Introduction: Craft Yourself a New Leather Belt

About: I make things sometimes.
Hi there!

So you're interested in a lil leather crafting?  No problem, I was too, so I gave it a shot.  There's a lot you can take away from this instructable, but on the same token, you will need a few tools.  Below, I'll outline everything that you should have for each major step.  

Just a heads up:  While crafting this belt, I used a burning tool, you can you a method called "stamping" as well, however I find that takes a lot longer, and A LOT more skill.  I find burning a quicker and dirtier way of making a sweet design on leather.  

I also kept the belt very simple.  By using one snap, I can switch out the buckles, hopefully you have one or two buckles laying around (I will not instruct you how to make a buckle this time).  

I'm going to show you how to make a basic functional belt with some design involved.  Also, when I outline the tools, I'll do my best to suggest other tools, but for the most part, I'm going to outline what I used to get the job done.

What you need for the design:
  1. A strip of leather (Tandy Leather carries everything on the list by the way, but you also might find a leather shop in your hood too!)
  2. A sweet design in mind
  3. Tracing paper (You don't need to be an artist!)
  4. A burning tool (I used my wood burner)
  5. Pencil
  6. Pen-like tool (for outlining the design through the tracing paper onto the leather)
  7. Leather stains (For desired colours)
  8. Leather liquid finish (To seal the finished belt)
  9. Newspaper
  10. Sponge
  11. Fine Paintbrush (depends on your design)

What you need for the leather work (Again, Tandy Leather is your best bet here):
  1. Leather Skiver (I actually don't have one, I used a woodcarving blade)
  2. A rubber/plastic hammer
  3. Leather punches for necessary holes
  4. Snaps and snap anvil 
  5. Heavy duty scissors or blade (May need to shorten your belt)

If you keep the design simple, less stuff is required.  If you want to add more components to the belt, obviously you'll need more on the leather side of things.  Either way, it's hard to get into leather crafting as a minimalist.  If you want to get into it, look into a leather starter kit, most of the tools included you'll be able to reuse anyways!  And if you've notice in the pic...Yes my coffee table is a work-out bench, most of the belt was done on there...Awesome. 

If you want to get to know me more, follow my personal account on Instagram, I'd love the attention!  Just click the link or look me up, mattw13. Thanks!


Also, as I'm ramping up, I speak my mind on Twitter too, so feel free to follow me on there too!

Step 1: Your Belt Design

So you've got your strap of leather and all of your design tools handy...Awesome.  This is the fun part, but probably the longest part, so take your time, be creative and enjoy it.

First, choose your design.  This probably needs to be somewhat of a pattern to go across the belt, so consider something you might like.  In my first belt, all I did was the my "Mattcave" logo on the end of the belt.  It was real quick and real easy...Same process, I included it in the pictures.

Okay, let's rock step by step.
  1. Find your designs and get them on paper
  2. Use your own designs, or find some online, print them off so they'll be sized for the belt (I attached a screenshot of my Galaxy SIII using the Samsung print app, I love technology when I do crafts).
  3. Get your tracing paper and trace the images you want to transfer onto the belt
  4. Sketch out your belt on some scrap paper to make sure it looks okay (I don't LOVE the design I chose, but I wanted to mix sh*t up a bit, you know?)
  5. Before you get started, measure your belt up with another belt of yours, it's probably super long, so trimming it before you begin designing will save you lots of design time. (If it's too short already, pwnd, you'll have to make a bracelet or something)
  6. Soften the leather with a slightly damp sponge, this will make transferring a little easier
  7. As soon as the belt is dry, begin etching your design, I used a measuring tape to ensure my skulls were every few inches, I didn't care with the blood spills were, I was okay with it being mixed up a little.
  8. Use your tracing tool (use something like mine, if you don't have one, be creative here, all you need to do is press the design through the tracing paper into the belt)
  9. Once you've transferred the image, get your burning tool ready.  You'll simply go over these lines with the tool.  I recommend practicing on a scrap piece of leather to get a good feel for it.  A slow steady burn will give you the best image.  Go deep & pull the pen slowly (pushing too much may cause you to dig into the leather creating deep burns, clean the pen with another metal tool and take breaks so you don't get sloppy, I know I did a little.
  10. As you are working away, toss on a classic flick, I chose He-Man Masters of the Universe, boom.
  11. If your design wears out your tracing paper as much as mine did, no problem, just trace over the design again and start fresh on another piece of the paper.
  12. When you burn, you can go back and forth from transferring to burning, it mixes things up and lets you take breaks, just a recommendation.
  13. Okay, are you finished?  Hope it's legit, onto the next stage.

