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Belt Buckles - Attaching the belts

This might sound like a silly bunch of questions… but … here
goes… What specifically are “belt buckles” as you see in some
jeweller’s catalogues? How do they attach to belts? Do they attach
to standard belts?

My understanding of a belt buckle is simply what I have seen on
standard belts with the buckle sewn into the leather. I am
wondering, are the belt buckles sold by jewellers something that
sits on top of the original buckle or something that replaces it?

Also, what does the back of a belt buckle look like? Is there any
diagrams online or in books that anyone can refer me to? I once
spent some time at the College of Arts’ library in the
gold/silversmithing section looking for such a diagram but didn’t
end up finding one.

Tina D

There are several different belt buckle styles for attaching to the
leather or textiles

your best examples an be found at a local thrift store look for the
belts and check out the assortment

also the regular library should have books on belt making and
possibly sandcasting buckles from the 60’s and 70’s they would give
you excellent representations of buckle styles

Hello Tina,

I’ve made a lot of belts over the years and more recently quite a
number of buckles. The mounting system I prefer --thought there are
several others-- is one of the simplest. You’ve got a simple square
bracket on the back of the buckle that the belt leather goes under,
folds over and then there are snaps to attach the loose end of the
belt back onto the belt itself. If you want the belt/buckle combo to
be permanent you simply rivet instead of snap the belt to itself.
Many, but not all, of the other options are simply variations on this

As to books I’d suggest a trip to a Tandy Leather shop if that’s an
option for you. They have more pamphlet sized booklets than you can
shake a stick at. Just ask for one on belts and you should have
several options to choose from.

For general leatherwork principles and techniques I have the
"Leatherwork Manual" by Stohlman, Patten and Wilson (pub. 1969 but
reprinted many times) that covers quite a lot of ground though not
this issue in particular. Stohlman is the author of many, many
booklets on various leatherwork techniques.

Trevor F.

Having purchased belt buckles and made leather belts I can tell you
that leather belts that accomodate changeable buckles have snaps.
The buckles themselves have a rectangle made of heavy wire that is
attached to the back of the buckle in a way that allows it to lay
flat or sort of pivot. The leather is passed through the rectangle
then folded over and snapped. If you want to get a good look at
this–visit a western wear or boot shop since they usually carry an
assortment of buckles.

Vicki Embrey

Belt buckles are attached to Western belts sold in Western Wear
clothing store. They have two heavy duty snaps that allow you to
attach any belt buckle you please.

On the back of the buckle there is bail and a peg. The bail is what
the the belt snaps on to. The peg is what goes into the other end of
the belt into one of the holes.


Well, this has a nice tie to the "designer / craftsperson / caster /
fabricator / user of commercial findings thread going on, are you
reading it? Get a catalog form Rio Grande and look up buckles, you
can get it on line me thinks. If not I will photo the back of a
buckle and send it to you. Belts can be attatched in a couple
different ways to buckles, rivets, sewing, tension come to mind. I
generaly use a two part back, a nickle swivel back which the belt
gets riveted to and a nickle hook which through tension holds the
belt on to the wearer. I usually purchase commercial buckle backs for
this purpose because making a swivel back takes too much time and the
client doesn’t know the difference in most cases and doesn’t care. If
they do I will make the back myself. Swivel backs help the belt sit
as low as it possibly can where a static bracket will have the buckle
sit higher on the bracket end. The sizes I make correspond to popular
belt sizes, as I don’t do leather work myself, the client will
usually be buying a belt at a custom leather shop or a department
store where things generaly come in half inch increments ( at least
here in the states where we steadfastly refuse to use the metric
system, god knows why). If the belt exists already then just measure
it first, this will effect the total demensions of the finished
buckle at some point in the crafting process. Let me know if you need

Sam Patania, Tucson

This might sound like a silly bunch of questions.... but .... here
goes....  What specifically are "belt buckles" as you see in some
jeweller's catalogues?  How do they attach to belts?  Do they
attach to standard belts? 

There are a number of designs that have become the basis of most
varients of belt buckle. You have the tongued buckles in either
some variation of a ring or bow, or the two lobed type with a center
bar. Then you have the hook style buckles that have a small prong
protruding from the back that hooks into the holes in the belt strap
( a lot of the fancy “rodeo” buckles are like this). 90% of belts
use some variant of these types. The remainder are the military
type sliding bar buckle used mostly on web belts, and other such

    My understanding of a belt buckle is simply what I have seen
on standard belts with the buckle sewn into the leather.  I am
wondering, are the belt buckles sold by jewellers something that
sits on top of the original buckle or something that replaces it? 

Generally they replace them. I often make belts where the buckle
attachment is a couple of heavy snaps instead of stitching or rivets
so that the buckles can be changed as desired.

