Introduction: Simple Leather Watch Band
Can't Find a Date?
If you've ever accidentally ended up in the friend zone or just have no game whatsoever, you've come to the right place. Little did you know, wearing classy watches actually improve your chances of getting a date by 57.3% (of course these are real stats). Classy watches are really expensive though, but don't worry, we've got that covered too. Below is a way a cheap way to make your wrist look... not cheap.
This is a simple tutorial to make a clean and minimalistic watch strap. If you're new to leather working, this a great project for you. It won't take too long to make (about 2 hours), and you'll be able to practice some skills that are crucial for most leather working projects. The one skill that it does not include is stitching, which is why you should check out some of the other tutorials I've posted on Instructables!
If you’re the person who is thinking, ‘Leatherworking sounds like fun, but I don’t know if I could pull it off, let alone afford it.” Let me assure you that you can pull it off. This is a very simple project and a great one to introduce you to leather working. Let me also assure you that, comparatively, leather working is a pretty inexpensive craft to pick up. You can spend a lot on tools, but if you buy the right ones, know where to look, and just get the basic tools as your starting, you can keep costs down. I’ve written a guide on my blog to help you buy your first leather tools, another to help you figure out what kind of leather, and finally one on how to go about buying that leather.
What You Need
-Something to cut with (Rotary Cutter/X-acto Knife if you are new. Round Knife if you already have one).
-Leather Glue (I use Seiwa Leather Cement from GoodsJapan, but any glue cement should work.)
-A small nail (or an Awl if you already have one)
-Piece of Canvas
-Dye and Leather Finish (if the leather isn't pre-dyed. I use Fiebings Oil Dye and Tan Kote for the Finish)
-Leather (I used 4oz leather for this project)
-A Timex Weekender Warning (warning: these things make an absurdly loud ticking noise).
-Watch hardware: 1 clasp and 2 loops. You can find inexpensive versions of these on Amazon. Or if you want a more expensive/high quality, you can purchase from buckleguy.com
The great part of this tutorial is that it doesn't require as many supplies as some of the others. But, do make sure that you get the right thickness of leather, as only a few sizes of leather will work with this project. Anything between 3oz-4oz will work best. 2oz may also work but I believe it would be too flimsy. Anything more than 4oz will not fit through the space between the watch face and the spring bar pins
Step 1: How to Print Out the Template
Go ahead and download the template and print it out. Use a heavy paper, like card stock, because you'll need to trace it later on… just make sure you print it to 100% or ‘actual size,' so it doesn’t shrink during the printing process. Also make sure you cut out the template correctly. A small mistake in cutting at this point means a big mistake on leather later on. You can either use a straight edge and a rotary cutter for this part because or something similar to what I used. Whatever it is, you just need to make sure the cuts are straight. Normal scissors can be used to cut the rounded parts, just take your time to make the curves as smooth as possible.
Step 2: Prep the Leather
Set the template aside for a moment, because now it’s time to dye the leather. Dyeing is a hard thing to do well. While it’s a good skill to develop, no one is going to judge you (and hopefully you won't judge me) for buying finished leather (dyed and finished). The leather I used for this project came finished, so I did not dye it or apply a finish. If you did the same, you can skip this step. If you did not, I stole some pictures from another one of my tutorials to show you what it looks like. Alternatively, you can check out this guide that has a more thorough explanation of the dying and finishing process than what's below.
Dyeing the Leather
Even though I didn’t in these pictures, I suggest using some rubber/latex gloves. If you don't your hands are going to look like mine. I have the best luck achieving a matte finish using a high density sponge. If you want a more marbled finish, like I did, you can use an old shirt. I suggest using Fiebing's Professional Oil Dyes. I’m not usually this specific about things, but the professional dyes that Fiebing's makes come out with a much more consistent and reliable color than the others. It costs a bit more, but this small increase is worth the difference in outcome. Quickly turn the bottle over with the sponge/rag pressed to the opening three times to load the sponge/rag up with dye. Do not press hard when you first put the sponge/rag to the leather. At this point the sponge/rag has a lot of dye on it, so gently rub the dye in small circles. As the dye disperses and the sponge becomes drier you can press harder to release the dye left in the sponge. Once the sponge starts creating streaks instead of blocks of color, fill it back up with dye. Repeat this process until the entirety of your leather has been dyed.
