Introduction: Make a 100% Bicycle Belt
Did you know that you can make a belt entirely out of bike parts?
In this tutorial I will show you how to produce your own 100% Bicycle Belt, by combining together two chain plates, a couple of spokes and three cuts of bike tyre. You are going to learn how to produce your own buckle and rivets: in case it's your first time working with metal, it's a good opportunity to get started.
Before you delve into the making of the belt, in the first step of the tutorial I provide an overview of all the components that you are going to build with us. If you are planning to produce several belts, I provide a further tutorial where we explain how to create a Spoke Bender, a tool that will make your buckle production finer and faster. (How to make a spoke bender)
If you have any questions or proposals, you are always welcome to write me here on Instructables.
Step 1: Overview of the Belt
In order to craft your belt, you will need to prepare 7 different componets: 4 of them are made out of metal, 3 of them are made out of rubber. As you can see, I gave a name to every part of the belt. I will use this nomenclature throughout the tutorial, so that you always understand what I'm tlaking about.
Buckle, buckle bar and staple - [made out of wheel's spokes]
Staple washers - [made out of chain plates]
Belt's body, tongue and loop - [made out of bicycle tyres]
Step 2: Gather the Tools
To make the belt, you will need the following tools:
- Cutter knives - a hook blade knife might be useful but it's not essential
- Scissors - preferably tailor scissors
- Bycicle chain breaker
- Leather hole puncher
- Linesman pliers
- Flat head screwdriver
- Side cut pliers
- A hard metal surface on which to hammer (e.g. an anvil or a table bench vice)
- Optional: DIY Spoke Bender*
*As I mention in the introduction of this tutorial, the Spoke Bender is a DIY tool that I have developed in order to produce round buckles out of wheel's spokes. In the video below you can see how it works; if you are interested in building it, check out my tutorial at this link: How to make a Spoke Bender
Step 3: Collect the Materials
You can source all the materials needed for the belt at your local bikeshop! They usually fix bikes and dispose the parts that had to be replaced through the fixing. They will be happy to have you taking care of their waste as it's one less worry at the end of the day for them. Ask for:
- Tyre(s) (check step 8 to see which tyres are preferable)
I only use materials that are not functional as bicycle parts anymore!
Step 4: Disassemble the Bike Components
Once you've collected the materials, it's time to take them apart!
To get the tyre out of the wheel's rim, insert the flat screwdriver (or a bike tyre leveler) between the tyre and the rim. Push the tool in, and then push it outwards until the bead of the tyre comes off place. Keep the tool inside and slide it along the rim, until the entire bead gets off the rim. The second bead should be easier to remove, you can do it by forcing it out with your hands - use the tool if it's still hard.
Once the tyre is out, remove the spokes from the wheel by unscrewing the spoke nipple that are in the inner part of the rim, as seen in the second picture. When this is unscrewed, just slide the spoke out from the other end.
To get the chain plates, use the chain breaker tool to remove the rivet and rollers out. Save them away for other projects or recycle them with metal as in this belt we will only use the plates.
Step 5: Make the Staple
The staple, combined with the staple washers, is what holds together the different layers of rubber in the belt's head. I recommend to begin with the production of the staple because it's the easiest metal component to make. Once you master this practice, you are ready to produce the buckle and the buckle bar.
Prepare the material:
- Take a spoke and cut off it's threaded end with the side cut pliers.
- Mark it at 5 cm* and cut it again.
Save the remaining part of the spoke for the production of the buckle bar (step 7)
* The length of the staple may vary according to the thickness of the tyres that you are working with: for thin tyres cut the spoke at 4.5 cm, for very thick tyres cut it at 5.5 cm
Shape the ends of the staple:
- Hammer both ends of the bar until they're flat, but not too flat otherwise they get fragile.
- Sand the flattened ends to make them smooth.
- Hold one end of the bar with pliers, so that the first 3 mm of bar are hidden inside the plier
- Lean the bar on the sturdy metal surface
- Bend slightly the end of the bar by rotating the plier - use your wrist, as if you were accelerating on a motorbike
- Bend the other side ofthe bar in the same way*
*These little folds will be very useful later on in the process: once the belt is assembled they will help you squeeze the staple with pliers, so that you can permanetly lock it.
Bend the pins of the staple:
- Place the wide pliers in the center of the bar
- Lean one of side of the bar on the sturdy surface, so that the fold you have just made is pointing upwards
- Bend the spoke of 90° by doing the same motorbike move as before
- Repeat the same procedure for the other end of the bar
Once you have bent the pins, make sure that the staple that you have just built fits inside its staple washers. Take a chain plate and try to slide the staple inside it. If it's hard, force it inside with pliers, this should do the job. If the two ends of the staple are not parallel to each other, you can adjust them with the pliers.