    Also, what does the back of a belt buckle look like?  Is there
any diagrams online or in books that anyone can refer me to?  I
once spent some time at the College of Arts' library in the
gold/silversmithing section looking for such a diagram but didn't
end up finding one. 

Try _Buckles: 1250-1800 by Ross Whitehead
The photos and sketches are of historical examples, but other than
ornament, the function of buckle design really hasn’t changed much
in 800 years.

Ron Charlotte – Gainesville, FL
@Ron_Charlotte1 OR


Belt buckles are fun…I’ve made quite a few of them. Once you see
how they are made, you will have no problem making one after the
other. Essentially, the belt has to be one that has snaps on one end
that slip through a rectangle ring on one end of the buckle (the ring
is usually 10 to 14 ga round wire depending on if it is a large
buckle or a smaller one). It is held to the buckle by a tube that is
soldered to the back of the buckle. Just slip the end of the belt
through the ring and snap it together. The other end of the buckle
has a post (also made of 10 to 14 ga wire) that is slightly bent to
form a sort of hook. It is about 10 to 15 mm long and is soldered to
the end of the buckle opposite the ring. The leading end of the belt
is slipped under the end of the belt held by the ring and the post
is put through one of the belt holes.

Not sure this is clear enough but, if you want to see some examples,
look up some old Rock and Gem magazines…they have had many
step-by-step projects to make buckles. For example, if you can get
ahold of the March 1984 edition, on page 76 they show how to make a
buckle with a rock slab but the pictures show all the essentials of
making the buckle mechanism. If you can’t find it, give me a hoot
off-line and I’ll send you a copy of the article.

Cheers from Don at The Charles Belle Studio in SOFL where simple
elegance IS fine jewelry! @coralnut2


The majority of belt buckles featured in jeweler’s catalogues (at
least the ones I have) have findings that consist of a squarish loop
of heavy wire and a single, slightly curved prong. In this sort of
buckle, an end of the belt is folded over the wire loop and, when
worn, the tip of the belt is passed through the loop under the
buckle but over the folded end (does this make any sense?), while
the prong hooks into the holes. It’s held in place while wearing
just by tension. You can buy just the findings for this sort of
buckle, or the whole buckle (in varying degrees of fanciness)
already assembled and ready to decorate with engraving, beadwork,

The other type of buckle, with the movable prong attached to a bar
at one end or in the center, works like conventional store-bought
buckles. This is the type generally featured in ranger sets (buckle,
tip, and keeper).

For either style, you will need to find belts that feature snaps
that allow the end of the belt to come apart. These are very rarely
found on department-store belts and are not even that easy for
jewelers to find. Many western-wear places carry belts like this,
but they’re often stamped with leaves and acorns or guys riding
horses and pestering cattle. Rio Grande carries a few nice styles,
but they are quite expensive. I have found a heavy, plain leather
style at for about $4.50 - $5.00 wholesale. Check
these through carefully before using or selling them, however, as
the snaps are prone to spontaneous disassembly (known to the layman
as “falling apart”). The leather quality is quite good, though, and
the price is unbeatable.

Jessee Smith

Leather belts may be purchased with a section on one end that is
folded back on itself and closed with snaps or rivets. Buckles on
belts that are closed with rivets cannot be removed without
removing the rivets.

Rectangle or oval buckles are call presentation buckles. Ranger
buckles are fashioned after the normal type of buckles used to make
a more secure type of belt closures.

There are two types of belt loops which are soldered to the back of
presentation buckles. One is a purchased finding loop that is hinged
and one that is created from heavy gage silver wire.

A belt loop is constructed out of wire and formed in the shape of a
long staple. This part is soldered on the left end of the buckle (as
viewed form the back). The gap between the loop and the back of the
buckle must be great enough to allow two thickness of leather to
pass under the wire loop. One thickness of leather is the end of
the belt that is fastened to the loop on the buckle. The end of the
belt is passed under the loop then folded back on itself and
riveted or snapped to the belt. The other thickness of leather that
has to pass under the loop is the free end of the belt. The other
part of the findings on the back of the presentation buckle is the
stud which is a piece of wire soldered vertically to the buckle on
the right end (as viewed from the back). The free end of the belt
is passed under the buckle through the loop. At the proper
tightness of the belt around the waist the stud in inserted in a
hole in the belt.

The belt loop can be bent to fit a specific width of belt. The
maximum size of the loop is limited by the size of the buckle.
Belts can vary in width from 1/2 inch to 2 inches.

There is a problem of fastening a wide loop to a much smaller belt.
The buckle will not be centered on the belt once it is fastened
around the waist. To solve this problem I bend heavy gage wire around
the silver loop. This tab is then soldered to the center of the loop.
A hole is cut in the center of the folded portion of the belt. This
hole is centered over the tab. This prevents the buckle from sliding
up and down on a narrow belt.

