Make your own high quality leather belt. It's a lot easier than it may seem and a whole lot cheaper than purchasing one. You will be surprised just how much longer a good, solid, hand crafted leather belt will last. A good leather belt that's taken care of should last about 20 years.
Making a leather belt is a great project for beginners, or for seasoned crafters to show off their tooling skills. It is also a great craft for families to sit down and work on together.
- Estimated time to make a belt: approx. 1-2 hours.
Tools and items to complete assembly:
- Vegetable tanned leather: it can be a natural vegetable tanned, bridle, latigo, harness, or skirting leather.
- Leather thickness: 8-9 oz for dress or light weight belts, 10-12 oz for a good solid work or holster belt
- Belt buckle
- Hole punch
- Scissors / utility knife
- Strap Cutter
- Rivets or snaps
- Rivet / snap setter
- Edge beveler
- Edge slicker
TIP: "Easily find the correct length for your new belt and where to place the holes by using an old belt."
If you don't have an old belt to trace or you're doing a custom belt for someone else, here are 10 easy steps to follow.
Step #1: Cut a strap the correct width
Pick a buckle of your choosing and cut a strap of leather that would fit that buckle. Most buckles go in quarter inches, the most common being 1 ¼" – 1 ½" wide.
To make a strap with a strap cutter begin by creating a straight edge to follow. Simply take a ruler or straight edge and use a utility knife. This will ensure that your belt will be nice and straight and not have waves throughout.
Then take a strap cutter and produce your strap. Be sure to stop within the first couple of inches to double check that you are cutting your strap the correct width.
***Note: If you cut your strap too wide it will be difficult to feed the tongue through the buckle and will ruin your edges.***
Step #2: Determine the length of leather required for making a belt
Think ahead before you cut!
When determining the length of a strap you will need in order to make a belt, it takes some thinking ahead.
For this belt I will be using 38 inches as my target belt size.
What I will need to do is measure 3" from the end of the belt blank. Bend the 3" to the back of the belt blank, this is the end where the buckle will be set.
Next you will need to measure 38 from the fold; this will be your center hole. From that point you will need to measure 6 more additional inches for the tongue of the belt.Making my belt blank 47" long.
Step #3: Trim tongue
Trace out the shape that you want the tongue of your belt to look like and cut it with a utility knife or with a shear.
TIP: To achieve a consistent and professional look consider purchasing a "Strap End Cutter".
Step #4: Skive
On the buckle end of the belt you will need to skive the leather down to about half the thickness. Start 6 inches from the end of the belt and skive towards the tip of the strap.
Step #5: Bevel and Slick Edges
Take your beveler and bevel all around the edges of the belt, both top grain and flesh side.
Once you have beveled the edges take your nylon slicker and rub the edges with it which will burnish it. Some people with attach the nylon slicker to a drill to speed up the process.
This will give it a professional look and will help the edges last longer.
Step #6: Punch holes!
The First hole you will want to punch is a slotted hole. In order to make this hole you will need a slotted hole punch, or you can take your round punch and a utility knife to accomplish creating the slotted hole.
- Punch two holes and take your utility knife and cut in a straight line from one hole to the other.
To find where you need to place the slotted hole take your buckle end and fold it back the 3 inches, and measure approximately a ½" from the fold depending on the buckle you are using. Take your hole punch, center your tool and punch the hole.
Starting at the buckle end, fold the leather back and measure 38 inches and mark it, this will be your center hole.
Measure 1 inch from that hole on either side, then measure 2 inches from the same spot and mark where those holes will be. Center your punch on the strap and punch the holes.
TIP: Use your punch to make marks in the leather to make sure that your holes will be lined up correctly before you actually punch the hole.
Step #7: Assemble Keeper
There are thousands of different types and styles of buckles so if the belt buckle that you plan on using isn't designed to hold the tongue of the belt you will need to make a belt keeper for it.
To create a belt keeper cut a strap of leather that is a ½"-1", depending on the look you are going for.
To determine the correct length without making it too short take the strap and wrap around 2 layers of the belt and overlap the ends.
Skive one side of the keeper's top grain side and the other end's flesh side and set a rivet or sew together.
Step #8: Personalize
Personalizing a belt by stamping a name or initials is a great way to create a unique one of a kind gift or for beginners to practice their stamping and carving skills.
If you're a seasoned leather crafter you can let your imagination run wild as you show off your artistic side by carving sceneries into the belt.
Not sure how to stamp leather? Please see "How to Stamp Vegetable Tanned Leather"
Step #9: Dye and Finish
Please see "How to Dye Vegetable Tanned Leather"
Step #10: Attach Buckle
There are several ways to attach a buckle to a belt. For permanently attaching you can sew the buckle on or use rivets (rapid or copper). To be able to interchange the buckle you may want to consider using snaps or Chicago screws.