A Tale of Two Chinstraps

PaintedHelmMany of my blog posts are dedicated to the sport of Heavy List fighting. The Society for Creative Anachronisms counts its members in hundreds of thousands, with roughly ten to twenty percent are fighters. This means not many sports equipment items are mass produced (aside from repurposed hockey and lacrosse gear). Fighters spend a lot of time creating, maintaining, and modifying their gear.

Heavy List helms are often the most expensive part of a fighter’s armor kit. This is my helm, made by my friend Hjalmar. He makes simple, solid, inexpensive helms and is willing to do a small amount of custom work for a bit extra. If you’re wondering why I have an oddly shaped “F” on my helm, it’s me being geeky. That rune is Ansuz, which is an “A” in the Old Norse alphabet. I chose it because I enjoy having a Viking version of Captain America’s helm. This is my creative anachronism.

Enough about my helm. This is a post about chin straps. Chin straps are a small part of a fighting kit, and they’re easy to not think about. I was fighting Duke Brennan in a tournament last year, and my helm slid off because I didn’t have a secure chin strap. I hope to live that down someday, but in the meantime I have put a lot of thought into chin strap designs. The photo shows my three piece chinstrap on the left, and the single piece chinstrap on the right.

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ChinStrapPDF
I created a PDF of the patterns by scanning the graph paper design I used for these two types of straps:   VedardottirChinStraps

WordPress does not display a preview PDFs,  so here is a small screen capture of the file.

When you print the PDF, be sure to choose the option that allows the PDF to expand to fill the entire page. “Fit to page” is the key phrase on most printers.

Leatherlayout

Making your chinstrap will require a 5×8″ piece of leather that is as thick as a leather belt. You will need rivets and an anvil in addition to the tools described in my post Beginning Sewing and Leather Working.

 

leathertapedI cut the pattern out and placed it on the leather. Next, I taped the pattern onto the leather with masking tape. This keeps the pattern from sliding off the smooth leather as it is cut.

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Finally, punch the holes, then fold the leather over and rivet it together. This photo shows the loops of the more complicated chin strap. The strap cut from a single piece of leather simply folds over.

Better Sunglasses in a Helm

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Last year I made a post about wearing sunglasses in a helm. Since then, I’ve bought a new helm, and my old sun protection was not covering as much as I needed. So I bought some film intended for blacking out car windows, and then worked on how to secure it in my helm.

This project is fairly simple, and makes use of the leather working tools I describe in my post Beginning Sewing and Leather Working.

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The band that held my old sunglasses on my head kept slipping off, so I needed a way to attach the sun protection directly to my helm. I took industrial grade velcro (which has adhesive) and covered the interior of the eye openings with it. I made absolutely sure that the velcro inside my helm was the soft kind! The rough half of the velcro is attached to my new sun shades.

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I needed a way to attach the film to my helm. Since this project needed to be durable and fraying fabric would be a problem, I decided this project would incorporate leather working instead of sewing. I made a pattern by folding a piece of paper in half and tracing the eye opening with a pencil.

If your helm doesn’t have a conveniently traceable set of eye holes, I encourage you to decide how far down you need sun protection, and make the edges of the leather at that point. If you’re working alone, tape the folded paper over one eye, look in a mirror, and decide how far down to make the lower edge. You probably won’t need to have the sun shade past the tip of your nose.

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Folding the paper in half allows me to make us of bilateral symmetry. Or in plain English, folding the paper in half and cutting out the design makes it look professional because both halves of the design are identical. Here is the pattern on my helm.

While I was making these sun shades, I kept checking the work in progress against the helm. It’s easy to get so wrapped up in making a thing that small mistakes can produce an item that’s ultimately unusable.

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There’s a saying about how you should “measure twice and cut one.” I measure about four or five times just to be sure I have everything correct for each stage of the project.

Here’s the leather that will become the backing of my sun shades. It leaves the eye holes open to maximize my shaded field of view.

IMG_20170925_172353Next, I took my leather pattern and put it down on graph paper. Once I traced the outline, it was easy enough to guesstimate the center of the leather. On that penciled line I marked every two squares (which is every half inch) so that the punched holes for my thread would be regular. You can see how I miscounted on the lower left side, and crossed off a few hole notations.

One question I’m often asked is, why do I go to such an effort to make my gear look professional? It’s just for my use and nobody will be looking at it as closely as I am. I have several reasons. First, being in the habit of making things with care means that when I receive a commission, my work will look good. Second, a large part of why I receive creative commissions is because I go to such lengths to make my work look good. (I hope I’ve accurately shown this in my blog. In many ways, this is my portfolio!)

Finally, the most important reason I take such care is strength and durability. With this sun shade, if I punched the leather anywhere I felt like, some stitches would be farther from the edges than other, and those irregularities lead to weak points and to the eventual breakdown of my work. Since I’m putting this much effort into my craft projects, I don’t want to be endlessly repeating the same projects.

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Enough of the soap box. Once I had my pattern set, I cut it out of the plastic shade film and taped sharp-side-out velcro onto both the film and the leather. Notice how I taped everything down to the cutting mat.

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The shade film was slippery, so I needed to secure it with a lot of masking tape before I started punching holes.

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Once the holes were punched, I took the pattern layer off. You can see some of the holes I punched in the tape.

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I left the tape attached until I was ready to stitch all of the layers of my sun shades together.

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The layers: velcro, shade film, and just barely visible leather backing it all. The shade film is flimsy, so the leather is as much structural as it is a measure of comfort in my helm.

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Here is the completed  back side. It’s easier to see the stitches here. I close brown leather to make the stitches visible.

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Finally, here is what my helm looks like with the sun shades in place. My final challenge is to remember to have a picture taken when I’m wearing it!