Saturday, May 12, 2012

A Belt Repair

One never ceases to be amazed at the rubbish that gets mass produced and sold for actual money. This belt is a fine example.

The tongue has delaminated. The thing is useless in that state. I'll lop the ruined portion off and make the belt a new tongue from a scrap of leather belt material.

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Here's the new tongue with its rivet hole locations laid out on masking tape.

(Masking tape is an excellent lay-out aid for difficult-to-mark surfaces.)

Even with accurate lay-out markings, punching leather accurately is not easy. The punch conceals your exact centre point as you're getting the punch in place, so you sort of have to interpolate centre from the punch die's relation to the cross-hairs.

Here's the punching done for the rivets.

It's not a perfect job, but it's pretty good. It'll do.

Now I'll clamp the punched tongue to the cut-off end of the belt, and use it as a template for punching the belt-end's holes, like so.

I'll be riveting this with 1/8" 'Pop' rivets. Rivet holes in leather should always be sized so they're a snug fit for the rivets. Leather punch dies are typically metric dimensioned, so using a 3mm punch for 1/8" rivets works nicely; 3mm is just shy of 1/8".

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And here it is all done and ready to go.

And here's a view of the back side.

The riveting was done a little differently from normal practice. The standard back-up washers for 1/8" rivets are 10mm outside diameter and 1mm thick. I didn't care for the appearance I got from that at all; the washers were much too prominent.

GC Electronics' No.4 plated steel flat washers fit 1/8" rivets perfectly, and they're smaller and thinner than standard back-up washers. I used them under the rivets' heads, as well as at the 'peened' end of the rivets, and the appearance was much better. After setting the rivets, I punched out the mandrel ends and peened the rivet ends over some more with a hammer, to minimize the projection of the rivets at the back side.

I'm quite pleased with how that turned out. I wouldn't wear the thing to dinner at Buckingham Palace, but the odds of me being invited there are slim to nil, anyway. For work-wear with my jeans, it'll serve fine.

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Update -- FRIDAY, MARCH 29, 2013

The repair has held up fine through almost a year of wearing the belt, but a new problem has come up -- the buckle has torn away at one of its two anchor points, like so.

I'll have to cut off the ruined end of the belt, and restore the length of the belt by riveting on a short length of proper belt leather, Then, I can reattach the buckle and get further service from the belt.

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The buckle is an exquisite piece of hardware. Here's a view of it off the belt.

Two M3 setscrews anchor the end of the belt in the ferrule, and the buckle is reversible -- it can swivel around 180 degrees. (The belt was meant to be black/brown reversible.) If the synthetic, laminated belt material were as good as the buckle, the whole belt would last forever with no attention.

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Here's the replacement belt-end cut to size, laid out and punched. It's 1 1/8" x 2 1/2" x 3.8mm thick. (That's masking tape on it that I applied as a layout aid.) It's not a great match for the original belt material, but I really don't care; this is never going to be a 'Sunday-go-to-meetin' belt.

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A Small Defect In My Riveting Job

I used the small diameter back-up washers on both sides, just as I did for the first repair to this belt, but I got a poor result on the softer side.

The small washers result in too much squeeze-down of the resilient material, and it's not possible to do a satisfactory final peening job. I'll remove those first two rivets I installed at the right, and redo them as at the left.

The end of the belt has to be notched to accommodate the head of the swivel pin inside the buckle's ferrule, and two small holes punched for the setscrews. Here it is with that bit of work done.

The notch was most easily made by using a 5mm gasket punch to create a rounded bottom for the notch, then cutting the two straight sides of the notch. I drove in the two setscrews far enough that they made pronounced dimples to guide a 2mm leather punch die. It's ready for final assembly.

And here it is, ready to wear.

The belt's effective length dimension is unchanged from what it originally was, so it fits fine.

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