How to Make a Harness Leather Belt

 This belt was made as a custom order for a customer who supplied his own buckle set. It has the look of a Ranger Belt without all of the complications that make it bulky. It has sewn on "Billets" that are integrated into the belt in such a way that the back of the belt is one continuous piece of leather.  What I mean by that will become clear as we proceed. I am using this belt as an example of how handmade leather belts are made because it uses basic as well as more advanced  techniques. See how this belt is made below or go directly to my Handmade Belts Page  to have your harness leather belt custom made.
  First we need a 1 1/2" belt strip cut from a 10 oz. "Shoulder". I do this with a special setup that I made using parts from a "Jerry's" stripper that can be bought from most craft suppliers. By putting the jig on a metal track on the edge of the bench I can slide the jig down the track to cut strips without moving the leather.
  Besides the belt strip this belt also needs two additional shorter strips for the "Billets".
The top strip shown below is one of the two Billets. I have cut my desired contour on one end and have split Leather Belt Stripsit to be 1/2 it's original thickness. The lower belt strip has had the top Split, or "Skived" off, so that it is  only 1/2 as  thick on the ends. If you look close you can see that I have also beveled the edges up to within an inch of where the skive starts.

Billet position

This view shows how the billet will be positioned on the finished belt. Notice the amount of overlap of this splice in the area where I did not bevel the edge of the belt strip.

Belt LengthHere I am laying out the other billet on the opposite end of the belt. This has to be laid out in the proper place to give me the finished length that I want. I then split or skive off that end of the belt strip under the billet the same way that I did on the opposite end. I put marks on the belt strip at the point of the belt billets end at this time because I am going to be stamping a design into the belt between the billets.

Belt stamping patternI have now dampened the leather with water to make it soft for stamping and have stamped my Inca pattern between where the billets will mount. Look here for a better view of this stamped design.

Leather DyeWhile I am letting that dry I dye the billets black and put edge Kote on the edges. On the billets I have only beveled the top corners of the edges because I don't want an under cut where they mate to the belt strip.

Neatsfoot oilNow that the leather has dried I apply a coating of Neatsfoot oil in the center section of the belt and flex it and work it into the leather for a more supple belt. I do not apply oil to the skived area because I am going to be using glue there.

Dye belt  The next step is to dye the belt medium brown. Again I try to stay off the area where I will be applying glue.

Apply SealerThe next step is to apply an acrylic sealer to keep the dye from coming off on clothes. When that is dry I apply a wax finish to obtain the shine I want. This wax will continue to protect the belt and can be buffed to remove minor scuffs. This happens almost automatically with use during the break in process.

Harness stitchingAfter applying all these products the leather is soft. While I am waiting for the finish to dry I switch the machine over to the wheat color thread. Here you can see that I have changed the bobbin and will now change the top thread. On the side are a couple custom belts that were sewn with the black thread.

Cement on the BilletsYou can see that I have sewn the edges of the belt with the wheat thread and have reskived the ends to remove any wax, oil, or finish. I have applied cement to the split surfaces and a piece of double sided tape to the billet end where it will mate with the finished part of the belt. After I peal off the release paper it will hold the billet end in position while I sew it down.

Belt AssemblyThis makes a big change in the look! Ok, what I have done here is to cement the billet in position and have trimmed it to the finished size. Now the tongue is back to the original thickness.

The same thing is done to the other end of the belt.

Fit Silver BuckleI have now beveled and finished the edges of the tongue, punched holes and fitted the silver tip. The next step is to remove the tip and stitch the edges of the billet with black thread.

One Piece BackThis is the view of the back of the belt after stitching on the billet. Notice that the back is all one piece of leather. What we have done is not really a splice, it's an inlay of leather on the top ends of the belt.

Finished BeltHere is the finished belt with the buckle attached. I'm sorry that I didn't get a better picture, in better light, before I shipped it. When it's done it's in the box and on it's way. It's a really nice belt and while I did think that it was too complicated to offer on my website, customer demand was there, so I now offer it in a slightly modified form on the Ranger belt page at: LeatherGoods
   Or, now that I've shown you how to make it, you can make your own instead.

Leather Care ProductsSome of these products were used to make this belt. The Tan Kote is an alternative finish and can be used on some leathers to repair scuffs and wear. The dry cleaner is exactly that, dry cleaning fluid. It is used for removing stains on a wide variety of materials including some leathers.
  These products and leather strips and buckles for making your own belts are available here.

Want to learn more? Check out these links. Make a leather Handbag  Make a Leather Backpack  Or, Have a Custom Belt Made with your choice of options.

Join LeatherGoodsConnection Group. Become an LGC insider and have access to "Members Only" sale pages containing NEW leather belts and handbags that were made as samples or that when we finished it we realized we should have read the comments window info. Or maybe we got an email from the customer saying, " OOPS, I hate to be a bother but, I finally measured and can you make it four inches longer and I decided  on light brown instead of black". 
  Get advise on leather goods construction and repair, post your questions, share your knowledge, tell us what you like, what you make, or would like to make. Click on the "Messages" link to read answers to past questions and leather making articles.
   Because of the group news letter email format that elliminates images, the photos that that go with the articles have to be viewed by clicking on the photos link on the group site menu. To provide  a better reading experience I have started the "Henry's leather News" Blog where the images accompany the text.  I only have time to post group messages every month or two, and  will now include links to new articles posted to the blog.

by Henry Hibbard

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