I have a slightly complicated project involving leather that I wish to make, however while I already own most of the necessary tools, I still lack the skills to make that project a reality. Therefore I start by trying out several smaller projects in order to learn more about leather, the tools for leatherworking, how to use them and, well, leatherworking in general. And I'm bringing you along for the ride!
I already made one leather wristband which my sister asked me to make for her friend, but unfortunately it was such a rush job I wasn't able to take any progress pictures, so there'll be no instructable for that. If you're curious though you can check out the finished bracelet either on my flickr channel or on my deviantart.
Anyway, once my sister noticed that I'm not half bad at this (which I was surprised about myself, really) she wanted a leather bracelet as well, albeit a different kind. This time I took the time to snap some pictures in between, even if I was busy at the time. Picture quality of the progress pictures might be a bit subpar as I didn't want to set up a complete flash rig for in-between pictures, but I'll try to make up for that with descriptions.
Create a simple, cheap and good-looking leather bracelet that satisfies my sister.
Use that experience to create a second, even better bracelet as a birthday present for my buddies' girlfriend.
Safety advice & more:
This instructable makes use of scissors and razor blades. Especially the latter are very, very sharp and can cut you pretty badly, so remember to never force the blade, cutting away from you and watching where your fingers are at all times.
Also, I highly suggest you read the whole instructable once first before attempting to reproduce it as the first part is written for a simpler, single-layer version of the bracelet and following it to the letter may be counterproductive to making the superior two-layer version. I did add warnings at the appropriate places, but might have overlooked some.
Step 1: Tools and Materials
- Single edge safety razor blades (you want the ones with a rounded metal backside for safe handling)
- Poly / wooden / rubber mallet (for setting the rivets)
- Rivet setters with anvil
- Hole punchers / revolving punch plier
- Steel edge cutting ruler
- Triangle / geometry set square
- Permanent marker (in hindsight chalk might have been the better option)
- Cutting mat (optional, but nice to have)
- Hairpin or something similar (optional, but nice to have)
- Adjustable stitching groover (for the advanced version)
(Diamond-shape) Hole Chisels (for the advanced version)
- Snap / push buttons (preferably the rivet-style, not the ones to sew on)
- Leather, 2 different colors if preferred (*)
(*) For this bracelet I used chrome-tanned clothing leather scraps which I got for next to nothing at a local leather store. Usually leather stores have some sort of leftover or scrap leather bin where you can get small-ish, typically oddly-shaped pieces of leather for really, really cheap. This is awesome for practice or if you just need small pieces of leather, for instance for bracelets like this one. You can also get scrap pieces at places where people are working with leather (e.g. some tailors, shoemakers, etc.) as well as online.
You can use vegetable-tanned leather, but it's going to be far more work as you need to soften, dye and seal the leather.
Step 2: Cutting the Base Strip
What I started out with was a piece of scrap chrome-tanned clothing leather without any good, straight edge.
I knew the bracelet was going to be 6cm wide, but was not really sure about the length yet. As it was a piece I got for a more than reasonable price I wasn't really looking to get the absolute most out of it, so I just decided to cut the longest 6cm-wide strip I could get out of it so I could potentially end up making more bracelets if I felt like it.
Step 1: Get a straight edge
Grab youself a stell-edged cutting ruler that is as long as possible, meaning in the best case it is longer than the piece of leather that you wish to cut. Mine wasn't quite long enough, so I had to reposition my rulers in between. I took great care when repositioning it so I could get a really nice, straight edge. I used my ruler and a really, really sharp single edge safety razor blade (henceforth: razor blades) to get myself a straight edge.
Step 2: Cut the strip
Based on my new straight edge I used the permanent marker and a triangle to put a couple of
guiding spots 6cm from my new straight edge. Note that I made all markings on the bottom / flesh side of the leather. Still, in hindsight using chalk for marking would've been the smarter choice, especially for the first version of the bracelet.
Steel-edge cutting culer and razor blades were used once more to get a nice 6cm wide strip of leather.