You are done! If you are satisfied with the result, you are ready to produce the buckle. Otherwise you can practice a little more by making a second staple. It's not a bad idea to have a backup one, in case something goes wrong when you assemble the belt!
Step 6: Make the Buckle
You can either make a round buckle or a square one: in this step we provide pictures and instructions for making both shapes. Round buckles are the ones I have used in the following steps of this tutorial. The down side is that in order to make them, you also need to build a Spoke Bender. If you don't want to build this extra tool, make a square buckle instead. Here are the instructions for both of them.
Make a round buckle:
Take a new spoke and follow the video to see how to use the Spoke Bender.
- Insert the spoke's head in the slot of the seatpost and align it in the gap formed by the metal plates
- Close the spoke in, hold the seatpost with one hand and use the other to rotate the wooden piece clockwise around it
- Stop right before you've bent the entire spoke so that the metal does not spring out and gets deformed
- Cut off the straight end of the spoke with the pliers (we are using diagonal pliers here)
- Position the pliers in the opposite end by aligning it with the first cut
- Sand both ends
If the shape of the buckle is not round and tight enough, you can use pliers to twist the two ends of the spoke in the desired direction. In any case, the two ends should not overlap: keep a gap between them, as wide as the thickness of a spoke. This gap is where the buckle bar will later fit.
- Thicker spokes make sturdier buckles
- Heat the pieces at 260° for 1 hour, they will be more resistant to pressure through time. You can do it at home as many ovens reach this temperature
Make a square buckle:
For this second option, you need to use the linesman pliers while leaning against a sturdy metal surface (e.g. an anvil or a table bench vice). The principle is still the same: you need to bend the spoke into a coil, but in this case the coil has to be square.
- take a new spoke
- hold one end of the spoke with pliers
- while holding the pliers, lean the spoke on the sturdy surface
- press the spoke against the sturdy surface, while rotating the pliers up (the motorbike move: imagine you were accelerating on a motorbike)
- repeat this operation 3 more times, until you complete the first square
- adjust the shape of the square
- continue bending the remaing part of the spoke until you complete the scond square on top of the first one
The two ends of the buckle should not overlap: keep a gap between them, as wide as the thickness of a spoke. This gap is where the buckle bar will later fit. Thicker spokes make sturdier buckles. In any case, you can heat the pieces at 260° for 1 hour, so that they get more resistant to pressure through time. You can do it at home as many ovens reach this temperature
Step 7: Make the Buckle Bar
For producing the bucklebar (the pin), use the cut out spoke that you have spared in step 5 (when making the staple). If you lost it or you have used it all, just take a new spoke and cut off it's threaded end.
Shape the hook:
The first part to be made, with the tip of the spoke, is the hook that keeps the bar attached to the buckle.
- Lean the end of the spoke on a sturdy metal surface and hammer it until it's slightly flat; don't make it too flat otherwise it becomes fragile. Then sand it.
- Hold the flattened end with the pliers, keeping the pliers at 1.5 cm from the very end of the spoke. Bend the spoke against the sturdy surface, until you get the shape of a hook. Squeeze the hook shape with pliers, so that the flat end gets as close as possible to the straight part of the spoke
- Place the flat end on the edge of the sturdy surface (as shown in the third picture), so tha tonly half of it is leaning on the metal surface.
- Hammer the straight side of the spoke, until half of the flat end is touching the straight side (it helps to place a spoke inside the hook shape while you hammer, to make sure the buckle will fit in later)
Curve the pin:
If you take a closer look at industrially made buckles, you might notice that the pin is usualy not straight. This is because a curved pin allows the belt to fit more smoothly inside the buckle when you fasten it. You need to do something similar with the pin that you are building:
- Hold the spoke with pliers at 1 cm distance from the hook and bend it of aproximately 20° (picture 4)
- Move the pliers of another 1.5 cm and bend the spoke again, again 20°, but in the opposite direction (picture 5)
Shape the front end of the pin:
- Insert the hook in the buckle, as if it was a key in a key holder
- Compare the length of the pin to the diameter of the buckle
- Cut off the exceding portion of spoke, so that the pin is only 2 mm longer than the buckle
- Hammer the tip of the pin until it becomes flat, and sand it until it's smooth
You are done... are you ready for the rubber work?
Step 8: Choose the Proper Tyre
If you knock at the door of a bike shop on the proper day of the weel, you will come back with plenty of tyres. Take a tour in your neighborhood and ask to several stores, a good approach is to talk in advance to a bike mechanic and ask him/her to spare all used tyres and arrange a day when you will come to pick them up.
