Steampunk Belt

I’ve been having fun with steampunk.  First, I made a pair of nifty googles.  There was a little bit of leather work involved, but nothing you folks haven’t seen me do before.   I also started working on a gun, and I will post all about it when it is complete.  But today, I want to talk to you guys about my new belt.

A pre-cut belt blank came with the kit I was given for Christmas last year.  I had planned to use a lovely Celtic knot pattern until I saw a new steampunk belt buckle at Tandy.

It was both too ridiculous and too awesome to pass up.  I was curious to see how leather cut gears would look next to real ones.

Belt Preperation

The hardware for adding a belt buckle was already installed, but I still had a bit of work to do to before I could start tooling.  I threaded the strip through the loops on my pants and marked off the length where the belt would comfortably buckle.  Then I measured three inches shorter and three inches longer than that point.  I made a mark at the end of every inch.    I used a compass to find the center of the strap, and then used a punch tool to turn those seven marks into seven belt holes.   The final bit of preparation was to use a tool called a strap end punch to make the end of the belt into a rounded point.

Now I was ready to carve.  I cut a 1/8″ border along the strap using a tool called a stitcher’s groover.  You press the guide against the edge of the leather, and adjust the arm to the distance from the edge you wish to cut.  Then you slowly pull the tool around the piece of leather.  The result is a cut which parallels the edge at a consistent distance.  If you do it right, that is.  My lines are a little off, but happily it isn’t immediately noticable.

Next I set up my leather gears.


I picked up a new craftaid so I wouldn’t have to trace the gears by hand:

I cased the leather (wet it down so it would take an imprint), and pressed the half gear shown above into the belt.  Then I flipped the aid over, and did the same from the other edge, interlocking the gears.

I spaced six pairs of these gears down the strip of leather.  Then I cut them with a swivel knife and beveled them.  In the very tiny places between the gears, I had to use the pointy end of my modeling tool to press the leather down, because a beveler just wouldn’t fit.

I used my small and medium sized backgrounding tools to work on the inside of the gears.

Here’s what the belt looked like up to that point.

Next came the oh-so-fun step of doing background work on the rest of the belt.  This was the biggest piece of leather I had worked on to date, and I intentionally had left most of the piece blank; backgrounding took several hours.  I did most of the work at home, hammering on a granite slab on top of my coffee table.  The table is on a carpeted floor, and the slab was muffled by both a piece of rubber “poundo” board and a towel.  Regardless, my downstairs neighbor hates me now.   Here are the results:

Close up:

Worth it!

The last steps in the tooling phase were to bevel along the edge of the boarder, and use the modeling spoon to round the edges.  This the same technique I used on the border of my flask.

Staining and sealing

This time I used a gel instead of a dye.  Introducing “Saddle Tan Antique”:

I’m in love with this stuff and the way it accents the texture left by the backgrounding tools.  Expect to see more of this color in the future.

For this project, I applied a finisher that also had wax in it.  Buffing it after it dried made the leather shiny.

At this point, I was tempted to just stop.  The belt looked pretty good with just the color applied.  But I was still curious about the leather with metal effect.  It was time to add more gears, but hopefully in a way that wouldn’t look like I just glued stuff on.


Along with all the steampunk products it recently released, Tandy included some gear conchos. (Concho is leatherworker for “decorative piece of metal.”)   They matched my swanky belt buckle so I grabbed a few.  The conchos attach via a screw in the back.  Using the punch tool, I made mounting holes for the screws and tried to set up the conchos so they interlocked with the leather gears.

I also bought some smaller brass gears on Etsy.

Tandy did not have rivets small enough to attach them to the leather, so I picked up some very small screws and nuts from the hardware store

I used a small nail to punch more mounting holes in the belt, and then both screwed and super-glued the brass gears in place.

The screws were far longer than the thickness of this piece of leather, so I used my Dremmel tool with a cutting  wheel to chop off the excess.  Then I applied more superglue to keep everything together.

The final touch was adding tiny watch gears (also purchased from Etsy). The only thing holding these guys in place is superglue.  I really hope none fall off.

The Final Result

My husband is the hand model

I’m very happy with how the belt turned out. I definitely earned my gear merit badge with this one.  If you want to see the pictures in more detail, check out the album.

That’s all for now.  I’ve got plenty of projects to keep me busy for the foreseeable future.   Christmas is coming, however, and I might not be able to talk about all of them right away…

Published in: on October 23, 2011 at 11:42 pm  Comments (2)  
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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. That is so awesome!! I’m glad I got to see it the other night! Looks great, and I can’t wait to see the gun! 🙂

  2. This is seriously cool. I can imagine people in ‘Mortal Engines’ wearing belts like that.

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