Sunday, May 9, 2010

Making an armbinder Part 2: Straps

The next step on our armbinder project is making the straps. You can purchase or make your own out of vegetable-tanned leather, or you can do what I am doing on this project and make them out of the same material used for the body of the armbinder. It gives the finished product a unified look, and I like the slightly stretchy quality you get from straps sewn from garment or chap weight hide. They have a little give, which can add to the comfort of the piece, but are still extremely stong.

To begin I lay out the hide and find the longest straightest edge to work from, to make the most efficient use of the leather. Straps take a surprising amount of material, even for a smaller project such as this. I calculated that I'll need 68 inches of straps total for this armbinder: about 29 inches for the shoulder straps, and about 5 inches each for the buckles.

Here's the hide on the layout table:

I use a straightedge of extruded aluminum for laying out these long lines. They are about 4 feet in length and can be connected to give you a guide over 8 feet long. They are made for use as guides when cutting wood with a circular saw, but work great for this purpose as well.

Create your first line on the hide, and at this point try not to move the hide at all.

I measure for the thickness of the strap, which I want to end up around 1 inch wide. You have to accomodate the thickness of the leather itself when you fold the leather to create the strap. I will go with 2 and one-quarter inch strip to give me a one-inch strap.

Make a couple of marks along your strip and draw in the cut line.

In this case I was fortunate to get all the length I need from one strip.

Here is the strip cut out of the hide:

Now the tedious part: applying glue to this long strip using that little disposable brush. It would be great to use a larger brush, but since the glue completely trashes the brush, it's a bit cost prohibitive!

Closeup of glued-up strap:

Wait for the glue to clear, then fold over carefully aligning the edges to create a seamless strap. Pound gently with the mallet, and your strap is ready for cutting to length. At this stage you could topstitch along the edges of the strap if that is the look you want - it's up to you.

Here are our finished straps cut to length:

Next up: attaching the straps...

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