Leather belts are essential fashion accessories that are designed to securely hold your pants around your waist. They can also complement any outfit and add a touch of elegance to your appearance.
However, finding the perfect fit can be challenging, especially if you have purchased a leather belt that is too long. While punching more holes may fix part of the issue, you may need to shorten it to prevent the excess length from wrapping around your entire waist.
Shortening your leather belt can be a simple and cost-effective process. You can achieve this by simply cutting the belt, either from the buckle end or the non-buckle end. We’ll describe both methods in our guide and also share answers to some frequently asked questions.
Method 1: Shortening By Cutting The Leather Belt from The Buckle End
If your leather belt needs shortening, we recommend cutting it from the buckle end, as this helps to maintain its original look because you’ll just need to reattach the belt buckle.
Moreover, you’ll also be able to use the original belt holes and won’t have to punch any new ones. This makes the shortening process faster and more convenient.
1. Remove The Belt Buckle
Start by removing the belt buckle first and observe the complete length of your leather belt. While some belt buckles are clasped onto the leather material, others are sewn or screwed on.
Therefore, in some cases, you may need to remove the stitching in order to remove the belt buckle. Otherwise, simply unclasp the buckle on your leather belt and slide it out.
2. Measure How Much of the Belt to Cut Off
You can measure the excess length of the leather belt beforehand by wearing it or by comparing it against a fitting belt to serve as guidance for measuring. Be sure that you are accurate when measuring, as you will permanently shorten it.
To make this process easier, you can mark the required length with a pencil or pen as a visual guide.
3. Cut Off The Excess Material
The next step in the process is to cut the excess material from the leather belt. Remove the extra parts of the belt, such as the belt loops and buckle screws, and place them to the side.
Cut away the excess material from the buckle end using a rotary or round knife. Additionally, if you are unsure about the length you need to cut off, try cutting small sections of the belt first instead of a large part since this process is irreversible.
4. Punch Additional Holes If Required
You might need to punch new holes in your shortened leather belt to ensure that you are able to wear it appropriately. Most of the time, you may not need to do this, as the holes are located on the non-buckle end and should still fit your waist.
However, if you need to punch new holes, we recommend measuring the distance between the existing holes and keeping to it for your new hole to ensure uniformity as much as possible.
To punch a new hole in the leather material, you can either use punch pliers or read our easy-to-follow guide about punching holes in leather belts without using a leather punch.
5. Reattach the Belt Buckle
Lastly, you’ll need to reattach the belt buckle to the belt on the same side that you’ve taken it off from. After reattaching it, simply wear your newly shortened leather belt to check the fit.
Your leather belt should fit perfectly now! If the belt is still a bit long, you should repeat the process again to achieve the perfect length.
Method 2: Shortening By Cutting The Leather Belt from The Non-Buckle End
While it’s possible to shorten your leather belt from the non-buckle end, we advise against it. This is because doing so may affect the appearance of your belt, as the non-buckle end of a leather belt is where the holes are punched.
This may cause your leather belt to look uneven if you shorten it by a length that’s shorter than the entire length of the strip of holes. Moreover, you’ll most likely need to punch a new set of holes.
Therefore, you should only consider this method, if you’re unable to remove the buckle from your leather belt.
1. Measure How Much of the Belt to Cut Off
Calculate the excess amount of leather you need to cut off by either comparing it against a fitting belt or by wearing it and measuring the length of the excess material. Be sure to be accurate during this step.
2. Cut Off The Excess Material
Cut off the excess material from the non-buckle end with a round knife or rotary cutter. Since you shouldn’t simply leave the non-buckle end with a square end, you will need to slope-cut the end so the belt can easily slide into the holder as you wear it.
3. Lightly Sand the Edges of the Cut End
Since the cut end is exposed and can look unattractive with sharp and frayed edges, it is recommended that you first sand the sides of the non-buckle end of the leather belt. A quick sanding treatment will help unify the surface of the cut ends and give it a more natural look.
4. Burnish Your Leather Belt
Once you have sanded the edges of the cut end, you can start burnishing the non-buckle end. Burnishing involves smoothing the rough edges to give it a more polished and professional look that is uniform with the rest of the belt.
To begin, you will need a burnishing tool, water, and a soft cloth. Then, apply some water on the frayed edges of the belt (at the non-buckle end) and use the burnishing tool to rub the edges in a consistent and circular motion.
This process will cause the leather fibers to compress and seal the edges, giving them a smooth appearance. Now, simply continue to burnish the leather until the edges are smooth, and wipe off the excess water using the cloth.
We’ve also written a guide on how to burnish leather without tools if you don’t have any available to you.
5. Punch Additional Holes If Required
If you need extra holes in the shortened belt for a better fit, you can do so now. Simply use a leather punch and add as many holes are required. This will allow you to wear a belt that comfortably fits you.
Frequently Asked Questions
In the following sections, we will be addressing some of the questions that our readers have sent to us on the process of shortening leather belts. We hope to provide useful and practical answers to help you achieve the perfect fit.
Do I Need Professional Help to Shorten My Leather Belt?
Shortening a leather belt is a straightforward process that can be done at home, without the help of a professional. While our guide covers the end-to-end process, we encourage you to have a basic understanding of leatherworking before starting.
Ideally, you should be familiar with the process of cutting and burnishing leather. You’ll also need to understand how to detach the belt buckle from the belt before starting.
However, if you’re unfamiliar with these steps and require further assistance, we suggest that you send your belt to a leather workshop for shortening.
Which Method Is the Safest?
As outlined earlier, we advise against shortening your leather belt from the non-buckle end, as you’ll need to punch new holes and also burnish the ends. This will take more time, as the process is more complex. Instead, shorten your leather belt from the belt buckle end if you can.
Will Shortening My Leather Belt Cause Any Damage?
No, if you shorten your leather belt using the right tools and follow the proper steps, you shouldn’t cause any damage to your leather belt. If you’re new to some of the processes involved in this guide, we suggest that you try cutting scrap leather first, in order to get a good feel for it.
What Tools Do I Require?
There aren’t many tools required for shortening a leather belt. However, you should have these handy before starting:
- Shortening from the buckle end: Round knife or rotary knife
- Shortening from the non-buckle end: Round knife or rotary knife & burnishing tool
What Happens If I Shorten It By Too Much?
Shortening your leather belt by too much will probably mean that it will not fit around your waist comfortably. Therefore, it’s best that you measure the exact length before shortening your belt.
If you are unsure, either use an existing belt that fits you to measure against or shorten it in several stages.
How Long Will the Shortening Process Take?
The shortening process is relatively quick and should only take about 15 to 20 minutes. More experienced leather crafters are able to shorten leather belts in just about 10 to 15 minutes.
Co-Founder, Editor-in-Chief & Writer At Leatherskill
I’m a leather enthusiast turned artisan. Apart from crafting leather products, I’m passionate about writing in-depth guides and reviews on all things leather!