Step 3: Determine and cut length
This was a rather tough one. What I did was wrap the leather around my sisters wrist once (fleshy side out) and made a small mark where the leather wrapped around once. Now I had to account for overhang so that I could use snap buttons to close the bracelet, as well as add a bit more length so that the bracelet would be a little bit loose and had some space due to the added thickness from rivets and weaving.
While a couple centimeters would've been enough I figures I could always make it shorter if need be, but making the strip longer would put me in a bind. So I added another couple more centimeters for good measure. I ended up cutting a 20cm long strip for a ~12-14cm circumference wrist (your arm isn't a straight barrel, so measurements will vary for either side of a wide bracelet).
Step 4: Round the edges
Now this is a pure design decision, but I though rounded edges look way nicer than square ones and my sister agreed. First I made a paper template of the cut I was going for, then I used that as a reference to draw said edge curvature on the back side of the leather using a permanent marker (once more: use chalk instead!). What I went for was a curvature corresponding to a quarter of a circle with a 1cm radius. I used a pair of scissors to cut the edges of the thin leather. What helps a bit is holding the scissors tilted slightly inward, meaning you cut a liiiittle bit more of the flesh inside instead of the outside of the leather. This helps with keeping the flesh side hidden a bit more.
Once done you should end up with a piece similar to the one in picture #2.
Step 3: Setting First Buttons, More Cutting
Step 1: Setting the top snap buttons
This is pretty self-explanatory.
In order to help me decide on the final length of the bracelet I decided to set the top part of the snap buttons. I figured their center should be around 1.5cm away from the edges, so I used my permanent marker to make a small dot there. As I'd punch a hole there anyway, using a permanent marker had no consequences for once. Next I used my revolving punch pliers to make an adequately-sized hole for the snap button halves.
I set the snap buttons with the necessary set punches and a poly hammer. Note that if you want to hide the flesh side of the leather as should be done with high-quality pieces by sewing another piece of leather flesh-to-flesh with this piece you'd want to punch the holes, but not set the snap buttons yet.
Step 2: Get a leather strip for weaving
Using the same process as with the 6cm wide bracelet strip I cut a 1cm wide strip of a lighter brown chrome-tanned clothing leather as a weaving strip. At this point I did not adjust its length yet.
Next, as seen in picture #2, I made a hole both in the leather bracelet as well as in the just cut strip so I could secure both together using a small rived. Holes were positioned to fit my aesthetic sense.
I should probably mention that for a slightly better-looking bracelet you might want to round the edges of the weaving strip, too. But as it's on the inside anyway you don't really need to bother.
Step 3: Mark lines for the weave
Using a triangle I made small markings 1cm from the edge of the leather, one every 5mm. These were then connected to parallel lines, one every 5mm and ending exactly 1cm from the edges. See picture #3 for reference.
And just to make sure the point gets through: USE CHALK INSTEAD. The markings are still visible with the finished bracelet which annoys me to no end as I simply lacked the foresight there.
Anyway, for the weave to work properly you will want a rather small distance between those lines and make them as long as possible while keeping a safe distance from the edge to prevent ripping or compromising the bracelets integrity.
I stopped about 4cm from the side opposing the top-part snap buttons to account for overlap. I could always add more cuts later. Note that you want an even number of strips, meaning an uneven number of cuts / marking lines. If possible you want to get a multiple of 4 for the number of strips as then the weaving method I used will work best.
Step 3: Cut along the lines
While it's a little bit hard to see, in picture #3 the cuts were actually already made. Again, I used my trusty steel-edged cutting ruler as well as the razor blade, making sure the cuts were clean, square and made well away from my fingers.
Step 4: Weaving Is Hard
Step 1: Affix the weaving strip
Nothing really complicated here, simply use a rivet and rivet setters to attach the weaving strip to the bracelet. Note that you want to attach it to the underside of the bracelet with the top side of the weaving strip against flesh side of the bracelet. Just make sure that when you weave, the top side of the weaving strip is actually up.
