Sunday, June 5, 2011

Ronin: Respirator Gas Mask Tutorial

This tutorial is adapted from a workshop I lead at the Nova Albion Steampunk Exhibition last March in northern California. I am attempting to make this easy to follow and doable even for the novice leatherworker. The pattern pieces are all to scale, and include holes for rivets, slits for thread, holes and slits for buckles and a button stud, plus decorative openings for ventilation.

Materials and Tools needed:

2 square feet of vegetable tanned cowhide, 3-4 or 4-5 oz weight.

Awl or lacing fork

1 stitching needle (Tandy 1195)

4 pieces of 32” long waxed thread

22 medium rivets (Tandy 1373)

4 rectangle rings ¾" wide (Tandy 1137)

2 buckles ¾"

1 button stud

Hammer for setting rivets

Anvil or steel plate

Heavy shears for cutting leather

Scissors for trimming thread

Screwdriver for setting button stud

Leather dye or wood stain or shoe polish to color leather

Contact cement to glue leather

Enlarge the pattern so that the ruler marks are one inch long.


Wet these four leather pieces: Front, two cheeks and surround.
Stitch cheeks to the front with needle and waxed thread using a running stitch. Front goes on top of cheeks. Match up colors as shown on diagram, ie. green to green, pink to pink. Begin at one end from the flesh side of the leather (inside of mask). Stitch to the other end going through every hole, then turn around and come back to beginning. Tie two thread ends in a square knot on inside. Trim thread to less than ¼’. Sew the other cheek on in the same manner. After both cheeks are stitched onto front, place damp surround over mask with pointy end facing up. Take two sets of rivets (male and female) and attach the surround to the mask through the center holes, one on each side. Press rivets together with your fingers till they snap into place. Don’t hammer flat until later. The rivets will keep the parts aligned while you stitch them together. Stitch the bottom part of the surround to the mask using the same running stitch as before. Tie a square knot, then stitch top half of surround to mask. Tie off, then hammer two rivets flat. Attach two rectangle ring straps to sides of mask with two rivets each. Pointy part of strap goes up. Place four rectangle rings onto straps (one per strap) and fold straps back, aligning the rivet holes. Hand place the rivets and hammer flat.

Attach two head straps to each other using four rivets. The free ends go to outside (grain side). Take two buckle straps and attach to ends of head straps. Round end of buckle straps goes to inner holes of head straps. Hand place rivets. Place two buckles over free ends of buckle straps. Fatter end of buckle goes to outside. Place rivets through two buckle strap holes and then head strap holes. Hammer all four rivets flat. Shape mask to face and allow leather to dry.

Attach button stud with screw to left lower side strap. Mark where button stud cover goes behind button stud and attach with contact cement. Fold upper and lower side straps over rectangle rings and rivet.

The two resin canisters as shown can be purchased at my Etsy shop, or you can create your own. Mine attach to the mask using a bolt and washer. Attach two canister bolt covers to inside of mask with contact cement.

Buckle upper side straps and adjust to your head. Attach lower side strap to button stud behind your neck.

Participants at the Nova Albion workshop received a kit of most of the parts. I still have a few kits available which I am selling for $49 and include everything except dyes and contact cement.

If any part of this tutorial needs clarification please make a comment, and I will attempt make it clear.

The kits are all sold, but you can buy the resin canisters at my Etsy store.

©Tom Banwell Designs 2011


  1. Fantastic tutorial, Tom! Not sure how you find the time, but I for one really appreciate it!

  2. I just bought two of the kits! Can't wait to get them!

  3. Looks awesome, something I may come back to and have a go at. Give me a reason to finally visit the local Tandy store.

  4. received my kit today. fantastic quality. can't wait to get started on it.

  5. Kind of stuck on the straps, would you happen to have a picture of the mask laid out flat or a profiles of the left and right side showing the straps?

  6. This is an incredible and accurate tutorial
    Its the first leatherwork project I've started and I'm loving it!

    I was wondering though, how do you get the colour of the mask to change at the end?

  7. You can use any kind of leather dye. I used a wood stain gel. Wipe it on and wipe it off.

  8. Thanks soo much for sharing these tutorials! Very inspiring. Even though I don't do leather work, it gives me ideas for other things. Plus, I sew but I'm still only intermediate level. This is so nice of you to share. The part about the straps is useful and I can make a belt from it. TYTYTYTY :))

  9. Thank so much for this! I don't do leather work, but I'm an intermediate seamstress. The buckles part will help with making a belt. TYTYTY :)

  10. Wow! That's a great project. Looks complicated. The only thing that gives me pause is the knot in photo number 9. I would have hidden that knot. You might want to try this guy's method of knotting while saddle stitching.

    Then fish the ends up between the layers of leather and clip the ends.

    Great tutorial though... it's going on my list of links!

  11. FAB blog!

    I love this project (and several others!). My only wish would be that you made these tutorials available as PDFs for those of us who collect such for future projects.

  12. Hi, Tom. I know I'm a year, or so, behind on my post, but I don't suppose you have any Ronin kits left, do you? I'd be very interested in one.

    Great site, by the way. I was doing some visual research for plague doctors on Google Images and stumbled across your blog, here. Really good stuff. Thanks for sharing.

  13. Sorry, all my kits are long gone.

  14. Not surprising. Thanks, anyway, Tom. I will try and take a crack at it from the list of materials and pattern you've provided. Thanks, again!

  15. How is the surround dampened? Wet on the face as if to tool it? Soaked? I don't understand "dampened".

  16. All of the leather parts are worked wet. I dip them in a pot of water for a minute or so till the bubbles stop rising.

  17. May I ask where you got your respirator tubes? That's the only thing I've been having trouble to find here. Most of the respirator tubes I found didn't suit my liking or where more expensive than the whole build.

  18. Josedia, I make the canisters and sell them here:

    Best, Tom

  19. What would you recommend for cutting out the vent holes. I cut them out with an razor blade with okay results, wondered if there was an easier way.

  20. An Xacto blade is probably best. I used a laser cutter.