Introduction: How to Make a Leather Belt - DIY
Today we are going to be making a long-lasting leather belt together at home, DIY style. This tutorial will take you through the process, whether you have a lot of supplies or minimal supplies for leather-work. The options are vast. For this Instructable, I recommend purchasing a belt blank from a reputable seller. I personally recommend Tandy Leather as the company has been around for ages and their quality is top-notch. There are other leather sellers that you could purchase from as well, but the options on Amazon are a bit limited - so it's sometimes best to purchase on the company's website.
If you don't purchase a belt blank, you will then need to have a piece of leather to use and some tools to cut out the belt to the width and length needed - and it can be a little bit tricky. So, for this Instructable, a belt blank is what I recommend. The one I am using in the tutorial has no holes or anything in it. But, I have noticed that many sellers now have belt blanks with pre-punched holes for the buckle area and that can save you money as you would need less tools.
I will provide some recommendations but also I will take you through the process of making it all yourself with just a belt blank and no pre-punched holes in it. The belt I'm making is an inch and a quarter wide - though most that are sold are an inch and a half wide. Be careful when you purchase it because you want to make sure it's long enough - just check the measurements before buying. Please read the full instructable first so you know what length of belt to buy as I explain that in step 1.
Please note: I will return to this page within a few days to add links to all products that I can find, have used or recommend as good options. If you have any questions, please ask me anything! Also, if you notice two different belt styles in the photos, it is because I made two and wanted to show different options.
- Belt Blank - 1 1/2 inches wide by whatever length is needed (I explain how to calculate length needed in a step 1)
- This Tandy Leather Belt Blank was the highest quality one I could find on Amazon & it has pre-punched holes and the snaps already in place and is about $20
- This 5-Pack Natural Veg Belt Kit is the most economical option that has good reviews on Amazon and it is a 5-pack of leather strips for about $30 with most extras needed to make those belts - but please note the width is 1 inch & the length varies from 34 to 42 inches and will not fit everyone
- The other options for purchasing involves buying direct from a leather supplier. Springfield Leather has a variety of prices & options that are decently priced. Tandy Leather also has a lot of options and the products are generally high-quality. Weaver Leather Supply also sells leather and belt blanks for great prices. I've also seen belt blanks for sale on Etsy.
- The last option is to buy a large piece of leather & cut it yourself. If you are careful, you could cut it with a utility knife. Or, you can buy a strip-cutting tool which is very useful. Leather for belts is usually 8-9 ounces in weight but some people prefer it a bit thinner and purchase leather that is 7-8 ounces.
- if you want to, you could cut the end shape with a utility knife instead
- this is one of the priciest tools if you buy the name brand item
- I noticed Amazon has a massive assortment of options from rounded belt end tools to ones more shaped like a triangle & the non-name brand ones have good reviews and are priced well-below others
- some people use beeswax applied to the edges to help smooth them
- otherwise, gum tragacanth can be applied to edges for burnishing with a tool
- this tool is unusually expensive at about $30 on Amazon and leather-selling sites
- the tools currently sold look different than the one you see in the photos, because mine is very old
- will also need a dye applicator & gloves
- a sponge is also handy when applying dye evenly
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Step 1: Cutting Your Leather to the Proper Belt Length
If you have a belt that already fits you well, it is a good idea to bring it along with your for this step. In this step, you will need to figure out the desired length for your belt. You must take into account the area needed near the buckle, which will be folded down.
I recommend that you measure the area around your waist where you normally would wear a belt. Whatever that measurement comes to, I recommend adding 11 inches to it and cutting your leather to that length. This is based off of what expert belt-makers recommend as a safe length based on your waist. Personally, I accidentally added 8 inches, rather than the 11 recommended and my belt is quite short, though it works.
In this step, I measured it out and then wet the leather near the end part of it. I then used my belt end punch tool and rawhide mallet to cut out the end shape. If you don't have that tool, you could carefully wet the leather and cut it out with a utility knife.
Step 2: Preparing Holes for the Belt Buckle Area
For this step, you will need the rawhide mallet, hole punch, oblong hole punch and skiving tool. Please see image for measurements and where to place the holes. I used 5/64 for the holes. Using the hole punch tool is easy. It helps to wet the leather first. Then, place the oblong hole tool in the correct position and use the mallet to hammer it and cut out the shape.
After cutting out all the holes on this end, take out the skiving tool. You will want to use the tool to shave off a good deal of the leather on the last 7 inches. Try to shave off enough so it is half as thick as it was to begin with. You can see my last image with the folded end piece - there you can see how much I shaved off with the skiving tool and I needed to skive off more to make it more even. Just be careful with this tool as it's sharp.
An alternative is to use a belt sander to shave off half of the thickness. It may become a bit fuzzy though, so you run that risk. This is a really handy tool but the blade needs to be new and sharp. I recommend skiving on dry leather.
