How Are Leather Belts Made?

How are leather belts made? Leather belts have been worn for as long as there have been pants to hold up. Leather was used in belt making for its durability, flexibility, and beauty. The best leather belts are made from full grain cowhide. Other animal hides have been used to make belts as well but only cowhide is strong enough to hold its shape without an inner structure.

Leather manufacturers follow these three basic steps to prepare leather for sale:

  1. The first step is the preparatory stage, leather is prepared for tanning by various methods such as soaking, de-hairing, degreasing, splitting, and bleaching.
  2. The second step is tanning, where raw leather is made stable, unable to rot, by soaking in natural and chemical substances like tannin, chromium, and glutaraldehyde.
  3. The third step is crusting, where the leather gets thinned, lubricated, softened, dried and often dyed.

Making a leather belt follows these basic steps; purchasing tanned leather and belt buckles, measuring, designing, cutting, and finishing. Belts are usually made from vegetable tanned leather. 

  1. Step one is measuring. Measure waist length plus one foot extra by chosen width.
  2. Step two is designing. Leather belt designs vary in width and style depending upon application and the current fashion. Leather belts can be hand-tooled with stamped designs, dyed, laced or braided. Belt ends can be rounded or squared off. When choosing a Belt buckle keep in mind that the buckle hinges and leather belt width must match.
  3. Step three is cutting. The leather is then cut to the desired width and length.
  4. Step four is finishing. The buckle end of the leather belt is measured one and one half inches from the end.  The end is then folded over at the one and one half inch marking. The folded end is then marked and punched, with leather tools, to accommodate four rivet holes. The edges of the leather belt are then rounded off with an edge beveler. Stamping and tooling of the belt is done at this time. The belt is now ready to be dyed and sealed with leather sealer. Once the belt is completely dry, the buckle is set in place and the rivets are secured by hammering. Some buckles are made to be removed and others are put in place for the life of the belt. The last step of finishing is to mark and punch holes for the buckle pin.

From the cow to your waist there is a lot of processing, time and skill required to make a leather belt. A good quality belt is more expensive but worth the cost as it will last for years. When purchasing a leather belt it is best to look for stamped markings, on the back of the belt, that state full-grain, top-grain or leather. Beware of bonded leather. Bonded leather is manmade using leather fibers and bonding them with a latex binder.

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