How to Finally Succeed at Making a Leather Belt

Hands On

A fine leather belt is a staple in many men’s wardrobes. But a full-grain, oil-tanned, shoulder-cut buffalo leather belt is for the next-level, rugged-fashion elite.

My husband is that guy—and though picky, I knew he would love this bad boy, courtesy of the Man Crates Leather Belt Making Kit and my untapped DIY skills.

I set about my craftsman project in excitement and determination. My goal was to have the belt completely finished before he got home from work and to basically just revel in my ability to be the next big thing in the fashion industry.

Yeah. Let me just tell you that I have a WHOLE NEW RESPECT for leatherworkers.

I was really excited to not screw this up, and though there were a couple instances where I had to backtrack, I was off to a great start, thanks to the bulletproof Man Crates instructions.

The first step was drawing! Nailed it!

Except when it came to actually nailing—with a hole punch, that is—I was getting nowhere fast. I must have hammered for a solid 15 minutes STRAIGHT, not having a CLUE why this was so damn difficult, and marveling at what I assumed was how hard leatherworkers work.

This is about 10 minutes in, when I was all, “What in the actual HELL? Making a belt can’t POSSIBLY be this hard. Annnnnd I’ve had enough of this.”

Nice indent. When’s the hole punch gonna do its thing?

I shot an email off to my colleague at headquarters and wasn’t dramatic at all with my issue. Surely, help was on the way.

While waiting, I felt many feelings, and Facetimed my dear old (“ruggedly handsome” as he likes to say) dad. Dad was an art major back in the day. SURELY he’d have some guidance. Turns out, he did have guidance—and it was immediate.

“Stop hammering on the carpet. It’s cushioning the impact.”

WHAT NOW??

“Dad—whoa whoa whoa. Ok, what? I’m only not on a hard surface because all our major tables are glass.”

“Go out onto the patio and try.”

“If this works, expect me to swear.”

One swing of the hammer and—pop!

“ARE YOU !?#&($% KIDDING ME? THAT’S ALL IT TOOK?”

He laughed. I swore some more and then thanked him profusely.

Apparently he used to make and sell leather belts in college. Dad for the win.

The literal moment this entire project got LOADS more fun.

That first hole has a lot of character, don’t you think?

With my new found hole-punching expertise going to my head, I almost decided to just punch 4 holes in a row for the buckle channel, but fished out our heavy-duty X-Acto knife (also a gift from dad) instead. Having the right tools really makes a difference.

You definitely want to be careful when you’re slicing through the leather to create your channel to not slice too far—it’s very easy to do. Use slow, calculated movements to cut. I accidentally ended up with mini surface slices, but they’re barely noticeable.

You’ll also want to spend a little extra time carving out all the innards of the channel—this is the part that folds over where the belt buckle prong goes through and is visible when wearing the belt. I was surprised by how precise I needed to be in order for it to look polished and pro.

Once I got the channel where I wanted it, I slipped in the belt buckle, folded the end over and got to screwing the screw rivets together. The doubled leather is thick and stiff, so don’t worry about it if it feels like the short screws aren’t going to come together—they definitely will!

This is the part where I had to go back and redo my work. I got too excited about the progress I was (FREAKING FINALLY) making, and screwed on the second set of screw rivets without slipping the belt keeper into place. If this is you, and like me, you’re afraid you’re going to strip the screws from undoing and redoing them, let me also attest that you’ll be just fine. I’ve felt all the fear and panic for both of us already.

Next, I had to find a belt to go off of to measure hole placement. This process was breezy. The process of actually hole punching five holes in a row through the fullness of the thick leather was not. My thumb still hurts. Also, I think my entire neighborhood is planning a hit from all the hammering on an otherwise peaceful afternoon, so now I have that to contend with.

In order to make my final cut on the length of the belt, I used the side of my tin colored pencil box instead of my nonexistent ruler. Worked like a charm.

I also decided I was ALL KINDS OF DONE with this project at this point and let my husband cut the end of his belt into the rounded belt tail he wanted.

The finished product is absolutely fantastic. As soon as Keil put it on, my head snapped back and I was all, “Wow. Now that’s a handsome belt.” I asked him what he thought and he loves it—said it was a little stiff, but he knows with wear that it’ll loosen up. As he walked around, he said, “Man. I’ve never had a buffalo leather belt before.” That’s right, baby! You’re welcome!

If you’re thinking of getting the Leather Belt Making Kit for someone special in your life, DO IT. Despite my total newbness to the process, it was a LOT of fun to put together and something any guy would seriously dig doing as well.

But seriously though—spread the word. Don’t hammer on the carpet.

«

»