I had a great response to my tutorial on how to deconstruct tins, so I've been planning a few more. By "planning" I mean placing it in my mental to-do Rolodex. Great, except the Rolodex has absolutely no ability to remind me or help me prioritize. So it's been a few months longer than I had hoped, but here goes.
How to make a belt buckle from an old tin can
Note: There are probably lots of ways to do this, but this is the patent-pending adaptive reuse method.
- Deconstructed tin at least 3.5" x 10" or so
- Buckle Blank
- Riveter & Blind Rivets
- Tin Snips/Aviation Shears
- Soft-faced hammer (nylon or rawhide)
STEP ONE -- Select a tinFind a tin can that you like and deconstruct it. You may want to refer to my tutorial for that.
STEP TWO -- Make your template(Note: Download my .pdf belt buckle template here. Print it to card stock and follow the directions)
You can make a buckle just about any size, but for this tutorial I thought it would be easiest to create a template for you to download. Once you've printed the template and cut the windows you're ready for Step Three.
STEP THREE--Cut your metal piecesYou need two pieces of tin for the final buckle. The insert piece needs to be cut to the dimension of your buckle and attached to the buckle hardware. The second piece is the tin that will wrap around this insert to create the face of the buckle.
A. On your scrap metal, trace inside the top rectangle on the template and then cut along those lines.
B. Using the same top window from the template, find the area of the tin that you want to use for your buckle. Remember that you'll need about a half an inch all around for the tabs. Once you're happy with your image, use a pencil and trace the buckle shape on to the metal. This will be the fold line.
German Shop Shears. They come with straight or curved blades and not many $15 purchases will make you as happy. They make cutting steel almost as easy as cutting paper.) Once you've cut it out, set the metal aside.
You can purchase several types of buckle blanks. I started with the basic 'ring and hook' style from my local Tandy Leather. [As an aside, if you've never been to a Tandy Leather--go. It's filled to the brim with stuff you didn't know anyone needed.] It looks like this, though mine always came with pre-drilled holes. I assume they still do, but this picture makes me wonder.
STEP 4--Make the Inside Plate for the Buckle
STEP 4--Make the Inside Plate for the Buckle
Anyway, in searching for this image I came across something I've never seen at MY Tandy--this buckle blank that is completely ready to be wrapped. If you buy this version of the blank, I think you can totally skip this step and step 3A.
Assuming you don't buy this blank, this is what you need to do. Pick up your scrap metal that has been cut to size, set your blank in the center and clamp these to your work table or something you can drill into. Get your drill with a 1/4" bit and use the pre-drilled holes on the blank as guides to drill your metal sheet. You can see from this picture that I am using yet another version of buckle blank. It doesn't much matter which you choose. They all function about the same. I've been using these because I can order them along with other jewelry supplies.
Step 5 -- Rivet the pieces togetherIf you don't own a riveter you should. I'm serious. This is one of the best tools you've never heard of. I like them so much I have three. Of course, the vintage blue one that I found at a thrift store is the best. These 'guns' use blind rivets. They are blind because this tool is used mostly to attach things where you can only get to one side of the configuration. I could bore you with the details because I really, really, really love my riveter, but it's not exactly riveting reading, so I'll refer you to Wikipedia for those that want more.
Go back to your other piece of metal. You need to fold up the four tabs so you can set the piece you've just created inside that wrapper. So, you should still have your pencil lines that you drew way back in Step 3. Using those as guides, align that to a straight edge. I use a jewelers steel block, but the edge of a sturdy workbench should be good enough. Get your soft faced hammer and lightly start to hammer that tab down along the marked line. Stop when you get to a 90° bend. Repeat for the other 3 tabs.
Step 6 -- Create the Wrapper
Step 7 -- Wrap the Front Around the InsertOnce all your tabs are folded up, just set the insert inside. My husband insists the buckle has to be in a certain direction. He claims it's like buttons on a dress shirt--one side for men another for women. So, if you feel that way about your buckles too, put some thought into this.
Place the two pieces face down like in the picture. Use a solid surface, but make sure to protect the face of the metal. It will move around some as you hammer and could get scratched up. Get your soft faced hammer and start hammering one tab down. Don't worry about getting the side completely flat at this point. Continue with the other 3 sides. Once they are all mostly closed like in the photo below, then go back around again and flatten them down completely.
Step 8 -- Finish the CornersYou are almost done. What you have now is great except if you ever plan to sit down while wearing your buckle, you'll want to add these finishing touches.
Step Nine -- Put That Baby On A Belt!You can buy belts at Tandy Leather as well, but you know I'm going to recommend you update a long neglected belt from your collection or find a snazzy one at a thrift store. Whatever you decide, get ready for the compliments!
Step Ten -- Send Pictures of Your Buckles
Be sure to send along pictures of your pieces to christine at adaptivereuser dot com. I'll post them here and you can enjoy your 15 minutes of fame.