As part of my new archery obsession, I have found myself in need of a bracer. The first time I tried out my new bow, I wore the arm harness from my armor, which did the job so well I didn’t even know it was doing it. Several people told me they didn’t shoot with a bracer at all, so the next time I tried going without. I proceeded to get smacked repeatedly in the wrist, which make me quickly reconsider this plan of action. I tried wrapping some scrap cloth around my wrist, which was effective but ugly and cumbersome. In the end I used a medical wrist brace, which did the job of protecting my arm, but made it a bit clumsy to hold the bow.
In the meantime, I was already starting on a better replacement. I’ve played with hardening leather in the past, so I got to work bodging together a prototype. My goal is to make something like the fancy bracer from the Mary Rose shipwreck, inspired by this excellent reproduction. I figured I would want it to be in the form of a tapered cone to match the shape of my forearm, so I searched around the house and managed to put something together out of a plastic cup and a cutting board:
Also pictured: the leather, a tub to soak it in, and a fancy marking tool.
I cut out a chunk of leather about the size of my soaking tub, just in case there was a lot of shrinkage. I stuck it in the tub and covered it with near-boiling water from the hot water dispenser at the sink (love that thing!):
I left it there for about 10 minutes (while I was out shooting in the back yard), then came back and secured it around my form with some junk fabric tied with strips of the same:
I wanted to avoid any bulges in the leather from being tied too tightly, and the cloth wrapping seemed to do the trick. I left it to dry overnight. In the morning, the leather was still a bit damp, but held the shape of the form.In the morning I removed the form and wrapping, and tied the leather back up to keep it from flattening back out. It then went in a 200° oven for about 20 minutes while I ate breakfast and got the kids ready to go:
Placed with the edges of the leather down in case the rack left any marks (it didn't)
At this point the leather was dry to the touch, and semi-rigid. I could bend it easily by hand, but it returned to its formed shape. It may harden up more as it finished drying, but this is sufficient for my purposes as it is. At this point I started to consider the pattern of the actual bracer. The extant one didn’t really seem tapered at all, and I wondered why that might be. After digging up some actual measurements of it, it seems it was only about 5″ long, so it only would have covered the wrist, not the entire forearm. On the down side, this meant I had cut far too much leather. On the up side, this meant I could make two or three out of the leather I had already hardened. I sketched out a quick paper pattern:
I laid the pattern on the formed leather and scored a line around it. I cut it out with leather shears, then beveled the edges with an X-acto knife. This is where I left it as of this morning:
I don’t plan to do much else with this aside from attaching the strap and maybe some sanding of the inside and edges to smooth them out a bit. I may make another from this piece of leather and try some tooling or painting on it, though tooling would have been best done while the leather was still wet. Now that I know there will only be minimal shrinkage from this hardening method, I can cut the piece to shape, tool it, and harden it for the next attempt.