Introduction: Custom Belt Buckles

Picture of Custom Belt Buckles

Though they are sometimes hidden under shirts and sweaters, belts are an important part of everyday attire for most people. You might not think it but a belt can say a lot about a person's style, even more so when you add in your own personal flair!

This project uses store bought untreated leather belt straps along with buckle blanks and shows you some methods on how to get creative and make your own custom belts. Making your own is easy! All of the supplies you need can easily be found at craft stores, leather supplies wholesaler or the internet.

This project covers how to make resin-embedded belt buckle inserts and how to treat and finish a leather belt.

Enough talk, let's make some belts!

Step 1: Tools + Materials

Picture of Tools + Materials

  • small disposable mixing containers
  • stir sticks
  • latex gloves
  • colour printer + paper
  • photo editing software
  • scissors


  • belt buckle blanks*
  • belt buckle insert (for size reference)*
  • cow hide leather belts*
  • neatsfoot oil*
  • newspaper
  • casting resin%


Step 2: Embellishments & Cut-outs

Picture of Embellishments & Cut-outs

The first thing to do is determine how large your buckle inset area is, the buckles I used had inset dimensions of 67mm x 48mm [2-5/8" x 1-7/8"]. Always make sure whatever you put into your buckle is slightly larger than your dimensions, that way you can trim it down to the exact shape.

For these belts I decided to try 2 different types of buckles: embellishments embedded in the resin, and custom colour printouts.

Since fall produces some great colours, I thought it would be fun to make a collage from small press-dried leaves. Locate leaves of your choice, I suggest gathering and pressing more than you need so you have extra. Press leaves between the pages of a heavy book for a few days, this will dry the leaves and flatten them preparing them to be added to your buckle inset.
A small pressed leaf was used as the center of my Canadian flag design, the side borders were made by cutting similar coloured leaves to the right shape. The leaves were then laid onto thick white cardstock, ready for casting resin.

For the other buckles I decided to make custom colour images. These belts were destined to be gifts, so I used images that would be meaningful to the recipients. In this case: John Wayne and the metal band Slayer (not for the same person). I found a few classic John Wayne images online, and decided to settle on the iconic black and white movie still from True Grit. The Slayer image is also a classic and your Slayer buckle may turn out better if you're listening to Reign In Blood, just sayin'.
The images were imported to a photo editing program and resized to be slightly larger than the measured inset of the buckle. Then the images were printed on white printer paper. Each icon was cut out using the leather blank as a guide, this ensured that each image cut out is exactly the right size to fit into the inset.

Step 3: Resin

Picture of Resin

Always follow the instructions on your casting resin.
Warning: Most casting resins come in a 2-part solution, the resin and a hardener. When mixed, the two produce a chemical reaction and begin solidifying (curing). This process takes about 24 hours to set fully, but you can see a drastic change in viscosity within the first 30 minutes. During the curing the resin is exothemic, meaning it produces heat, this isn't much of a concern with the volume used in this project but caution should be used when casting anything over 25mm (1") thick. The the resin can heat up considerably and cause fractures in the resin while drying. For larger/deeper casts it's advised to pour in stages to avoid any issues with overheating your resin.

The type of resin used here is commonly available EasyCast casting epoxy. The bottles were heated in warm water for a few minutes, then the resin and the hardener were measured out in separate exact quantities, then combined and mixed thouroughly for 2 minutes. After, the mixture needed to be transferred into a new clean container and mixed again with a new stir stick for another 2 minutes.

Using the stir stick a small amount of epoxy was applied to the bare face of the buckle blank, giving the colour print image something to adhere to before embedding with resin. When image or embellishments have been placed on buckle blank gently pour mixed casting resin over entire buckle insert. Since this buckle was slightly curved, and I anticipated the resin might gather at the edges and overflow, the resin was only filled about halfway up the insert.

You can gently poke through the resin to adjust the image or embellishments, but after about 40 minutes the resin begins to get set and any poking/touching of the resin will mar the smooth finish. You've been warned.

