Cutting leather is one of the most basic qualities of a leathercrafter. You should have a sharp knife, some guide to cut it straight and a cutting surface. This setup works well most of the times but it may change a bit while cutting leather straps.
We use leather straps for various leathercraft projects. Sometimes the project itself is built by straps (belts, watch straps, bracelets) while in some other projects straps are a part of the final product (bags, wallets etc.) You can cut your own leather strap using a basic knife or some manual hand tools but there are many shops and online stores that sell a variety of leather straps. Most leather shops have standard sizes for width and thickness while length can change based on the need.
Let’s have a detailed look at leather straps and discuss where & how to use them and where to get them.
What are Leather Straps?
Leather strap (strap leather) is a common term for strips of leather in various sizes. Although leather straps are mostly a part of leather good, straps alone could be the leather good itself like a belt. Leather straps are mostly used with some metal hardware to either keep it in place (snaps, buttons, rivets, etc.) or adjust the size of it (buckle).
Common Types of Leather Straps
Leather Straps with Snaps
Snaps are often used with leather straps. Wristbands are one of the common uses of leather straps with snaps. Leather straps on wallets or bags are often used with snaps as well. Snaps make it easier to use the leather strap with minimal effort to lock or unlock the strap. However, some snaps can open easier than others, making them a less secure way than buckles.
Leather Straps with Buckle
Leather straps with buckles are used in many cases. For example, watch straps are made from a leather strap and a buckle. Buckles allow us to adjust the size of a leather strap. In the watch strap case, not all wrists are the same size but watchmakers use standard sizes for straps while they mass produce. With the addition of a buckle to the watch strap, each customer can adjust the size of the watch strap.
Buckles are a stronger option to hold leather straps compared to buttons or snaps. That’s why they are also used in bag straps such as motorcycle bags or outdoor bags.
Black Leather Straps
Leather straps can be in any color as they can be made from any leather. If you are using black leather for your project, it is suggested to use black leather straps made from the same leather.
The color choices are more limited for belts since belts are made from thick leathers (3mm or above). Black is a very popular color among leather tanneries and usually, each tannery has a black leather article in various thicknesses. That’s why a big portion of belts are made from black leather straps. Black belts are also popular since they are mostly paired with black shoes and black shoes are the most popular color choice among suit shoes for men.
Thin Leather Straps
Thin leather straps can be used in many cases such as watch straps, key holders, or bag handles. In watch strap making thin leather straps are frequently used. Luxury watch straps are usually made from two layers of thin leather straps and some supporting material like salpa in between them.
Embossed Leather Belt Blanks
Some leather stores and companies sell leather straps ready to become belts after a few steps. It is not very easy to cut a long strip of thick leather accurately with hand tools. Leather stores use special equipment to cut the leather belt blanks easily and precisely. Leather belt blanks are useful for leathercrafters since they require a few easy steps to become a finished belt.
Some leather belt blanks are embossed. Leather shops use embossing machines to emboss various patterns on the leather belt blank. They usually use natural vegetable tanned leather for embossing since it will hold the embossed shape. Also, natural vegetable tanned leather is required if you want to dye your belt to the desired color.
Bullhide strips are thicker and stronger compared to cowhides. They are used for more heavy-duty projects like gun belts. Their thickness can exceed 5 mm (15 oz) and they are sold in various widths starting from 2 cm and up to 7 cm.
Leather Apron Straps
Leather aprons are used by many professionals such as leathercrafters, knife makers, baristas, and butchers. The main material for the apron can either be leather or canvas fabric. Canvas fabric is known for being durable, strong, and heavy-duty. However, both leather or canvas aprons use leather straps since leather is a more suitable material for straps and they also look beautiful even when used with canvas fabric.
Common Leather Strap Sizes
Leather straps have standard sizes depending on the strap category. Since most straps are used with metal hardware like buckles, leather straps need to have some standardization in terms of width for them to be compatible with metal hardware.
Watch Strap Sizes
The width of the watch strap is defined by the lug width of the watch. Most watch straps start from 18mm width and can go up to 24mm width. Womens’ watches can be a little narrower than mens’ watches. Apple watches have 22mm and 24mm strap size options.
Belt Strap Sizes
Belt straps can start from 20mm and can go up to 60mm. 20mm is a narrow size for belts and it is mostly used by women. 30mm straps can be used both by men and women. Narrow belts are more suitable for formal occasions. Wider belts are for more casual usage. For example, 40mm width can be used with denims etc. 1/2″, 1”, 1-1/4″, 1-1/2″, 1-3/4″, and 2” are standard belt strap width in inches.
5/8” Leather Strap
5/8” leather strap is a popular width used mostly for dog collars & leads and purse straps.
Leather straps are usually sold in 12″, 24″, 36″, 48″, 60″, 72″, 84″ and 96″ standard lengths.
Common Leather Strap Thicknesses
Leather belts start from 2mm thickness and can go up to 4mm thickness. But watch straps are made from thinner leather. Leather straps for dog collars or bag straps can be around 2mm in thickness.
Thick Leather Belt Blanks
Leather belt blanks made from bull hides can be thicker than others and they are more suitable for heavy-duty projects. Bullhide belt blanks can be thicker than 5 mm.
