Broken Plastic Buckle on a Nylon Strap

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Introduction: Broken Plastic Buckle on a Nylon Strap

About: I miss the days when magazines like Popular Mechanics had all sorts of DIY projects for making and repairing just about everything. I am enjoying posting things I have learned and done since I got my first ...

I use a backpack when I commute to meetings on my bicycle. A few days ago I stooped down to pick up something and the extra stress on the backpack straps caused the plastic ladder lock buckle to snap. The rest of the backpack is in good condition. Backpacks are only one item that uses nylon straps with adjustable buckles.

This Instructable will provide two solutions to a broken ladder lock buckle. One is for those who can weld and one for those who cannot. The welded version will show how to make your own ladder lock buckles. The non-welded version will show you how to use "D" rings, either those you purchase or those you fashion yourself.

If you make the "D" ring version, you will need "D" rings you purchase and a hacksaw or a Dremel tool with a cutting wheel. 

If you make the ladder lock buckle version, you will need a hacksaw, a grinder, a vise, a hammer, and a wire feed welder.


Step 1: Stitching

I wanted to fix my backpack without cutting the stitching on any of the nylon straps. My wife says it is not difficult to make new stitches. But, I am trying to avoid that and leave the original stitching undisturbed. That means I will make a ladder lock buckle that begins by feeding part of it through the nylon strap loop sewn to the backpack. Shown is the beginning of the welded version. The next steps will describe using "D" rings for the non-welded version. Then I will explain how to make the welded ladder lock buckle. The ladder lock buckle will be easy to release with one finger. The "D" ring, non-welded version will be easier for most people to manufacture at home, even if a little more difficult to release.

Step 2: Non-welded Version

It is possible to buy "D" rings about the same size as the width of the nylon strapping. Although there is an on-line link in the previous sentence, look for them in women's fabric stores and in generic hardware stores. Cut about 1/8 inch from the center of the straight side on each. See the photo. Slip the nylon loop through the opening you make in the straight side. Two "D" rings are needed for each nylon loop. While this works very well, the straps may not release as easily or as quickly as they do with a ladder lock buckle. But, this makes a quick and effective solution. 

The photo shows two "D" rings I made. See the next steps for more details.

Step 3: Making "D" Rings

If you wish, you can make your own "D" rings from rod. Bend a half circle in the rod using a piece of pipe. (The diameter of the pipe should be about the width of the nylon strap.) Bend the ends sharply. Leave an opening where they meet. Slip the nylon strap through the opening you made in each ring. Thread the strap under the bottom ring and the upper ring. Loop the strap around the upper ring and under the bottom ring. Pull tight. 

Step 4: Protect the Strap Loop

In the welded version some welding will need to be done on the ladder lock while it is on the backpack. The nylon from which the backpack is made will melt with too much heat. The nylon needs to be protected.

Cut strips of paper, fold them over, make a roll, and insert the rolled paper into the nylon strap loop. Use four or more thicknesses of paper. These strips of paper will insulate the nylon strapping from welding heat in the rod used to make the ladder lock. The paper can remain inside the nylon strap loop forever. 

Step 5: Protect the Nylon From Weld Spatter

Weld spatter will burn holes in the nylon backpack. Surgeons cover bodies with sheets that leave a hole where the surgeon wants to operate. I made something like that to fit around the nylon strap loop, using scraps of sheet steel. (First and third photo) I also bent a "U"-shaped piece to cover the nylon strap where it comes through the hole in the protective cover. (Second photo) This "U"-shaped piece goes into place first. Then the cover for the field slips over it. (Third photo)

Step 6: Bend 1/8 Inch Rod

I used some 1/8 inch steel rod that had been part of the mesh used to reinforce concrete. A friend built a garage and gave me stubs of wire about five inches long after breaking them off from the finished concrete foundation. Bend a piece of the wire so the space between the two halves is the width of the strap. Insert it into the nylon loop so it is surrounded by the paper from the last step.

Step 7: Buckle Design and Strap Pathway

This shows a profile view of the strap (red line) in its pathway through the ladder lock buckle. The gray portions show cross sections of the parts. The black area is the 1/8 inch rod from the previous step. The green areas are welds. The relative positions of the different parts are important to causing the strap to bind and release well. As much as possible, the orientation of the parts follows those of the original ladder lock buckle.

Step 8:

Cut a piece of 1/2 inch strap iron so it is as long as the strap is wide. Grind one long edge to 45 degrees.

Step 9: Begin Welding

Position the strap iron and tack weld it in place. When welding on the ladder lock buckles, keep a wet sponge nearby to cool the steel before excess heat can soften the nylon strapping. This is mostly a precaution. The paper strips from step 4 should be adequate to protect from excess heat.

Step 10: The Rest of the Ladder Lock

Weld a 1/8 inch rod across the ladder lock frame. Cut excess from each side. Grind smooth. Be careful about the shower of sparks from a grinding wheel or a cutting wheel on a Dremel. A concentration of sparks can burn a hole in the nylon backpack. Make the spacing approximate that on the original plastic ladder lock buckle. See the finished ladder lock buckle in the second photo.

