I started doing some rough models and designs based around a paper template that Guy had sent me while he worked on the actual steel blades. I used the time to try and work out ideas and experimented to see if the bits would work together. Right from the start I wanted there to be a turned wooden structure onto which everything fits but I wasn’t sure if it would work as I imagined it would.
…and then the beautiful blades arrived! The first thing was to mask off the surface and register where all the grind transitions were so that I could start checking that the design would work on the actual blades. Such neat grinding! I photocopied them, too, so that can draw on exact paper replicas.
The next job was to turn the timber support handles and the sheaths…I already had had one go but that resulted in a shower of timber fragments and some rather startled nearby students!
This is the start of the wooden structure for the leather and sheaths. The technique required that I was trying to use was technically challenging; it required a lot from the glue during turning an a lot of precision so that all the bits end up where I wanted them when it had been turned.
The cut gaps are the equivalent of two thicknesses of leather and the pink layers on either side of the internal core in the assembled block is to give reference when I came to cut it apart. The internal core was calculated to give me the thickness of the blade plus a thin packing layer.
In order to make it as easy on the block when it comes to going on the lathe, I planed it into a cylinder first and then very carefully took it into a round.
I made a template to work against so that I could get the curves of the three dimensional shape to work with the cut curves that I had done earlier.
The wooden substructures were surprisingly accurate but there was still a lot of hand refining that needed doing to the shape. I had been a little nervous about taking too much from the sheath and as a consequence the shape at this stage was rather inelegant.
Some more hand shaping was needed both around the sheath and the top of the handle. The complex intersection was pretty much resolved but I thought that, visually, both knives were a bit ungainly in the belly of the sheath.
When I split the turned sections and laid the blade on the section it was clear that I had enough wall thickness to refine the sheath further.
The insides of the sheaths were formed exactly to the blades so that they sat inside perfectly… but everything is still just resting on the knife. In order to show Guy’s makers marker, I designed a cutout in the sheath and I wanted the knife to be able to be put into the sheath either way around. The cutout also visually lightened the piece.
The outer shell is made of papier-mâché that is covered in the black glove leather.
Papier-mâché is one of these crafts that is hugely under-rated…I used eight layers of acid-free tissue aper and PVA wood glue. I discovered that if I wrap my form in cling film…then layered the glue-dipped-paper around the shape…and then wrapped it in another layer of film to pull everything tight, I could get a fine, thing shell that followed the form beautifully and that can be wrapped in the glove leather. Any surface irregularities can be sanded down before covering.
Part of the reason for doing lots of tests was to figure out how much room I had to leave for the leather wrap so that the edges still come together.
The sheath was lined with the moss green suede glove leather. Each half had to be cut in half lengthwise again but I delayed doing that because I wanted to keep the pieces as solid as possible while I worked on them.
Part of the challenge of this project was to try and anticipate the steps that I needed to do in advance and this was one stage where it was critical. As soon as the wooden shape was ready (but before I took it all apart) I covered them with a soft leather that was about double the leather that I would finally use. It then got covered with foil (to help ease the pieces off) and then wrapped in cling film to make it waterproof.
The surface of the shell has to be extremely fine because the leather picks up any flaws. In order to get a good finish, the shells were sanded when they were fully dry. They were then covered with the black glove leather.
This is one of the peek-a-boo sheaths separated into its small parts and ready for covering the suede.
Each quarter of the sheath is covered with the suede. I use stitching a lot to hold everything together even if it does end up looking rather like Frankenstein’s monster by the time I’ve finished! Luckily no one will see my stitches.
I used contact adhesive as well so that the contours are clearly defined (particularly in any internal corners) but I would rather stitch.
Stitching gives me more control…I can alter the tension on the leather and get the positioning absolutely right, It also allows me the opportunity to redo it; if I am not happy with how something is fitting, I can undo it and have another go!
One of the reasons that I did the sheath with a window was so that Guy could mark his blade and have the mark visible even when it is completely ‘dressed’. I didn’t want the blade to only go into the sheath one way, so the cut-out had to go all the way through.
This is the top edge with the leather covered shell…
It was time to move onto the handle. Although the handles were technically as complicated as the sheath, all the practice up to that point meant that the progress was smoother. I started by covering the main form in the green suede and I started playing around with the inserts for the handle.
Earlier samples started off quite abstract and discrete but they have become much more blatant this time…I wasn’t sure about this and made a lot of samples. One day, I lined up all the little bottoms on my bench just to see them all together! Covering them with leather changed the shape and definition of the form so until they were covered it was impossible to assess the success of the insets.
Around the edge of the hole, I removed the top edge. This was so that there was space under the tiny eyelets on the corset. Not only did I want to be able to thread the red silk thread through the corset shell as a final stage but I wanted to make sure that the thickness of the eyelets didn’t push the shell up at the edges.
To hold the shell in place, I made tiny rivets out of silver wire for the corners of the black shell and made braid from silk thread to resolve the rounded corners of the shell sections.
As a final touch I inked it with my maker marker and laced them into their corsets with silk thread.