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Making a leather belt by hand

Making a leather belt by hand banner

Traditional belt making by hand using a full grain leather

Here we share with you what is involved in making a leather jeans belt by hand. Even if modern factories use machines for efficiency and set 'knives' to cut the leather to the right pattern, the stages are still generally the same and belt making is quite a lengthy process as you will see. Sometimes stages are missed out such as finishing / burnishing the edges (leaving them natural instead) to keep labour costs down. We like our quality full grain belts to go through all the stages and see the whole process as a labour of love!

A labour of love.”

Slideshow showing a jeans belt being made

  • Choosing the leather section to work with

    Choosing the leather section to work with. This was too soft to use for our jeans belt example but shows how hides vary in grain or colour. There's also a hole - an altercation with a fence perhaps? All perfectly normal in natural leather.

  • Trimming the belt strap to the exact width

    Trimming the belt strap to the exact width. The 5mm leather used here was tanned using a bath of oak bark and tree extracts for at least a year! This is a rare traditional process and such belts can cost £100 to buy. Most these days are chrome tanned.

  • Splitting the leather to the desired thickness

    Splitting the leather to the desired thickness.

  • Surface for punching out a crew hole

    Special surface for punching out a crew hole which is where the base of the pin in a pin buckle goes. You use a special crew shape punch (like a cookie cutter) and hammer it through the leather.

  • Screw hole has to be punched out

    The crew hole has been punched out.

  • Apply wax to the back of the belt

    Applying balm using a clean rag to the back of the belt so that the raw leather is finished nicely.

  • Working in the balm

    Working in the balm using this custom made tool.

  • Burnishing tools

    Burnishing tools ready for action.

  • Burnish the belt edges

    Burnish the edges of the belt. Takes a long time to go all the way around and it is very hard to only get it on the sides.

  • Rubbing in the burnish

    Rubbing in the burnish - again all the way around every edge.

  • Burnishing the edge of the keepers

    Burnishing the edge of the keepers - which hold the belt tail in position.

  • Holes going into the leather

    Holes going into the keeper so we can use a stud to secure them.

  • Finished keepers

    Finished keepers. We're getting there now.

  • Wallop with the hammer

    A good strong single wallop with the hammer to flatten the studs which secure the buckle to the belt. Sometimes the buckle is sewn on and sometimes press studs are inserted so you can change the buckles over.

  • Tool for fixing screws to secure the buckle and keeper

    A closer look at the tool with inverted dome for securing the studs.

  • Punching the holes in the belt

    Punching the holes in the belt. A piece of scrap leather underneath helps a lot.

  • The finished belt

    The finished belt made by the founder of Once Upon a Belt in a leather making course from Tanner Bates. We leave belt making to skilled experts but want to fully understand all we can about the process to help us bring you the best belts.