot of books relating to my hobbies. It is hard to find good books that fit your needs. I plan on reviewing some of my favorites so you can see if they’ll work for you. I wanted to do a review of this book quickly since the author is starting to take pre-orders for the second volume and this is a book that I have found very helpful.

Early this year, a leathercrafting company, Lederkraft, offered the patterns for two of their leather cuirasses for free. Once I snagged the first pattern, I studied it to figure out how to build my armor. I’ll have more discussion on the building of my armor in later posts. The owner of Lederkraft, Alex Agricola, decided to close shop on Lederkraft and publish a collection of patterns, with other LARP crafting tips, in The Crystal Anvil series. While it is available in print, I own the ebook version, so that is going to be the basis of my review.

The book starts with an overview of costume, LARP, and cosplay.  These are fairly broad overviews, and you might be tempted to skip it  and jump ahead to the “meat” of the book. However, the author sprinkles bits of insight that he has gathered over his time working in the field and that makes it worth the time.

The next section of the book is dedicated to three fabrication methods: sewing, leathercraft, and 3D printing. Each section is a broad overview. Although he goes into details about specific techniques, do not expect this book to teach you everything you need to know about these methods. However, I do think that an overview like this is useful for a beginner. It provides enough guidance that you can think about the process of costume making which is a very important piece that many books and tutorials don’t cover. If you are new to costume making, reading this book early will help you identify gaps in your knowledge that you can research further.

The third section is dedicated to specific tutorials, they are:

  • Introduction to Cosplay – Mostly this focuses on the technical aspects of costume design, such as patterning and working with toiles.
  • Making Creature Ears
  • Leather Forming
  • Instructions for Making Leather “Weave” Armour
  • Building a LARP Sword
  • Painting and Modifying Nerf Guns

Some of these articles are written by guest authors. All of them are clear, concise, and well-documented with photos and diagrams. The Introduction to Cosplay covers the basics of design and fitting. This is the best description of it that I have seen outside of specialty books on the topic and is a topic that seems to get overlooked in other cosplay tutorials.

The section on leather forming takes you through the process of wet forming leather (fitting a wet piece of leather to a form so that it will maintain that shape when dry). I have a lot of books on leathercraft and I picked up a lot of ideas from here that I hadn’t heard before.

I have been researching LARP swords and this tutorial covers a lot of the same techniques that other tutorials cover. However, they discuss a sealing technique that is easier to work with and does not have the same problems as Isoflex or Tool Dip. I have yet to try it out, but if it works, it is a piece of golden advice. The rest of the tutorials are outside of my immediate interest, so I can’t speak too deeply about them.

Up until this point, The Crystal Anvil is a solid book. The overviews and tutorials are well crafted and are peppered with little pieces of advice that comes from years of experience. It’s those little nuggets of information that make the book so useful to me. There is a subtle difference between “teaching” and “sharing experience” – while many books do the former, few do the latter as well as this book.

However, the reason that I picked up the book was for the leather patterns. I’ll leave that for the second part of this review, because that is where this book really stands out. . .

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