Belt Sander Belt Messenger/Laptop Bag




About: I have my own metal/wood shop (in my garage) and have been randomly making things I find super sweet since birth. I'm currently in AP Art 3 in my senior year of high school and would like to major in art. Ya...

Yes indeed, a laptop bag made from the belt of a belt sander. I know how excited you are but.....      Why use the old belt?

-The belt is toughER than nails. Aluminum oxide is incredibly tough and the thick canvas backing is everything-resistant.
-Recycling is both trendy and good for the environment, depending on your priorities.
-You can write something callous on the bag and call it 'abrasive'
-But most importantly, its a loophole in the Beltabrand belt reuse challenge and is indeed, a belt by name. Woo loopholes!
-Edit: The tie down strap is also a repurposed belt.

Checkpoint: You know you want to make one of these bags.

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Step 1: Tools, Materials, and Skills

A note....... While this instructable may be read as a guide to creating your own bag with different dimensions all materials and instructions pertain to the specific bag I have created. It fits my 13 inch Macbook perfectly and was made to do so. If you plan on making something larger, plan ahead, and prepare to modify designs. I believe in you!

 -One 6x48 belt. Composition of the belt is irrelevant but the blue belt I used is aluminum oxide. Silicon carbide belts are brown; it's a cosmetic decision.
-Strong thread.
-At most, one yard of tough cloth. A second softer material for the inside is optional.
-A zipper.
-A tie down strap.
-Plenty of paper

-Scissors you are not terribly fond of. The belt will most likely scratch them a bit while cutting.
-A tough needle.
-Some sort of punch. A finishing nail and a hammer does the trick.
-A chunk of scrap wood
-A good square. You wont need measurements more precise than half an inch. 
 -A good felt tip pen
-A nice workspace. Preferably one with some music playing.
-One trusty sewing machine, preferably with thread as you wont get far without it.
-An iron will help you flatten some edges you'll need to sew but it isnt strictly necessary.

-While making a bag is not rocket science you will need a sewing machine. I asked my mother for help with that 'cause she's cool, but not so cool that she'll go to your house and help you. If you do not have access to the machine or the skills you can get by with needle and thread skills. But that would take forreeeeeevvveeerrrrrrrrr.
-Basic needle and thread skills. (Which end does the thread go in and which part is the pointy part?)

Checkpoint: Do you have these things? They are pretty necessary.

Advance to the next level!

Step 2: Planning Stage

We'll start by cleaning the belt... I don't know about the rest of you but my belt sander has a soft slick surface that seems like its there to reduce friction on the belt. It leaves a slippery black powder-ish residue on the hands which i assume is graphite but if someone told me it was a toxic lead compound i'd believe them... Which is why we'll be scrubbing it off as best we can. After cutting the belt along the seam I took a wire bristle brush to both sides under running water. That and a paper towel got 90% of the mystery material off as well as giving the abrasive side a cleaner look. Leave the scrubbed belt in the sun to dry and learn how to play the recorder...... Or just start making the templates.

We'll use paper templates, assembling them with tape to get an idea of what we're making. Ignore the red marker on the paper shown in picture two and instead, refer to the diagram drawn in paintbrush.
Have those paper templates cut out? Good! Now trace them onto the cotton side of the belt and cut them out. I wont tell you how to fit them onto the belt because im pretty sure you're all capable of solving a four piece puzzle.

Checkpoint: Belt is clean, paper model is to your liking, belt parts are cut out and creased (along the black lines of the diagram)

Good? Move on!

Step 3: Punching the Holes

Now we punch holes in the belt. Start by looking at that blurry second picture and note the locations of the holes. They are fairly consistently one 1/4 inch in and 1/4 inch apart. At the time of the picture I had forgotten to mark the bottom edge of the panel # 3 (left side) but that will need to be punched as well.
Picture three shows the high tech method used to keep panels 3 and 4 aligned while we punch through them both at the same time. Its extremely important the holes line up, stitching them together would be really irritating if they didn't. You also need to line up the holes that connect panels 4 and 1 or 4 and 2.
The rows of holes at the right ends of 1 and 2 are unnecessary. You need only two holes punched there so just dont worry about that part for now.