Step 2: Begin with weaving
Now the weaving was really confusing for me and it took me around half the bracelet before I really got the technique down. I hope I'll be able to explain it to you. Otherwise you'll have to do it like me, staring at the picture and trying to figure out how the heck it was done. It probably wasn't really helpful that I was really tired at that point of time. Thinking about it, I'm not exactly well-rested right now either. Oh well.
To hopefully make the weaving easy to understand, let's make the following assumptions:
- Weaving strip is attached to the bracelet on the right side
- Top sides of both are facing up
- Let the first vertical strips be called 4, 3, 2 and 1; 1 being the closest to the affixed weaving strip
Now we can move on to the weaving procedure (use picture #1 as reference):
- Pull strip 1 to the left, over strip 2.
- Push strip 1 down while pusing strip 2 (now right of strip 1) up, creating a vertical opening between those two.
- From below, push the weaving strip through that vertical opening. At this point, looking from right to left, strip 2 should be over the weaving strip, then strip 1 should be under it.
- Pull strip 4 to the right, over strip 3.
- Push strip 4 down while pushing strip 3 (now left of strip 4) up, again creating a vertical opening.
- From above, push through the weaving strip. At this point, looking from right to left, strip 4 should be under the weaving strip, then strip 3 should be over it.
- Repeat steps 1-6 until done.
If you have any questions here feel free to ask, but let me tell you this was really confusing for me at the time, too. Just try it for a couple of minutes and you'll get the hang of it, trust me.
Also, if the strips aren't sitting perfectly, don't worry, just finish weaving for now. We'll fix that later.
Step 3: Weaving touch-ups
What you'll want to do first is to carefully push / pull the weaving strip so that overall the bracelet is is as flat and straight as possible. Which usually means that your weaving strip will not be straight, but instead look a bit like a wave, and that's fine. Just make sure it is as tight as possible while at the same time as loose / wavy as necessary to keep the bracelet warping to a minimum.
Next, during the weaving your strips have probably wedged themselves together, are a bit twisted or otherwise positioned slightly subpar. You can use a hairpin, empty ballpoint pen or anything pointy, yet not sharp tip to nudge and push those strips into the correct position.
Step 5: Rivets Galore
Step 1: Measurements
Now that the weaving was done I triple-checked the length of the bracelet and marked the positions of the bottom pieces of the snap buttons. Just to make sure I decided to use two rows of bottom snap buttons so that the bracelet could be worn a bit tighter and a bit more loosely.
I marked positions for those buttons with a permanent marker (Chaaaaalk. Don't be a bloke like me, use chalk!).
Step 2: More marking and hole punching
I also needed to secure the loose end of the weaving strip, so after deciding on how to affix it I marked the rivet positions, then cut it to size and rounded the ending edge a bit (unlike the starting edge for which I forgot to do that). I also marked a couple more positions for rivets to make the bracelet look a bit more interesting.
Now once more my beloved revolving punch pliers were used to make holes for the bottom parts of the snap buttons.
Step 3: It's simply riveting
Using my set of rivet setters I set a couple more rivets because I can. Also, because my sister requested it. Actually there's not really more to say here, it's not like setting those rivets is hard. Punch hole, insert bottom part, snap top part over it, put on anvil, position setter square to the surface and give it a few polite, yet firm love taps until the rivet has settled into its new life as an adornment to a leather bracelet.
Step 6: Potential Improvements / Hindsight Notes
Looking back at how I made the bracelet and how it ended up, here's a couple of 20/20 hindsight notes on how to make it better:
- You guessed it: Use chalk instead of permanent marker when marking leather.You can see my permanent marker markings in the above picture of the single-layer version. There's a reason I don't show the back side of that piece, and it's called permanent marker.
- Use sharp blades to get clean, easy cuts with leather. Razor blades are well-suited for this.
- To hide crimes (such as permanent marker markings) and to get a higher-quality product, never expose the flesh side of the leather if you can help it at all. In this case I should have waited with setting most of the rivets, do the weaving, then sewed another piece of leather flesh-side to flesh-side to it to cover everything up and finally set all the rivets.
- Think exactly if you should set that rivet right now or if you can wait with setting it for now.
Well, that's pretty much about it for the single-layer version.
I hope you liked it!
By the way, the whole bracelet took me about 5 hours, which is reasonble for a first attempt and seeing that I spent most of my time measuring and figuring out where stuff needs to go. So as long as you have about a day left and the materials at home it can be used as a 'last-minute' gift.
The next page will detail how to make the improved two-layer version.
Step 7: Advanced Version Expansion
The advanced, two-layer version builds heavily on the basic version you have just learned how to make.
As I have mentioned, exposing the flesh side of the leather usually counts as bad practice. Therefore the main goal of this advanced-ish extension is making sure the flesh side is not exposed where it's not necessary.
For this you will need some additional tools as well:
- Adjustable stitching groover
- (Diamond-shape) Hole Chisels
Step 1: Prepare the leather
First of all two same-sized pieces of leather are needed. For a 14cm wrist circumference I chose 18cm long leather pieces. Next I put those pieces one over another (flesh sides in) and rounded the edges. I continued by taking the bottom (inside) leather piece and adding a stitching groove with an aptly-named adjustable stitching groover. I only grooved the inside as I did not want the thread to rub against the skin of the wearer. The outside was not that important to me and in fact I kind of wanted the thread to be exposed as a design feature. I like the look.
Stacking both pieces of leather over another again and putting them on a piece of soft wood (soft plastic or a scrap piece of leather are even better) I used diamond hole chisels to make stitching holes through both pieces of leather along the stitching groove. This will make sure that the pieces align well later.
Step 2: Layout planning
Using the pieces and a paper template for reference I planned out where the buttons, rivets and such should go. I should mention that the paper template for the weaving is actually off as it should be 12cm, not 13cm. I ended up leaving the additional 1cm of space towards the bottom halves of the snap buttons, which turned out pretty great designwise.
Rivet holes were punched using revolving punch pliers. Note that no rivets have been set yet.
Step 3: Weaving and stuff
In between pictures 3 and 4 the top part of the leather has been cut and woven in the same way as with the simple version, but no rivets have been set yet. Note that the thin strip of leather used for weaving must be pulled pretty tight while keeping the overall leather piece as straight and flat as possible to make sure all stitching holes of top and bottom piece will match up.
Once the positioning was good, holes for the securing rivets were punched through the weaving strip as well.
Step 4: Riveting and sewing
Aligning the top, bottom and weaving strip pieces one over another all necessary rivets were set first using rivet setters. Now that the pieces are secured to each other and don't move much the sewing can begin. I used a ~0.3-0.4mm black nylon thread for the sewing. A thicker one might've looked better, but that's what I had at hand, so I went with it.
I cut a 3-4m long thread (resulted in a good bit of wasted thread, but wanted to do it in one piece and thread is cheap anyway) and secured a sewing needle to either end. Aligning the diamond-shaped sewing holes on one side (left or right does not matter, but the short edges are easier, so I say to go for these) over another I pulled through about half of the thread and then used the first needle to start normally sewing the leather once around. Then I used the other needle to do the same, but beginning with the other side of the same holes so that I end up with a continuous stitch.
Once both needles met I secured the stitch by making a couple of knots, cutting the excess thread off and putting a really, really small bead of crazy glue on the knot.
Congratulations, you're done! You may want to add some additional rivets for aesthetic reasons if you want to, but overall you're done.
Step 8: Results
As you can see hiding the flesh side of the leather makes the bracelet look much, much neater and more professional.
It also increases the wearing comfort as the weaving strip is not exposed on the inside, instead there's only smooth leather and rivets.
I also find that the thread adds a bit of additional character to the bracelet, albeit a slightly thicker one (0.6-1mm) would've looked even better. Alas, I didn't have it at hand and had no time to go get some either.
I hope you enjoyed my instructable as much as the recipients enjoyed their respective bracelets and wish you great success with making your own ones!
I would be very happy about any and all comments given, especially ones pointing out any recommendations, tips, potential improvements or any flaws with this instructable.
Help me to improve so I can give you even better instructables in the future!