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How to Make a Leather Belt – 11 Steps From My First Project

Learning how to make a leather belt is a great way to get into leathercraft. It only involves a few basic tools, easy-to-learn skills, and an afternoon of fun.

To learn how to make a leather belt, you’ll need some cutting tools, a cutting surface, a leather belt blank, rivets, and a belt buckle. Skills can include edging, grooving, cutting, stamping, riveting, skiving, dyeing, polishing, burnishing. In the end, you’ll have a great wearable belt.

It will probably be a lot easier than you think. At first, I thought it might be a little too much for a first project. Though taking my time, I realized it was a great way to get exposed to a few tools and end up with a usable leather item. Let’s check it out!

How to Make a Leather Belt

Exciting! So, where do we start? There are a few things to think about related to the whole project. They can help ensure you’re interested in the end result while also avoiding spending too much early on materials and tools. We want this to be fun and allow you to explore the craft.

With a little more experience, you’ll learn what tools you prefer to use, what style of belts you like to make, and even what finishes you prefer. Leather hardware (buckles and rivets) has many options, too, and many colors and finishes are available.

Leather Belt Project in Progress - How to Make a Leather Belt
Leather Belt Project in Progress

You’ll also learn a few steps. They involve preparing the materials, how and when to decide on different shapes and cuts, and what tools will work best. To make a leather belt without dyeing it, an afternoon will be all you need — a little longer if you take your time (which works, too!).

So, let’s dive in and get started.

Deciding on Making a Leather Belt

So, I spent a lot of time learning about leather craft (a tiny, tiny amount in the grand scheme), though enough to feel confident enough to start a leather craft project. As I thought about what I wanted to make, I kept in mind that it should be pretty simple so I wouldn’t get frustrated.

I wanted it to be easy enough to try a few skills and see how I fare. Also, I didn’t want it to be too expensive for materials and tools, so I ended up with a leather belt project. Great, but what kind?

Some belts have intricate patterns carved or stamped into them. Others have lines that run along the edge. Others are thick, some are thin, some are natural-toned leather, and some are dyed colors. Some have buckles that hook closed and others that secure with a prong.

I usually try to keep things simple on the first run, so here is my thought process for each main piece.

What Type of Leather to Use

All types of leather qualities are available today. One of the main distinguishing factors is the process used to tan it. Chrome-tanned leathers produce soft, flexible leather. Vegetable-tanned leathers are usually a little more rigid, thicker, and have a natural hide color on the surface. Vegetable-tanned (also referred to as veg-tanned) leathers have been made for thousands of years using that process.

Vegetable Tanned Leather Belt Blank - How to Make a Leather Belt
Vegetable Tanned Leather Belt Blank

Since I want to make a classic belt, and veg-tanned leather is excellent for belts and straps, that was my choice. It is available in full or partial hide sizes (the entire hides from an animal). These can but cut down into belt straps. It is also available in pre-cut straps. Yes! This is the way to go. For not much cost, you’ll have a long strap of a consistent width, ready to become a belt.

The one I got was 1-1”4 wide, 50” long, and 8/9oz weight. Leather weight also refers to leather thickness. 8/9oz is a generally good weight for belt making.

Check out some of the most popular leather types for inspiration on material choices:

What Tools Do I Need to Make a Leather Belt?

After deciding to make a belt, I explored various recommended leather working tools and methods. Several techniques caught my interest, so here’s what I planned for:

  • Edging
  • Grooving
  • Cutting
  • Punching
  • Riveting
  • Skiving
  • Deglazing, Dyeing, & Sealing
  • Burnishing
  • And hopefully, wearing 🙂
Leather Working Tools - Liberty Leather Goods
Leather Working Tools

If you’re interested in a full guide to all leather working tools, click here to read the one that I put together.

Tools for Making a Leather Belt

Each usually has a unique tool that helps with the task. Let’s check them out. Here’s an easy-to-check table, with details on each below. If you’re not dyeing the belt, you won’t need the deglazer, dye, sealer, and wool daubers.

