An arm guard is one of the most important pieces of safety equipment when practicing archery. The problem some people have is finding one that fits them. In some cases it makes more sense to just make your own, rather than buying multiple arm guards trying to find one that fits.
Steps To Make An Archery Arm Guard:
- Gather Materials
- Make A Pattern
- Cut The Leather
- Round Leather Edge
- Punch The Holes
- Form The Leather
- Add Lace Hooks
- Lace The Cord
- Finish Up
Step 1. Gather Materials
Most archers arm guards are made out of leather. I prefer a softer more pliable leather material (1/16″), but these steps will also apply to a thicker heavy duty leather (1/8″) as well.
You will also need some type of cord or string to tie the arm guard to your arm when it’s finished. I will be using a bungee cord in this example, but you can use a shoe string or some type of flexible string if you prefer.
I will be installing hooks onto the arm guard in this example to make it easier to take the arm guard on and off, but it’s not required. You could always just lace a string, attaching the arm guard to your arm every time you use it. I find it a lot easier to just stretch the bungee cord over some hooks to secure the guard to my arm.
- Piece of leather
- Bungee cord (4 feet or so)
- 3 Lace hooks (or more)
- Beeswax (optional)
- Pen and paper
- Sand paper (or Dremel sanding tool)
- Dremel polishing tool
- Punch pliers (punch tool)
- Utility knife (sharp blade)
- Pin (thumb tack or needle)
Step 2. Make A Pattern
The typical arm guard for an adult male is 5″ wide and about 8″ long. This can vary between brands and sizes, I just wanted to give you an idea. The most important thing to remember, is that the arm guard needs to cover the inside of your forearm to prevent the bow string from slapping against your skin.
Make the pattern on a piece of paper that you will then lay on top of the leather to trace out the pattern. I find it easiest to draw the pattern on paper, cut it out, and lay it across my arm to make sure everything I want covered will be covered.
Here is a template I made for you as an example. I added a download button so you can print this off and use it as well. You will most likely want to modify this template to be a custom fit for you. Now’s your chance to make a cool design out of your arm guard.
Step 3. Cut The Leather
Now that you have your template made and sized exactly how you like, you will have to trace that design onto the leather you’re using. I’ve had luck just using a pencil to trace the template onto a piece of leather. I’ve also heard that a piece of chalk works really nice for this. Mark the template outline onto the back side of the leather.
With the template traced onto your piece of leather, use a sharp blade like a utility knife or sharp scissors to cut the leather to the right shape. Cut into the back side of the leather piece where you traced your template outline.
Make sure the leather is the right size for your arm and make any adjustments if necessary. If you’re someone who needs to fine tune every detail, it might be best to cut the leather a bit big to start with and adjust from there.
Step 4. Round The Leather Edge
You might notice the edges of the leather seem a little rough after you cut it. You will need to sand the edges of the leather with sand paper or a dremel sanding tool. Just focus on smoothing the edges of the leather to prevent it from snagging on clothing while you’re using it.
After you’ve smoother and rounded all the edges, you’re going to want to polish the edges of the leather. This step isn’t entirely necessary, but polishing the edges of the leather will give you a nice smooth finish and darken the leather a bit.
Just use a dremel (or any rotary tool) with a polishing bit and some beeswax. Apply the beeswax to the polishing tool, turn it on, and run it across the edges of the leather. The beeswax will melt on contact and give you nice durable leather edge.
Step 5. Punch The Holes
Now you want to punch out the holes for your lace hooks and cord. If you marked out the holes on your template, you can simply lay your template back onto your leather, and mark where the holes need to be. Try to mark as close to the center of the template hole as possible with a small thumb tack, pin, or needle.
Now use the punch pliers to punch out a piece of leather where you marked from the template. Punch pliers typically come with assorted size punch holes. Try to make the hole just small enough for the cord to fit through, but enough room that it will easily slide through the leather. Make the lace hook holes big enough to fit the lace hook fastener.
If you don’t want to use the lace hook method, just mirror the punch holes on both sides of the arm guard. You will have to manually tighten up the laces on the arm guard every time you put it on. But making the arm guard is a lot easier with this option. You can skip step 7, and instead of using bungee cord, you can use any cord or string you’d like, like shoelaces for example.
If you are not using the same lacing method I used, consider some other options to secure the arm guard to your arm.
Example Securing Options:
- Bungee Cord
Step 6. Form The Leather
This step is more important if you chose a thick leather to make the arm guard out of. With a thinner more flexible leather, you might not even need to do this step at all. The goal is to shape the leather around your arm until it resembles that shape all the time. This makes it more comfortable and easier to take on and off.
Start by soaking the leather in hot water and work the leather with your hands while it soaks. Once the leather feels easily bendable, take it out of the water and form it around your arm. Find a way to keep the leather in that shape, like using rubber bands, until it completely dries out, maybe overnight.
- Soak Leather
- Form Around Arm
- Let Dry Overnight
With the thicker leathers, you may need to do this again over time as the leather looses its shape. But typically the leather will wear out the more you use it and become more easily manageable. This process is similar to how you would break in a new baseball glove.
Step 7. Add Lace Hooks
You can really use anything you want for this part of the arm guard. I like the lace hooks you typically see on hiking or outdoor boots. You really just need something that will hold the bungee cord.
The idea is that you will pull the bungee cord around your arm from one side of the arm guard to the other and the hooks will hold the bungee cord tight to your arm, keeping the arm guard firmly in place.
You can find lace hooks online for pretty cheap, sometimes referred to as eyelets or grommets. Keep in mind that some lace hooks will require you to rivet them in place, while others will just snap into place.
Step 8. Lace The Cord
Now you can lace the bungee cord or shoestring through the arm guard. You want the bungee cord to create 4 loops, one for each lace hook. You will have an easier time getting the bungee cord through the holes in the leather if you melt the tip of the cord with a lighter first.
If you are using a shoestring or non-elastic cord, you will lace the arm guard around your arm the same way you would lace your shoes. There are some fancier ways to lace your shoes and your arm guard, find something that works for you and stick with it. You won’t need to lace the arm guard every time you use it, you will just need to slide your arm in and tighten it up.
Step 9. Finish Up
This step is optional as you should have a completed arm guard at this point. But now is when a lot of archers like to add some decoration with a soldering iron. Also, some archers will punch extra holes throughout the arm guard in a pattern. Mainly to add some decoration, but also some extra air flow to their arm for comfort.
I found this cool video of someone making an archery arm brace themselves. This arm brace is slightly different than the one I talked about, but the process is very similar. Maybe watching can give you some ideas.