Step 11: Pull and Release

The first photo shows how to pull the nylon strap to tighten it. The second photo shows how to push upward on the ladder lock buckle to release the strap. This works well with the backpack. It is easier to put the backpack on and take it off if the straps are loose. But, the backpack fits better, especially while riding a bicycle, if the straps are snug. Fortunately, backpack buckles are located at the front and side of the rib cage on each side, making the strap ends and the buckles easy to reach and manipulate. There is an advantage to the ladder lock buckles in that they can be operated easily with one hand. "D" rings are more likely to require two hands, especially for releasing them.

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    49 Comments

    Thanks for the Idea and comments. While I don't have a welder I saw something in the comments that may work for me and would be easy to rig up. I have a tent that sets up in the back of the truck and on of the buckles like this is broken. I hooks to the bottom of the bed on the outside and you tighten it down to keep it in place. It would take an industrial sewing machine to stitch the nylon. We are looking for one for my mother to sew leather. On of her friends has one, but its a far drive to her and I'd hate to ask. Never thought about using D-rings like a helmet. I do have an old helmet or two that I don't use any more. I may just rig something up. The only issue that it runs down the side of the truck against the paint. It may just have to make a little shroud for so it does not scratch.

    Looks like the 'D' rings on the motorcycle helmet.Then to make ends solid i'd use (j-b weld) it hardens really well.Specially with a hair drier to heat it up.Good idea even though. ;-)

    1 reply

    I like your workaround for not cutting and resewing by simply welding the buckle in place. It seems impractical, but then there must be some people who are willing to weld and not sew so this is a useful guide, and a good intro to ladder lock design as well.

    6 replies

    People with welders look for every excuse to use them. What can I say?

    And sometimes they're just the thing you need! I was mowing the lawn yesterday and the blade mount broke - it was only held together with four tack welds. A new unit costs NZ$25 + labour. Blow that! Out with the old Young's arc welder...
    Mower won't start 'cos I filled the cylinder with engine oil while tipping it sideways, but that's another story.
    The pics show the repaired mount in place on the blade and the whole thing fitted back on the mower. If it ever stops raining again, I'll let you know how it goes.

    Mower blade mount weld 130507 (3).JPGMower blade mount weld 130507 (4).JPG

    Congratulations on your repair. We do not currently have a lawnmower, but I think all of us have learned the hard way about oil running into the engine cylinder when tipped the wrong way. If you weld should break, you can analyse the situation and do it again so it is stronger than the first time. Thank you for looking and for commenting.

    I sew, but you really can't beat that factory stitching with a home machine and I've broken many needles trying to get through tough material.

    I agree. My wife volunteered to sew the nylon strap for me. But, I would want a nylon strap sewn on one of those industrial strength machines like they use in places that do shoe repair and more. I grew up in a farming area and the man who did shoe repair sometimes sewed bridles and harnesses for horses. Those machines are beyond the machine my wife has and uses.

    I kave a BIG box of backpaks, straps, loops, buckles, clips, etc., because I fully intend[ed] on repairing or mutating them into something useable.

    Worst case: While in Georgia [U.S.A.] I had an occurance of one or both of my own Dogs being upset with me and chewing through 3 of the 4 seat belts. Coat hanger, rivits, hammer, pliers, screwdriver, and a propane torch got us back on the road safely, in just a few hours.

    Nice job with the welding!

    1 reply

    Thank you for your comment. My welds are not always pretty, but so far, they have held.

    A great solution to a very annoying problem! I had the exact same thing happen to me, but I used a carabiner as an impromptu fix.

    6 replies

    The carabiner would give you a metal loop. Did you tie the strap to the carabiner with a knot?

    I don't think I would use a carabiner. I think a shackle would be a better piece of hardware for this. Something like one of these:

    http://www.uscargocontrol.com/Rigging-Supplies-Hardware/Anchor-Bow-Chain-and-D-Shackles

    Thanks for that, nice idea. The problem was the lack of equipment I had with me (I was abroad) which meant I had to improvise.

    We had a hair dryer quit on us when we were staying overnight in Amsterdam. I did what I could with a screwdriver on a utility knife, but the circuit breaker plug was a goner. We were flying back home to the USA the next day, so we toughed it out for the next couple of days.

    I suppose a towel would've helped too :)

    Bodging things is definitely an important life skill!

    Well due to the way the buckle broke (the middle rung snapped out) I was able to loop the strap around it and back through the buckle- the carabiner being too big to be pulled through with it. It worked given the fact I was abroad in Moldova and needed an instant fix, although a longer term solution like yours would be better!

    Nice work on making the buckle.

    For those of you who do not have a welder, metal buckles are available from various suppliers. Here is one here:

    http://www.ohiotravelbag.com/FlipBook/hardware%20catalog%20p210/index.html?pageNumber=163