Beginners guide to re-purposing
We here at The Odd Portrait have been working with leather extensively for quite some time. We would like to take some time out and reveal to you a bit of the magical mystery behind the craft and how it is done. This is just a basic introductory guide to the materials you will need and the easy steps you will take to re-purpose any and all things leather. From adding flair, to sealing it up, and where to get the items you need, hopefully by the time you are done reading this you are well on your way to creating your first fashion piece.
You can create great style in your own vision for a very affordable budget. We started out by creating things we always wanted to wear but just could not find! After much trial and error, and hundreds of items later, we hope to share with you what we use, what works, and what doesn't. Follow this little blueprint and you will be amazing at what you can come up with, and feel free to share it with us as we may feature anything you make in a future write up or article.
Turn Something Old Into Something New
The Problem : You have a bunch of cool old fashion items that are just a bit out of style but can not seem to part with them. You have held onto these for far past their due date, but hope that nostalgic style may just come rearing itself right back to center stage. Probably not going to happen though.
Solution : Turn them into something wearable while still retaining the keepsake memories , and not spending a ton of cash on something in the new and repeating the cycle.
In the spirit of this past earth day we launched a re-purposed cuff line. Crafting cuffs from vintage used leather belts breathes life into something that otherwise may have just been tossed away.
Now in this day and age many people have taken to the DIY way of life which we think is awesome. So this is for all you do it your selfers out there. It is fairly simple, but a number of tools are necessary to do this. Most of which you can find at your local craft store. This would even be a great idea for gifts as well. Now if you would prefer to buy our awesome ones by all means please do. We even wrap it up all nice and pretty for you :).
So onto the how to part and what you will need to start your tumble down the rabbit hole to re-purposing your old leather belt or guitar strap, or anything you feel would work as well. I feel visual aids work best for myself at least, so we will list all that you need with a picture and caption.
Vintage Belt Where to Find
In most of these how to photo, explanations, and diagrams, we will be using multiple old belts, however any apparel accessory item may be included if you have the vision for it.
So now I actually did not have a vintage or used belt on hand that I was willing to cut up to make into a cuff. If you are the same you can either ask friends or family if they have any or what I do is go thrift store shopping. Thrifting is up there with one of my favorite to do's it is like modern day treasure hunting. Here in Las Vegas some of the best spots are
- Plato's Closet
- Buffalo Exchange
- Salvation Army
You are typically guaranteed to find many great options to pick from at any of those spots especially Savers my personal favorite. You can walk away with upwards of ten great useful items all for around a buck a piece. You are probably going to need a few to test and make mistakes on anyways, so cheaper is better at first until you get the hang of it.
Vintage Or Used Belt
8 mm Snaps & Setter
Snaps & Setter what you need to get
This one can be a little harder to find. Although Michael's, Jo Ann's, or a Hobby Lobby all do usually have some kits the snaps are too small and may not work for the thickness of the belt leather. I would recommend the store where I get mine that is her in Las Vegas Tandy Leather . Not only do they have one of the bests staffs I have ever dealt with the variety and options of things they have is comparable to Wonka Land. It is the chocolate river equivalent to leather crafters and any DIY projects. It is a candy land of epic proportion. Here in Las Vegas there store is at 6360 South Pecos Rd, Suite 3 Las Vegas, NV 89120. But of course with this day and age you can just go online, browse in the comfort of your own habitat, and it will be delivered within a few short days.
The Mighty Conchos
These things are awesome. I actually just recently started adding them to my designs and and am currently obsessed. Tandy has the best selection of these. They have boho turquoise stone centered ones and a plethora more to please your every fashion identity sense. Think of them as little cuff links or flair to any piece you would like to add a small bit of personality or identity too. The theme you go with can sway in so many directions based on these little additions. These featured predominantly in most all things western in taste and style, but nowadays the variety is much vaster, and appealing to a younger crowd, not just the boot and saddle bearing folk.
Craft Sewing Scissors
It is best to get a extremely sharp pair of sewing craft scissors so as to have cleaner lines and plus belt leather can be on the thicker side. These are available at places like
Jo Ann Fabrics
Michael's Craft Store
Probably even Target would have some too
At Hobby Lobby Jo Ann's & Michael's there are usually always coupons available so make sure to have one ready on your phone or printed when you go in. They usually all have a 40%-30% coupon. The cool thing about why I bring that up is because most all of these places will have one in your area and they generally take competitors coupons, so you can walk away with a pretty killer pair for around ten bucks.
The All Mighty Hammer
Now you really do not need Thor's hammer although that would be super cool. Every time you struck lighting formed from the sky and spider-man stopped by for coffee. Until you acquire Mjolnir any old hammer will do or a mallet hell you might even be able to use a frying pan if desperate enough. Although I do not highly recommend that option it may prove troublesome.
Leather Hole Punch
The Mighty Hole Puncher
This is one of my most used and beloved tools. I actually ordered mine on Ebay for around $8 and some change. This sturdy piece of your arsenal has lasted a beating for over a year and still asks for more. Most all your local craft stores will have something like this available. Your even a home improvement store would surly have something like it. This is one item however I find cheapest is not necessarily the best option, for time and frustration can set in, and the few extra dollars always paid for itself in no time.
The Flat Head Screw Drive
You will most likely have this little guy laying around somewhere either in the random draw or if you are all organized it would be in your tool box. You will only need this for this project if you are adding Conchos to your cuff. They require the flat head to screw on and tighten the backs of it.