Finishing the Leather
Give the dye some time to dry. I’m sure the bottle of dye has a suggestion, but I usually wait about 30 minutes to an hour. In my experience, the dye dries pretty fast. Once it is dried, apply a leather finishing cream and rub it in using an old t-shirt or rag (no need to use a sponge here). When the finish has completely dried, buff the leather by briskly rubbing the t-shirt in circles. At this point your leather should be looking good and shiny. If you need an example, check out the last picture in this step.
If you are confused about any of these steps, check out this guide that has a more thorough explanation of the dying and finishing process.
Step 3: Trace and Cut Out the Leather
Trace the Template onto the Leather
After you've finished dying the leather (and giving it enough time to dry), take the template back out. I used a scratch awl to trace around the template. However, you could just as well use a wing divider, which is needed later on in this tutorial. Do you best to keep the template from sliding around while you trace it. If you are having trouble with this, you can tape it down, just make sure you’ve given extra time for the dye to dry or the tape will pull some of it up. Also don’t use anything near as strong as duct tape, masking/scotch tape will do just fine.
Cut Out the Leather
You should be able to clearly see an outline on the leather now, as shown in the second picture. If it is not easy to see or you are unsure where the edges are, retrace using more pressure. If your outline looks good, go ahead and cut it out. If you’re new, I suggest using a rotary cutter for the straight parts and an X-acto knife for the corners and curves. If you’ve done leatherworking for awhile or are certain you will be doing it a lot in the future, use or buy a round knife which can be used for straight lines, sharp edges, and curves.
Lay a straight edge along the outlines to make your cuts, and cut out the three straight lines of the strap. When I make cuts like this, I always keep the ruler on the inside of the project, so if my hand that is making the cuts slips, it doesn't slip into what I'm trying to cut out.
After you've cut out the strap, you're going to need to make to round out one of the ends. This can get a little tricky, but this guide will walk you through how to cut it out, no matter what you are using to make the cut. Those of you using a rotary cutter will want to look at method 4.
Also if you're just wanting some more tips on how to make better cuts, you can check them out here.
Punch Out the Holes
Don't use a metal hammer when using punches, it will make your punches sad.
Take a look at your template once more. At this point you'll need to punch out the holes on the template using a hole punch. To save time, and to keep things consistent, I will usually only punch out two of the holes. Generally I will punch out only the first and second hole. This makes it so I can punch a new hole, while referencing the previous hole. Then I slide the template down and repeat the process until I have the same amount of holes that are on the template.
After you punch out those holes, continue on to the two connected holes (this is the part of the strap that will fold over the clasp). Once you've cut this out of your template, trace the shape onto the leather. Then, using the same hole punch from before, punch a hole on both ends of the shape. Then using either a round knife or an X-acto knife, cut out the leather inbetween the two holes, as shown in the last picture.
Step 4: Skive the End That Folds Over
Admittedly, skiving is difficult, but it can really improve how your end product looks. For this project, you'll want to skive down the part of the strap that get's folded over. This way, once you are finished, the strap will have a uniform thickness instead of looking really bulky at one end.
To skive, first fold over the strap so that the oblong shaped hole you made for the clasp is folded perfectly in half. Then, using either a scratch awl or a wind divider make a line on the back side of the strap (as shown in the first picture). This is where you need to begin skiving.
To skive this and have it look uniform you'll want to start by not skiving much off, and then slowly increase the amount of leather you skive off as you approach the end of the strap. Basically, the amount you skive off before the middle point, will be the amount you leave behind after the middle point.
As I mentioned before, skiving can be difficult... and extremely frustrating. Check out this guide to get some more tips on skiving and be a little less frustrated (hopefully).
Step 5: Dye and Burnish Edges
Finishing an edge is a multiple step process and would require an Instructable of its own. For the sake of space I will only list the process below. If you need instruction and explanation on each step, please read this more in-depth overview.
