Cutting Belt Straps
One of the first steps in making a belt by hand is to cut the raw straps directly from the hide. I use very thick Vegetable-tanned Full Grain Leather (what’s that?) from the top U.S. tannery. This is hands down the best possible choice for making a leather belt that will keep up with you in the most durable way. Currently I offer two standard widths – 1.5 inches wide and 1.75 inches wide.
In the video above I am using a very basic strap cutting tool. It is simply a razor blade wedged in between small adjustable pieces of wood. You can adjust the width of the strap you would like to cut with it, and as long as you keep that razor sharp (yes you can sharpen a razor blade!), it will all cut as smooth as butter. It is not necessarily as simple to use as it looks though – you have to maintain a consistent angle against the hide, rotation while pulling forward, and the ability to end the cut in a straight line when there is not a reference point left to hold against. This is typical with many of the hand-operated tasks in the shop, there’s usually a learning curve a bit steeper than it would seem.
In my small U.S. workshop I like to cut my belt straps from the top part of a hide. This is an area of extremely dense leather fibers that have a high resistance to stretch. We avoid the lower looser area of fibers and save that for things like coasters and smaller keychains. This is not the case with all leather goods manufacturers or makers though – so beware!
After cutting out the straps, the next step for most belts is to bevel the edges.