17th Century Buff Coat: Prepping & Planning

Originally posted on JMAucoin.com in December 2014.

Making a Tandy Leather run this weekend. Hoping to get some materials for Buff Coat Project 2.0. Last year I embarked in Buff Coat Project 1.0. I had envision getting lighter leather so I could wear it while fencing and still be able to calibrate hits. So I ran with 2-3oz leather and a doublet/buff coat pattern from Reconstructing History. The end result didn’t go well. The leather was too thin to do the traditional butt-end joints (at the time I wasn’t sure how that was done), so I sewed it like it was cloth (which was dumb). The pattern from Reconstructing History was also problematic. The pattern called for less leather than was actually needed (so no sleeves) and the sizing instructions made for a coat that didn’t fit at all. And because of the thin leather, the skirts didn’t flare the way they should.

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Basically, it didn’t go too well. But I learned some basic leather working skills that helped with the Edward Kenway costume, so not a total loss. Not sure if I’ll finish buffcoat 1.0 (I mean, it’s not completely awful) or use it for scrap leather.

Anyways, I’m heading to Tandy this weekend to get some leather and additional tools. I’m not worrying about being able to calibrate shots with this buff coat. Version 2.0 will be made to closer resemble historical examples and will probably end up being just a costume and court garb piece until I finally delve into the realm of SCA Cut & Thrust Rapier. Not my original idea, but it’s fine. If it turns out well, I’ll make a display and show it off at A&S events (an area I’d like to explore more in 2015 anyways).

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There are a few things I haven’t decided yet:

– Sleeves or No Sleeves? No sleeves would be easier, but sleeves always look awesome and most surviving buff coats have sleeves. I’m leaning toward sleeves, but with a gap in the armpit for mobility and air flow.
Type of Leather. I’ve found just one shop in my area that sells oil tanned buff leather (Booth and Co. who get their leather from Jos Clayton & Sons in the UK). Alas, at $18+ per square foot that’s a bit out of my range. One day, maybe. So I’ll need to find a more economical alternative.
Dye or Natural. Buff coats got their yellowy-brown complexion by being rubbed with yellow ochre. Forgetting the entire process that was put into the prepping of the leather itself, I don’t have room for all that. However, I don’t think the creamy off-white leather color that untreated leather has is the way to go either. I’m toying with the idea of dying the leather to give it that golden hue. That may depend on the type of leather I end up getting, too.
Nappy or Smooth. Most of the buff coat examples I’ve found don’t have that smooth, leathery feel on the outside. The grain is shaved off so it’s nappy and rough. So I have two options if I want the rough texture — have the smooth leather face inward when constructing or find a way to shave the grain off so it’s nappy on both sides. Not sure which to do; probably the former unless I figure out how to shave the grain off without screwing things up/making a giant mess in the apartment.

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As for the pattern… I’m definitely not using the Reconstructing History doublet/buffcoat pattern that I tried with 1.0. Just didn’t work via the instructions provided, which is weird since I’ve used their cassock pattern (which I’ve used to pump out a dozen cassocks for my fencing unit in a weekend) and their 1630s doublet pattern(which I use for all my fencing doublets) with no issues. I have a pattern sent by a fellow SCA fencer and buff coat enthusiast I may use, or I might just role with that 1630s doublet pattern and modify it a bit — make the skirts longer and do two or four skirts instead of six. Buff coat cuts examples vary but look pretty similar to doublets anyways in their shape, so that shouldn’t be an issue.

Any thoughts, leave ’em in the comment section below!


2 thoughts on “17th Century Buff Coat: Prepping & Planning”

    1. The pattern came from Men’s 17th & 18th Century Costume, Cut & Fashion by R.I. Davis. I’ve made some doublets with patterns from the book and they’ve fit like a dream first try, so I’m hopeful the buff coat will, too.

      Fire me a message on FB and I can send you pics of the pattern. I rather not upload it on here, though, since it’s not my own pattern.


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