Intro: How to Make a Leather Belt
All prices are in Australian dollars (AUD)
A relatively simple leather project I made as a Christmas present. Belts have various methods of construction that usually have multiple layers that are a combination of leather and fabric but we are making single layered belts because they are easy to make at home. If you are just starting out with leather work then the tools required for this project may cost between $20-$50 AUD.
What I'm trying to get at with the flow chart is that you either do the entire burnishing process or don't burnish at all, it's mainly because bad things happen if you skip out on parts of the process. If you bevel without burnishing, the leather isn't properly sealed and dirt and detritus will get into the belt. Burnishing doesn't really work unless the edges are bevelled, burnishing unbevelled corners produces areas that are sealed and areas that aren't sealed.
- 1.5' Vegetable tan Leather strip* - $5
- 1.5' Belt Buckle - ~$3
- 100mL Oil dye** - $10
- 100mL Sealer** - $6
- 3 rivets - <$0.15 each
- Linen thread (black)
- Bees wax, Edge Burnisher (optional)
* - Pre-dyed strips can be bought but tend to be more expensive then dying the strip yourself, if you're not confident in dying leather then you may want to opt for pre-dyed strips.
** - These are only really needed if you wish to dye your own leather. If you want to bevel your edges then you will need some dye.
- 4prong 4mm Pricking Fork (diamond shaped) - $20
- skiver (optional)
- Edge Beveller (optional)
- 2 blocks of wood, G-clamp (optional)
- Epoxy resin - ~$5
- 2mm punch
- wing divider (optional)
dauber or cotton ball
Step 1: Measuring the Belt
I added about 4 inches (~10cm) to fold over the belt buckle, wrapping the belt around the waist and another 4-6 inches (~10-15cm) to the end. Next both ends were tapered with an craft knife and the entire belt was bevelled, only bevelled the top side.
You can taper the tip of the belt however you like, I made a pattern for my tip by measuring the width of my belt onto a strip of paper and folding it in half, to make sure the tip wasn't skewed.
If you make any marks on your leather remember to remove them before dying.
Step 2: Buckle Holes and Belt Loop
Three holes were punched and the belt buckle hole was cut out with a craft knife.
At this point I also made a belt loop out of the extra leather, a 14x1.5cm strip of leather. Before dying I skived both ends of the belt loop so they wouldn't overlap when I glued them together, but this is optional. The belt loop was then dyed.
Step 3: Dying and Sealing
Leather dye will produce flammable fumes, it is advised to dye leather in a well ventilated area away from open flames. Dying usually requires 2-3 layers to achieve the desired colour.
I started by dying the skin layer of the leather strip, which dried very quickly because of the heatwave. Next dye was applied to the sides of the strip, only 1 layer was needed for the sides. After the front has dried the back was dyed, requiring about 3 coats before I ran out of dye. Usually I wait about 30 minutes between applying extra coats and a few hours to fully dry. Note that when applying finish will slightly darken the colour of your belt, giving it a slightly richer tone.
The belt loops only required 1 coat on all sides.
The back side of vegetable tan leather tends to be fuzzy because it is not as processed. To remove the fuzz we are going to seal the leather with the sealer and a rolling pin or flat surface. I worked in areas of 4 inches (~10cm), after spreading ~4 inches of sealer I smoothed the surface down (it is important that you seal in a single direction). After sealing leave to dry for about 2 hours.
Step 4: Burnishing
If you plan to burnish your belt then you will have to burnish before sewing, or just burnish the part that you want to sew then burnish the rest after sewing. I clamped my leather when I burnished it to prevent it from warping and flopping around, this was especially helpful with the tips of the belt.
The alternatives to beeswax including jojoba oil.
Step 5: Sewing and Studding
Using a wing divider to mark a trench will just help the thread sit better, and tidy up the stitching. Punch a 2mm hole in the back of the belt loop and in the middle of the front of the belt, prick stitching hole then attach the belt loop to the belt with a rivet. Attach the belt buckle and fold, punch 2mm holes on either side of the loop and attach rivets. Prick stitching holes, taking care not to pierce the loop, and stitch. I used Tandy's single stitched and back stitched close to the buckle.
Step 6: Finishing
To finish the belt off I applied a thin layer of leather balm to the belt, if you don't have leather balm vaseline can be used as a substitute. The belt was then left to absorb the balm.