The Crystal Anvil Review, part 2

Corsair Armor Photo
The Corsair Armor is one of the patterns available.

This is a continuation of my review of The Crystal Anvil, a book on costuming, larp craft, and especially leatherwork. In part one of my review, I discussed the overviews and tutorials.  However, if you are interested in this book, it is probably because you are interested in the leathercraft patterns. So, what do I think? The patterns are a “must have” for anybody who is interested in leather armor or making leather pouches and accessories.

The book contains 50 leathercraft patterns. The patterns are in PDF format, sized for printing on A1 paper. You can either print it out across multiple sheets of paper or send it to a print shop. The files are not locked and are in vector format (not rasterized). This means that you can (and are encouraged to) edit the PDF in a vector image editor (I use Adobe Illustrator). This is a welcome change from either scanned images that are hard to manipulate or copy protections that make the product practically useless.

The patterns cover a pretty good variety of costume pieces and accessories. For costume pieces, it has:

  • Cuirasses (Chest) – Mostly for men, but one piece for women.
  • Paldrons (Shoulders)
  • Belts and tassets
  • Vambraces (Forearms)
  • Greeves (Calves)
  • Helms and headbands

And for accessories, it has quivers, bags and pouches

There are only a few areas that weren’t covered: gauntlets, footwear, and articulated pieces such as full arm pieces with an articulated elbow. They are all advanced projects and beyond the scope of this book, but I mention it only in case you want to buy the book specifically for one of those pieces.

All of the patterns are gorgeous. None of the patterns appear to be that challenging, but precision is required to get the rivet and stitching marks properly aligned otherwise the pieces will buckle when assembled. The instructions are straightfoward, the assembly isn’t that complex so you don’t need complicated instructions. Many of the pieces are made of overlapping pieces. These add dimension and interest to the finish piece, but require patience and precision to assemble correctly. Where needed, the instructions include a diagram of how the pieces all overlap. One advantage to the layered design is that you don’t need large areas of perfect leather. You can lay out the pieces to cut around imperfections in your leather.

The challenge in these patterns is fitting. Most of the costume patterns are made for men 5’10” tall. There is some discussion on how to size the pattern, but expect to make a couple of mock-ups with cardstock before cutting expensive leather. I think it would benefit a beginner to have some of the patterns provided in standard sizes, but a little courage and a lot of prototyping will take you far. I will talk more about fitting in a later post when I talk about my own armor construction. There is one set of women’s armor fitted to a female measuring 37-28-38. Altering female clothing, especially something as fitted as this, is very difficult. I believe future volumes of The Crystal Anvil will discuss this in more detail. Until then, I wouldn’t try the female cuirass unless you have experience in pattern alteration.

Although these patterns are made for leather, you could use craft foam instead. As I write this, it occurs to me that you could make some really cool sci-fi armor with these patterns and different colored foam . . . I may have to try that.

Patterns for armor are incredibly rare. Just studying these patterns taught me a lot about armor design and assembly. Having this book is like having access to a leatherworkers shop and being able to take apart finished pieces to see how they were made. It is a very welcome insider view for those of us who have no other access to a professional costumer. If you are interested in making your own armor, even if it is out of a different material, add The Crystal Anvil to your library. Even if you never plan on making one of its designs, the patterns can easily form a starting point for your own creation.

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