Viking Armor for a Viking

By Tony Allen Bernier

So, how does a guy who has been in the upholstery business for over 20 years end up creating one of the most incredible suits of Viking armor we have ever seen?  Well, the story goes that roughly eight years ago, Tony Allen Bernier of Saint Michael, Minnesota, decided to embark on a different path in the leather industry, creating leather art and other carry goods.  He is most notably known for his far-out, sci-fi leather depictions.  His alternative-universe leather items have landed him the cover of The Leather Crafters Journal and multiple awards in The World Leather Debut in Sheridan, Wyoming. 

His most recent creation, our Showcase feature, is Tony’s interpretation of Viking armor.  Being of Norwegian descent, “I chose to give a tribute to my heritage and make something Viking,” says Tony, “not historically accurate…more of a fabled story version.” 

Tony has wanted to make armor for years, but knew it would be a huge time commitment.  Then one day he thought, “Just start! It doesn’t matter if you finish or even like it… start!”  And that is exactly what he did. 

Besides the inherent beauty and elaborate design of Tony’s Viking armor, it’s the intricacies in the hidden details that really knock this project out of the park.  Let’s begin with the fact that everything, minus the helmet lining, was hand sewn; he broke out his old upholstery sewing machine for that.  The helmet lining is adjustable for different head sizes and has a fabric welting around the inside edge to disperse moisture while wearing.  It’s also easily accessed and replaceable whenever necessary.  Vent holes in the helmet help evaporate moisture and cool the wearer.  The back section of the helmet is built in such a way to direct air between the main sections of the helmet across the vent holes in the back of the helmet.  The collar piece is also lined to help absorb and disperse moisture, and this lining may also be easily replaced.  The rivets across the back bottom edge of the collar piece may be taken out to attach a cape. 

The filigree work on the shoulder pieces was a bit tricky for Tony.  Since the design was delicately narrow, he coated the back of the leather with acrylic resolene to give it some rigidity
before cutting it out with an X-Acto knife.  The shoulder pieces, or pauldrons, can also be removed. 

All the tooling had two coats of frisket masking applied to keep all color from affecting the gold that was to be applied later.  The color was done in layers.  First, red was airbrushed across all armor parts.  Then a dark brown was applied around the outskirts of each part.  Once the paint was dry, Tony carefully peeled off the frisket and painted several coats of thinned down gold paint on all the tooling.  Then everything was sealed with two or three coats of acrylic resolene and antiqued with dark brown antiquing.

Tony mused, “This was definitely the largest and most time-consuming project I’ve done to date. With designing all of the artwork and patterns then tooling, painting and construction time, it was truly ridiculous…but absolutely worth it! I hope you like it!”  We certainly do Tony! 

Tony teaches private and group classes on leatherworking and upholstery out of his shop and around the country.  He also sells instructional materials, patterns and leatherworking tools through his Etsy shop online at  Feel free to check out his work or send him a message through social media.

Tony Allen Bernier