Introduction: Fur-lined Leather Wristband
These sturdy fur-lined wristbands are a good starting project for the novice leatherworker: fundamentally simple, you can put as much or as little effort into details as you like. Several steps here are marked as "optional": these steps add ornamental features or more professional finishing details, but require specialized tools that may not be in the beginner's workshop and add significant time to complete the project. Pick and choose the details that matter most to you.
Step 1: Tools and Materials
This project requires the following tools:
- Rotary cutter
- Utility knife
- Cutting mat
- Stitch groover (optional)
- Edge beveler (optional)
- Stitching chisel (optional)
- Dead blow hammer or mallet
- Skiving tool
- Hole punch
- Rivet setter
- Wood burnisher (optional)
- Sewing needles (optional)
And the following materials:
- One piece of 8-10 oz veg tan leather at least 6" x 18"
- One rabbit pelt
- One 3/4" buckle
- One D-ring (optional)
- Waxed thread (optional)
- Leather dye
- Denatured alcohol
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Leather top coat of choice
- Gum tragacanth (optional)
- Contact cement
Step 2: Sketch a Pattern
Leatherworkers, like carpenters, should live by the adage "measure twice, cut once". To that end, it is always a good idea to sketch out a paper pattern before cutting into your leather.
Take your wrist measurement, and add ~2". This is the length you will cut the wide inner strap. In heavy paper, cut out a strip 2" wide and to the length computed above.
For the inner strap, cut out a strip 3/4" wide x 16-17" long.
Finally, mark holes for rivets and the buckle on the pattern templates you have just cut out as illustrated here. If you wish to include a belt loop or D-ring in your design, mark it on your pattern as well. Remember that to secure a D-ring, you will need a rivet on both sides of it, so plan your design and mark your pattern accordingly.
Step 3: Cut Straps
Using the rotary cutter, cut your 2" and 3/4" straps and trim them to the lengths determined in the previous step. It's important to use a very sharp blade and firm even pressure. If you have difficulty controlling the rotary cutter, score the leather first and then take a second pass to cut all the way through.
Step 4: Round Corners
Using a utility knife and a coin as a guide, round the corners of your straps. A larger coin such as a quarter works well for the 2" strap, while a penny or a dime is good for the 3/4" straps. Mark the curves with a pencil and then cut.
Step 5: Groove, Punch, and Bevel (Optional)
Now you will tool the edges of the 2" straps in the following order:
- Stitch groove: Set the guide on your stitch groover to the desired width and, applying firm and even pressure, carve a groove around the entire edge of each strap.
- Punch stitch holes: Using the stitching punch and a heavy rubber or rawhide mallet, punch stitch holes into the groove.
- Bevel edges: Glide the edge beveler along each edge to carve off a thin sliver of leather, slightly rounding the edges. Do this on both the front and back sides of the leather.
These steps are optional from a structural perspective. For this project, they are done only for aesthetic purposes, and may be omitted if you do not own the specialized tools necessary or simply prefer how the wrist band looks without them.
Step 6: Prepare the Buckle End
On your 3/4" strap, use the pattern you prepared earlier and mark where you will punch the holes to rivet the buckle in place and pass through the tongue. With the skiving tool, shave the leather from the last rivet mark to the end of the strap to about 50% thickness. This will allow the strap to more easily fold over itself and lay flat when you rivet it together. Use your rotary punch to cut holes for the rivets. Make sure that they line up properly when you fold the strap end over itself. Finally, to cut the slot for the tongue, punch a hole on each end of the slot and then cut out the strip between them using your utility knife.
Step 7: Punch Remaining Holes
Now punch the remaining rivet and belt holes in both straps. This is a good stage at which to do a test assembly of the bracelet to make sure that everything lines up and fits as expected. Insert all the hardware, including buckle, D-ring, and rivets, but do not hammer into place yet. If everything fits as desired, great! If not, consider taking a step back, adjusting your pattern, and correcting your mistakes (perhaps with a brand new piece of leather) before moving on.
