Leather Belts Posts

Leather Belts Made From Which Types Of Leather?

Posted on: November 12th, 2016 by Jamie @ Leathersmith Designs

Genuine Leather Belts?

What types of leather belts are you getting when the store clerk tells you “These are real leather belts”? Are all types of leather belts the same quality when they are imprinted “Genuine Leather”? Not all leathers are the same quality and you will learn that even some leather terminology is misleading. Therefore when you are told an item is made of real leather or genuine leather, that is too vague. You must know the specific type of leather used in order to understand the belt’s quality as not all leather belts are created equal.

Types of Leather For Belts

The cattle hides are very thick and the tannery usually splits the hide thickness into a number of layers.  The top layer of the hide which is closest to the animal’s hair is called “Top Grain Leather”.  The grain is only in this top layer of the hide.  Top grain leather is a general term as it refers to both Full Grain Leather and Corrected Grain Leather. The layers under the top grain are called split leather. All of these layers are genuine leather but are of vastly different qualities, strength and cost. Let me explain the differences between the types of leather.

Splitting leather hides into different layers.

At the tannery, thick leather hides are split into different layers.

Full Grain Leather Belts

Full grain leather is the best quality of genuine leather used by belt makers. The full and untouched grain surface is present. Beautiful unique markings are visible such as grain patterns, hair cells and any natural healed scars on the full grain leather belts. This is the strongest and most valuable layer of the hide. Remember that full grain leather is a specific leather term that falls under the general category of top grain leather.

From the various types of leather, full grain leather is the belt leather for making belts.

This full grain leather belt is one solid thickness. Full grain leather is the highest quality leather from the various types of leather.

Corrected Grain Leather Belts

Corrected Grain Leather is the 2nd best quality of genuine leather used in making belts. Excessive scars and scratches are buffed and sanded from the grain to remove imperfections. Typically, the tannery covers the surface with heavy pigmented finish coats so the original grain is no longer visible. This leather is often embossed with a grain to simulate hair cell patterns. Corrected grain leather is another specific leather term that falls under the general category of top grain leather.

Split Leather Belts

Split Leather is the third best quality of genuine leather that is used to make belts. It is often finished and embossed to simulate a top grain leather. However, split leather is not as high a quality and much less expensive. Splits are often used for suede and are not as durable as top grain leather. The further the split is from the top grain layer, the dramatically weaker it becomes. In other words a flesh split, which is farthest below the grain and next to the meat, is real cheap junk.

Bonded Leather Belts

Be careful because Bonded Leather is not genuine leather. Chewed up leather fibers are pasted together to form a manufactured sheet of man-made material. Bonded leather is also sometimes called reconstituted leather and fiber leather. The percentage of leather particles in bonded leather varies greatly between manufacturers. Buyer beware as bonded leather tears easily. It is often imprinted and finished to imitate a top grain leather. Unfortunately, the vast number of belts in stores are made of bonded leather which is a very cheap quality material. Most bonded leather belts consequently break in a short period of time.

Bonded leather compared to genuine leather would be similar to comparing particle board to solid wood. In wood work, you wouldn’t build your quality dining room furniture from particle board. Nor would a leather artisan be able to build a strong durable belt from bonded leather.

Bonded leather belt tearing apart.

Bonded leather is not genuine leather as you can see in this belt which tore easily.

Leather Terms For Marketing Belts

Marketers often try to impress buyers by misusing and distorting leather terms. Imprinted terms on products sometimes portray what you want to hear and often only refer to one material used to make the product. The imprint on the back of the belt that says “Real Leather” could actually mean that the belt only has a paper thin layer of split leather adhered to cardboard and vinyl.

The following video shows belts that were brought into our leather shop by customers that had purchased them elsewhere. Unfortunately, these belts shown to us had broken, torn or fallen apart. We took these belts apart to see if the imprinted leather term on the back of the belt accurately portrayed the materials used to make a perceived quality leather belt.

Video discussing leather terms imprinted on belts and dissecting the leather belts.

In conclusion, your best guarantee to insure you are getting a solid full grain leather belt is to purchase it from a leather shop that actually makes the belts. Luckily, there are still lots of leather artisans that continue to individually handcraft their belts from quality leather hides.

Holes punched in handmade leather belts by leather artisan.

Leather craftsman punching holes in handmade belts.