Once you have got the tyres, selecting the proper ones for your belt is an important task. The features of the tyres you choose will affect both the production process and the usability of the finished product. Let's see in which ways.
Thickenss of the tyre:
Thick tyres, such as anti-puncture ones, are surely stronger, but they are very hard to cut. You can still use them for the belt's body, but they are definitely not good for producing the belt's tongue and loop. For these two components we always recommend thinner tyres. In any case, in your first experiments we suggest that you use a thin tyre for the bet's body as well.
Pattern of the tyre's tread:
The smoother the tread, the asier your belt will slide through the loops of your pants when you wear it. Treads that are too rough and uneven get stuck in your trousers, and this could be very annoying when you need to quickly fasten or unfasten your belt, for example when you go to the toilet. Mountain bikes' tyres result in fancy, hardly usable belts; race tyres are the most comfortable option you can pick.
Erosion of the tyre:
Our philosophy is not to waste tyres that are still usable for riding: only choose tyres that are not fit anymore for their original purpose. However, if you pick a too worn one, your belt might break at some point. For the belt's body you should not worry too much, and you should not worry at all for the belt's loop. The rubber component that breaks more easilly is the belt's tongue. For this part we recommend that you pick a portion of tyre that is not too worn and that has no visible cracks.
Step 9: Cut Off the Beads of the Tyre
Beads are two elastic metal rings hidden inside the rubber of the tyre. Their function is to secure the tyre inside the rim of the wheel: it's a funny material but you don't need it for this project. Beads keep the tyre in a round shape, if you remove them the tyre becomes more flexible and easier to work with. Thus, it's convenient to cut them away.
Cut off the beads of the tyre:
Take your knife cutter or your scissors - in case you have a hook blade knife that's even better. Make a first incision in the rubber, as close to the bead as possible. Insert the blade inside the first incision and start cutting away the bead. Try to always keep the blade close to the edge, where the bead is leaning. If the cut is straight enough, the tyre's sidewall will be usable for the belt loop.
Once both beads are removed, cut the tyre in one point. You can now roll it up and store it somewhere, or you can measure its lenght around your waist.
Step 10: Cut the Belt's Body
Cut the tyre in the appropriate width and length to make the belt's body.
Find out the size of the belt:
- To measure the length of the belt, place the tyre around your waist and add 20cm after the point the rubber starts overlapping (you want the belt to be useful through the ups and downs of life...)
To determine the width of the belt, find a reference point or line in the pattern of the tyre's tread, so that you can later follow it with your blade. Make sure that the chosen width matches with the size of the buckle you made before
Cut and finish the tyre:
- Cut both sides of the tread along the reference points or lines that you have chosen in your pattern
Cut one end of the tyre in the same shape of your buckle. If you have a round buckle, cut the rubber in a half moon shape, if you have a square buckle cut it straight. to fit it tight.
- On the same end of the tyre, punch the front edge of the tread with the leather hole puncher. You should get a half hole on the mid point of the edge. This small hole is where the pin of the buckle will lean. It will weep it in position and it will allow its rotation without friction.
Step 11: Cut the Tongue and the Loop
Tongue and loop are the two rubber components that will give a personality to your the belt. You can play a bit with colours and patterns, but there's a few things to keep in mind.
Choose the proper tyres:
The tongue is made with a tyre tread. You can use the same one you have used for the belt's body, or you can pick a different one. Keep in mind that this componet is the one that will wear out faster, as it's the one that gets strained the most, when you fasten and unfasten the belt. For this reason, choose a tyre tread that is not too worn and make sure it has no cracks. Cut out a piece of tread you like and fold it around the belt's body: does it look strong enough? is it too thick? do you see any crack popping out?
Now select the rubber for the belt's loop. For this component you need to use the sidewall of the tyre. It doesn't necessarily need to be a strong piece of rubber, and you should not worry if it's slightly worn. What matters here is that the sidewall you pick has to be as thin as possible.
Cut out the pieces:
- For the tongue, cut a rectangular piece of approximately 10x3 cm. This measure can differ according to the thickness of the belt's body or aesthetic preferences.
- For the loop, cut a strip 1cm wide. The length of the strip will be determined later on, for now cut a piece that is 10-12 cm long
Step 12: Wash the Tyre and Chain Plates
To wash the tyre and chain plates I use a solution of vinegar, dishwashing soap, and warm water. I use a brush to scrub the tyre thoroughly after soaking it in the solution. For the chain plates, scrub them with a cloth after the immersion.