Step 8: Dye, Condition, and Seal
Perform these steps in a room with good ventilation wearing clothing you don't mind getting stained. Wearing gloves is a big help in keeping the mess under control too: dye will stain your hands just as well as it stains leather, so save yourself the trouble and do this in gloves and long sleeves.
As you can see in the picture, I like to lay out all of my supplies in the order in which I'll need them. It's good to have everything on hand here.
Before beginning, prepare a few tablespoons of dye by diluting it at a 1:2 or higher ratio. The liquid you use to dilute depends on the type of dye you have purchased. If it is alcohol based, you can use denatured alcohol. If it is water based, thin with water.
- Clean the leather by wiping it down with denatured alcohol. Allow to dry fully before proceeding.
- Gently wipe on an even layer of dye using a rag or an old t-shirt. Rub the dye in with a circular motion, taking care to apply it evenly across the whole piece of leather. Allow to dry fully.
- If desired, apply additional coats of dye until the desired color is achieved, each time allowing the leather to dry before applying the next layer. The dye will lighten as it dries, so letting it dry between layers ensures you can tell exactly what color you've ended up with.
- After your final coat of dye has dried, polish the surface of the leather vigorously with a clean white rag.
- Condition the leather by rubbing in a light coat of olive oil with a clean rag, taking care to apply the oil evenly to avoid creating blotchy stains. Allow the leather to rest for 12-24 hours to ensure that the oil has penetrated fully.
- Wipe on a layer of your top coat of choice - in this case, I applied two layers of a satin sheen top coat, resulting in a finish that leaves the appearance of the leather unchanged but provides a protective layer over the dye.
- Finally, polish the leather one more time with a clean rag.
Step 9: Burnish Edges (Optional)
This step is a bit labor-intensive, but it really makes a difference in the apperance of the finished product. Burnishing is the process of polishing the cut edges of the leather, resulting in the nice smooth edge you see pictured. To burnish edges, first lightly wet them with gum tragacanth and allow it to dry until slightly tacky. Then vigorously polish the edge with a wooden burnishing tool, selecting the groove on the tool that most closely matches the thickness of your leather.
Step 10: Ornamental Stitching (Optional)
Sew around the 2" straps using a saddle stitch. This simple stitch is sewn with two needles and results in a strong, durable seam.
Measure out a length of waxed thread approximately 4x the circumference of your strap. Thread a needle through each end and insert a needle into the first hole. Feed the thread through until you have equal amounts on each side and then begin stitching.
- To stitch, alternate between the left and right needle:
- Insert the left needle into a hole and pull it almost but not quite all the way through
- Insert the right needle into the same hole and draw it through, catching the first loop as if tying a knot
- Firmly pull both threads through to complete the stitch
When you reach the end, reverse direction, back-stitch 2-3 stitches, and tuck the thread under a stitch a couple of times on the back side of the leather to secure it before cutting the thread ends.
Step 11: Rivet
Assemble your straps, including the buckle and any belt loops or D-rings you chose to include in your design, and rivet them together. Some notes about rivets:
- Be sure that the post is cut to the correct length. If the rivet post is too long, it will bend when you hammer it in and the cap will pop off or dig into your leather and damage it.
- Always ensure your rivets are positioned perfectly straight or else they will bend when you hammer them in.
- Don't be afraid to bust out a pair of pliers to remove a badly-set rivet and try again. Leather is tough, it can handle a few mistakes.
Step 12: Adhere Lining
Examine your rabbit pelt to determine which part of the hide you would like to use as your lining, taking into account variations in color and fur direction. Trace the shape of your strap onto the back of the pelt in the desired location.
Apply a layer of contact cement to the back of the leather strap, and to the back of the rabbit pelt. Allow both to dry until slightly tacky before placing the two layers together. Firmly press them together, rolling them with a brayer or rolling pin to ensure solid contact and a tight bond.
Allow the glue to fully dry and then, using a utility knife, carefully cut out the rabbit hide. The goal is to cut through only the leather of the hide without shearing the hairs as well - you want your rabbit fur to be long and fluffy right up to the edge.
And with that, your project is complete! Enjoy your brand new silky-soft fur-lined wristband.