Tool NameFunction
EdgerBladed tool for making holes in leather
GrooverCuts grooved lines into leather
Xacto KnifeGeneral cutting tool – sharp and works great on leather
Cutting MatProvides a cutting surface that protects the table, and knife blade
AwlThin, metal tool for marking and making holes in leather
Hole PunchSpecially shaped tool for cutting the ends of belts and straps
End PunchSpecially-shaped tool for cutting the ends of belts and straps
Nylon BoardShaves thin layers of leather material away
MaulA rounded, hammer-like tool for hitting leather tools
SkiverShaves thin layers of leather meaterial away
RivetsMetal hardware used to join leather material together
Rivet SetterTools that are used to join metal rivets
Belt BuckleHardware that connects the ends of the belt together
Tape MeasureFlexible rulers for measuring waist size
BurnisherWooden tool used to smoothen leather edges
DeglazerCompound used to clean the leather before dyeing
DyePigment used to color leather material
SealerCompound used to protect dyed leather
Wool DaubersWool balls used for applying deglazer, dye, and sealer

Edgers

Leather edgers are used to remove the squared corners of leather material. I chose an edger that wasn’t too expensive. They come in several sizes. I picked one in the middle of the size range (size 2), thinking I could always get a larger or smaller one for future projects once I learned what was preferred.

Leather Working Tools - Leather Edger - Liberty Leather Goods
Leather Working Edger

Groovers

I had read that groovers are helpful for grooving outlines of leather where stitches can rest. They can also be used for decorative purposes. Since they looked really cool grooving out little channels of leather, I definitely wanted to try one, so I got a groover.

Leather Working Tools - Stitch Groover
Leather Working Stitch Groover

Here’s a closer look into groovers:

Xacto Knife

A sharp blade is critical to smooth leatherwork. Several different types of common knives can be used here. These include utility knives, box cutters, and craft knives. I had an Xacto knife handy, so I used that.

Leather Working Tools - Xacto Knife
Xacto Knife

It also helps to have a cutting mat to use as a work surface. I have one of those green Olfa mats, it works well.

Leather Working Tools - Cutting Mat
Cutting Mat

Awl

Awls are thin, metal tools for marking leather and making small holes. The belt will use mostly marks, which can be made with our knife. So, while an awl isn’t required, feel free to use one if you already have it around.

Leather Working Tools - Awl
Leather Working Awl

Punches

So many types of leather hole punches are available for all sizes of holes and shapes. This would be a basic belt, and I’d need to make holes in it for different sizes. A hole punch would make this job easy.

Some are hand-held and have the punch rotate among different sizes. Others are single punches of a particular size. I wanted to feel like I was a real leather worker! So, I got a single punch. It was a common size, so I also thought if I didn’t enjoy leather craft, I’d be able to at least adjust my own belts for the rest of my life. 🙂

Leather Working Tools - Hole Punch
Leather Working Hole Punch

Maul

Also, punches need to be struck with a softer surface than a hammer so the metal of the punch isn’t damaged. Mauls have a round, nylon-hitting surface and look really cool. I hadn’t really heard of them before, though based on how great they looked and the fact that I could use them to hit the fancy single-sized punch I was going to use, I was in!

Leather Working Tools - Nylon Maul
Leather Working Nylon Maul

Strap Punch

There are also punches designed to cut the end of belts and straps, called strap punches. Instead of slowly cutting the tips by hand, you can just lay the metal punch over it, hit it, and it trims the tip shape just perfectly. I got an English point strap end punch. A bit of a splurge for a cut I could have done by hand, but again, I wanted to be a real leather worker 🙂

English Point Strap Punch
English Point Strap Punch

Nylon Cutting Board

It’s recommended to use a soft surface underneath punches so the blades don’t slam into something hard and get damaged. A nylon cutting board (like the one used in the kitchen) works great. I got a small one (maybe 8” x 6”) online, and it worked like a charm.

