Jedi Belt Tricks
While Houston went crazy over toilet paper this weekend, I made a jedi belt for my wife’s cosplay. Counting the trip for supplies to the final spray coat took about seven hours. I made a few mistakes but nothing detractful or needing replacement. Not counting tools I owned, the total cost was $127. About $50 for direct supplies, $40 for consumables and the rest on more tools to do fancy edging that I swear my mom used to have, but wasn’t in the tool chest of leatherworking stuff I inherited.
What’s a Jedi Belt
You can scroll down to see what I built or check the references for the Obi Wan belt you can order from Amazon. Excluding original trilogy Luke and new trilogy Rey, every jedi’s got the same belt with variations. An obi is worn around the waist, then a wide (2.5” to 3”) belt is worn over that. That belt has a slimmer (¾”) belt over the wider band. The two belts are assembled to be one piece. It looks like it buckles in the front, but that’s art. The real fastener is on the back, and it’s hidden by a sleeve cover or pouch on costumes because George hates visible seams or fasteners. The outer belt is usually held in place by studs along the outside edge, rather than riveted or sewn directly.
Not a How To
I’m not writing a step by step guide, but I do want to share some stumbling blocks. There’s links at the end for videos that I think illustrate the process.
2.5 - 3” wide strip of belt leather ($26)
3/4” wide strip of belt leather ($10
X8 half-inch post screws or Sam Browne Studs ($20)
Fastener options: Sam Browne Studs, Snap Buttons, velcro, or adjustable belt buckle!
Front belt buckle (must look star warsy, not cowboy) ($15)
The Sam Brown studs were ten for $20. The post screws were tenfor $4. I got three bags of different length because I knew that I’d need longer lengths for the fancier part of the belt. I liked the look of the studs, but they cost more.
Hole punches (I favor the mallet kind, not the rotary head squeezy tool)
Leather shears or cutting knife
Waxed thread for leather
Groove Cutter (for that nice line along the edge)
Edge Cutter (for a 45 degree beveled edge)
Slicker wheel (for burnishing that 45 degree edge)
Mallet (rubber or leather)
Leather dye (wife wanted dark brown and royal blue)
Leather sheen acrylic spray (protectant seal for the dye/leather)
Things I learned (or already knew because this ain’t my first rodeo)
True story, I ran the return gate for a rodeo once. I’ve opted to drill into some specific things that might not be obvious from the videos. Watch the videos, then finish reading this, then go build.
Sam Browne Stud (Stud): a rounded top, narrow shaft, flat base and screw on the bottom to hold it in place. Normally used as a fastener, the head is pushed through the other tab’s hole and it fits snugly.
Post Screw: wider flat head and narrow shaft., A screw on the bottom has a wide head again. Used to hold two thicker pieces together.
Wide belt: the wider belt that goes underneath the skinny belt
Skinny belt: the skinnier belt that goes over the wide belt, centered along the wide axis.
Guide Posts: whether post screws or sam browne studs, these hole the skinny belt on by being placed snug along the side and the head keeps the belt in place, rather than punching through.
Snaps: buttons with a top receiver face and bottom male face.
Choose An Ending
Before you cut. Before you buy. Decide which kind of fastener you want to do for the wide belt. The common choices are velcro, snaps or studs. After I showed off my finished project, a lightsaber fighting amigo shared his excellent design. Use an adjustable buckle where the straps can be slid through for sizing. There’s always going to be a cover sleeve, but his design allows for easy buckling and resizing while remaining durable.
[Photo courtesy of Mike Brown]
Learn to Burnish
I didn’t do much for burnishing. It’s not too late to shine up the edges, but some of the legwork could have been better. See the links in the references for how to do that.
Punch From a Stable Position
It’s been awhile since I worked on a leather project. It shows. I thought my workbench was solid, but I got a lot of bounce when I started making holes with my mallet and punch. That meant the cutting head shifted a tiny bit, marring the leather and failing to cut a hole. I moved my cutting mat to the concrete floor of my garage and my hole punching worked perfectly.
Place the Guides Correctly
I messed up my second hole because of not thinking this through. The shaft of the studs or post screws are wider than the actual screw. Choose a punch that fits the screw, not the shaft. The trick then is placing the punch correctly to account for the width of the skinny belt AND the shaft. I got your back, Here’s how to do it better than my first punches. Note, I assume you’ve marked where the guides will go along the horizontal axis. You just need to get the distance from the top and bottom edges figured out.
Math is hard, and at some point, the fractions were a PITA to measure. Skip that. Lay the skinny belt on top of the wide belt and get it perfectly centered between the top and bottom edges. Mark that with a pencil (lightly) if you need to, at the spots where you already made your horizontal position marks (hidden under the belt now) .
Place the guide stud so the base tucks under the top edge of the skinny belt, and the shaft touches the side of the belt. Make sure you place it a very short way off from the horizontal mark. Now eyeball the exact center of that post and mark the distance from the skinny belt side to where it would cross the horizontal mark. That’s where you’ll punch. Measure the distance of that mark from the top edge (I have an adjustable square for that) or repeat this process for the other 3 top posts.
Notice that I didn’t tell you to do the same thing for the bottom guides. This is how I corrected my mistake, by doing relative positioning. If your top punches are perfect, the next step is correct. If they are off a tiny bit, this next step is still correct.
Punch those holes and screw in the top guides. Lay the skinny belt back into position, snug against the top guides. Now repeat that process for placing the guide on the bottom and eyeballing the center mark (keeping it aligned with the top guide’s center as well). Then punch those holes and screw in the guides. You should find as good a fit for the skinny belt as you’re going to get. Any mistakes you made will be masked by the bottom guide aligning to whatever happened with the top guide.
Make the Back Sleeve Bigger
The fastener on the back of all jedi belts is covered by a sleeve.I used a piece of scrap from the wide belt to fit the sleeve I made using a thin 8”x7” leather piece. The 8’ represented the horizontal plane of the belt. The other axis covered 2.5” height twice with 1” overlap from both ends. I tried to make the overlap less than 1” but close so I’d have a snug fit, but it has to go over two ply of the belt when the ends are connected. Assuming your piece is belt height times two plus 2” for the connecting flaps, make them overlap by ¾” or ½” instead to give yourself some room. One way to guesstimate that better is measure how thick the belt is and double it. That’s how much to reduce your flappage by.
I hoped to spend $50 on this project. Clearly, I went over budget. Making a second one will cost closer to that as I only need materials. It fits her outfit colors and fits her. I had fun making it in an afternoon. I wouldn’t open an Etsy store selling these, but I’ll make another for my own jedi outfit someday.
Used Sam Brown studs
How to glue velcro to leather (special glue)
Used snap buttons
Obi-Wan Belt from Amazon (made of pleather)
How to Burnish the leather edges