Introduction: A Timing Belt Belt
Runner Up in the
Betabrand Belt Reuse Challenge
I will show you how to make a belt for your pants with a belt from your car. We will take a belt you no longer wear, and a belt your car no longer wears, and make a new belt you can both be proud of.
What is a timing belt? It is the belt that connects the crankshaft to the camshaft on many vehicles. Unlike your alternator or power steering pump, the crank and cam must rotate precisely in time with each other. Hence the name 'timing belt.' If the cam and crank are not in time, due to an incorrectly installed belt, a missing tooth, or a broken belt, very serious engine damage may result. Any car that has a timing belt lists the recommended change interval in the owners manual.
What is a belt? This is not the part where I explain the function of the belt that goes around your waist. I will point out that while the consequences of this belt failing are not costly, they can be very embarrassing.
Step 1: Getting Started
Below is the list of items I used to make this project. A drill will with proper bits is an acceptable substitute for the leather punch, though the holes will be a bit rougher. The sewing awl might not be needed at all if the epoxy is strong enough, but I didn't want to risk it. I wanted to make my own "tab holder" (the part that holds the remaining length of belt once it has been threaded through the buckle), so I used some steel rod and various pliers and vice grips. You can probably make the belt with no tab holder at all, or your donor belt may have a suitable one. A very sharp heavy duty razor knife may work in place of the Dremel, but I found the Dremel much easier to use on this heavy duty material.
To procure a timing belt just visit a local mechanic shop or dealership. If you own a car, now would be the time to check if it needs a timing belt replacement. Otherwise, make sure you are clear that you want an old belt for a non-automotive related project, they might hesitate to give you one if they think you are going to put a used belt on a vehicle. You should take your donor belt with you to make sure the hardware will fit the width of the timing belt you get.
Used timing belt (the kind for your car)
Old belt (the kind for your pants)
*steel rod to make tab holder
Dremel or similar rotary tool
Leather Punch or Drill
Heavy duty scissors or knife
Clamps or a bench vise
*bending tools to make tab holder from steel rod
*these are only needed if your donor belt does not have an acceptable tab holder
Step 2: Belt Prep
First, clean the timing belt. It is covered with fine particles of belt dust and, if the car had a leaky seal, perhaps a bit oily.
I filled a bucket with hot soapy water, and went over both sides of the timing belt with a scrub brush. After a rinse and dry, I ran a white paper towel over it and didn't get any smudges.
Next, cut the buckle from your donor belt. Save the buckle as well as the small bit of slotted leather that held the buckle.
Step 3: Layout the Belt
I decided I wanted the ribbed part of the belt facing out. This is a timing belt belt after all and I want people to know it. I also thought it would be cool to have some of the OEM Subaru part numbers visible, so this is where I chose to make the loop that will secure the buckle.
First I cut the belt close to where I was planning to put the buckle. Next, I put the small scrap of leather from the original belt at this point and traced out the area that needed to be removed.
This step involves cutting the belt with the Dremel rotary tool. It produces a lot of rubber dust and smells bad, I suggest doing it outside. I punched a hole at either end of the marked area. I used the Dremel with a cut off wheel to cut between the two holes and remove the material. I cleaned up the rough edges of the slot with a grinding bit. After a couple test fits, and minor modifications with the Dremel, I was satisfied with the buckle location and freedom of movement.
At this point I realized the leather loop that came with the original belt was not going to cut it as the tab holder. I decided to make a more industrial looking tab holder. I took some 1/8" rod I found in my garage and bent it into a rectangle the width of the timing belt.
If you are installing a tab holder, decide where you want to locate it relative to the buckle. I removed one of the timing belt teeth at this point.
Step 4: Assemble the Belt
Take the buckle from your donor belt and slide it in place. Double check the orientation, you don't want to glue up your belt and find the buckle is reversed.
Decide how far you want the belt to be doubled over. The belt is not flexible at all when it is doubled, so don't go too far, I only went about three inches on mine. Once you have determined the section that is going to be doubled over, rough up both surfaces that will be touching with a Dremel grinding bit to promote epoxy adhesion.
Use the sewing awl to sew as close as possible to the buckle while still allowing it to move freely. I made sure to practice with the sewing awl on scrap material so I was comfortable using it before cutting loose on my timing belt. I used a clamp to hold the belt together close to where I was sewing. I finished the stitch line with a square knot secured by a dab of super glue.
Now is your last chance to check everything before applying epoxy. Double check the orientation of the buckle and the location and fit of your tab holder (if you used one). Be careful applying epoxy close to the buckle, you don't want excess squeezed into the buckle when you clamp everything tight. I don't have a bench vise so I used a couple scraps of wood to extend the clamping force the length of the epoxied area. I covered the wood scraps in aluminum foil so that excess epoxy wouldn't glue the wood to my belt. I made sure everything was ready and all my tools were handy before mixing the epoxy. Once I mixed up the epoxy I carefully applied it to the folded over belt area and then clamped everything tight. Be ready to clean up any excess epoxy that squeezes out the sides. Even though I used 5 minute epoxy, I let it cure until the next day.
Step 5: Fit the Belt
Remove the clamps and try on the belt to determine the location of the first hole. Tighten the belt to the tension you would normally wear a belt and mark the tooth that is at the buckle. I punched the holes in the belt teeth and not the thin part between the teeth. My thinking is that making holes in the thick teeth will make the belt less likely to tear.
Use the leather punch to make holes midway across the tooth you marked. I found using the punch from both sides of the belt made a cleaner hole. Make additional holes about an inch apart on either side of the starting hole so you have some adjustment range. The size of the punch die (or drill bit) will vary depending on the size of the prong that is on your donor buckle.
Try the belt on again to check how much excess length you need to remove. I left about five inches past the last adjustment hole, I wanted enough excess to fit under my first belt loop, but not much more. While wearing the belt I used my heavy duty scissors to cut off the excess material.
Congratulations, you are now the proud owner of a timing belt belt!
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