Introduction: Design and Make Celtic Knotwork Leather Belt

About: A Mechanical Engineer with way too many hobbies

Overview: In this instructable you will learn how to:

1) Create a Celtic Knotwork pattern from scratch
2) Draw your own variations in knots
3) Tool a leather belt with the knotwork pattern
4) Finish the belt


Ball point pen
Ruler, Triangle (if making grid by hand)

Leather belt blank
Hole punch
Spray bottle
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)
Utility knife
Tracing mylar (or other plastic)
Swivel knife (special leather knife)
Leather stamps: beveler, backgrounder
High density sponge
Leather antique (stain)
Leather finish
Edge Kote
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)


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.

Based on the measurement, you know how long your Celtic pattern needs to be.

Step 1: Make It Unique: Designing the Celtic Knotwork Pattern From Scratch

Making the Grid (or just use the attached template and scale to proper size):

1) Make a grid of squares 4 squares high and as many squares wide as you need (Draw lightly with pencil). The four squares should fit inside the width of the belt blank with a small amount of space between the edge of the belt and the squares (somewhere around 1/8").

2) Make diagonal lines through the corners of the squares in both directions (Draw lightly with pencil).

3) Transfer the shape of the belt end onto the grid (the arched end of the belt). Line up with the grid nicely.

OR just use my pdf and scale it to your belt width.

Drawing your Knot Pattern

Things to remember:
1) All knots have 1 diamond space between them (unless they have ends that touch another ending knot)

2) Knots always alternate over/under/over/under when they cross each other. They should be consistent through entire piece. If you look at the top edge as you read left to right, every knot should either go over/under or under/over consistently PICK ONE! (I picked over/under)

3) Alterations in knot design can be done easily by placing a line on the grid (through the middle of gray squares on pdf grid). The line should be 2 gray squares tall and can either be biased top, middle, or bottom (SEE green lines on mine). You may also do a horizontal line (these go on the gray pdf lines)
Draw the knot up to the line (using curves if necessary) and then reflect off the line (maintaining a 1 diamond space between)
If you are drawing a straight knot on the top or bottom it should be the same thickness of the diagonal knots, NOT the gray grid.

Finalize Pattern

Trace pattern with Sharpie onto mylar. I use the stuff from Tandy leather.

You have now sucessfuly completed the hard part of this project. This part takes up approx. 1/2 of the entire project time

Step 2: Its Coming: Transfer Design Onto Belt

1) Cut the mylar to the width of the belt and tape it onto one edge.

2) Using a spray bottle on mist setting, spray water onto the belt and tape down other edge.

3) Trace over lines with ball point pen. The wet leather will take an impression. Re-wet leather as needed. Make sure it is taped well so the pattern isn't skewed.

4) Use swivel knife to cut all lines into leather. Leather should be moist with spray bottle. Use knife at an angle as shown and rotate barrel with curves. You should cut a little less than 1/2 way through the leather.

Step 3: Work the Magic: Leather Tooling

1) Wet the leather with the spray bottle. It should be less wet than when you were using the 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) You will only need two leather stamps for this project, a beveler and a backgrounder. You should tool the leather on a piece of granite on top of your work bench (the pictures lie, lol). Using a mallet, bevel all outside edges so that the deep part of the bevel is towards the edge of the knot. Once you rough in the bevel you can slide the beveller and continuously hit it with the mallet to smooth it out. Then use the backgrounder in between all internal knots. The one I used gives a rock type look. It is good to alternate the orientation of the tool as you hit so that the background looks like one continuous background. You should NOT see individual hits in the leather.

3) Re-wet leather as needed.

Step 4: Make It Pop - 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 knot intersections.

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) Apply contact cement on the buckle area that is skived to 1/2 thickness. Place the buckle in the correct orientation. Snap the snaps and apply pressure to the glued area to permanently fix the loop. If you placed your buckle incorrectly, its stuck forever, sorry.

Enjoy your belt and show it off! I wear mine almost everyday, even at work in business casual. It should last for years because it is solid leather.

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