Yes, you read correctly, this is the best 'Merican belt you can ever make. The best feature of the belt is its custom made shotgun shell conchos. This is a great project to show just how 'Merican you are and use up some of your empty shells.
Overview: In this instructable you will learn how to:
1) Make shotgun shell conchos
2) Freestyle tool a leather belt
4) Finish the belt
Leather belt blank
Cut-off wheel (big-boy compressed air version of dremel) OR Hacksaw (the one for metal, not wood)
Buckle Hole punch
Hard tooling surface (preferably chunk of scrap granite counter-top, get it from a counter-top place for free from their dumpster)
Sturdy work bench (I made mine out of 2x4's)
Leather stamps: Z-C431, V707, C428, S630 (OR substitute and make your own design)
Tandy Leather small double cap rivets 1371-12
High density sponge
Leather antique (stain)
Optional: Punch for belt end (makes nice arch on end of belt, don't buy unless you are going to make a lot of belts, you can use a utility knife)
Step 1: Preparing the Shotgun Shell Conchos
For this you have 2 options for accomplishing this task. If you have access to a pneumatic cut-off wheel, use it. If you don't, then you get to use muscle and a hacksaw.
1) Put the empty shell in a vice gripping the plastic part of the shell.
2) Use the die grinder or cut-off wheel to cut off the end of the shell. Use the lip as your line. The lip is the part at the end of the shell that is a larger diameter so that the ejector in a shotgun can pull the shell out of the chamber. Warning! Cutting shells may involve the smell of burning plastic or wood in the shell.
3) Punch out the primer. The circular thing in the middle of the back of the shell.
4) You now have some of the coolest conchos in the world.
Step 2: Belt Preparation
1) Measure proper belt length. The easiest way to do this is to measure a belt that fits the person well already. Measure from the start of the leather at the buckle to the end of the belt. You may want to subtract a little from the length because the belt may stretch a little bit.
2) Cut or punch the end off the tip
Measure holes for conchos:
1) Start at the tip of the belt and measure in about 1 1/2" and mark lightly with an indentation.
2) Measure every 32mm (this design is this number in particular), marking an indentation that is centered on the width of the belt.
3) Using a 1/8" hole punch, punch a hole on the 7th mark from the tip. (This is leaving about 8in at the tip end of the belt for belt buckle holes)
4) Continue punching holes on every other mark.
Your belt is now ready to tool! I can hear Eagles screeching already!
Step 3: Leather Belt Tooling
1) Wet the leather with the spray bottle. It should be less wet than if you were using a swivel knife. If needed, wait a minute for it to soak in. The best way to describe it is the leather should soak in the water and be dry to the touch but cool to the touch on your cheek. You don't want to tool mushy leather.
2) Place a shotgun shell concho centered on a hole.
3) Using the V707 stamp, Place it against the concho at 12 o'clock on the belt and hit it with the mallet.
4) Place the stamp just outside the previous hit and use the mallet again to strike the stamp.
5) Continue at 3, 6, and 9 o'clock.
6) Re-wet leather as needed.
7) Use stamp C428 around the left and right side. Overlap the stamp so there is no gap between hits.
8) Use stamp S630 on the mark you previously made between concho holes.
9) Use stamp Z-C431 above and below the last stamp.
10) Use stamp V707 connecting the design around the concho to the S630 stamp.
11) Go to the tip of the belt and do the design as show where the belt holes will go.
Step 4: Belt Finishing
1) With the belt dry, use a bevel cutting tool and bevel cut all the outside edges of the belt. This rounds/softens the edges of the belt.
2) Add belt holes with a punch. Make sure they are evenly spaced. I placed mine in the middle of the spots I marked at 32mm intervals.
3) To make your belt pop like mine, use an antique. An antique allows the recessed areas to be darker. Apply antique to a high density sponge (Important! the high density makes the sponge less smooshy and leaves the stain in the recesses. I recommend you buy one from Tandy Leather. Apply in a swirling motion. Some times you must apply twice. After a sufficient amount is applied, use the back side of the sponge and rub off (don't apply much pressure) any excess in a back and forth motion. To really make it pop, I spray a little water on the sponge and then rub. This creates more contrast. The stain should remain in the recesses. If it does not, you applied too much pressure or your sponge isn't dense enough. You can fix by adding a little more antique. Try to get the stain even on the entire project.
4) Apply or Spray a finish on. I apply a matte finish and then spray it with Fiebings Leather Sheen.
5) Finish edges and the back using Edge Kote and a dauber. Be careful on the edges that you don't get it on the front of the belt. On the back, you should apply in a swirling motion. This makes the fuzzy back more smooth and finished.
6) Rivet your shotgun shell conchos with Tandy Leather small double cap rivets (1371-12). Make sure the writing is oriented in the correct direction.
Step 5: Enjoy Your 'Merican Belt!
Enjoy your belt and show it off! Be proud of being 'Merican!