Thursday, May 1, 2014

DIY Leather Cuff Bracelets - Now With Old Keys!

In addition to making more key necklaces, I've also been playing around with some new leather cuff designs, made from old belts.

I made this one for my friend Renee's birthday earlier this month - and it's also my favorite:

I filed off the charm loop from the owl, placed the teal gems, and then drilled small holes in the leather so I could stitch the owl in place with strong hemp twine.
Next I bent the two side filigree pieces into a curve, glued in all the little gems - which are nail art gems, if you're wondering - and stitched those in place, too.

This is made from a thrifted Gap belt, and I love that orangey leather color. Here's the back:

I've realized that two snaps look a lot more polished than one, so that means double the work and double the noise. Heh. I set everything by hand on my kitchen table at all hours, so I'm sure my neighbor is my biggest fan right now. ("Smash it with a hammer!")

Final beauty shot:

That cuff was actually my second attempt at making Renee a gift, because John claimed my first one:

The hardest part for this design is bending that key, which I managed through the time-honored tradition of brute force and colorful metaphors.

Once the key was bent to shape, I marked my holes, drilled them with the Dremel, and then stitched the key in place with hemp twine, which I knotted & pressed into the leather on the back:

I used the existing belt buckle post to fasten this one, so I just had to add an extra hole-with-a-small-slit:
Not my best work, to be honest. You should be glad John claimed it, Renee. ;)

That one's a little too tight on John's wrist, though, so next I set out to make him a better - and larger - version:

This one used the holey end of the belt, but it's kind of a neat look - and more ventilated. Plus the double snaps look a lot more polished:
You can seal the cut ends of your leather with a little satin or semi-gloss black paint. The paint's sheen will help it match the existing finish on the belt edges, so your new edge won't be so obvious.

And since I just happened to have enough leather left to make one more cuff, I did:

These old keys were a gift from a reader, and since making those cuffs I've managed to snap two more while trying to bend them. EEK. Now I'm getting paranoid! I guess that old metal just gets brittle over time, so if you decide to give this a whirl, have a couple of different keys on hand as backups - and preferably in different styles, since some metals are more brittle than others.

Ok, my fellow DIYers: go forth and tinker! Hope this gave you some new ideas!
(I'll probably experiment with stitching on smashed pennies next. Fun fun!)


UPDATE: Oops, nearly forgot to announce April's randomly-selected art roundup winner! So congratulations to... Isles Island! Please e-mail me your mailing address, Isles, plus your choice of art from my Pinterest art give-away board!


  1. So when will you be opening that Etsy store? I'm ready to send you all my money!

  2. *Throws money* open that store and include some steampunk butterflies for me!

  3. I recently made my own "Jen's wrist-cuff from a belt." I used two snaps because I was sure if I only used one, I'd loose it! I'm going to have to add bling to the next one! :)

  4. Your DIY skills are awesome, Jen! How did you secure the hemp on the back?? They are beautiful.

  5. To keep the keys from being brittle, heat them to a cherry red using a creme brulee torch or the equivilant. Make sure you do this in a well ventilated area on a non-flammable surface. Don't do this with stainless steel as it give off toxic fumes. This will anneal the metal and make it soft so you can shape it easily. Possibly too soft. Once you get it the shape you like, if it's still too soft working it gently with a hammer will harden the metal again. This will also give the metal an interesting patina.

  6. You should seriously add some of your extras to your Etsy shop. Your work looks amazing and there are people out there that just can't do some of the stuff you do. I am always impressed by your hand made goodies. My favorite posts for sure!

  7. Have you seen the smashed penny rings on Pintrest? They are pretty cool looking. Loved this post since I love making jewelry.

  8. adore the owl bracelet and the key ones are super cool too. very inspirational!

  9. I am going to have to try this, I love the look of old belts! its Hammer Time!

  10. That owl is so pretty!! I love it!! I bet a "skinner" width belt would make an adorable charm type bracelet for smaller keys/locks.. ohh the ideas! I love charm Bracelets.. i may have to see what i can come up with ;)

  11. These are so cool! I definitely want to give this a try sometime! Do you think a Dremel would work for the drilling the leather?

    1. That's what Jen said she uses:

      "Once the key was bent to shape, I marked my holes, drilled them with the Dremel..."


  12. How do you wear cuffs? I have a few that I adore (one is made of a piece of an old license plate), but I always feel self-conscious wearing them. I always feel like they make my arms look shorter than they already are. Should I wear them higher up on my arm? Or with long sleeves? What am I missing?

    - Helpless Cuff-not-wearer

  13. love these Jen! you are so talented! I cant wait to see the smashed penny ones :)

  14. Jewelry makers use heat to make metal more pliable. If you had a torch, perhaps you could heat it up red, douse it in water then go on a bending bend. :) No more broken keys. I love what you did with them. Simple design is usually the best.

  15. Oh, Jen, I love the way you write about difficult crafting activities: "... which I managed through the time-honored tradition of brute force and colorful metaphors." Somebody, please, print that onto a shirt for crafters! (Cross-stitched, maybe...)

  16. "Leather Cuf Bracelets"? Jen, now you're just messing with me, aren't you? Because I nitpicked the missing "u" in "Frozen Nouveau" in the headline of an earlier post?

    I'm sorry! [sob] I'm SORRY!! Please, please, no more! Do it to Juli!



  17. I concur with Lydia!

    Etsy-STORE! Esty-STORE! Etsy-STORE! Etsy-STORE!

  18. \^-^/

  19. HEY! It's Storm the Klingon's birthday! Happy birthday, Storm, you sassy dame! Sending my wishes to you now in case Jen doesn't post anything later today.

    Haven't seen any comments from you in awhile. I hope all is well, and I hope you will come home from the San Diego Pug Rescue fundraising party with a new puggy.

    Did you already go bounding as Mary Poppins to Disneyland? I hope we'll get to see photos of that.

    Oh, and nice cuffs, Jen. Heh!



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