Samurai Armor Pattern
This piece is designed to allow a member of Amtgard produce a fine piece of Samurai armor without spending hundreds of hours researching the subject. It's based mainly off of three sources. The first is simply the best resource anywhere for the art of making Japanese armor: http://www.sengokudaimyo.com/katchu/index.html. I'll refference it many times, and in some instances deferr entirely to it. There's a great deal of info in there, and sometimes it's a little hard to get thru, but if you're the reasearching type, I recommend reading it front to back. The second is http://www.fsinet.or.jp/~usa/indexstus.html, a Japanese organization that makes mock-ups of the armor from cardboard. They provided the origional pattern. You can get a copy of that pattern here. Feel free to play with that. The third source is my experience. I've poured over gigs of info on the subject, and have managed to retain a bit of it 8). Still, if you have any suggestions, or ammendments, please don't hesitate to email me about them 8).
How to use this pattern
The very first thing you need to do is go search the internet for examples of Samurai armor. Spend some time on this, the better an idea you have of what you're working with, the easier this is going to be. This pattern is in NO way a 'cut out and go' project. You'll need to bring your skillz to bear.
The pattern is designed to give you as much leeway as you could possibly need. You should have no problem playing with it to recreate the armor of your favorite big screen samurai.
The basic instructions are thus: First, print out all the individual patterns. Cover both sides of the printout with clear packing tape (or something similar) to 'laminate' it. Cut out the pieces and tape them together appropriately.
Many of the pieces require multiple prints, as no redundant parts are provided. For instance, dof1.gif is printed twice, and one of them flipped over. The two parts are put together to form the top of the front of the do. I'll try to be as thurough with those details as possible.
First, you'll need leather. A whole cow should do the trick. Get the thickest, stiffest stuff you can find. Traditionally it was made out of rawhide leather from the back of a water buffallo, but I think the ancestors will forgive our slight fudge ;)
If leather is scarce, you can use plastic. It needs to be stiff, and thick. Those blue plastic barrels are great for this.
Second, you'll need 'laquer'. The real thing is poisonous, so I don't reccomend it. Rust-oleum is perfect. Put on a number of layers of the stuff, and polish.
Third, your odoshi. The odoshi, or cord, is used to lace the individual plates together in that way that is purely Samurai. http://www.lacesforless.com/ has some good stuff for you. I've also heard good things from http://www.ahrice.com/braid.html. If you can't find the color you want, just get the white ones and some dye. You want wide ones...1/4 inch is too narrow. Shoelaces aren't your only options, you can also pull the core out of parachute cord and make an exellent odoshi...or, if you've got money to burn, you can send off to Japan for the silk origionals...they still make them. Basically, flat nylon braid or cord is what you're looking for. You're going to need a lot of it. A third option is leather: thin, wide, patterned leather.
There are other materials you'll need, but those are the biggest parts. There are a number of flair pieces your armor will need, including gilded edging, fancy brass rings, flower-shaped grommets, Japanese maille, cloth, fasteners, etc.
Slab vs. Kozane
Let me explain what I mean. Samurai armor, traditionally, is made up of individual scales called kozane. The final product often hides this fact under layer after layer of laquer. Still, layers of kozane are much thicker than a single slab of leather, and thus more protective. This being so, you'll most likely lose out on a point of armor making each piece out of a single slab of leather instead of kozane.
The pattern I provide is actually geared more towards a slab method, but can easily be adapted for use with kozane construction. Here's how it works. First, you have your kozane:
The width of your kozane is actually very important. The measurment we'll be using is called dehaba, which is the distance between the kozane tips when laced together. Print out a few of the kozane you like, and lay them out with one column of holes overlapping another. Measure the dehaba. The dehaba needs to be very slightly smaller than the width of your odoshi (the cord used to tie the plates together).
You'll need piles of these things for the final product. I reccomend producing them in lots of 100.
One of the advantages of using kozane is you have greater control over shaping your armor. Kozane are laced together to produce long strips, and the strips are laced together. Each strip is actually shapped to form fit. In the peripheral bits (shoulders, waist, etc), they strips lie flat, but on the dô, they must fit your torso.
To produce the strips, lay the kozane one underlapping the next (the far left kozane will be on top). Lace the kozane together like this:
The ends of the odoshi can just be tied into a knot to hold it taut. Once it's laced nice and tight, run a wire thru each row of the lacing, preferrably the back. You should now be able to shape it to suit the place on your torso it's going. Each strip should then be covered with a thin layer of soft leather. You can just cover the front, if you like. Be sure to push the leather down into the cracs, and neatly over the tops of the kozane, so it retains its shape a bit. The whole mess is then 'laquered', in our case, spray painted. Use many layers, and polish it to a plastic sheen. Finally, punch the remaining holes out. You'll be able to lace these strips together, as I show you later 8). Much of the pattern is actually these strips in slab form. Use the pattern to determine the length of your strips.
Lacing the Odoshi
Lacing the Odoshi is not a simple thing. Being one of the most defining aspects of the armor, I'm deferring to Sengoku Daimyô for this one. http://www.sengokudaimyo.com/katchu/katchu.ch05.html.
Above is just one of many ways to split the breastplate, with the seam being in back.
This pattern gives you enough leeway to also have the seam along one side or both sides, as you preferr. The pattern is in whole slab form, you can simply cut the final pattern out of a side of leather. The pattern also serves as a foundation on which to lace your kozane strips. The difference between the two? Fill out the hole in the pattern for slab form.
It's more of a guideline than a pattern. You'll need to work out some details based on how you're making it.
If you're splitting it up the back, as the above suggests, you'll want to make a series of short strips to cover the seam on the back.
If you're making it as a whole slab, you may want to punch holes in it to mimic the odoshi, but single piece dô were common in the later centuries, so it's not neccessary.