Leather Tool - Cutting Board
Nylon Cutting Board

Skivers

Leather skivers are used to shave away layers of leather. “Why would I need this for a belt?” I thought. Ah! That piece that folds over around the buckle. If we just folded the leather over, it would be twice as thick there and really bulky. Skiving it to about 1/2 the original thickness means it’ll be about even with the rest of the belt once folded and secured with rivets. Nice.

I got a Tandy skiver that wasn’t too expensive and would do the job well.

Leather Working Tools - Leather Skiver
Leather Working Skiver

Rivets

I’ve heard of these before, though I’ve never used them. It sounded interesting that they required pounding on metal to make something work. Okay, that sounds good. Let’s rivet. Leather rivets are usually made up of two pieces of metal, one with a long prong and one with a hole. The rivets are pushed through the leather and set with a rivet setter.

The rivet setter has just two different parts (on the entry-level, manual setters — there are specialized tabletop riveting machines, though that’s way beyond our first belt). There is a metal base where the bottom rivet sits securely and a metal rod with a curved end that sits over the top rivet.

Leather Working Tools - Rivet Set
Leather Working Rivet Set

That metal rod is struck with a maul, and the force drives the rivets together, setting them. With that, you could say, “You’re all set.” 🙂 OK, ok, I’ll stop with the terrible puns. Or will I?

For these, I just bought a rivet kit from Amazon. It was under $10 and included many-sized rivets, a base, and a setter — perfect.

Belt Buckle

Belt buckles come in many shapes, styles, and sizes. I went with a basic one with a silver-colored finish. The photo is a solid brass one I had around for a future project.

Solid Brass Belt Buckle
Solid Brass Belt Buckle

Tape Measure

This is a flexible ruler that can be used to measure the size of the person for whom you’re making the belt. They’re commonly available at crafts stores, hardware stores, and online.

Tape Measure
Tape Measure

Burnisher

The edges of leather can expose the natural fibers. Over time, they can fray and weaken. Also, they don’t always look great. Generally, the edges are finished in some way to provide protection and a nice visual appeal.

Leather Working Tools - Wooden Burnisher
Leather Working Wooden Burnisher

Burnishers are usually wooden tools that use friction to heat up and bind the fibers of leather edges together. It make a sort of smooth surface, that can be quite nice.

I got a leather burnisher (sometimes called a slicker) for just a few dollars. It was a simple one (I think made from pine). Fancier ones made of fancier, denser woods are popular, too.

Deglazer, Dye, & Sealer

In hindsight, I definitely would not have dyed and finished a first project belt — or maybe even some later project belts. The dyeing process can be lengthy, temperature-dependent, and require cleanup. While learning how to dye leather can be a fun project on its own, I wouldn’t recommend it in tandem with a first belt.

Leather Working Tools - Leather Dyes and Finishes - Liberty Leather Goods
Leather Dye and Finish

Since I did it, though 🙂 I’ll include it in the steps. The dye I got was a type of Fiebing’s Leather Dye, the Fiebling’s Pro. It had good reviews and seemed to work well. I also got Fiebling’s deglazer, a chemical formula used to clean/prep leather before dyeing. It seemed to work well, too.

The sealer goes on last. Leather sealer protects the leather and keeps the dye from rubbing off onto clothes. Wool daubers are helpful, too. They’re small wool balls attached to a thin wire handle. They make it easy to dip into and apply the deglazer, dye, and sealer.

How to Make a Leather Belt

Step 1: Gather All Tools & Materials

This might seem obvious, though, in all the excitement, it’s easy to dive right in. A little preparation makes it all smoother, and more enjoyable.

Clean off a work surface. It can be a kitchen table, workbench, or even a coffee table. It should have sturdy legs and be able to be hammered on. Don’t worry! The surface should be protected with the cutting mat and nylon board when punching/rivet setting, so you don’t leave dents in the nice dining room table 🙂

Make sure all of your tools are materials are ordered, received, organized, and in place.

Step 2: Measure

You’ll need to decide how long the finished belt will be. Use a tape measure to measure around the waist of the person you’re making the belt for.

A common “rule-of-thumb” is to add about 9” – 10” inches to the waist size. So, for someone with a 36” waist size, the belt blank should be trimmed to about 46” long. This will leave enough material to fold over by the buckle and some to extend beyond the buckle prong holes.