Step 3: Punch Holes on the Other End of the Belt
Spray the other end of the leather belt with water. Measure 3 inches in from the end and that is where you can mark your first hole. For me, I took a mechanical pencil and used the end to make an imprint where I was going to place the first hole. Then, I took out the hole punching tool and punched out that first hole. I then marked where I would want the next holes. I placed my holes 1 inch apart but some people prefer 1 1/4 inch spacing. I did eight holes total, though some people prefer only six. It is totally up to you.
Step 4: Cleaning Up the Edges of the Leather Belt
In this step, we will be cleaning up the edges of the piece. Take out your beveling tool and use that along all edges from the front side to the back side. This will create a nicer, smoother edge along the belt. This step is optional but often done when making a belt.
The next thing I did is not something I recommend unless you really like the style. I used a creaser tool to create a creased line along the whole piece, near the edge. This is something that I was taught to do on most projects many years ago when I learned about leatherwork. But, it is totally unnecessary and next time I make a belt, I will do so without the creased line along the edge.
Step 5: Rivets & Belt Loop
First, it's important not to forget to make your belt loop. You will need to use some of your scrap leather to cut out a piece that is half an inch wide by approximately 4 1/2 inches long. The length may vary slightly based on a few different factors - especially the width of your belt. My belt width is approximately 1 1/4 inches. Please take this into account when figuring out what length to make your belt loop. The belt loop will need to have holes punched in the end and it will need to be secured with rivets. The rivets will come with instructions and everything needed and are super easy to use. They create a permanent closure. You can see the image in this step of how the rivets were setup before being put into place permanently with the mallet.
Also, if you have a set of alphabetical small stamps, you could stamp or imprint your initials (or those of the person you are giving the belt to) into the backside of the belt, near where the buckle goes.
Step 6: Leather Dye, Conditioning Oil & Burnishing the Edges (All Optional)
In this step, all these methods are optional and not required. If you prefer, this is the time to dye the leather. Depending on the dye used, you can often dilute it with a little water. For me, I apply a coat of it and then use a wet sponge to spread it out and dilute it a bit so it blends in nicely. I work quickly. Dyeing the inside is up to you but I tend to do it. It takes quite a while to fully dry and some people use a heat gun to speed up the process.I just let it dry overnight. Don't forget to dye the loop as well.
After it has fully dried, then you may or may not want to condition the leather with some type of oil. People have an array of recommendations and some people enjoy using olive oil (though it can greatly darken the leather). One recommendation that is quite common is the use of mink oil. If your leather feels dried out or stiff, it is a good idea to use it. If you are going to apply an oil, be sure to do a nice even coat with an old cloth or rag. Pour the oil onto the cloth or rag and then apply it carefully and evenly. You can do several coats as needed. After that, some people then go ahead and use a beeswax-based product to add even more life back to the leather and give it a bit of water-proofing. I made my own beeswax/oil mixture years ago and that is what I still use to this day. You can look for recipes online. Otherwise, many products (like ones with Mink Oil) contain a mixture so that it helps to preserve, condition and waterproof, all-in-one.
Once those things are done, if you like you can now work on burnishing the edges. This is a method used to make the edges look nicer and develop a bit of a sheen. Gum tragacanth is often used and applied to the edges before using a burnishing tool on them. The burnishing tool is often a piece of wood that is shaped in a way where you can run it along the sides and edges of your leather (vigorously) to create that sheen and nicer appearance. Some people just use a beeswax mixture along the edges with the burnishing tool. And, that is the way I do it as I didn't want to purchase another product.
Step 7: Finishing the Belt With Snaps & Fasteners
In this step, you have a couple of options that will allow you to have an interchangeable belt buckle. If you don't care about it being removable, you could just use rivets instead which will create a permanent closure. Rivets are extremely easy to use.
For those who don't want to deal with finishing the belt with snaps, you could use things that are called back screws. If you see the image of the belt with the initials HBM, on that belt I ended up using a back screw on the bottom hole because I ran out snaps and need to repurchase. With the back screw, it is just screwed in with a flat screwdriver. It is easy to use and easy to remove and the other side is flat and looks as nice as any snap does.
If you are going to use snaps, I recommend buying a kit that has the tools needed and many snap options and colors or finishes. They sell several kits like this on Amazon for $10 to $15. The instructions with those kits are very clear and usually have step-by-step photo demonstrations. I am sorry for not explaining this step with more clarity, but I am hoping you can look into this step further as you do your project. Since I ran out of snaps, I didn't have any extras to use as a demonstration. When you do get your snap kit, be sure to test it out on scrap leather so you know you are doing it correctly.
Step 8: Add the Buckle, Snap It Up & You Are Done - Lessons
You are done! Great job!
I like to share lessons learned at the end of some of my Instructables. Since this was the first belt I made in a few years, I wanted to share what I learned. I made a measurement mistake and so my belt is a bit smaller than I would have preferred. I also wish I hadn't used the creaser tool along the edges as I think it looks really nice without doing that. It tends to cause dye to pool into the creases. Lastly, please keep in mind that if you like to do leather tooling - to make designs on your leather, you can do that on your belt and it would look awesome.
Runner Up in the
1 Person Made This Project!
- dwmaas made it!