Sunday, May 9, 2010

Making an armbinder Part 3: Attaching the Straps

At this point we are ready to start attaching the straps and buckles to the body of the armbinder. I start by rounding the corners of the straps to be connected.

This makes them fit more nicely with the reinforcement tabs we cut out earlier. Remember these guys?

I mark the point from the center seam where the reinforcement tabs will be attached using the pattern as a guide. They are about 5.75 inches from the center seam to the top of the tab. I draw a line to show where I need to apply the glue for the tab on both sides.

Next, I apply the glue to the binder, the reinforcement tabs...
...and the strap ends.

While waiting for the glue to dry, let's start working on the buckles. We begin with our buckle hardware (in this case a 1" roller buckle), the metal keeper, and our 5-inch strap lengths.

To set the buckle, you need to make an oblong hole. There is nothing better than a slot cutter for this operation:

It makes just the right size hole for the buckle hardware and is easy to use.

The hardest thing about using this tool is getting it positioned correctly in the center of the strap. Hold it firmly in place and strike with a mallet...

...and you get perfect, neat slots every time. Leather craft is filled with specialized tools like this. You learn to love them as you go along!

You now can insert the strap keeper and buckle through the slot, making sure the buckle is facing the right way up.

Now we need to connect the buckle strap, and for this we will be using rivets. First we need to punch holes for the rivets, using our little mini punch. You want the shaft of the rivet to just fit in the hole. For optimum strength, it should be nice and snug.

Set the buckle strap on the work surface and make your holes with the punch and mallet.

Here are the rivets we'll be using:

The sizing of these rivets is very important I have found. You need to make sure the length of the rivet closely matches the thickness of the material you are attaching together. You have to account for the softness of the material as well. If the rivet is too long, it can offset when you try to set it, and the rivet cap won't hold well. This looks just about right: see how just a tiny bit of the rivet is visible on the back side?

To set these you need this handy rivet setting tool: basically a post with a concave end.

You also need a base (the little cup-shaped concave surface for the bottom), and I recommend using an anvil as well. These little things make a huge difference when setting quick-rivets.
Here we have the rivets ready for setting. You should use a couple of taps with the mallet rather than trying to set all the way with one strike. You get the feel for how much to hit with experience.

And voila: the finished buckle:

By now our glue should be set up for the long straps. First set the strap in place...

...then cover with the reinforcement tab:

Here are both straps and tabs in place:

Next I'll stitch from the inside using the strap outline as a guide. This makes a strong connection of the strap to the armbinder body. Here is the finished stitching from the outside:

Before attaching the buckles I like to put in reinforcements at the ends of the lacing panels as well. I cut small rectangular pieces from scrap for this purpose.

Here are those tabs in place:
Next I'll position the buckles where I want them, and punch holes for the rivets that will connect them to the body.
Here are the buckles riveted in:

I also run a couple rows of stitching below the rivets, to further reinforce the connection and to tie down the strap inside the armbinder. Here is a view from the outside:
...and the inside:

Just one more set of operations to go, and we will this project all wrapped up! See you next time...


  1. Beautiful work. I recently put up in-progress pics of my own armbinder version at - using duct tape to derive the custom pattern. I'm looking forward to getting an industrial machine to do more stitched work like I see here.

    Great, detailed posts and I look forward to seeing more!

  2. Thanks for the comment, and nice site you have. I often use duct tape if I can to make patterns, as for complex shapes it can really help. I would completely recommend getting an industrial walking-foot machine for professional results. I struggled for years with a small Singer portable, and was constantly frustrated with its limitations. Getting the industrial machine made a world of difference. Good luck!