Lie buckles is a flat position, leave buckles to cure overnight at room temperature.

Step 4: Oil Leather

Picture of Oil Leather

Raw, untreated leather feels dry and very rough to the touch. It needs to be treated and protected to ensure a long and pliable life. Leather is typically treated with neatsfoot oil, an industrious oil made from rendered bovine legs and hooves. When applied, this oil will keep the leather soft, pliable and give it longevity.

First gently brush each raw belt to remove any foreign material. Then, using a cloth spread the oil over the entire belt on all sides and leave in the sun for a few hours. Repeat the process with a second coat.
Your belt is now treated and is ready to be used, use any extra oil for yearly applications and keep your belt strong and flexible.

Step 5: Finish Belt

Picture of Finish Belt

Most raw belts will need to be finished in some fashion. This may involve adding clasps, buttons, tapering the edge or boring belt notches. If you have an old belt you can use that as a notch and taper template.

My belt came with buttons to secure the buckle, so I just had to cut a taper in the end and drill the belt notches.

If you don't have an old belt to use as a reference then trace your taper onto a sheet of paper to get a symmetrical shape you are satisfied with, then cut out that shape and trace onto end of belt. Use a

Notch holes:
Drill notch holes by using an old belt as a template, or spacing your notches roughly 12mm (0.5").

You can choose to leave your belts plain, or you can emboss the leather. I used the tip of Phillips-head screwdriver hammered into the leather to make some neat imprints, then I embossed a shell casing into one of the belts for my gun-enthusiast friend.

Step 6:

Picture of

All that's left is to attach the buckles to the belts and you're ready to show off your new custom belt.

If you find that your embellishments have poked through the resin as it was curing. You can easily pour a new layer of resin over the existing resin after it has dried and cover any exposed embellishments, just repeat all the steps with a fresh batch of mixed resin.

Lookin' good there, cowboy!

Have you made your own version of this project, or cast something else with casting resin based on this project? Post a photo of your results in the comments below and you'll earn a digital patch and a 3-month Pro Membership to!


7 Mile Makery made it! (author)2016-12-04

Hi Mike. This was a great project. I used a hair dryer to remove and re-use oak veneer from spare parts of an old singer treadle.

Looks fantastic! Thanks for sharing.

tejer (author)2015-07-02

Hi, how did you make the leather blank for cutting out the images? My blanks have rounded corners, I'm spending way to much time trying to make to cuts perfect. Also, what program did you use for sizing?

mikeasaurus (author)tejer2015-07-04

Any photo editing software will work for sizing. Step 2 covers how I made the images fit inside the rounded buckle blanks.

trydanearl (author)2015-03-24

Do you use photo paper for your images? Do you coat them with anything before you put on the clear casting?

mikeasaurus (author)trydanearl2015-03-24

I used regular printer paper. The resin did dull the colour a bit, so photo paper is probably a better choice.

almightymat (author)2015-03-12

Hey there,

I have a couple of belt buckles like this and the loop on the back (where the belt feeds through) has snapped on both - any idea where I can get replacements, or even what the proper term for this par of the buckle is so I can google something?


mikeasaurus (author)almightymat2015-03-12

I've tried repairing those before without much luck. You can check the links in Step 1 to see where I got mine from. You can buy all kinds of buckles there, and blanks, too, so you can make your own.

Good luck!

almightymat (author)mikeasaurus2015-03-13

Ah, I tried Tandy Leathers already and they don't sell them....any other suggestions?


EthanJP (author)2013-11-03

Can I buy a John Wayne one???? THEY ARE SO COOOOOLLLLLLLLLLLL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

sunshiine (author)2011-11-01

Way to go! You just gotta love that John Wayne! You solved my Christmas gift problem! Belt buckles for all the guys! Thanks for sharing!

EthanJP (author)sunshiine2013-09-30


sunshiine (author)EthanJP2013-09-30

Love the pic! Have a fabulous day!

