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Wax hardening

There are many ways to wax your leather hard. The main goals of wax hardening is to make the leather hard, but not brittle. Successful waxing gives reliable waterproof armor that lasts for years.


The important thing is the wax. You want a wax that has a high melting point, but those can be expensive. I use a blend of four waxes with different melting points: Parrafin, stearic acid, beeswax and carnauba.


Melting points:

Parrafin: Cheapest wax, wiki says "starts to melt at 37°C". Most on amazon.de are labled 54-56°C. I found one with 56-58°C, but haven't tried it yet.

Stearic acid: Cheap, melts at 69.3 °C theoretically, I've heard it can vary from 55-70°C in practice.

Beeswax: not cheap, melts 62-64°C. I've heard it attracts bees, avoid if allergic. If heated over 85°C it will get "burnt" dark. Carnauba: expensive, melts 82-86°C


I've heard parraffin and stearic acid work ok. I've heard people being fine with only parrafin, or only stearic acid, or only beeswax. The premium leather armor from Torvaldr is a blend of just beeswax and carnauba, These are most expensive and hardest waxes.


For me the main risk is a bag of armor left in a car on a hot day. If your leather gets soft and smooshed out of shape, then cools. You don't have functioning armor anymore. You have to heat it up and reform it.


To avoid mutant armor, I like to get as high a melt point as possible without spending too much money.


This is modified off a recipe from squire Garth I am currently using:

40% parrafin;

20% stearic acid;

20% beeswax;

20% carnauba;

Now to get the wax into the leather. Again, there are many methods. I heard of putting the hard wax on the leather and melting it in with a heat gun. Many melt the wax in the oven pan because of the big shape of the pan, but I won't do that again. Wax vapor coats the oven and is tough to clean off. The pros got deepfrier like pans with good temp control and big size. I am currently using a pasta pot on my normal kitchen stove.


Wax hardening is messy. First thing is protect your kitchen. I use thick tinfoil to protect the hob I'm working on, then cardboard for the rest of the area. I like to make sure it hangs over the front of the stove to avoid dripps, Cover the floor,


Tools:

  • a baking thermometer,

  • stack of paper towels,

  • scale, if you want to be precise about mix percentages,

  • something to manipulate leather in wax, like a wooden spoon or something.

  • space in the freezer is nice, but you can do with just cold tap water.

  • leather ready for hardening, It must be COMPLETELY dry. Leather is preferably already water shaped into it's final form. For boffer armor minimum is 3mm, for SCA rattan combat I use 5mm thick leather. Any dying, or stamping has to be done already before sealing it in wax. Read the post about water hardening to get your leather ready for wax.


First melt your wax. Original recipe said first paraffin, then stearic, then bee and carnauba. I've just been putting it all in at once, with no problems. Garth's recipe calls for temp of 87-93°C, measure carefully with your baking thermometer throughout the process. On my stove I heat at 2 then drop to 1 and move the pan so only half is on the hot hob. 1 on my stove is too hot even with tin foil between.


When the wax is at the right temp put your leather in carefully to avoid splashes. let it sit until all of the bubbles are gone, This can take a long time,



with thick leather can be 30-45 min, depends on the leather.


It's best if the piece is completely under wax, it's lots faster and gives more uniform results, If your piece is too big you can turn it every 15 min or so until the bubbles are done. This takes time.


When the bubbles are done pull your piece out and dry it with paper towels. This is the messy part, be careful. Rub vigorously in and out until it is shiny, takes a few seconds. Now is your last chance to adjust the form. get it exactly how you want it, then run cold tap water over the top to cool it into it's permanent form. If my piece is already in a good form from the hot wax I put it in the freezer to cool. Cold water and hot wax seem weird to me, It works, but I avoid it for no rational reason. When it is cool it is hopefully glossy. If it looks "dusty" it probably from wax coming out of the leather before cooling. put it in a warm oven till the surface looks wet and hit it with paper towels and cool again.


Hurray! You made some hard leather armor.

Leather is now darker, unless you used black dye, you are probably wondering why you bothered to dye it, because it just ends up dark brown. It is heavier, maybe 30%. It should be waterproof, but I try to keep it dry when possible. Water can mess with the finished surface. When you smash it, it will discolor to light crack marks, it's cosmetic, you can heat it in the oven to make it pretty if you want.


Disclaimer:

I am no professional, only an enthusiast. This is not the "right way" to wax harden leather. This is my current method, tomorrow i may learn something new. I'll let you know if it works.


I hope you find these instructions useful and make glorious projects.


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