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Making Leather Straps

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Anyone make their own leather watch straps? Looking for advice on tools and equipment, including templates etc.

Looking for recommendations for a reasonable set of tools to get me started and that I can add to or upgrade over time.

Just testing the water before I commit and end up buying all the wrong things.

All advice and guidance gratefully accepted .

Also looking for advice on how long it takes to knock up a middle of the road strap, and how much one could reasonably charge for a generic hand made strap and how much for a bespoke strap? Looked on line and prices range from $50-$250, but (of course) the higher prices you are also paying for the name/brand.

Also what kinds of leather should one be looking at or avoiding when starting out... What thickness / type/ grade etc...

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I've done some leather work, including a couple of straps, and I'd suggest that you try your hand at a simple project to see if you take to it. In the states, Tandy Leather is the big supplier. Lots of material, tools, and kits. Hand stitching is a skill that takes some practice, and it's much easier to do on a larger piece. The fine stitching on watch straps can be tricky, the close spacing is smaller than most other work, and tools to create that stitching are rare and expensive. 

Some straps don't require much stitching, and are simple enough that a premade template is overkill 🙂 Most leather workers make templates from card stock, and use that to trace out the pattern on their material. 

As far as tools, you can actually take a crack at it with some found material (old purse, etc.), a good knife, a hobby knife or scalpel will work at this scale, a way to punch some holes, some glue, a leather needle and thread, and some hardware, perhaps from an old strap.

Much like watchmaking, once you get started you can spend an infinite amount on tools,  it never ends 🙂


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I used to work for Tandy Leather right after high school and got pretty good at it, but never made myself a watch strap. Tandy's tools are more suited to western leather craft like saddles, boots, belts etc. Finer tools for fashion items like purses, wallets and, of course, watch straps might be better sourced from sewing supply houses. 

So, your most basic watch strap -- a strip of leather with no backing -- still need to accommodate a buckle or clasp at one end and spring bars at the other to attach to the watch lugs. This means you'll need to thin the leather from the back and fold it over on itself. For this you use a skiving knife or a splitter. The knife is hand held and you just shave the leather until you get it to the right thickness. The splitter can be set to a specific thickness for repeatability, but as everything else it will be be much more expensive. Both are razor-sharp, so practice carefully.


One of your most used tools will be something called a bone folder. They used to be bone, but they are made of nylon now. This will be used for folding (obviously) and edge burnishing, smoothing and forming, if you are going to pad the straps. You'll also need some sturdy needles, but not too heavy. Upholstery needles work pretty well, and you'll also need some beeswax for the thread. While you can buy prewaxed leather stitching thread, it will most likely be much too heavy for a watch strap. Buy a good quality cotton thread and pull it through the beeswax. 

You'll also need a marking wheel and/or stitching chisels to properly cut evenly spaced holes for the thread. And make sure you get a leather palm and some thimbles for stitching or on day one you'll at least get some very painful blisters, or worse, puncture your hand with a needle (that's experience speaking).

You have plenty of leather choices such as calfskin, alligator, snake, ostrich, etc. You just need to consider comfort, strength and appearance. Textured leather is almost always prefinished in some way from the tannery and therefore less forgiving.  Make sure it's vegetable tanned so you can work it, otherwise your edges will be pretty ragged.

Glue should be a strong, thinnable contact cement. You'll want to apply it in layers for an even seam. Nothing worse than a blob of glue showing under fine leather. Of course contact cement is a you-get-one-shot-at-it deal so slide a piece of waxed paper between the two pieces and then align the end and slide it out. 

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  • 1 month later...
On 10/13/2023 at 3:20 PM, Senyamnesi said:

To get started, look for a basic toolset with essentials like needles, waxed thread, and pricking irons. As for templates, you can find free ones online or make your own from existing straps.

For pricing, it depends on materials and your time. Generic straps usually go for $50-$100. Also, you can use this info on vonbaer.com to see how to work with leather. Good luck!

Edited by Senyamnesi
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  • 2 weeks later...

Hi Waggy,

I had a go at my own watch straps for the first time a few weeks ago. I will not be giving up my day job but the ones I have made are passable(ish)...

So here are my observations as a fellow beginner.

I started with the following kit:

  • Super-basic all-in-one leather working kit off ebay for £20 (contains skiving tools, knives, needles, slickers, pricks etc...)
  • A tube of Evo-Stick contact adhesive £6
  • Leather dye-pen £8 (the exact colour depends on the leather you are working with and the colour of the edge of the leather)
  • Tokonole edging gum 120g £13 (this is going to last a long time)
  • Some different types of linen thread (flat and round)
  • Some 1mm(ish) leather scraps £15 25cmx25cm (make sure the scraps you get are long/wide enough, especially if you are doing simple one-piece fold-over straps, should get a few straps out of this)

I bought all of this on the understanding that the end result would look rubbish and I would give up after the first attempt so I went cheap on the tools. Even then, I was not doing this to "Save Money" on straps.

The cheap tool kit was actually serviceable but clearly not professional. I independently bought a second multi-headed edge skiving tool and frankly it was a waste of money as the skiving blades we dull and did not cut. The one in the kit was sharp.

The simple diamond pricks that came with the kit (you can also get from ebay/ali-express) do work, however I noticed that they tend to cut the leather at the corners of the hole which can be wider than some of the thinner threads. I have bought some (significantly) more expensive "olive-shaped" pricks to see if this resolves that particular issue. Im finding 3 and 4mm spaced pricks to be appropriate for the straps Im making.

Im currently using an existing strap as a template and eyeballing the rest with a metal ruler - possibly not the best approach...

Good luck!


Edited by bobtheterrible
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