Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Shaping leather with the hood last

I had a chance to use the carved hood form (hood last?) on a real-life project for the first time today. Using the same pattern and production method as usual for the hood itself, I took the final step of placing the finished hood on the wooden form in order to help "encourage" it to take shape.

In the past I had done this with a mannequin head made of foam, but I was never happy with the proportions of that head - the chin area in particular was too small and not the right proportion.
Surprisingly, this custom order was pretty close in size to the form I had just carved, so that worked out perfectly. It is actually slightly larger, so I stuffed some rags in at the back of the head for filler. It has to be tight for this to really do anything. Once I had it on, I was blown away - the shape just looks like there is a living person in there already. Very cool!!
I think the hardest part to get to fit correctly with a 4-panel hood like this is the chin. You have a couple of compound curves going on, and covering that with a flat material like leather is a challenge. I was hoping this form would act like the last used when making shoes. Traditionally, shoes were made by pulling the leather upper around the wood last and nailing it in place. I'm using the same idea here. Stretching the leather over the chin contour will help it fit perfectly... As you can see above, the fit along the jawline is pretty great.
The one thing I do want to tweak on the next hood last is the angle of the neck. It needs to go back a bit more, at a slightly sharper angle. You can see where the leather is a bit wrinkled on the front of the neck. Not acceptable! Something to fix for next time.
I am hoping to make these in a range of sizes, so all the hoods I make can be properly shaped. I see a lot of wood shavings in my future...

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