Introduction: Leather Belt With Secret Compartment
Here is a comprehensive tutorial for crafting a leather belt and belt buckle from scratch, with the special feature of a semi-hidden compartment in which a person could keep some change, a spare house key, etc.
Step 1: TOOLS/MATERIALS
• Pronged Chisel
• Beveling Tool (Optional but preferred. You can make due with a sharp blade)
• Strong Needles
• Utility/X-acto Knife
• Ruler/Straight Edge
• Thick Leather
• Thick Waxed Thread
• Leather Dye (Optional but preferred)
• Leather Conditioner (Optional but Preferred)
• Metal Rod (Preferably Stainless Steel or Brass)
Step 2: Cut Out Leather Belt
Choose your current favorite belt and measure the length of it. Base the length of this belt off of that. It can be as long/wide/thick as desired. But make sure you leave 4" of slack.
Trace and cut out the leather band which will be the belt.
Step 3: Bevel & Wax & Burnish Edges
Bevel the edges of the belt with a beveling tool, or simply grazing the edges at an angle with a sharp knife.
Rub the edges with some beeswax, and then rub the edges back and forth with a burnishing tool, (I simply made my own burnishing tool by cutting a curved notch into some wood).
This will press and seal the fibers of the leather so that the edges don't become flaky, and the edge becomes smooth and curved.
Step 4: Buckle Frame
Take some of your steel bar and grip it in a vice.
Hammer it into the rectangle/square/circle/etc. shape you desire.
For a rigid rectangle like mine, use the vice to grip so that you can bend it as you hammer, as displayed in the pictures.
Cut off excess and hammer closed.
I hammered the top surface slightly flat. This is optional according to your preference.
Step 5: Buckle Needle
Cut and flatten some excess steel bar. Grip the end with a vice, leaving some slack, and hammer so that the end begins to curve forward.
Do this until it is almost shut, then stick the square buckle frame in there, and finally close the gap.
Now the needle is attached.
As a final step, bend 1/2 or 3/4 of the needle upwards, so that the belt can lie more flat upon the stomach when looped through the buckle.
Side Note: I had initially shaped the needle incorrectly so I had to fix it carefully when the belt was finished. That's why there's a shot of the belt completely finished. But I suggest that you do the entire buckle correctly from the beginning, before it is attached to the by itself.
Step 6: Sand and Protect
Side Note: The picture above is what the buckles looked like before I modified them in the end. If you crafted your buckle correctly, it should look like what is shown in the previous step.
Sand the buckles to get rid of imperfections. Clean it well. Then spray it with a coat of Rustoleum clear coat to prevent rust.
Step 7: Cut Out Buckle Hole
Cut out a hole about 1" tall and as wide as the thickness of your buckle needle.
The hole should be about 3-4" from the end.
Test it out on your buckle to ensure a nice fit.
Step 8: Stain & Darken Edges & Condition Leather
Stain the leather with your intended dye.
Darkening the edges is optional, but on some projects like this dark brown belt dark edges would suit it nicely. I simply grazed the edges with a darker dye (In this case, black dye).
Be sure to wax, burnish, and darken the inside-edges of the buckle needle hole.
Condition the leather with whatever leather conditioner you prefer in order to keep the leather looking new.
Step 9: Attach Buckle
Loop the buckle needle into the buckle hole, and then sandwich it.
Punch some holes and stitch it shut so that the buckle is completely attached to the belt.
Step 10: Attach Belt Loop
Cut out a thin strap of leather, about as long as necessary too completely hug your belt, and as wide as necessary according to your preference.
Use a knife to thin out the ends to 1/2 the thickness.
Use some epoxy to stick the ends against the back of the belt, thus hugging it, underneath that excess flap.
Side Note: I did this before attaching the buckle to the belt, which is why you don't see the buckle in the image. But it is preferred that the loop is attached after the buckle is attached.
Punch out holes and stitch underneath where the loop is, thus completely enclosing the loop into the belt.
Side Note: I made two different belts with different colors of stitching, which is why the color of the stitching is different between pictures.
Step 11: Begin Making the Secret Compartment
Grab your thin sheet of leather, and let it hug the belt. Gently hammer the edges so that the sheet bends into shape.
Remove the sheet from the belt and begin stitching it shut. In order to protect the other side from being pierced as you hammer holes into the front, place something inside underneath the fork as you pierce your holes (I used an old ruler).
When you stitch, emerge from underneath, pull out the string, and as you enter again I found it easiest to pull it through with some needlenose pliers. Repeat the process until finished.
Once finished, tie it off in the inside.
Step 12: Trim Flap & Finish Secret Compartment
Trim that excess flap so that it is thinner, such that it extends over the compartment by 1/2"-1", and so that can slide underneath a tab, to close the compartment.
Bevel, wax, burnish, and darken the edges of the flap.
Cut out a small rectangle, which will act as the tab which the flap will slide underneath to close the compartment. Be sure to wax, burnish and darken its edges. Attach it accordingly onto the compartment.
Finally, slide the compartment onto the belt in its designated place, and pierce holes through the entire belt where the compartment ends. Stitch through those holes so that the compartment is thus stuck in place.
Step 13: Cut Belt Holes
Now is time for the final steps, which includes trimming the end of your belt to your desired shape, and cutting out holes so that you can wear and adjust your belt.
You can trim the end of your belt to whatever shape you desire. I prefer the old classy pointed end, but for another belt I cut out a digit trapezoidal end.
A great way to determine where to cut out your holes is to measure your favorite belt. Measure the distance from the start of the leather to the hole which you always use.
Use this distance to cut out your first hole.
Cut three more holes equidistant from eachother above the main hole, and three more below it, totaling to 7 holes.
I love prime numbers, so I always implement 7 holes to my belts.
I made my holes square so that the belt is accustomed to the buckle needle, and because I think square holes look masculine.
But your holes can be whatever shape you desire. If you use round holes, I suggest leaving the buckle-needle round during the buckle-crafting phase.
Be sure to wax and darken the inside of your holes so that they are not flaky.
Step 14: Wear Your Belt and Carry Things
You can now wear your belt.
I typically like to carry some spare change and an extra house key in my belt compartment.
As you can see, this was quite a simple build, and the style of the belt can range according to your preference. These also make great gifts.