How to make a belt

Cutting the belt from a bridle butt
Cutting the belt from a bridle butt
A strip is cut from a hide – bridle leather comes as a “pair of Butts”. One piece is “half a pair”. The strip is cut using an adjustable Plough Gauge. We use only top grain bridle leather, with the full thickness of the hide, with no “print” added to mask blemishes or inconsistences.
  • A strip is cut from a hide – bridle leather comes as a “pair of Butts”. One piece is “half a pair”. The strip is cut using an adjustable Plough Gauge. We use only top grain bridle leather, with the full thickness of the hide, with no “print” added to mask blemishes or inconsistences.
  • Next, the point, and the end of the belt are cut, with a Saddler’s Round Knife.
  • The sharp edges on the leather are removed with an Edge Tool. This is the cause of more injuries than any other process – usually stabs in the end of the thumb. Painful.
  • Next, the edges are stained, using a water based dye
  • The edges are polished with a rubbing stick – usually a bit of old broomstick. Heat from the friction seals the edges and brings them to a shine
  • The crease tool is heated in a gas flame – this one is adjustable
  • The hot crease is drawn along the edge of the belt, producing the traditional decorative line. Beware a plain belt with a line of stitches instead – it means cheap split leather, usually with a plastic coating has been used
  • The belt holes are marked with dividers, lining them up by eye
  • The holes are stamped in using an oval punch on a nylon block, with a nylon mallet. A previous owner of the punch has obviously used a steel hammer on it (most of our hand tools are many years old, and will never wear out).
  • The hole for the buckle is made with a crew punch, and the stitches are marked in this case at eight to the inch – we use anything up to twelve to the inch for decorative bridlework. Stitch markers are available in different pitches
  • The buckle end is “thinned” slightly using a splitter. This prevents the bend around the buckle being too bulky
  • The buckle is fitted to the belt – we use solid brass buckles manufactured mainly for equestrian use – strength and reliability is paramount in their design
  • The thread is waxed with pure beeswax before use – it lubricates while stitching the thick leather, and also helps waterproof the belt.
  • Stitching the buckle to the belt is always done by hand, using one or two blunt needles. Each stitch hole is made one at a time with an awl. The stitches are locked together so if they do fray the line of stitches will not unravel. The technique is exactly the same as used in bridlemaking where strength is essential. We do not use rivets as they provide only a single point of attachment, and are not as strong nor as durable
  • After a final polish, and the addition of the “Journeyman” stamp the belt is ready for dispatch.
  • A selection of bridlemaking tools – Crew Punch, Crease, Stitch Marker, Dividers, Round Punch, Single Crease, Clicking Knife, Bulldog Grips, Rubbing Stick. In the foreground a large Crew Punch and saddler’s Round Knife