Flat Head Screw Driver (If you are adding conchos)
At your local craft store you can either go to the acrylic section or the cheaper craft paint section both work great. When choosing a color pick something contrasting so if you have a black leather belt stay away from dark navy's and purples. That will show and give more pop to the cuff and the detail if you choose a lighter brighter color. If you are a boho style person go for the light teals and turquoise and mint greens. It gives a more boho edge you can even add a metallic to it as well for a little iridescent sheen.
Now this can be harder to find. I have only been able to find mine online or at Tandy Leather. If you have any type of local leather shop or possibly a southwestern store, or how about a saddle store, as they they would most likely have it. If not you can always use clear spray paint sealant. Which would be any of your home improvement stores or craft stores.
The Saddle Lac
Sander Sponge or Sand Paper
With this one it would probably be best to go to a Home Depot or Lowes type store. You can either grab a medium or light grade sand paper, nothing to rough or course. Or you can get the sand paper sponge thing shown in the picture. You are going to use it to just clean up the edges of the belt where you cut off to make the cuff. They can sometimes be a little uneven and raw the sand paper just polishes it up to give a clean line.
Let's Get Started
Take your belt and measure a section that you want as your cuff around your wrist or if your making for someone just measure it out with a measure stick tape or sewing measurement tool. Now cut it where you need to. Then to round out your edges take your scissors and cut off the corners in the shape you are looking for, we are not going to use the sander just yet, that will come later. If it is not the tip end of the belt that is already finished. Once you do that you can lay it flat on your work surface and give it a really light soft sand to gently clean it and remove any rough surface items. Think of it as preparing it to paint, just getting off all of that extra debris and unwanted material. You can see the difference the rounded edge makes.
Let's Paint it
Now you can just wipe off the sand dust, and pick your paint color if you want to add something to it. This is optional as you can just leave it the way it is for a more vintage look option. So if you are wanting to give it the paint treatment take a tiny dab on your index finger and lightly and evenly rub it across the primed leather. You can take your wrist, the inside part and just run it over to keep the paint even and not cover the belt detail. Keep applying layers until you are happy with it. Set it aside let it dry.
With Paint Gold & Aqua
Clean It Up
Once it is dry you can sand your edges and side remove any excess paint that got in unwanted places. Distressing is an option at this point too. Maybe you want a more rough or worn vintage look and feel to your item. You can take your sander or anything to create the desired effect. There really is no blueprint to this, as you have so many options and tools at your disposal. You might want a cross-hatch pattern, or holes, or even shreds and tears. Start light and easy and then work your way into it, this is a one shot deal.
Now that it is nice and cleaned up go ahead and give it a final dust off again and ready your saddle lac, or any acrylic clear sealer spray paint. Try not to go thick or heavy as it will cause the leather to start to crack. If there are any little bubbles or what not while it is still wet just take a clean finger and smooth out.
Round The Edges
Hole Punch That Bad Boy
Now onto the snaps. Arm yourself with your 8 mm snaps and ready yourself for battle. Grab your hole punch and mark where you want the snaps to go and punch it . A medium hole setting should do just fine but you can keep adjusting it till you get the right size. Do a smaller punch first just in case. You can always make it bigger, but once it's in place, you cannot go in reverse on this step.
The Hole Punching
The Female Snap
I usually always do the female one first that is the indented one. Have the cap part face on the outside of the cuff then put your female part on the inside grab your setter and hammer that shit in good. Light taps at first to make sure it is lined up then a couple good sacks should do you just dandy. Yes I said dandy bringing it back to the flapper era.
Face Cap On Outside Of The Cuff
The Male Snap
Following the female lead the male snap is ready to join it's partner. Ok I am just going to say it can't really describe it another way the penis looking one. Yes the male one will go on the outside of the cuff and the cap part goes on the inside. Once again grab the setter and hammer and pound it in light at first followed by a couple hearty whacks. Think Homer Simpson and whacking day. Remember that great episode? Oh Whacking day oh Whacking day. .
Face The Male On Outside Of Cuff
Now the fun part! Time to test it out and make sure the snaps snap. Those male and female counterparts are cozying inside each other just comfortably, and the fit fits. If not you totally screwed up and it is not my fault just kidding well sort of but feel free to email if you have a question we are always around to help.
Time to add the finishing touches. You can pick how you want to jazz up your piece. Depending on the style and look you are going for, the colors, and additions of conchos will really give you the direction you were looking for.
You can add double cap rivets or some conchos. You might be wondering what a conchos is I did for the longest time. It is from the Spanish word consha meaning shell it is a silver ornament stamped with a design or inlaid with a stone for use on leather and clothing. I love this hand peace sight I picked up at Tandy but whatever you like grab and add. Line up upheld holes and punch leather where you wish it to go and good luck this part kinda sucks. It is not the easiest thing to line up just take your time and mark your spots. I have not perfected this part of it yet. Often they seem to have a mind of their own and placement and centering can be the bane of my existence.
Test It Out
Adding The Conchos
Wallah The Re-purposed Leather Belt Cuff
Well there you go folks that is how you do it. I hope this was a detailed and comprehensive little how to guide for you all. Have fun rock it out and enjoy your new hand made re-purposed leather cuff. If you would like to see some more examples you can check out our Leather Fashion Accessories