The “Quick’n’Dirty Dō”
This is a rather embarrassing method of making a dō, but I include it because it will allow you to make a dō in one afternoon. It’s not bad for equipping a handful of retainers, but it’s not an authentic pattern. In terms of authenticity, it definitely beats cutting a dō out of barrel plastic, though.
This method was developed back when I was in Trimaris by Viscount Sakura Tetsuo, of sakura dō fame. We all thought it was a great idea, and it easily passes the “ten-foot rule.”
Start with some 18-gauge steel and cut it into 2 1/2" strips. One thing I liked was that our steel supplier did this for us free. Cut all your lames into whatever length you need. You’ll need two at 10" for the front tateage, three at 12" – 14" for the rear tateage, and then four (or five) sets for the main body. The plates for the front should be about half your total circumference (waist or chest, whichever is larger), and the back is the remaining half plus about 2" for the overlap on the right side. Say you have a chest measurement of 46": the torso plates should be 23" x 2 1/2" for the front and 25" x 2 1/2" for the back.
Find your center line (remembering your 2" excess on the right side of the back!). Mark your keel and your every-2.5"-marks. Punch on the top only about 1/4" down from the rim. On the bottom of each lame, punch just one hole on the centerline 1/4" from the edge.
Curve all the plates to fit your body.
Rivet that central row of rivets down the keel. It may flop around a bit. Don’t worry, that’s temporary. You’ll have a very flexible torso now, with only one line of rivets holding it together.
Your next step is to grab the front, put it up against your chest, and with one hand on the top center and one on the bottom center, push down and in. Carefully. That will bow out the center slightly, giving the armour a curve. Duct tape it where it fits, on both sides. (You don’t want it moving around.) This is where an assistant comes in handy: he can make sure the curve is evenly allocated among the plate edges (i.e., they’re equal in the amount of surface they show) and can tape the sides in place while you hold the dō.
While its secured with tape, mark and drill the rest of the rivet holes throught the underlapping plates where the punched holes are in the upper plates.
Rivet that sucker solid, planishing out if you need any dimples that form in the top of the lames.
Put it over your body again, mark a straight vertical line up the sides and cut it straight with a jigsaw.
The backplate is made similarly, but it’s not as easy to do without a bit of help. Make the backplate after the breast is done, because you’ll want to line up the top lines on the lames to match those of the breastplate. With that curve, it won’t be 2" exposed; it might only be 1 1/2".
Cut and make the kanagu mawari as normal, rivetting them in place.
After lining up your breast and back, cut to length and rivet in a long piano hinge (you can find these at any hardware store). On the right side, punch holes for your takahimo.
The quick and dirty version watagami are basically long trapezoids, 4" wide at the back, 1 1/2" wide at the front, and almost long enough to reach from the oshitsuke-no-ita almost to the munaita. A set of kohaze frogs finish it off.
For the kusazuri, use your 2 1/2” strips and cut six sets of plates. The width of the top plate is one-sixth the diameter of the waist of the dō. The bottom width is that measurement plus 2"-3".
Make sure when you cut these on the diagonals, you allow for a 1/2" overlap, or the edges will have a zig-zag look.
Punch for four sets of sugake lacing per kusazuri (with one extra hole on the all the edges edges for the mimi-ito!).
Punch matching holes in the bottom of the dō for the suspensory lacing.
Paint and lace that dō.
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