Note: It is important that your corner holes line up as well. Put the same number of holes on one half of a corner joint as the other or your threads will look funky.

Checkpoint: You've punched all the holes making sure 3 and 4 line up as well as where 1 and 2 go under 4


Step 4: Stitching Them Panels

According to my mother I used "back stitch" by feel but in the case that not everyone has this instinct I have created a diagram. This is the strongest way to stitch it and looks pretty swanky so take the time and stitch them panels. Panel 3 goes over 4 where the holes line up, and panels 1 and 2 over 4 (over I meaning it is on the outside of the overlap)
Corners are stuck together in whatever manner seems to work for you. They are not as structurally important but still outght to be strong.

Note: Picture 5 is only half finished. the corners are much better off with two stitches through each pair of holes.

Checkpoint: There is a reason this step has so manny pictures, make sure what you have closely resembles the last two shown.

Onward march!

Step 5: Sewing the Liner and the Back

Hardest step here... Buckle down lads.

So the goal is to make one liner and one back panel. The back is the blue striped canvas and the liner is the green corduroy. The liner is sewn to the back canvas along the top edge and hangs lose within the structure created by the stitched belt.

Picture one shows the canvas back being sewn to the liner along the top edge. The edges of the canvas will be stitched to the edges of the belt in the next step but before we do that we need to make sure the fabric won't simply unravel at the edges. Forgive me if you already know this, but we need to fold the canvas over and sew it down to create a strong edge.
Sizing of the back panel goes as such.... Top/bottom edges between 14 and 14.5 inches. Sides, as close as you can get to 9 3/4. With that in your head, remember to add one finger width for the folding over step. This can be seen in picture 4 with three of the four edges done.

Because my laptop is pretty thin I was able to get away with the corduroy folded in half and the sides sewn straight up. That makes the basic bag shape but we need to attach the zipper first. Note on the zipper... it doesn't work very well and I'm willing to suggest you use buttons. If you insist on the zipper, good luck. Buttons can be done by just sewing them to the corduroy with a loop made from your strong thread.
Sizing of the liner: Put your laptop more or less in the center of the fabric and fold the cloth over so that the computer is inside. Pinch the fabric hanging over the sides, mark it, then mark the fabric one finger width out. those two outside marks are where you cut. Give yourself about an inch and a half on each side of the top edge (where the buttons/zipper will go)

I apologize for the difficulty in this step. I will be checking for questions frequently and would be happy to add diagrams if they help, just let me know.

Checkpoint: Liner and back are joined, back has edges reinforced, zipper/button/velcro/magic-fairy-who-keeps-your-bag-closed in working order.


Step 6: Attaching Canvas/Liner to the Panels

The title describes this step pretty well. Get some tunes playing and loop the thread around. My mother calls this "whipstitch."  It would be wise to make several loops at all the end points as that's where the most stress will be. The bottom edge (the edge of panel three I had forgotten to mark for punching) can be a little tricky if you stitch both sides of the canvas first. Start with that bottom edge, then do the sides.

Checkpoint: Your back/liner do not flap around when you shake the bag

So close to the victory!

Step 7: Finishing the Strap Mounts

It took me 'till the very end of the project to figure out how i would do the strap, but it finally came to me. Fold panels 1 and two over, and punch two sets of two holes in each as well as punching through the rest of the belt underneath. See picture 2. Loop thread through there several times to make a strong bond. You should see something like pictures 1 and 3.

Checkpoint: Could these joints hold the weight of your laptop? Make sure they're strong enough and move on!

Step 8: Getting a Strap, Final Advice, and FAQ

......Not that there are any questions at the time of writing. Hopefully there will be questions I can answer here.

So close! Grab a tie down strap and loop it through the points you just finished. One can obviously use anything strappy, but the tie down straps have a built in adjustable length setting and a wide strap looking shape to them.

Have a working strap? Victory!

Alright, it's been a couble days using the bag, and I have some advice/after build modifications.

-The top corner hits the elbow while walking with ones hands in pockets and while the rough bag didn't hurt or irritate me, I was a bit worried it would possibly damage my sweater/jacket. Problem solved with a bit of thick acrylic paint.
-A problem with messenger bags in general is that they shift from the back to the side unless the strap is built to prevent this from happening. The bag does need readjusting every once in awhile, but I have ridden several miles (by bike) without it becoming an issue.
-The last picture looks out of place because it took me several days to realize the liner should probably be affixed to the inside of the belt assembly just to keep if from flapping around. Problem solved by just looping thread through holes I had already punched.

