Sunday, March 7, 2010

Belt Repair for the Urban Hillbilly

Don't laugh. This would have been a 'Sunday go to meetin' belt for Pappy Yokum (he's the fifth from the left). It's certainly a step up from a length of rope. We can file this under 'fashion accessories for after the collapse of the global economic system'.

The cut-off end of the black pleather belt pictured was beyond salvation -- embrittled and cracked in several places. I looked into my bin of leather and felt odds and ends and found a piece of tan-coloured suede belt about the right length, and just a bit wider than the black belt. Some hole punching and three rivets later, I had a serviceable belt back.

The rivets are 1/8" diameter x 5/16" long truss-head aluminum ones that I bought a supply of years ago when we still had a proper hardware store in the area. The washers that I used for peening plates are GC Electronics No. 4 flat washers that I got from an industrial electronics supply house. (A No. 4 washer just fits nicely on a 1/8" rivet.) Hardware items like these that are just a little out of the ordinary can be difficult to come by. In Canada, I have Spaenaur to fall back on. Spaenaur is a good outfit, but they're an industrial supplier so you have to buy in package quantities (typically 100 pieces), and there's a minimum order amount (I think it was $25.00 the last time I dealt with them). A hard-copy catalogue from a place like Spaenaur is a wonderful resource for learning of all sorts of things you never knew exist.

A 12-ounce ball-peen hammer is about right for this work. Peening is one of those skills that are easy to master well enough to get acceptable, useful results from, but difficult to master well enough to get elegant, aesthetically pleasing results from.

In any case, the important thing when riveting leather is to end up with the leather well compressed under the rivet head and the peening plate. A riveted join where the peening plate ends up merely clinched, but the leather not compressed, will be far weaker than a compressed join. It's helpful at the start to press down on the peening plate with the flat side of a slender screwdriver. That will help to get the rivet end's outward expansion started well enough above the peening plate that further peening will result in a compressed join, not just a clinched peening plate.

The all-metal leather punch pictured on the left is a cheap one. These are widely available but beware, they tend to be poorly made. The brass anvil on the one in the photo barely aligns with a punch die's detented position. The black and yellow one on the right is a much better tool. I recall that its price was reasonable, but I can't remember where I got it. I found the Taiwanese manufacturer's website, but it's no help regarding distributors. If you see one, buy it. It's a decent tool for the price. I've never seen a really fine quality leather punch offered anywhere, and I'm afraid to think about what the price will be if I ever do see one.

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Update -- SATURDAY, DECEMBER 27, 2014

That lasted well over four years.

So here we go again.

I put the 'new' end on the inside this time. We'll see how that works out.

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