Step 2: Painting/Staining Your Belt

This parts pretty straight forward, you'll just need your leather stains and painting stuff.

I started with black first.  
  1. Simply "paint" the stain in the desired areas, be as careful as you can but know that the deep burns will help prevent you from bleeding over the edges.  I hope you were good with colouring books back in the day.
  2. After I finished the facing side, I went ahead and stained the back as well.
  3. Heads up, you'll need to go back and paint over some parts of the belt if you paint before prepping the belt like I did. (Next page of this instructable)  It doesn't make much difference which you do first, just a heads up.
  4. Once the first colour is complete, let it dry (it dries pretty quick) and begin the next colour, if it's a single colour, awesome.
  5. Finish painting the belt, just be mindful that these are rather serious stains so don't spill and try not to get the darker stains in where the lighter stains (I.E. red) need to go
  6. Once your belt is painted and completely dry, grab your liquid finish and go over your belt with a sponge.  If you're concerned about colour bleeding, be careful here, it will bleed across.  Go over both sides of the belt, oh and don't forget the edges in all this!
  7. Again, hopefully it's legit, let it dry for the next stage but know that you'll need to pull the stains back out so don't let 'em get too far if you painted first like I did

Step 3: Actually Making It a Belt

This part can be quick, but it's also the trickiest and requires leather specific tools. 

Here we go:
  1. In order to fold the front and insert the snaps, you'll want to thin out the leather where it's folded.  This is where the skiver comes in real handy, but if you don't have one, you can use an x-acto knife or wood carving tools instead.
  2. shave down the leather to allow the front piece to fold like the pictures, if your leather is thinner than mine, it will be easier to fold and less will need to be shaved.  I could have shaved a little more off, but I was fine with what I shaved off, this is all your call...Actually this all is, I'm just trying to guide you a little!
  3. On the other end of the belt, I decided to trim the belt to the last skull for a unique end, I used my utility knife end on my burning tool for a clean trim, you obviously can do whatever you want with your sweet belt
  4. You're done with shaving off, so you can paint now or after you insert the snaps
  5. Okay, snaps can suck but you'll want a hard surface, grab the snaps of your choosing (make sure they're big enough for your leather and make sure your punch tools compliment the size as well).
  6. Set up your area and line up your snaps based on the instructions,  if they're like mine, I hope my picture helps
  7. Punch holes where you want the snaps to go, when you pick up your snaps, again make sure you grab a punch that fits the holes you need, ask the retail staff for guidance on the right sizes if you want to be 100%
  8. I used the button snap for the front, so if you're the same way, my pictures might help you here
  9. Set your snaps by hammering them through the belt with your anvil and flat surface.  You should receive instructions with your anvil, but I highly recommend sacrificing a few snaps on a scrap piece of leather if you've never done this before, I've messed up a few times, and you don't want to do mess up too much on your sweet belt.
  10. If you left some room for multiple snaps, awesome, do it up.  I didn't, but I did on my first belt, all good either way.
  11. Once you successfully set your snaps (there are more expensive tools to support this step by the way, check with your retail source if you're interested), snap them in and out a few times and make sure they're set in the belt.
  12. Now, grab another belt of yours to help line up where you need to belt holes, and use your belt hole punch to knock those through.  When hammering, strike a few firm blows with the hammer onto the punch for a clean hole (or snap)  Just don't crack your working surface.  I use marble slabs and I've cracked some thin slabs including the one I used during this instructable, haha.
  13. Okay, if you haven't painted & finished those trims and shavings you've done, get those finished, I went over the belt once more with liquid finish, it doesn't hurt to do the same, then let it dry.
  14. Annnd your belt should be finished and awesome!
  15. Clean up.