My wife bought herself some new pants. She intimated to me that she did not possess a suitable belt. So saying I would obtain one, I thought about how I would go about it. I have an adequate supply of leather suitable for making a strap, I lacked only a buckle. While I did happen to have a buckle of cast brass, it was not of a size or fashion which I deemed suited to my lady. I remembered that I had some suitable stock, a quarter of an inch or so. Never having made a belt buckle, I thought it would be good to write an article and take some pictures of the process to go with it.
I began by marking my hole with a centerpunch, the metal is cold for marking. I heat the end of the rod and then on the soft part of the anvil(who am I kidding, it is all soft), I drift the hole wider and deeper. I had to do this over a few heats. When you get pretty close to through, flipping the metal over shows you the center of the hole on the other side. If your metal is bright with heat still, you will see a dark cool point. That was my marker for the other side.
With the hole widened to the appropriate size,(to receive an 8d nail), I began working the rod square for about five inches. I measured roughly with an aluminum rule, made a slight flare, which I then marked with the centerpunch again. I repeated the drifting process for this hole, so that it would be just undersize for the nail shank.
Doing a little refining of shape I put a tool we made into the hardy hole, which I use like a mandrel to create an even curve in the rod. This took several heats. It still did not entirely please my eye when I was done. There are many times like that. I drove my nail into my holes and drained somewhat of the heat from the work into my anvil. I clipped off the nail as you see in the last picture above. It was pretty soft when I started peening.
Clipping off the nail at what seemed a goodly distance I began peening the end down. It went crooked as you can clearly see, I believe, in one of the pictures I took. This is frustrating, and a result of over powered blows on heated metal. While it winds up being mostly hidden by the process of peening, it is another lesson in humility for me. In the future, I will learn from my haste. Peening is a skill I have always struggled with. So it is important for me to practice it.
I was running out of sunshine. I put the work away to let it cool slowly next to the fire. I banked the fire for the next day. But not before I took it inside to let Alexandrea get some pictures. You can see the nicking I did with my tool for nicking and fullering in them.
Next day, I took a picture of this tool to show you, it is the first one below. Before I had stopped work the night past, I made a nick all the way around the rod, leaving a little extra for the file to take off. I made the cut using the hacksaw, with my nick as a guide.
I took the other end of the rod and drew it down to a somewhat pleasing straight square tapering shape. This is the tongue of the buckle. I used the buckle ring to measure the length, and when I had the shape right, I began flattening one end. With enough material I then curled the tongue around the nail that forms the bar. Taps with the ballpeen hammer on the horn of the anvil made a tight fit. You can see as the filing and sanding begins, I find an accidental “A”. My wife was thrilled as you might imagine.
In fact the buckle was a little too tight. A tap here, a tap there, and it became just loose enough to open easily as far as needed. The ballpeen against the horn or across the step of the anvil gave the right angles for tapping.
The mandrel tool was used off and on through the process of refining the function of the tongue. Small files and a bench sander were used to remove the scale and make the shape a little more pleasing.
When I was done outside I brought the work in for more finish filing. I also used sandpaper of different grit for finishing. You can still see Alexandrea’s little “A” there, I did not finish it very finely. What is more, a little helper tried to contribute her licks with the file. I had not the heart to tell her she had grabbed up the wrong tool.
I have some pictures of the belt strap and how I cut and fixed it. It will have to wait for a future post. By that time I will probably be making another belt. Perhaps with the store bought brass buckle I mentioned earlier.
I really hope you have enjoyed this article. I had a lot of fun making this buckle for my wife and writing an article about it. If you have any questions or comments, or even if you just want to get in touch, you can leave a comment or click the button below to send us an email. Thank you for reading this, whoever you may be, and I hope your road brings ever what you need at the right time.