3366carlos (author)2013-02-17

you rock, my wife's pict. would look good on my belt.

akkunth (author)2013-02-15

Thank you for the quick response. I see. I was somehow thinking the top part needs to have a ball shape to kind of clip in to the holes in the belt so it won't come off easily. I'm imagining the ones you had bends slightly inwards too to have a hooking effect? I will research on the buckles a little more and try and make one using your method. Thank you.

akkunth (author)2013-02-15

Hi Mike, enjoyed this post and I am going to try and make one myself. I've been researching on blank buckles like the ones you used and there are plenty around but I can't seem to find any info on the size of the pin on the back of the buckle that actually goes through one of the holes in the belt to secure. I have a belt that has quite big holes. The original buckle was a normal style with just the pin showing rather than a plate like yours. The buckle broke so I want to make some myself as the belt is in good condition but I don't want to buy blank ones to find that the pin is too thin for the holes. Any tips on this please?

mikeasaurus (author)akkunth2013-02-15

I can't speak for all types of buckles, but the ones I used had a tapered pin. It looked much like a rhino horn, thin at the tip and thick where it attaches to the back of the plate. I would think that many are designed like this to accommodate many types of belts.

I'd love to see your results!

OnTheRange (author)2012-07-27

It works great! I have a collection of belt buckles but now I can make my own. thanks a bunch.

Do you know if you can do multiple layers of the epoxy???
I was thinking of using an Altoid tin and making a scene with cutouts that has some depth....Like an eagle in the foreground mountains in the background and clouds on top of them? Just wondering

pdub77 (author)OnTheRange2012-10-22

Check this out, OnTheRange.

imbigman (author)2012-08-20

Expendable Youth Might make the Slayer Buckle that much better. Well... at least I think so.

FlatLinerMEDIC (author)2011-12-21

the problem with tandys belts are they cost like 30 bucks....i love tandys but the belts are a rip off.

Yeah, some stuff can be pricey. But, the buckle was $7 and the belt was $9! Look for those sales!

Maker-Breaker (author)2011-11-12

Love your projects, Mike. Can you show me what you mean by "using a shell casing to emboss the leather"? I bet it looks great.
m going to check out your stuff on dollar store crafts.

I'm glad you enjoyed reading my work!

To emboss, I used something that had engraving in it which would transfer onto the soft leather when pressure is applied.
For the example shown here, I used an old shotgun shell cartridge which has the manufacturer and type of shell engraved on the brass backside. The brass backing was placed face down on the leather, then the two were clamped together on a vise and left overnight. Almost any engraved object should work, but test out on scrap leather first to make sure.

priestlp (author)2011-11-11

interesting project,any idea where i can get hold of blank belt buckles?

mikeasaurus (author)priestlp2011-11-11

links in step 1

Mr.Sanchez (author)2011-11-08

OMG...this is soooooo awesome...

scoochmaroo (author)2011-11-01

I love the real life maple leaf flag. As soon as I saw the main image, I knew it had to be yours! Now what kind of belt buckle do I need to make . . .

wilgubeast (author)2011-11-01

I've been considering this as a way to get cheaper belt buckles. Thanks for writing it up.

Flintlock (author)2011-10-31

I saw some custom belt buckles in a "strange craft" magazine, and have been wanting to make some, but lost the magazine and never bothered internetting it.


Now to find some nat geos.

ChrysN (author)2011-10-31

Funny, my first thought was that they were Iphones too. They look really great, you can probably set up an Etsy shop and sell them.

Penolopy Bulnick (author)2011-10-31

Awesome! I thought those were iPhones at first, belt buckles make much more sense :)

About This Instructable




Bio: I'm Mike and I make crazy things at Instructables HQ in San Francisco. Follow me and try a few of my projects for yourself!
More by mikeasaurus:Router Planer10 MORE Woodworking Tricks the Pros UseSliced Wood Coasters
Add instructable to: