Personalized Guitar Straps Posts

Leather Guitar Straps Guide

Posted on: May 14th, 2019 by Quentin Burns

This article is an overview of everything to do with our leather guitar straps, which are handcrafted by the artisans at Leathersmith Designs. It will show you what goes into designing one of our custom guitar straps, and it will compare different techniques we use for different styles of straps. Read on if you’re curious about how our handmade guitar straps are created, or for guidance on which style of strap would be ideal for your needs.

Watch artisans handcraft different styles of leather guitar straps.

1: Real Leather Guitar Straps

Every guitar strap starts life as a high quality piece of 5-6 oz vegetable tanned leather. The “5-6 oz” measurement refers to the thickness of our full grain leather; these hides are about 3/32 inches thick. “Vegetable tanned” describes the tanning process, which uses tree bark. This process creates leather that can be stamped and molded when wet.

We often incorporate other leathers in the strap, such as chrome tanned garment leather. We use this soft leather as a lining or inlay option.

Leather guitar strap blanks and cutters for the hydraulic press.

Standard size undyed full grain leather guitar strap pieces and cutters.

We cut our standard size guitar strap pieces using cutters on a hydraulic press. You can see our hydraulic press in action in the video below. Extra long straps and wide bass straps are cut out by hand, using a strap cutter handtool and a sharp utility knife.

We hand cut custom leather guitar straps longer and wider to customer specifications.

2: Design Elements Of Leather Guitar Straps

Once our pieces have been cut they are ready to be hand tooled. This section will cover some different techniques we use to personalize and embellish our straps.

“Classic” Stamped Straps

Blue and gold stamped personalized guitar strap.

A classic series stamped personalized guitar strap.

The embossed classic series are our most popular guitar straps. To create this look the strap needs to be wet, which allows the stamping tool to mold the leather as it’s hammered down.

The key to this technique is precision. We line up the stamping tool exactly in place, and bring the hammer straight downwards to create an even impression. Then we line up the tool again, and repeat a few hundred times to create a beautiful border design around the strap.

After stamping the border designs, we lay out the text. On most of our guitar straps we use one style of lettering: the classic, western-inspired font you can see in the picture above. We also have an old english font set, which is unique but not as easy to read as the classic style.

A hand stamp being used on a leather guitar strap.

Hand stamping an “x” pattern onto a leather guitar strap.

Etched Leather Guitar Straps

Etched designs have a hand-drawn artistic look, as opposed to the uniformity and crisp corners of the stamped designs. To create these we trace an image onto the guitar strap in pencil, wet the leather, and press down the lines of the design with an etching hand tool. The key to etching is to keep a steady hand and apply even pressure. This blog post on making custom candle holders includes a tutorial for etching, if you want to learn more.

We hand paint the etched lettering or layout with an acrylic leather paint. We have several font options for this lettering style.

Three unique leather guitar straps with etched and painted artwork.

Etched and painted designs on three unique leather guitar straps.

“Script” Straps

Monogrammed guitar strap with textured embossed initials.

A script series monogrammed guitar strap with textured embossing surrounding initials.

This is a different type of stamped strap. We trace on a design, as with the etched straps, and then we use small, textured stamping tools to tamp down the area around the design. It takes hundreds of hits to emboss the background using this method, which is very time consuming. This technique makes the lettering or image appear raised.

For a subtle look, we will dye the whole design one color. For more contrast, we can leave the lettering undyed. We do this by painting on the dye with a fine artist brush around the exterior of the raised image.

Three tooled leather guitar straps with a chiseled look.

Our script style designs on our tooled leather guitar straps have a chiseled look.

Inlay and Overlay Straps

Inlayed straps have pieces of the main body of the guitar strap cut out, revealing a different leather underneath. We might use a textured leather for these inlays, such as ostrich imprint or stingray, or a soft garment leather, or leather with a metallic finish.

An inlay series handmade guitar strap decorated with textured leather.

A setting suns handmade guitar strap with textured leather inlay.

Overlay straps have extra pieces sewn on top, creating a 3D effect.

Overlay series Christian guitar strap with a blue cross overlay.

A Christian guitar strap with a blue leather cross overlay piece and decorative metal concho.

For both the inlay and overlay styles, the first step involves tracing a pattern onto the leather and then cutting out the necessary pieces with a sharp utility knife. The cut edges are sanded and adjusted until the cut-out is completely smooth.

3: Dyeing, Oiling, Polishing

Once a strap has been tooled it is ready to be dyed. For some straps, we use wooden blocks lined with sheepskin to apply the dye. This method floods any stamped or etched impressions, making the whole strap a uniform color.

For straps where the stamped impressions are to remain undyed for a natural contrasting color, we apply the dye with a cotton cloth and use q-tips to fill in the edges.

Classic hand tooled leather guitar strap, dyed black with undyed designs.

Dye is applied carefully, so as not to flood the undyed stamped design in the guitar strap.

Black vogue hand tooled leather guitar strap showing dyed in design.

On vogue style hand tooled leather guitar straps, the design is dyed in using sheepskin.

After the leather strap is dyed, it will be coated with a leather conditioner – usually neatsfoot oil. Then we hang it up and leave it to dry overnight. The next day we may need to even out the color with more leather dye or conditioner. Once the color is uniform, we polish the guitar strap with acrylic resolene. The edges are rounded with a beveler leathercraft tool and dyed with edge-kote.

4: Finishing Touches

Many of our stamped and etched designs have an option for the lettering to be hand painted. We apply several coats of acrylic leather paint using a ball point stylus tool. The first coat establishes an even line width, and subsequent coats build up the color until it is completely opaque.

After painting, decorative conchos are fitted with leather washers and attached to the strap.

Close up of gold old english letters imprinted on a personalized guitar strap.

Gold painted lettering and decorative concho on an old english series personalized guitar strap.

Inlay pieces for inlay guitar straps have their edges thinned, so there won’t be a bump under the strap lining later. Then we glue and sew them in place.

An inlay guitar strap sewn with a metallic leather finish.

A dancing flame guitar strap with a metallic leather inlay. The inlay pieces require very careful sewing.

5: Padding and Lining Leather Guitar Straps

We have a few different lining options, each with a different look and feel. Inlay guitar straps need to have a full garment leather lining, to cover the back of the inlay. Otherwise, lining choice is up to preference. In all cases we adhere the lining with contact cement and then sew it to the strap.

Foam Padding and Garment Leather

A brown vintage guitar strap padded with foam and with soft blue leather lining.

A vintage guitar strap padded with foam and lined with soft blue garment leather.

Our foam padded straps are the best option for anyone who will be playing onstage for long periods of time with a heavy electric guitar. These straps are sturdy and substantial. The foam is light and doesn’t add much extra weight, but it can withstand a lot. When Jamie designed these padded guitar straps, he tested different foam types by flattening them in a press overnight. Once removed from the press the next day, the foam padding we now use sprang back to its original thickness perfectly, while other types of poorer quality foam remained flattened.

You can watch a video below showing how we add foam padding and garment leather lining to our guitar straps.

This video shows Jamie making foam padded guitar straps.

Garment Leather Lining

A double stitch wide bass guitar strap lined with garment leather.

A wide bass guitar strap double stitched with a soft garment leather lining.

If you want a strap with a more finished, polished look, but don’t want the added bulk of foam padding, then this is a good lining option. The garment leather is soft, smooth, and pliant. It adds some extra thickness, creating a slightly firmer strap, but the strap will still be very flexible.

Sheepskin

A sheepskin padded guitar strap for shoulder comfort in black leather with white lettering.

A sheepskin padded guitar strap for soft shoulder comfort with a double stitched border.

This lining option gives a nice soft cushion for your shoulder, as well as being a major, visible design element. The same strap with or without this type of shoulder pad will look very different! In the video below you can watch how we attach sheepskin padding to our straps.

This video shows Quentin adding soft sheepskin padding to leather guitar straps.

Unlined Natural Leather

Leaving your strap unlined is a good option for straps with a classic rustic look.  The underside of our vegetable tanned leather is treated with a clear leather finish, giving it a smooth surface. The underside will be a natural, undyed leather color.

Brown personalized guitar strap with white stitching and an unlined natural leather back.

An unlined, sewn double border personalized guitar strap. The stitching is for design effect only on this unlined strap. The underside of the unlined leather is a natural color.

6: Our Guitar Straps Around the World

We love when customers send in photos of our guitar straps in action. Here are a few of my favorites:

Vogue guitar strap worn by Javier Sans.

Javier Sans performs in Spain with a vogue custom guitar strap.

 

Etched guitar strap worn by Katie Rocks.

Katie Rocks performs with an etched guitar strap.

 

Christian guitar strap worn by Mark Rankin.

Mark Rankin performs wearing a hand tooled guitar strap.

 

Two brown christian guitar straps shown on performers.

Troubadour performed wearing a pair of Christian guitar straps. Photograph by Greg Mooney.

 

Three guitar straps posed with guitars.

A few guitar straps with their guitars.

Check out our many styles of electric guitar straps and acoustic guitar straps. If you’ve ordered one of our guitar straps, we’d love to have a photo to share on social media!


Making Customized Guitar Straps

Posted on: May 18th, 2014 by Jamie @ Leathersmith Designs

Leather Hide For Making Customized Guitar Straps

First a premium piece of tooling cowhide must be chosen to avoid marks and nicks that could be visible in the finished leather craft project.  5 – 6 oz leather thickness works well for making customized guitar straps to give the required strength but also enough suppleness. We choose leather that has been properly prepared on the underneath side from the tannery so there will be no fuzzy pieces of leather coming off on your clothes when you are wearing the guitar strap. Leather hides are supplied in various thickness for different leather craft projects.

custom guitar strap on roll of cowhide

All our custom guitar straps are cut from quality premium tooling cowhide.