Travel Money Belt Custom Made

Posted on: November 15th, 2014 by Jamie @ Leathersmith Designs

Making A Travel Money Belt

1.  Our leather travel money belts are made totally from genuine cowhide, both the top and bottom pieces.  The belt is first cut from a piece of 5-6 oz thick premium tooling leather with a strap cutter leather craft tool.  This thickness is for the top piece of the money belt.  The underneath piece of the leather money belt that contains the long zipper pocket is cut from 3-4 oz thick premium tooling leather.  Note that the hide must have a straight cut along the edge for the strap cutter tool to follow along.

Cutting the travel money belt from the hide.

Cutting the travel money belt from the hide with the strap cutter leather tool.

Tooling Design and Name in Leather

2.  The custom money belts are made individually when the order is placed.  Many people want us to make their travel money belts plain.  However, others request it be made with an imprinted design or name.  To imprint a design into the leather, the top surface is first dampened with water to allow the metal stamp to deboss the leather surface.  The metal stamp tool is struck with a wooden or rawhide mallet while the leather sits on a hard smooth surface like this piece of quartz. Also it is important that the table is solid and does not have any bounce.

Designs stamped into the leather belt.

Designs and names can be hammered into the damp leather belt.

 Dyeing the Leather

3.  Four coats of dye are applied to the leather money belt. The applicator in the picture is made of sheep’s wool stapled to a wooden block.  This thick applicator holds a lot of dye which allows it to flow into the design.  If we wanted the dye not to go into the design so there would be a contrasting color of the natural leather leather showing through, we would have used a thinner applicator of flannel fabric stapled to a wooden block. Vinyl gloves are worn to keep the dye and other leather chemicals from absorbing into our own skin which would be unhealthy.   After that, neatsfoot oil is rubbed in to condition the leather.  Finally two coats of resolene polish provides a beautifully shined finish and top seal.

Leather dye applied to the travel money belt.

Leather dye is applied with a sheepskin applicator to the cowhide money belt.

Making Long Zipper Hidden Pocket

4.  The zipper is sewn into the bottom piece of leather on our industrial walking foot sewing machine.  We buy the zipper in very long lengths so we can make the zipper pocket as long as the person’s waist size will allow.  The bigger the waist the longer the zipper pocket.

 

Long zipper pocket sewn in travel money belt.

Long zipper sewn in travel money belt.

Contact cement is applied along the edge inside edge of both pieces of leather.  When the contact cement has dried enough so that it is not sticky, both leather pieces are carefully pressed together.  The two leather pieces are bonded together with the tapping of a cobbler’s hammer on an anvil.  The access leather is then trimmed off with a sharp utility knife.

Hammer taps the leather belt pieces together to bond glue.

The leather zipper pocket and top leather are tapped with a hammer to bond the contact cement.

Finishing Edges and Belt Ends

5.  Although the excess leather had been trimmed, the edge is sanded smooth and even before the two pieces of leather are sewn together on our walking foot industrial sewing machine with industrial nylon thread for strength.

Sanding edges of leather travel money belt.

Edges of travel money belt sanded even and smooth.

Next, the leather edge corners are rounded off for a finished look as well as for comfort.  The hand beveller tool will be used to round all four corner edges along the length of the belt.

Leather edges rounded with beveller tool.

Belt edges are rounded with a bevelling hand tool.

After the edges are dyed and burnished with beeswax, the buckle is ready to be attached.  First rivet holes are punched as well as an oblong shape hole for the buckle tongue.  Rapid rivets are set to permanently secure the buckle. The buckle is a quality silver chrome plated solid brass buckle or a gold solid brass buckle.

Rivets secure the buckle to the custom leather money belt.

Buckle is secured in place by setting rivets in the custom money belt.

A drive punch tool is struck with a hammer to make seven round buckle adjustment holes.  We do all our punching and setting of rivets on a large tree stump that is used as a work table. The stump is solid and will not allow any bounce when hammering.  We also put a piece of scrap leather under the belt being punched to allow the sharp edges of the leather hole punch tool to last longer.

Hammering drive punch to make holes in leather money belt.

A drive punch tool makes holes in the leather travel money belt.

 Finished Travel Money Belt

6.  Our custom made money belt will easily pack a lot of trifolded bills in the hidden zipper pocket.  People hide the money in the belt for vacation travel and business trips.  So not to bring attention to the money belt, daily purchases should be made with money from your wallet or purse.  Back in your hotel room, you would take money from your travel money belt to add to your wallet or purse for one day’s needs.  We can provide you the leather craft supplies to make your own belts. Custom made travel money belts for men and women can also be made by us for you in various widths and colors.

Finished travel money belt ready to securely hide your money.

Tooled design leather money belt ready to hide your money for your vacation.

 




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