13oz Leather Strap
13 oz leather strap is one of the thickest options for leather belts. It is around 5 mm in thickness and as mentioned above not every hide can provide that thickness. This kind of strap is used where strength and durability are a top priority.
Common Leather Strap Material Types
Full Grain Leather
Full grain leather is the best quality option for leather straps. Full grain leathers are selected from the best hides and they have the best characteristics of a natural material. They have an original look at each hide and they are very strong and durable.
Genuine leather is a cheaper alternative to full grain leather but they still look good and they are durable. Since the outside layer of the leather hide is removed during the production process, genuine leather has a more consistent look overall. Most of the wrinkles, scars or bite marks are removed from the hide.
Faux leather is not leather although the name suggests otherwise. It is made from plastic materials and is not as strong as leather. They can still be used as straps.
Other Strap Materials
In addition to leather, materials like nylon, silicone rubber, steel, titanium, or other materials are used to make straps. For example, the famous NATO strap for watches are made from nylon and Apple Watch uses straps made from silicone rubber.
Common Leather Strap Uses
Leather Straps for Crafts
There is a variety of straps available to purchase for crafters. Depending on the leather project (belts, bag straps, cuffs, bracelets, pet collars/leashes) there are different thicknesses, widths, and lengths of leather straps available. Some of those straps are already processed for a specific purpose. For example, if you want to use it for a belt, you can find a leather strap already dyed, holes punched, and edges finished. Or you can go with a blank strap.
Leather Straps for Bags and Purses
Although bag straps are usually small and look simple, crafters need to invest a lot of time to cut the leather for the strap, punch holes at appropriate places and finish the edges. Some crafters use dies to cut standard-size straps and save a lot of time. Also, some shops produce and sell mostly used straps, ready to be included in your bag project.
Leather Straps for Belts
Leather straps for belts are probably the most popular member of the category. As mentioned before cutting long strips from thick leather and making it consistent is a challenging task. But when you have a belt blank, after a few steps such as punching the holes, installing the hardware, and edge finishing, you can have a beautiful belt that would cost a lot at a regular shop.
Leather Straps for Bracelets
Bracelets can be made from a wide range of materials but leather bracelets are both easy to make they look good. Some leather bracelets are made from a single piece of leather strap. All you need is a leather strap which is between 10-20mm width and some hardware. However, bracelets are also made by braiding thinner strips of leather. In that case, you will need a few pieces of thin and long strips of leather to make a bracelet.
Leather Straps for Watch
Leather is one of the most popular choices for watch straps next to metal straps. Depending on the value of the watch, watch straps can be made from exotic and rare leathers like crocodile, lizard, or stingray. For regular watches, leather straps from cowhides or goats can be used.
Here is a helpful video demonstrating how to make great leather straps:
Where Can I Buy Leather Straps?
Leather Straps Home Depot
Leather straps can be found at a variety of shops. For example, you can find a camera strap or a belt at Home Depot store or online. However, if you are looking for belt blanks and unfinished leather straps for your leather projects, shops that are more specialized in leathercrafting like Tandy Leather or Weaver Leather can be a better option.
Leather Straps Near Me
Most probably the closest leather strap you can buy is online. You can visit Etsy, Amazon, or eBay to find a variety of leather straps. Also, most online leather shops sell leather straps.
Hermann Oak Harness Leather Strap
Hermann Oak is a popular leather company that also sells leather straps. Herman Oak leather straps are provided in two categories. First one is drum dyed straps. Those are fully penetrated dyed leather straps that require no edge coating. They are available in black, dark chocolate and rust colors. They also provide natural straps which you can dye or tool depending on your preference.
Wicket and Craig Straps
Wicket and Craig is another tannery that sells leather straps. They sell famous English Bridle straps and they are available online on Amazon, Buckle Guy and other leather supply stores like District Leather Supply.
Leather Strap Care and Maintenance
Leather strap care is not different from regular leather care. You can clean the leather strap with a dry cloth to remove any dust or soil. If there is a spill you can use a dry cloth to immediately remove it. If any stain is left, you can use a damp cloth and mild soap to clean it and then dry with a clean cloth. You should always leave it to air dry and never use a heat source directly to dry it. After cleaning you can use oils to condition it and give back its softness.
Leathercrafters often need leather straps while working on a project. They look simple but sometimes making good looking and durable straps can be a bit challenging. Leather straps can turn into a finished product like belts and watch straps or they can be a part of a finished good like a bag strap. Most leathercrafters can cut their own straps but there are a number of suppliers that provide pre-cut leather straps and they save a lot of time.
Can I Make My Own Leather Straps?
A leathercrafter can make his own leather straps by carefully cutting the hide at the desired width. Getting a consistent cut over a long strap is important. You will need a long steel ruler and a sharp knife. There are some tools that can make it easier to cut long straps.
Manual strap cutter tools are somewhat cheap hand tools that enable you to cut leather straps easily. There are also strap cutting machines that produce better and faster results but they will cost you a lot more.
How Long do Leather Straps Last?
Depending on the quality of the leather and the daily usage patterns the lifespan of a leather strap can differ. However leather is a strong material by default. Without extreme conditions any good quality strap can last for years. Leather belts especially have a long life.
However, some watch straps or bag straps can have a shorter life because of the amount of movement and pressure on small parts. Still, they will last a few years if they are cut from a good-quality leather.