Leather working

Leather working

Making a leather belt from scratch and personalising it with the right equipment could be cheaper than personalising it through a shop. And you get to keep the tools and work leather as a hobby! Allison from Sunny Rising Leathershows you how.

My name is Allison Sattinger, and I am the owner of an Etsy shop called Sunny Rising Leather. I make hand-tooled leather necklaces, cuffs, belts and bags. I started tooling three years ago and have been unable to stop since. The project I have been documenting is not the simplest of projects, but considering what it costs to get an artisan to make a belt this personalized for you, all of the tools and supplies may very well be worth your pounds. Plus, after making one you may find yourself in business, as I did.

Let’s begin.

Things you’ll need:

These’ll be even more handy to have if you decide you love working with leather and wish to continue learning!

All of these supplies can be found at http://tandyleatherfactory.com

  • 1.5 inch wide leather belt blank
  • a wood or rawhide mallet
  • heavy duty scissors
  • measuring tape
  • spray bottle full of water
  • economy leather hole punch (use largest hole setting or use best judgment depending on your buckle)
  • set of 1 inch tall letter stamps
  • paintbrush
  • acrylic paint ( slightly thinned with water ) in the color of your choice
  • 1 bottle of leather antique stain in the color of your choice
  • 1 sponge, slightly damp
  • something on which to ‘antique’ your leather which you won’t mind destroying: an old t-shirt, perhaps
  • a buckle of your choice: vintage are the best!

First, find your belt measurement. This will be different for every woman, as we all prefer a different cut of denim: for some it will be in the hip area and for others it will be the smallest part of the waist. Write down your measurement.

Take the belt blank and measure (with ‘zero’ being at the middle of the long oval between the snaps) your belt length. Make a mark where you find your own measurement ( mine is ’32’, so I mark that 32 inches from the center of the long oval hole ).

Take the hole punch, center it on the mark and punch. This is a point of reference, but we’ll want two or three holes in either direction, which we will do later.

At the midsection of the end of your measurement and ‘zero point’, make another mark. That is your dead center. ( mine will be 16 ). This helps you center your name on your back.

Spray your belt with water all around the dead center mark, where you might tool. Five or six good spritzes should be enough. Rewet when you feel the leather is getting dry or ‘tough’. Try not to drown it, though…

Using your letter stamps, spell out your name and lay the letters out as if you were ready to stamp them, to center them around the ‘dead center’ mark. When you feel you have everything laid out take your mallet, insert the center ‘stick’ ( you’ll see it in the packaging: it’s in the middle of all the letters ) until you hear it click, line up your letter and give it one or two good hits right on top with the mallet, being sure not to let the letter jiggle or move. Continue until you have spelled out your name.

When you have finished with the stamps, you needn’t do any more with the lettering, should you choose not to.

In my photos, you’ll notice I have carved around the outline of my letters with a leather knife and tooled away the leather there, leaving the leather more dimensional. Tooling is a process that takes lots of time to learn and perfect, and we want you to wear these belts with pride.

If you wish to learn how to tool, Tandy Leather ( I swear, I am not endorsing them; there just aren’t a whole lot of leather supply stores! ) has some excellent beginner books.

Once you have let the belt dry from all the watering it got, take it to your ‘safe zone’ to make a complete mess!

Dampen a clean sponge ( just ever so slightly damp, no drips or drops should occur ) and dab some antique onto it, rubbing it into the leather in a circular motion, trying to evenly coat it.

You may wish to apply two or three coats, depending on how dark you wish your belt to be. Black antique will make your belt come out dark grey, which can look very cool.

If you feel you’ve gotten too much on, you can rinse your sponge thoroughly ( making sure to squeeze out most of the water afterwards ) and gently use it to remove some of the color. Let your leather dry.

Take your paintbrush and your color of choice and paint your letters in any way you see fit. I have chosen to use a product called a ‘resist’ that blocks the antique out of the leather. I also chose to stamp a couple of red hearts around my name, because it’s nearly Valentine’s Day and I am girly.

Now put your buckle on: you may or may not need to use the long oval hole, depending on whether you’ve chosen a buckle with a ‘bar’ ( you’ll use the oval, then ) or with a metal loop ( in this case you’ll just pull the belt through the loop and snap ).

Make sure that your measurement is correct by fastening your belt as you normally would. We’ve not cut off the end yet because I wanted you to be sure it would fit, in case measurement was off.

Once you have it perfectly fitted, punch yourself a couple more belt holes on either side of the original for the weight loss and weight gain days we all have, and then cut off the end in any style you see fit: diagonal, straight across, or pointed.

And there you have your first homemade personalized leather belt!


What you’re aiming for…

Measuring the leather

Stamping the leather


Carving the leather

Still carving…

Tooling the leather

Applying leather antique

Applying leather antique for reals… and then you’re done!!!