Make Your Own DIY Vegetable Tanned Leather Belt With This Guide
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If you like leather things, like a watch strap, then you might be interested in this impressive DIY leather belt. With some basic tools and high-quality leather, you too can make a professionally-looking, and beautiful, belt in no time.
Follow this guide to find out how.
As you might have guessed, you are going to need some stuff before you attempt this project for yourself.
Tools and equipment needed
- Tracing stylus
- Leather glue
- Leather gauge
- Belt templates
- Leatherworking tools
- Leather punches
- Leather polish/restorer
- Metal ruler
- Dremel rotary tool
Step 1: Prepare the leather
The first step is to take your leather and start to prepare it for making the belt. Give the leather a quick clean to remove any dust and other debris.
With that complete, cut a thin strip of leather the same width that you want the final belt to be.
You can use special tools for this or just use a strong metal rule and surgical knife.
Next, straighten up the cut ends. You want them to be have nice clean cut right angles.
Next, turn the leather strip over and mark out points at 25/64ths of an inch (1 cm) and 1 and 37/64ths of an inch (4 cm) from the end of the strip on one side of the strip. Do the same for the other side.
Then mark out three points at the top of the strip and connect the points up to make a tapered edge.
Grab your medical scalpel (and metal ruler) and cut out the shape as needed.
Rinse and repeat for the other end of the belt.
Step 2: Mark and punch holes for the buckle and adjustments
Next, take a belt template, and mark out the position of the buckle mounting points one end of the leather belt.
Next, take your leather template for the buckle adjustment holes, and mark them out onto the leather strip.
With the template holes marked out on the leather belt, take your leather hole punch and cut out the necessary holes. Do the same for both the buckle and belt adjustment holes.
Step 3: Make belt loops and polish edges of belt
Next, cut another small length of leather the same width as the main belt. Take your leatherworking tools and then begin to thin down the leather by taking off thin shavings.
With the same strip of leather, turn it over to expose the polished side, and mark two points 19/32-ths of an inch (1.5 cm) from the edge at both ends. Line of the points and scour a line horizontally along the strip of leather.
Take your medical scalpel, and cut the strip in two along the line. Grab one of the strips, and loop it around the diameter of the buckle adjustment hole end of the belt.
Mark out where the two ends of the strip meet and trim off the excess to form a complete loop of the leather strip.
Next, take your Dremel tool, add a polishing attachment, and begin to work the cut edges of the leather belt.
Work the Dremel along the full length of all the cut sides as needed. You are trying to remove any loose bits of leather and leave a nice, smooth finish.
Step 4: Add some design work to the belt
Next, take your leather gauge and scour a border along the top and bottom edges of the belt.
Run the gauge along the entire perimeter of the leather belt, and do the same for the small strips that will be used for the belt loops.
Next, bend the buckle adjustment end of the belt over and mark out its outline on the other side of the belt just before the buckle attachment point.
Next, punch a series of holes through both ends of the belt loop strip. Do the same along the edges of the strip too.
Do the same around the perimeter of the main belt too. Also punch holes around the tapered mark you made by the buckle attachment.
Step 5: Trim edges of the belt
Next, take your leather trimming tool and run along the entire perimeter of the leather. This is to slightly bevel the edges.
Keep moving around the perimeter of the belt and maintain and smooth trimming action. Turn the belt over and do the same on the reverse side of the belt.
Rinse and repeat for the belt loop piece of leather.
Next, make some small grooves using the same tool around the buckle point attachment of the belt.
Step 6: Stain the exposed leather parts
With that complete, take your leather stain, and soak a piece of cotton with it. Holding it with a pair of tweezers, gradually stain the exposed edges of the leather belt.
Choose your stain to match the final finish of the shiny side of the leather. Continue running the dye-soaked cotton along the entire perimeter of the belt.
Use cotton buds to stain the punch holes and belt buckle mounting points in the belt too. If you need to, use some small metal files to clean up the edges first.
Next, take a small piece of pumice, or similar material, and rub it along the exposed edge of the belt.
Grab your Dremel, and reapply a layer of dye to the exposed edges of the leather belt too.
Step 7: Stitch the belt
With the main leatherwork more or less complete, we can now begin to add in some more decorative features of the piece — namely some stitching. Grab your needles and leather thread.
Thread the needle, and begin to sew through the stitch holes you punched around the perimeter of the belt earlier.
Double over the thread, and pierce it with the needle several times, before tying it off to hold the thread in place. Next, grip the leather belt vertically in a leatherworking vice, and begin to stitch the holes you made earlier.
Once you've completed one run, move the leather belt and secure it before continuing to stitch the perimeter. Rinse and repeat until you've completed the entire stitch pattern.
For the main lengths of the belt, use a pair of needles to create the stitchwork. Watch the video for more details on this. Once you reach the end, separate the thread from the needle, tie the ends together, and burn them flush to the leather belt with a regular lighter.
With that complete, take your leather gouging tools and create a groove around the outside edge of the leather belt. As with other steps, run the tools all the way around the outside edge of the belt, but only on the shiny side of the belt.
Be firm, but not too rough as to damage the leather too much. You want to crimp the edge not cut it off.
Step 8: Add the belt buckle and buttons
With that complete, grab your belt buckle and buttons of choice. In this case, solid brass has been chosen. Take the main buckle assembly and feed it through the lozenge-shaped hole in the buckle end of the belt.
Then fold the leather belt over to encapsulate the buckle frame.
Next, line up the holes, and add the buckle screws. These should split it two so you can feed through the holes and tighten by hand as needed. There should be two of these to complete.
Next, take the metal bar for the belt, feed it over the open end of the belt, and push it all the way up to the closed buckle end. Feed it under the flap of leather, line up the remaining holes, and secure together using the last screws.
Next, complete the leather belt loop, and feed it over the open end of the belt as well. Pull all the way up the belt until it meets the metal bar.
With that, your lovingly crafted leather belt is now complete. Now take off your old, tired, belt and wear your new one with pride!
If you enjoyed this leatherworking project, you might want to make another leather piece to match your new belt? How about a new wallet, for example?