I can send photos to anyone concerned.
Lee Epperson

Hi, Tina,

I haven’t done this since the 60s (I mean the decade, I’m not quite
that old yet), but the belt buckles we purchased looked exactly like
any belt buckle. We bought leather from a supplier, cut strips,
punched holes, and used rivets to fasten the fold-over ends (we were
using psychedelic colors, sometimes dying them ourselves). However,
you can get leather blanks that are ready to go (see Rio catalog, p.
658). If you want to sew then, you need a very heavy duty sewing
machine. Or you can do it by hand, with a large needle and an awl.

If what you want to do is replace the buckle on an already existing
belt, this can be a little trickier. If you have enough length, just
cut the buckle off, re-cut the hole, and rivet. Otherwise…if it’s
sewn, get a seam ripper and take out the stitches, find a buckle
that’s configured like the one you have, and re-stitch.

I hope I’m not having a senior moment and misleading you…

Lisa Orlando
Aphrodite’s Ornaments
still in house-sitting in Benicia (until Monday) but extending her
house-sitting search to the southern California coast…

Many years ago I fabricated my first sterling belt buckle, then
inlaid it with turquoise, malachite, and other A major
undertaking for a guy starting to reach out from my humble beginnings
with base metals. What I didn’t take into account is that the
findings of a belt buckle are subjected to some very significant
stresses in use. The sterling wire I used to create the rectangular
loop on the back (that the belt attaches to) was too flimsy for the
purpose. It looked good sitting on a table, but in practical use, it
bent and broke. I ended up having to use Attack remove all the inlay
(destroying much of the stabilized turquoise), and soldering on a
stronger loop.

Now I use 6 - 8 ga. round wire. I notch it at the bend points and
hard solder at the bend to give a nice clean bend. I haven’t had to
relive that learning experience again. I think it is possible that
the stresses on belt buckle findings might be the greatest of any
piece of jewelry.

I don’t find the need to have the loop being hinged. I also second
the suggestion of a western wear (tack and saddlery) shop as a source
for belts with snaps. I’ve looked in conventional stores and find
that all the buckles are sewn on.

All the best,

Dave Sebaste
Sebaste Studio
Charlotte, NC (USA)

When attaching a belt to a buckle, I’ve had the best luck with a
connector called a Chicago screw. Its a short fat rivet looking
thing that screws together. I googled for it and found this website
that shows it clearly - and also discusses how to put buckles on
belts. It also offers belts in any style - without pix of guys
annoying cattle. I’ve bought the screws from Rio or IJS in the past.

Judy Hoch, GG

This is an addendum to my previous posting about purchasing belts
just for the leather. This strategy only works if the leathers are
not stamped with brand names, logos, or other identifiers. This goes
for both sides of the leather. After all, you don’t want to attach
your buckle to a strip of leather that says Calvin Klein on the
inside. Likewise, you may not want something that says “made
in…”. Admittedly, this can sometimes make it challenging to find
usable leathers. I tend to look at the extra long belts that have
any printing or stamping near the buckle which can be cut off.

While I have found some interesting fashion leathers (snakeskins,
suedes, standard smooth calfskin) to use, the more luxurious ones
are usually of no use because they are prominently brand stamped
midway down the inside of the strip.

I just wanted to clarify that I am not advocating the attaching of
one’s buckles to branded, trademarked or proprietarily patterned
leathers. No CK, DKNY, Ralph Lauren, etc.!

Donna Shimazu

Continue from:

    I am trying to find the manufacturer of a certain kind of
buckle. The bail has teeth and attaches to the belt much like those
on army web belts.  It has a normal peg for going in the hole. 
I could make one but am not sure if it is patented or not. I like it

I don’t recall anyone answering your question. But first, the
following is NOT legal advice. If you want legal advice you will need
to pay an intellectual property attorney.

Find one of the buckles and examine it closely inside and out for a
patent number. If you don’t find a patent number anywhere on the
buckle it probably does not have current patent protection so you
would be safe to make your own—you’re still responsible for any
infringement suits brought against you though even if the patent
notice was not on the buckle you examined. If you do find a patent
number look it up and if it’s over 17 years old the odds are the
patent has expired. If you find no number you can also go farther and
search patents for the item or you can pay for a professional search
(warning: no patent search that does not find the item is ever
considered 100% reliable but having had it done, with the records to
prove it, does get you off the “willful infringement” hook).

With all that said, my old Boy Scout belt buckle worked that way and
since it is now well over 20 years old that particular style
certainly does NOT have any current patent protection. Of course, if
you have a different style in mind or copy some new nuance that some
inventive genius added and patented in the last 20 years to improve
the old belt buckles I remember…

James E. White

I had a customer who wanted the belt clasp that is used with
military web belts. I went to a surplus shop and bought several
brass military buckles used on web belts. A little ingenuity,
jewelers saw and a file adapted the belt loop so that it could be
soldered to the back of a silver buckle.

Lee Epperson