I made a belt buckle from scratch for my 5 year old son to wear on “Go Texan” day. What is "Go Texan Day" your asking, well once a year the rodeo comes to Houston Texas and around that time all the area schools designate a “Go Texan” day where the kids dress up in their best cowboy gear. This tradition dates back to the 1950s, there is usually a program at school were the kids perform different Texas songs and back in my day we even had to learn to Square dance. It’s a celebration of Texas history and the cowboy lifestyle of days gone by. The rodeo is a pretty big deal that serves several purposes one of which is scholarships for kids. There's a BBQ cook-off contest held before the rodeo kicks off and there is carnival and music concerts from various popular musicians. Its a three week event with total attendance over the three week reaching about 2.4 million visitors.
I know your probably thinking but why are you making him a belt buckle don't all of you Texans already have cowboy hats and boots and belts? Despite the Texas stereotypes shown on TV we don't all go around in cowboy hats and boots riding our horses. I actually don't own a cowboy hat or cowboy boots or horse.
Having grown up with limited means I never got to really dress up for Go Texan day and sort felt like I missed out on the fun. Who doesn't love an excuse to dress up in a costume of sorts on a random day in February. My son just started school and this will be his first Go Texan day so as a part of my son’s cowboy gear I decided to make him a big belt buckle. We have the rest of his outfit ready to go but I felt he needed a little something extra. This is the first time I ever tried to weld anything, so bare that in mind when you see my welds. I actually had to re-do the weld as the first time around it just didn’t hold and simply snapped off. I re-grouped and gave it another go using a different technique and while they sure weren’t pretty welds they did hold. It took a lot of grinding and filing to clean them up but in the end they will work, especially since you can’t see them on the back of the buckle. I used a $3 thrift store belt as a donor belt for the leather, which I'm pretty sure isn't real leather, and attached the buckle using a needle and waxed thread. There are many flaws with this buckle but since my son will only be wearing it for one day out of the year I can live with them. I hope this post inspires you to make your own belt buckle.
The metal I used was given to me by a friend of mine it is 2 inch wide mild steel that is about an 1/8 inch thick. The first thing I did was measure out about 3 inches and then cut off the piece with my angle grinder fitted with a cutoff wheel. Then I used my sander to round over the edges.
I wanted to add a texture to it so I used my ballpeen hammer and just started whacking it in a random pattern. I don't have an anvil so I used the hard plate on my vice. I just kept whacking it until it looked like I had covered the whole piece. I don't really think you can go wrong here just keep hitting it until you like the way it looks or your too tired to continue;)
The next step was to add a slight curve to the metal. I secured the metal in the vice and started to bend it a little at a time. I gradually moved the metal out of the vice as I tried to bend it to make the curve more gradual. I also used a pair of pliers to give me some leverage. This was all done with the metal at room temperature. Heating it up might have made it easier but in the end it came out pretty good.
Here I grab a nail and cut the head and tip off of it. Then again using my vice I bent the nail in to this elongated "U" shape. This will be what I use to attach the belt to the buckle.
In order to attach the elongated "U" shape and the post I drilled three holes that are the same thickness as the nail.
This is were I attach all the pieces using my welder. I welded the pieces on the front and the back. This is the first time I try and weld anything, they were not pretty welds by any means but they did hold.
Next I used my grinder with a flap disc to grind the welds on the front of the buckle and for the back I used a file and some sandpaper to clean up the welds.
I polished up the front of the buckle by hand using various grit sandpapers starting with 220 and going all the way up to 2000 grit. I was pleased with how it turned out but I felt it need something else.
So I decided to add a star to the buckle. (Texas is also known as the lone star state). I had piece of thin aluminum which I traced a star pattern on too. I used a utility knife to cut the star out but later found out that for aluminum this thin you can use utility scissors or kitchen shears (utility scissors/kitchen shears usually come with kitchen knife sets) to cut it out. Its way easier with the utility scissors/kitchen shears so if you have them use them. Harbor Freight often gives these out for free with purchase.
Lastly I cleaned up the edges of the star with some sandpaper and polished it to a shine using the same method I used for the buckle.
To attach the star to the buckle I used JB Weld kwik weld steel epoxy and some small clamps. I've used this before to attach thin metal to other metal and it works really well. Its like any other epoxy in terms of mixing and application. It is really easy to work with.
This is the donor belt I found at the thrift store for $3. I measured my son's waist and cut off the buckle portion of the donor belt. I kept the side with the factory size adjustment holes, I didn't want to have to make new holes. I folded the belt over for what would become the anchoring point or rather the section I would use to attach the belt to the buckle. I made a relief cut to make it easier to fold over, I probably should have soaked the belt in water and then clamped down the fold and let it dry overnight. This would have made the relief cut unnecessary, lesson learned for next time.
In order to be able to sew together the belt I used a small hammer and a couple of Phillip's head drill tips that were taped together to mark the position of the holes I would need to make in the leather. Basically I am just trying to make some marks as reference for where I need to make holes in the leather. The marks need to be spaced evenly apart. Its kind of like using a center punch to give you a indexing point but in this case its several points. Once all the marks were made I used my drill with a 1/8" bit to make the holes drilling through both pieces of the belt.
Lastly it was time to sew the belt to the buckle. I used a wax thread and large needle to sew the two pieces together. First I went in through the back of the first hole and came back through the front of second hole and I made a knot on the back of the belt then proceed to pull the wax thread through all the holes. Once I got to the last hole I went back up the row holes making sure to alternate and cover all the gaps. You should finish at the top where you started. To secure the thread I made an additional loop going through the first and second holes one last time. Then I cut the excess thread and singed the edges with a match.
This is after I cleaned and further polished the buckle.
And here's my little guy all decked out in his Go Texan day outfit. I hope ya'll enjoyed this instructable.