A belt is a purposeful accessory. That can’t be said about most accessories, as they are just that, an accessory. But belts provide a purpose by holding your jeans up. After all, you don’t want to be getting on a horse only to have your jeans fall off! And there is no simpler way to solve that than with a belt.
Leather belts are even more purposeful because they last longer. A real leather belt can last you several horse rides, rodeos and nights out in the town. Good thing Texas Saddlery belts are made with real leather. They are also handmade with U.S. hides. It’s an all around quality belt.
But have you ever wondered how they are made? How does someone build them? Time to learn, step by step.
The first step to building the belt is to choose the type of leather you are going to use. Leather comes in many different weights (thickness), colors and quality. It can be different grains and parts of the hides as well. If you choose the back of the hide like we do for Texas Saddlery belts, it will be more durable. The lower on the hide you go, the more inconsistent the leather will be.
Leather is picked, so on to step two. This is when we will cut the leather using a draw gauge at the desired width. Most Texas Saddlery belts are 1.5” in width to allow the belt to easily slip through the belt loops on jeans or pants.
Once you have the right width cut, it’s time to measure the length. Of course the length depends on the size of the belt. Belts typically size by every two inches starting at 26 inches. Cut the ends off the strip of leather once the right size is measured.
Skive, or shave, the buckle end of the leather strip. That way the leather is thinner on the end for comfort and the buckle will lay flat when it’s altogether.
So the leather is cut and trimmed. It’s ready for some stitching and the sewing machine.
First, measure and place your stitch groove, which is where the belt will be sewn, on both sides of the leather strip. To add the stitch groove to the leather, use the groove tool along the length of the leather strip. This will be a guideline for the stitch when using the sewing machine.
Choose your desired thread for the belt. Run the leather through the sewing machine along the groove that was made. Keeping a straight line along the edge of the leather strip. Stitch both sides of the belt to finish it off.
At the end of the stitch, cut off any excess thread. This is done by pulling it to the back of the belt, cutting it short and burning the end. This prevents the thread from coming undone or fraying on the ends.
Finally, clean and buff the edges of the belt to make them clean and smooth.
Some Assembly Required
Now comes the assembly of the belt. The time when the belt begins to look like a belt!
On the end that is not shaved, cut the holes for the belt tip. These are the holes that the belt buckle goes through. So be sure to make 5 or 6 holes evenly spaced apart at one inch between each hole. And on the buckle end, cut the holes for the metal snaps that will hold the buckle in. And a small hole for the belt buckle tip.
Cut a small strip of leather, about 1 inch in width, from the same hide to make a belt keeper. Test the length of the leather strip by wrapping it around the belt and allowing room for the other end to slip through the keeper. Then cut the leather strip to the right size. Use an edger tool to edge the leather and sew it together. Slip the keeper over the buckle end of the belt.
Now, onto adding the buckle. Place the buckle on the end of the leather and fold the leather over the buckle. Allowing the buckle tip to go through the hole that was cut earlier. Then using the metal snaps, we can snap the folded leather together.
The belt is almost complete. Just have to add a few finishing touches to round it out.
To add a personal touch, stamp the belt with a maker's stamp. In this case, the belt is stamped with a Texas Saddlery logo stamp. Proving authenticity and handmade.
Finally, add some finish to the belt with oil or resolene. It will depend on the type of leather chosen as to what kind of treatment it will need, but best to add some oil to seal it.
And with that, you have yourself a belt. Now, go show off your new handmade belt!