Hopefully you enjoyed reading this even if you didn't make anything. I look forward to adding more instrucables here (this has been my first) and I indeed be checking for comments and questions.     PEACE OUT!

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    19 Discussions


    5 years ago

    This is nuts! Watch out you friends of this person! Your car and home will have scratches and abrasions everywhere. Don't get too close, you might suffer the consequences too.


    8 years ago on Step 8

    Innovative idea, incredible execution, and beautiful work! Honestly, not only is this strong, functional, and made out of a super-cool recycled material, but it's really urban and smooth looking. Cheers!


    8 years ago on Step 4

    I'm not sure I'd be willing to put my thousand dollar polished aluminum laptop anywhere near a single piece of sandpaper, much less a bag made of the stuff...

    6 replies

    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    I agree. Neat bag, but shouldn't have featured with the laptop. Man did I cringe seeing that poor macbook encompassed by scuffing death belts :O

    No, I read the instructable, and I see that it is lined.

    I also understand that the outside of the bag is made of rough sandpaper...

    My complaint is that I am unwilling to risk the high likelihood that the outside of the bag will come in contact with the expensive contents.

    As I said, "thousand dollar polished aluminum laptop" and the outside of the bag is made of sandpaper.

    No thanks.

    So even if I told the both of you that after using it for over a month my possessions have not been damaged would I still be wrong because you said so?

    I'm not interested in arguing with anyone over the effects of a bag they do not own.

    I'm not trying to pick an argument and I don't think you are wrong for saying so.

    I'm simply saying that I, in my personal opinion, would be unwilling to put my thousand dollar polished aluminum laptop near any bag made of hard sand particles adhered to cloth belts and sewn into a messenger bag.

    Its still a neat project, and I think it is a good reuse of a material that often ends up in the trash for most people. But my personal opinion is that its far too risky for me, I would be too worried about scratches to use it.

    I don't need to own a bag to have an opinion about it.

    Likelihood of contact with outside of bag is still too high IMHO. I think this is a neat instructable, has an interesting look. If you want to expose your laptop to risk, completely cool. Wasn't trying to down on you. BUT... there are issues with such a bag. First, messenger bags are worn against the body. This will scuff clothes, some more than others. If you wear durable clothes, this is less of a problem and is likely the case with the style of the bag.


    8 years ago on Introduction

    The bag would be durable if it was made of NEW belts, but would fail as a bag because it will eat through what ever clothing and/or skin is nearby. And you aren't alowed to walk through the parking lot near my car :) . I would recommend using an old box-cutter blade instead of scissors, as those scissors are basically toast after this. You just lay the sander belt abrasive-side down onto a piece of cardboard and cut right through.

    1 reply

    I used metal shears (tin snips?) which took no damage but you're right, regular scissors would be trashed.


    8 years ago on Introduction

    How does it wear? Does the increased exterior roughness help prevent slipping and sliding, i.e. while riding a bicycle?

    1 reply

    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    Well, I just read the FAQ on your last page. "The bag does need readjusting every once in awhile, but I have ridden several miles (by bike) without it becoming an issue."


    8 years ago on Introduction

    There are plenty of duarable hard wearing cheap materials to use...why choose something that will likely damage the item its protecting?

    Also old / worn out sander belts tend to be used cut up & used for hand sanding, so are not wasted in my workshop NOT A GOOD INSTRUCTABLE Sorry mate..

    1 reply

    You haven't read the instructable either, have you? I explained why I used the belt three sentences in.

    Your argument is invalid


    8 years ago on Introduction

    Great!!... that is if you want your laptop to be more scratched than all get-out.


    8 years ago on Introduction

    If you line the inside with a durable cloth, I don't see why sandpaper would be a problem for the laptop.


    8 years ago on Introduction

    Interesting idea, but I think I'll pass. Too high of a risk for ruining clothes and anything large in it, like laptops.

    Green Silver

    8 years ago on Introduction

    Now thats one hard wearing bag, but maybe not for use if you've got sunburn...