Edge finishing process:
1. Sand with a low grit sand paper to even out the edge
2. Bevel (I skip this step on thinner leathers, like the leather used in this project)
3. Sand with a higher grit sand paper to round out and eliminate large fibers
4. Sand with an even higher grit sand paper to make it smooth
5. Dye the edge and let dry
6. Wet with Gum Tragacanth and Burnish (leather can be burnished with a wood slicker or a piece of canvas. Leathers that are pretty flexible, like the leather for this project, should be burnished with a piece of canvas.
Step 6: Install the Hardware by Using a Wrap Stitch
A wrap stitch works a lot differently than the saddle stitch that is used in the other leather working tutorials I have made. And, while it takes a few more steps to complete the wrap stitch, it is actually much easier to do correctly. So, even though you were confronted with a wall of text when you turned to this step, fear not, it's not as bad as it looks.
First you're going to want to glue just the area near to top and bottom of the oblong hole you made on the back side of the leather (see picture 1). Then fold it in half, again splitting the oblong hole perfectly in half, and apply pressure for 1 minute to allow the glue to hold (see picture 2).
The Wrap Stitch
Time to learn how to wrap stitch. First let's make the holes for the stitching.
1. Make the holes 1/8 inch from the edge and just under where the oblong hole ends. You can make these holes with a lot of different things. In picture 3 I'm making the holes with a scratch awl, but you could make it with a wing divider, nail, or screw. You'll just have to make sure the hole is big enough to pass the thread through twice.
2. Now you'll need to thread your needles. A guide on that can be found here.
3. Once your needles are threaded you'll want to put a needle through both holes and pull until there is an equal amount of string on either side of the strap (see picture 4).
4. Grab one of the needles and take it around the outside of the strap to the other side. Once there, put the needle through the hole, but instead of putting it through both holes, have the needle come out in-between the two pieces of leather, then pull the needle through. (see picture 5).
5. Repeat this process with the other needle. Once this step is complete, both needles should be pulled tightly though the middle and look like picture 6.
6. Pull the needles through the middle of the leather to the other side (see picture 7).
7. Put one need through one of the two holes, and then take the other needle and put it through the other. Pulling them all the way through until the thread is tight (see picture 8).
8. Repeat steps 4+5. Once you've finished this, it should look like picture 9
9. Finish off the stitch with a granny knot... or double knot, whatever you want to call it (see picture 10). This knot will be hidden underneath the two pieces of leather. Once you've tied this knot tightly, cut off the excess (see picture 11) and apply glue to the knot itself (see picture 12). Then press and hold tightly while the glue takes hold (see picture 13).
10. Pat yourself on the back, because you just finished your first wrap stitch (you're good).
You may be done with the first wrap stitch, but we still have a few more to go!
Attaching the Hardware
This strap has 3 pieces of hardware. The clasp and two loops. You can now put the clasp on the watch strap.
After that's done, you'll want to place the holes for the next wrap stitch. I placed them 1/2 inches below the previous holes. Next slide on the first loop, and do another wrap stitch (see picture 14).
Once that wrap stitch is finished, I make the next two holes 3/4 inches below the previous, making sure to glue the distance between closed. Complete this wrap stitch.
Now make two more holes 1/2 inches below the previous (these will be the last holes you make). Then slide on your final look and complete the last wrap stitch.
Finally glue the small amount of excess leather that's left and press and hold while the glue takes hold (see picture 15).
Step 7: Put the Watch on and Class Things Up
All that's left to do is put your new watch band (and watch) on your wrist. Here's to hoping you're no longer forever alone. Go get 'em tiger.
Congrats on completing this tutorial and getting better in the process. If you have any questions, just want to say hi, or want to show off your fancy pants watch band in picture form just drop it in the comments below, or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
If you haven't figured out by this point in the tutorial, I'd love it if you checked out my blog: http://www.goldbarkleather.com It's a great place to learn the basics of leatherworking alongside others and will help you go from beginner to skilled craftsman in the art of leatherwork. This is my fourth tutorial, and I'm already working on my next. You can find my past tutorials and all future ones on my blog or here on instructables!