Step 13: Prepare Tongue and Loop for Assembly
In this step you will use the leather hole puncher for punching slots and holes in the tongue and loop components.
Prepare the tongue:
- Cut the edges of the tongue in the shape you like. The ends can have any kind of geometric shape.
- Mark on the rubber the points where you need to punch the holes
- The line marked in the middle of the tongue is the slot where the buckle bar will slide up and down. It has to be aproximately 2 cm long
- The two dots on both sides of the line are the pinholes where the staple will fit. In order to mark them, take a chain plate and use it as a mask on top of the tongue. Mark the two pairs of dots symmetrically; don't place them too close to the edges, nore too close to the central line
- Punch the pinholes
- Punch the central slot. Start punching one hole on one side of the line, slide a bit the tool towards the other end of the line and punch again, so that the two holes are not separate but slightly overlapped. Keep sliding the tool and punching, sligthly overlapping each new puncture to the previous one, until you reach the other end of the line.
Prepare the loop:
- Refine the edges of the loop's strip
- Punch a hole on one end of the strip. The other hole will be punched after you determine the length of the strip. This will happen when you assemble the belt.
Step 14: Prepare the Belt's Body for Assemby
Before assembling, you need to punch two pinholes on the belt's body too:
- Insert the buckle inside the central slot of the tongue
- Bend the tongue around the head of the belt's body
- Make sure that the two pinholes on the upper side of the tongue are in line with the two pinholes on the lower side
- Mark the pinholes on the belt's body, using the tongue as a mask
- Punch the two pinholes
You are ready to assemble the belt!
Step 15: Assemble the Head
The moment we've all been looking for: now we assemble the head to the body of the belt!
Assemble the front side of the belt:
- Get a chain's plate and pin it to the staple
- Insert the staple in the pinholes of the belt's tongue
- Insert the staple in the pinholes of the belt's body
Determine the lenght of the loop:
- Flip the belt
- Take the loop and pin it to the staple, using the only hole that you have punched on it
- Take the free end of the loop andwrap it around the belt's head
- Hold the free end with one finger, keeping it as close to the staple as possible
- Flip again the belt
- Try to slide the belt's body inside and outside the loop, to check whether the loop is too large or too narrow
- Once you find the proper lenght for the loop, cut it and punch a pinhole on its end
- Pin the second end of the loop to the staple
Assemble the back side of the belt:
- Place the buckle inside the central slot of the tongue. Make sure that the buckle bar is oriented in the proper direction.
- Fold the tongue and pin it to the staple
- Pin a second chain's plate to the staple. It's meant to work as a washer: when you lock the staple, it will distribute the pressure onto a larger surface of rubber
Step 16: Secure the Staple
You are almost done, it's time to secure the staple. Before you lock it permanently, make sure that all the components are in the right place. A very common mistake is to misplace the buckle: try to move the buckle bar up and down to see if it makes any friction; make also sure that the pin opens outward and not inward.
Secure the staple:
- Hold the belt's head with the pliers
- Take a look at both sides of the belt to make sure that both clamps of the pliers are leaning on the staple and not on the rubber
- Squeeze the bended edges of the staple's pins until they bend against the chain plate washer.
- Lean the belt on the sturdy metal surface and hammer the bent pins until they adhere to the washer. Stop hammering when the rubber around the washer starts to sink, it means that the stable is holding enough pressure against the layers of rubber*
*Before hammering, make sure that the loop is not leaning under the staple. If the loop gets pinched between the surface and the staple, when you hammer you might ruin it or even cut it in two parts.
Step 17: Punch the Body's Holes
The belt is almost ready, you only need to refine the tip of the belt's body and punch some holes, so that you can fasten it.
Mark the pinholes and draw the tip:
- Measure the belt around your waist
- Mark the first pinhole and take off the belt
- Mark a couple of pinholds more, both before and after the first mark, in case you gain or lose weight.
- Draw the shape you wish for the end tip of the belt, according to your aesthetic preference. A sharp tip will make it easier to slide the belt inside the loop
- Punch the marked holes
- Cut and refine the end tip
Step 18: Your Belt Is Ready!
This is how the belt should look like when it's ready!
Please send us feedback on how your individual projects or workshops went. If you come up with any improvements, please let me know!
Before you go, in the last step I give some tips on how to store leftover materials
Step 19: Store Extra Tyres
When you come back from the bike shop with plenty of old tyres, you might want to store them in the smallest place as possible. After selecting the tyres that you want to keep, you can cut away the tyre beads from all of them (as explained in step 9). This way you can roll them up and tie them with a string, or better with a slice of bike tube. Now you can keep them all inside a box until the next time you will need them.
First Prize in the
Trash to Treasure Contest