Step 3: Edging

This would be a good little adventure, so off I went. I ordered the tools (many noted in this post) and got everything together. I wasn’t planning on writing about it, or I would have taken more photos, though I have a few and will include them as I go.

To start, I unrolled the leather belt blank. It smelled nice (mmmm, leather) and felt good in the hand. Leather is a comfortable material to work with.

It was a little stiff but not too stiff, more of a nice, pliable thickness that can be worked/shaped. So this is all new! What to do first? 🙂 I thought edging would be fun, so I grabbed the edger and started on an edge near the end of the below (in case I messed up and needed to trim it off).

It went smoothly, slowly, and evenly, taking off a bit of the corner. Wow, cool! I did a little more and got a feel for it; it was not as hard as I originally thought.

After watching online videos, I held the edger at about a 45-degree angle to the leather corner and pushed it forward slowly, letting the tool do the work. The blade was sharp, and it cut nicely. The one I used was a CrazeEve edger. I had never heard of that brand before, but it had great reviews on Amazon. Based on the first use, I would have to agree with those reviews.

Here is a video of edging in action:

Step 4: Grooving

Now that I had a few leather edge scraps around the table, I was starting to feel like a craftsman, haha! But there’s way more to do. So what next? I had purchased a groover and thought I would try it on the same end (also in case I messed up and had to cut it off).

I got a Kyoshin-Elle for the groover, hoping for a bit more quality than pure entry-level ones. I adjusted the width and slowly lowered the cutting element onto the leather; I was expecting it to scrape and be difficult to pull toward me. Surprisingly, it cut an even groove so smoothly into the leather edge.

Pulling it towards me, it kept a straight line, and a little thread of leather spooled up through the cutting hole, making almost a leather thread by the time I worked my way down the belt. I would have stopped earlier, though it was going so smoothly. It made one connected cut, and I didn’t want to stop too many times.

I stopped once or twice just to check the work, and before I knew it, I had a groove the length of the belt. I did the same to the other side, and now the belt had some simple yet classic decorative lines to it.

This video shows the smooth lines grooving makes:

Step 5: Skiving

Then, I measured where the buckle would go and where the leather needed to be folded over and used a skiver to shave off some of the leather. This is definitely an acquired skill (I didn’t really have it yet!). The skiver had a good-sized blade, so I carefully pulled it towards me and removed layers of leather.

Some cuts I pushed too deeply and had to skiff around it to even things out, but luckily, I didn’t cut the leather so thin it separated, so in the end all is good enough to proceed. And, since this will fold onto itself, it won’t be seen in the final product anyway.

Here is a block-style skiver in action:

Step 6: Punching the Holes

Next, I was excited to try out the punch. I got a 4.5mm, thinking it would serve purposes for most holes I would need if I had to choose only one punch to get initially. I measured for the belt buckle hole (where the bar pushes through the belt, the one that goes into the holes) and used a simple CS Osbourne awl to mark the hole location.

Since I didn’t have an oblong punch, I just marked a second hole about 1 inch away, punched both (with a really basic mallet), and used a cutting knife to make straight cuts between the holes to join them and make an oblong opening.

After that, I was feeling pretty good about punching the buckle holes. I wasn’t too concerned with spacing initially; I just wanted a bunch of holes for practice and that would hopefully fit me later on, so I measured about where I thought they should start and punched several holes in, maybe about 1/2” apart.

This might be too close, but then again, I’m just experimenting at this point. The punch was smooth and sharp, making the holes with crisp, clean cuts with little effort.

Here’s a multi-hole punch in action:

Step 7: Punching the Tip

I wanted to give the belt tip some character, so I had an English point strap punch, also a Kyoshin-Elle, lined it up, and punched the end. It came out pretty clean. The punch was a little wider than the leather (I should have used a different size, though only had one so was going to make it work 🙂 ).

I used the edger to go around all of the edges and lightly burnished them with the wood hand burnisher. Looking at it, it’s not too bad.