Stamp Design

After the leather guitar strap has been cut, we dampen it with water on the top surface only. A firm solid flat surface to work on such as a piece of marble or granite is used when making customized guitar straps. When stamping the guitar straps, we need a firm and solid surface so the stamp tool will not bounce when we hit it with the rawhide mallet. As we stamp the design down the guitar strap, the water will start to dry out so we will have to dampen it again with a wet sponge. If we want to stamp in a name, now is the time to do that as well. This is a labor intensive process since not only each stamp has to be lined up neatly but each stamp has to be hit with the same hardness so the design will all be the same depth. There are lots of leather craft stamps available to decorate your special leather project.

When making customized guitar straps, designs and lettering can be hand stamped into the damp leather.

When making customized guitar straps, designs and lettering can be hand stamped into the damp leather.

Dye Leather

After the water has dried from the leather, we are ready apply leather dye the top surface of the leather. Professional oil dye by the Fiebing Company is used for coloring our guitar straps. It penetrates deeply into the leather while allowing the natural grains of the leather to be seen. Although it is more expensive, we choose to use it so we will not have to worry about rub off like some poorer quality leather dyes.  However, Eco Flo dye also works well and is less expensive to ship since it is not flammable, it does not have to be shipped a special way and therefore is often less expensive to ship. We have a folded piece of flannel cloth nailed to a wooden block. The cloth makes a nice applicator to rub the dye into the leather. The wooden block allows us to hold the applicator easily. Protective gloves are worn so we won’t have to have our hands dyed for weeks. The dye is rubbed on the guitar strap being very careful not to get it into the stamped design. This is a tedious time consuming process when making customized guitar straps. Many applications are applied to get an even coverage and the desired darkness we want. Keep in mind that this leather dye is meant for natural undyed vegetable tanned leather and not meant for redying leather that has already been colored.

Guitar Strap Dyeing

The custom leather guitar strap is dyed by hand, being careful not to go into the imprint.

Border Design

Once the dye has dried, we can make a boarder design along the guitar strap with this groove tool. This adjustable groover tool is also used for making stitch grooves for doing sewing for other leather craft projects. There is a small set screw which allows us to adjust how far from the edge we want the groove to be. This groove tool is also a great leather craft tool to make channels for sewing other leather projects.

Guitar Strap Line

A boarder line adds a nice touch to our imprinted guitar straps.

Round Edges

Rather than have a square edge, we round the edge of the guitar strap with this beveller for a more finished look. There are different size bevellers for taking off a little from the edge to a lot. When making customized guitar straps, we even bevel the underneath side for a more comfortable feel on the shoulder. Although we bevel both the top and bottom side of our guitar straps, the bottom is a lot harder to do. Using proper leather craft tools makes the job a lot easier. Now that all the design work is in the leather, we dip the guitar strap into a vat of neatsfoot oil compound to keep the leather from drying out and to give it some more suppleness. After the neatsfoot oil is absorbed over a few hours, we touch it up a bit more with some neatsfoot oil on a brush to even out the color since the neatsfoot oil darkens the leather.

Guitar Strap Bevelling

The corner edges are rounded with a bevelling tool.

Dye Edges

The edges of the guitar straps are dyed with a different dye than the surface. We use Fiebing’s acrylic dye because it holds down all the edge fibers of the leather. Since it is a hard finish, we burnish the edges when dry with beeswax using a denim applicator. Now the surface is ready to have a couple coats of polish, letting each coat thoroughly dry before the next is applied. There are many polishes for leather that will work well. However, we choose Fiebing’s Resolene since it helps seal the dye as well as giving a brilliant quality finish to the leather. There is also other types of leather polish that give a nice finish on the leather. The leather polishes we supply are made for vegetable tanned leather.

Guitar Strap Edge Dyeing

Dyeing the edge of the guitar strap.

Slot Hole Punch For Making Customized Guitar Straps

We punch the slots for adjustment and the round holes for the guitar knobs using a heavy rawhide mallet and an oblong slot punch. So we will not get bounce when we punch the holes, we use a solid wooden tree stump as a work bench. These oblong leather hole punch tools are also used for the slot when using a buckle in a leather craft project.

Punching oblong holes for making customized guitar straps adjustable.

Punching oblong holes for making customized guitar straps adjustable.

Guitar Strap Finished

Now the customize guitar strap is finished and ready to be worn by a musician. This quality personalized leather guitar strap will last for many years and will become more supple with wear. You can see what has been involved in making customized guitar straps from the unfinished piece of leather to the finalized leather craft product. See more of our finished guitar straps on our web page custom leather guitar straps. If you do leather craft work and enjoy making customized guitar straps, check out our leather craft supplies pages for leather hides, leather tools, hole punches, leather craft stamps and leather dyes.

Guitar Strap Leather

Finished custom guitar strap on cowhide it was originally crafted from.




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