This is a fun and relatively easy project that doesn't even require a sewing machine if you don't have one - it can be hand-stitched.
I came up with the original pattern for this posture collar a number of years ago, and I really love it. The posture collars on the market at the time didn't fit very well, so this was my attempt to make one that fits better. I like this one because it does fit extremely well, and it is nice and tall and restrictive. You could always modify the pattern to make it shorter, or to fit a larger neck.
We start with the pattern, which is available here as a PDF. Please ignore the writing on my pattern in the photo below - the collar is actually 3.5 inches tall in front (not 2-1/2").
Unlike most of my projects, which are made of garment leather, this one is going to be made out of what is called vegetable-tanned leather. It is stiffer, heavier, and used for making belts, holsters, and basically anything that you want to be tough, strong, and to last forever. This hide is a 7-8 oz weight, and I ordered it from the Hide House in Nappa Valley, CA.
Because I'm not too worried about leaving marks on the edge (as it will be rounded off later), I just use a ball-point pen to trace out the pattern on the leather.
Next, I use my straight-edge knife to rough-cut out the workpiece. This blade is by Osbourne tools, and can be easily resharpened. Leather, especially this heavy-weight veg-tanned stuff is very abrasive, and will dull your blade quickly. It is way too heavy and tough for the scalpel or scissors I usually use.
Rough cut complete...
Next up, time to pull out the x-acto. You should use a fresh blade, as ideally you will cut through the entire thickness in one stroke. You can pull the knife more than once through the cut, but will need to keep the angle you are holding the blade as consistent as possible so you have a nice, clean, square edge. This can be extra hard to do on the curves, so a sharp blade is vital.
Now we're done with the finish cut stage. You can breathe again.
Next up, is the edge-beveller tool. This will round off the cut edge, and you will want to use it on both sides all the way around the piece.
Here's a closeup. See the cutting edge between the two guide posts? It forms a little channel to limit your cut, keeping it consistent all the way around. It's almost too easy.
And, here's how we look after that:
Normally, to finish a raw edge like this, you would now "slick" it using a burnisher and something like gum traganth. This smooths and polishes the leather fibers along the edge. But, initially I was planning on putting a rolled edge on this piece - so I didn't go through with that sort of edge treatment.
Next up, time for the patent leather that will go on the outside of the collar.
Because of the thickness of these 2 pieces of leather, you have to make sure your outer layer is longer than the inner layer - as it will take more room to cover the inner piece once you start to from the curve. Think about a racetrack: the outer car has further to go than the car on the inside lane. Same principal applies here.
Once I have my outer piece cut, they both get glued up.
At this point you can see the two pieces stuck together, and they are taking on the curved form.
If you glued them together flat, you would never get them to take on the shape of the curve. Once you have them curled and glued, they will have no chance of laying flat.
Once the glue has set up, I trim the outer patent to match up with the inner veg-tanned leather carefully with the x-acto knife. It's a tricky cut, as you don't want to cut into the veg-tanned leather if you can help it. Also, you need to cleanly cut the patent, as any mistakes will show in the final piece. There's no "undo" button.
This is the part where I go for the sewing machine. The cylinder bed is perfect for this curved collar shape, but if you don't have a sewing machine, you could always punch holes along the edge and hand stitch the two pieces together.
Now it's time for the hardware. I was looking around forever before I located a source for the little locking hasps I'm using on this project. I couldn't find them anywhere, partly because I had no idea what they were called which makes it difficult to do a google search. Well finally I discovered a place that has all kinds of hardware for leather craft - and not the usual tandy-type country/western conchos and stuff. More modern, chrome (and even some S&M style) hardware too. It's called Ohio Travel Bag and the part is a 1-1/8 inch welded chrome staple plate! I can't explain to you how happy I was to find that stupid part... STAPLE PLATE, STAPLE PLATE!
Anyway, first we need to mark a position for the staple plate to be attached, and because marks won't show up on the black patent leather very well, I use masking tape as a temporary surface.
Once the tape is down with the center marks, I can position the staple plate and mark the hole position.
Next, I punch out the holes and check for alignment. Looking good!
I am going to attach the staple plate with another new piece of equipment, this time from Weaver Leather. They have a little-wonder benchtop riveter that does a great job on projects like this. It's a bit snug because the holes are so close to the staple, but I just manage to set the rivet without a problem.
The trick with the rivets is selecting the right length. You need to be about 1\16" longer that the material you are setting through so there is enough room for the rivet to deform inside the cap. This "deformation" is what holds the cap in place.
All four rivets set:
And here's the view from the back side, with the rivet caps.
Next, it's time to cut the slots for the other side of the collar. I use the tape method again, so I can see the placement marks for the slot cutter.
I use the pattern with holed punched at either end of the desired slot position to make the guide marks.
Using those marks as a guide, I use the slot cutter to make the holes. I think I used the 7/8-inch slot cutter, which created a nice, snug-fitting slot for the staple to fit through. It fits like a charm!
That completes our posture collar project. Initially I thought of doing a rolled-edge at the top and bottom of this collar, but I really liked the look of it without. It's very sleek and clean with the black patent on the outside, and the contrasting fleshy-tan inside was just cool looking.
I decided to stop while I was ahead, and am happy I did. This collar will provide many years of play-time fun.
Until next time, take care...