Step 8: Making the Belt Loop

I then remembered I needed to make a belt loop! Luckily, I had a little piece of scrap that I cut a small width from. It was just long enough to work, whew 🙂 I grooved and edged it like the belt so the styling matched.

Step 9: Prepping & Dyeing

(Again, in hindsight, I wouldn’t recommend dyeing a belt for a first project; it adds a lot of time. However, I thought I would include it here since that was the experience I had.)

Next, it was time to dye it. I went out in the yard and laid a trash bag onto a plastic shoe tray (like the ones you put wet shoes in by the door after coming in from outside on a rainy or snowy day) and put that onto a table. It’s usually best to dye outside since the vapors of the deglazer aren’t great to breathe in.

Leather Belt Prepping to Dye - How to Make a Leather Belt
Leather Belt Prepping to Dye

I crossed my fingers, hoped for the best, applied the deglazer with some daubers (I had only recently learned what those were), and let it dry. A little while later, maybe 20 minutes, I did the same to apply the dye. I waited about 15 minutes more — I probably should have waited longer — applied a second coat of dye, and let it sit to dry fully.

Oh! I almost forgot again — the belt loop. 🙂 I quickly did the same to the loop and let it sit to dry next to the below. About two hours later, I applied some wax sealer, and it was ready for finishing! I probably should have left more time before sealing it, though again, this was just to try everything out and see how the process went.

Leather Belt Dyed - How to Make a Leather Belt
Dyed Leather Belt

Step 10: Riveting

Now we get to put on the hardware — it’s so close to being a real belt! But I’ve never really riveted before, so there’s ample opportunity to mess it up — oh no, haha. I fed the buckle through the oblong hole and test-folded the leather over; it worked. My buckle is wider than the belt leather, though it was the only buckle I had on hand and would make it work.

Next, with the awl, I marked off two holes behind the buckle, stamped them, and riveted them. For the rivets, they get pressed into each other loosely (they sort of stick together, which makes it easier). Then, one rivet is placed into a concave metal holder to hold it in place, while the second is positioned under a rod with a concave end (to hold the top rivet in place) and hit with a hammer. The hitting force sets them together, and the rivet is solid!

The buckle is now firmly in place, and next, I needed to add the loop. I joined the flat leather piece of material for the loop into a loop by riveting it in the middle, then slid it over the belt. I marked two more rivet holes, stamped them, and riveted them, and the loop was then secure, too.

There was a little bit of material left beyond the loop rivets, so I added one more rivet to secure that in place. I might design it differently next time (more for aesthetics), but for this, it worked great.

Step 11: Be Excited!

I stood back and looked. Before me was this thing: a belt with rounded edges, a buckle, a loop, and holes. Whattt? But would it work? I picked it up and slowly wrapped it around me, bringing the holes closer to the buckle. Would it fit?

Yes! I put so many holes so close together that one of them had to work 🙂 I fastened it and stood proud at the very basic but very finished piece of craft I now had. It wasn’t pretty, maybe a little rough even, but it was there, and more than anything, it was fun. 🙂

So, that was my first project. I certainly learned a lot and tried out several new things. I hope you’ll enjoy your first project, too. It turns out that making a leather belt is a pretty easy leather working how-to that allows you to practice fundamental skills like cutting, measuring, punching holes, and setting rivets or snaps.

A Finished Leather Belt - How to Make a Leather Belt
Finished Leather Belt!

Related Questions:

What is the best leather for making belts?

The best leather for making belts is usually vegetable tanned leather. It is a strong, wear-resistant leather that is comfortable to work with, available in various thicknesses, and looks great over time. Vegetable tanned leather also ages beautifully, developing a unique patina with use, which adds character to the belt. Additionally, it can be easily dyed or tooled, allowing for customization and personalization of the belt design.

How thick should a leather belt be?

A leather belt should be about 1/8” (3.2mm) thick. This would be leather that weighs in the 8oz – 9oz range. It provides a sturdy thickness that wears well and lasts a long time. Personal preference can also be a factor in choosing a thickness.