Howto - Soft Leather Watch Strap

The watch strap that came with my DA37 was somewhat stiff and ill-fitted for my thin wrist, and other store-bought straps were either comfortable to too casual or formal but too restrictive. Without a budget to go towards expensive custom made straps, i put my mind to making my own.

 

Aim

Make a strap with the following qualities
- Flexible, thin, light
- Waterproof
- Formal yet tough enough for everyday wear
- Inexpensive

 

Tools and Materials

Materials:________
- Black 3mm thick finished leather section (Tandy leather shop, 2 sq feet ~$15)
- Buckle and deployant clasp (cannibalized from other straps)
Tools:____________
- Metal rulers, sharp blade, multi-tool, sharp scissors
- Fabric glue (flexible, permanent, waterproof, ~$10), sewing needles, vice
- Jeweler's anvil, padded hammer, leather punch
Cost:_____________ ~ $50 for the leather, punch, and glue

 

Step-by-Step

1. The leather was measured out according to a template. Two metal rulers with squared ends can serve as a square for right angles

 
2. This is what the template looks like when cut out, basically a three layer thick leather strap with folded edges and reinforcements at the spring bar spaces. Contact me using the menu at the right if interested in the template. The simpler brown leather template is a shot at fitting it to a deployant clasp.

 
3. The two sides were folded over and glued down using the permanent fabric glue. The folding of the side edges gives the side length of the strap a finished look and adds to the thickness.

 
4. Two small vices were used with the smooth end of the metal ruler to hold the folds while the glue cures enough for further manipulation.

 
5. To make the finish on the edges finer, the back side edges of the third layer/back flap is thinned down with a blade on an angle. This step is the make or break one for me, with many scrapped attempts!

 
6. The inner leather was roughed to facilitate the glue (may not be necessary). The needles were placed as place holders for the spring bars before the reinforcement pieces and the third layer/back flap was glued down.

 
7. The tapered tip of the strap was the hardest to get right... but i think this design looks good enough for a pass. The entire length of the buckle-less strap has to be tapered too to accommodate the thinner width of the buckle.

 
8. Once everything is glued down, the itch to finish it there and then was force-ably put aside for 2 days for the glue to fully cure. Once glued, the straps actually take on a curved in my design. This makes the leather form to the round wrists and won't necessitate breaking in finished leather. The excess glue stains were removed later with alcohol (water won't do on the waterproof glue)

 
9. After the glue cures, the hole for the buckle was cut and the buckel fitted

The original Damasko buckle looks damn nice :)

 
10. The sizing part is another headache, but after multiple tries, i got a good formula for punching the right size for either of my wrists (left's slightly thicker..)

 
11. After the spring bars were fitted.. done! The whole process only takes 2-3 hours if not included the curing time.

 

Thoughts

I love it! This leather's texture and finish is elegant looking and fits the white DA37 perfectly. My amature finish of the edges doesn't look half bad when worn, and the fabric glue dries with only a slight shine that is well hidden after cleaning.
  
The strap feels soft and smooth and does not bleed at all (unlike the brown deployant that i made), even when i wiped it down with 100% ethanol. I suppose i was quite lucky in picking this leather out.

The longevity of the glue's hold remains to be seen, but from the abuse i purposely gave to a previous version, it should hold out fine. The clean stitch-less look again suites the functional DA37 nicely.

The only other concern is the texture when wet. The strap feels alright and didn't stick on the wrist when i ran it under a tap, but i've yet to actually sweat in them. All in all though, i think it's a success!
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