Give Your Watch a Makeover With DIY Leather Straps
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Do you have a great watch, but the strap is looking tired, or simply lacks pizazz? Then instead of going out and buying a new one, why not try making one yourself?
Sounds like a titanic task? The process is actually quite simple.
But, before we get stuck in we will need some things first.
Tools and equipment needed
- Tracing stylus
- Leather glue
- Leather gauge
- Leatherworking tools
- Leather punches
- Leather polish
- Metal ruler
- Dremel rotary tool
Step 1: Prepare your leather
The first step is to unpack and begin to prepare your leather. You can choose whichever color your like, but in this case, a light brown tone will be used.
Next, mark out a 1-inch (2.5cm) thick straight line from one of the straight edges onto the leather. Use a metal ruler to ensure the line is perfectly parallel with any straight edges on the leather. You can either use a pencil, or score using a tracer stylus or similar tool.
Then score another line another 1-inch (2.5cm) diameter in parallel.
With that complete, you can now grab your scalpel -- sharpen it if needed before use, or change the blade. Reposition your metal ruler to align with your first scored line, and cut out a strip of leather using your scalpel.
Watch your fingers!
With that complete, rinse and repeat for the second strip. Next, cut another a third thinner strip roughly a third of the width of the other two.
Next, cut off around one-quarter of the length of one of the wider strips to make a 3/4 length. With the thinner strip, cut it in half, and then trim one of the halves to around 3/4 length also. You will also want to cut out another two even thinner strips just shorter than half the length of the larger intact strip.
If that sounds a little complicated, check out the image below for the pieces needed.
With the leather pieces ready, you can now begin to make the watch strap.
Step 2: Begin to cut and shape the first half of the watch strap
Take your scalpel and now begin to taper one end of the longer of middle-width pieces of leather.
With that complete, find the midpoint along the length of the largest piece of leather and draw a perpendicular line. Give it a gentle fold along this line to form a crease.
Next, measure out and draw a line through the middle of the strap longitudinally. Apply a layer of leather glue, and glue the tapered piece of leather from the midpoint of the largest strap with the tapered end pointing towards one of the strips' ends.
Be sure to add a metal pin into the crease to leave room for the watch spring bars to go through later. You may want to complete this part using a curved surface of some kind to help shape the leather strap.
Apply more leather glue to the top of the tapered piece. Next, fold over the other half of the larger leather strip, and glue it into place on top of the tapered piece of leather.
Push down the seams of the larger leather strip against each other to fully enclose the tapered piece within. Use modeling tools to fully press the leather parts together and accentuate the position of the internal strip of leather.
Keep working the seam of the leather around the inner tapered strip until dimpled, but not cut.
Step 3: Work on the other strap
Next, grab the other largest remaining strip of leather. Take your leather bevel tool, sharpen if needed, and bevel one end of the strip.
Next, mark another perpendicular line just shorter than the remaining mid-width leather strip. Mark it, and draw another bisecting line along the leather strap's longitudinal axis.
Apply leather glue again, and glue the other remaining middle-width leather strap along the line (as with the beveled piece) so that it runs from the perpendicular line to slightly overhang the beveled cut edge. Again leave room on the fold for a watch spring bar.
With that complete, fold over the remain loose end of the larger leather strip and mark out where it meets the beveled edge of the other side. Counter bevel it, fold it over (again leaving an eye in the fold), and glue the beveled ends together.
This eye will be used to house the strap clasp later.
Give the strap the same treatment as the other one by firmly pushing the seams closed and molding the leather around the inner strip of leather as needed.
Be firm, but try not to damage or cut the outer leather layer.
Step 4: Trim off the excess
Next, take the first strap, and lay your metal ruler along the seam around the raised portion of the leather piece. Trim off the excess, as needed to leave around 1/8 inch (3mm) of excess around the raised part of the strap.
Cut around the tapered end leaving roughly the same amount of excess leather,
Rinse and repeat for the other half of the watch strap, with the exception of the tapering. Next, grab your Dremel and begin to sand down/buff the cut edges of the leather to remove any spurs and cut marks.
Next, grab your leather gauge and set it to 1/8 inch (3mm) wide. Score a line around the cut edge to the seam with the raised parts of each strap.
Step 5: Punch the leather
Next, grab a 1/64 inch (3.38mm) leather punch and begin to punch holes around the seams of the leather straps. Place the punches and gently tap them to punch holes all the way through the leather.
With that complete, you can now bevel off the edges around the outside edge of the straps.
Next, mark out a point in the center of the clasp end of the shorter leather strap. This will form the niche for the buckle tongue to sit. To do this, punch a 3/64 of an inch (1mm) hole all the way through the strap, and then widen the hole using your leather bevel tool.
Next, take your adjustment hole punch and punch holes at regular intervals along the centerline of the watch strap.
Next, take some leather polish and apply a layer along the outer edges of the watch straps. Run the glue along the edges with your fingers for the best results.
Work the polish in using a rag and polish the edges until their luster resembles that of the rest of the leather strap. Once finished sand down and repeat the process again.
Here were are trying to obscure the seam along the edges of the watch straps. Using varying grades of sandpaper until you get a final appearance you are happy with.
Do the same, as best you can, for the adjustment holes to the strap as well.
Step 6: Make the clasp mechanism
Next, grab the smallest remaining strips of leather. Apply a layer of polish to them, as needed. Polish the strips until they match the look of the main straps of the watch, as needed.
With that complete, take one of the strips, and wrap it around the main watch straps as if they were connected together using the clasp. This will become a free loop on the strap.
Mark the join, and cut the strip down, as needed. Bevel both free ends of the strip of leather, and glue together to make a ring.
Rinse and repeat for the second strip of leather to make a second equally-sized watch strap-free ring.
Step 7: Stitch the watch straps
Next, grab your yarn and leather needles. Feed the yarn through the needle's eye, tie off, and begin to stitch the leather watch straps. You may want to hold the straps in a wooden vice, or similar device, while you do this.
Thread two needles, and stitch the strap using a double stitch pattern.
Once complete, cut off the excess and burn any exposed threads off using a lighter. Rinse and repeat for the other strap.
Next, begin to attach your watch strap to your watch of choice. If you are struggling to choose one, may we suggest one of these?
Add the case back and buckle-tongue of the clasp to the shorter leather strap, as needed to the shorter strap (12 o'clock strap). Feed over the free loops too before attaching the strap to the watch.
Then feed through the other end of the buckle strap the strap connecting pin, and attach the strap to the watch. Do the same for the adjustment hole strap (6 o'clock strap) too.
With that, your DIY leather watch strap is complete. You can continue to work on it if you wish to add other flourishes and add designs, but now you have a perfectly functional, and attractive strap.
Now you just need to show it off!