Today I’m taking a break from fiber arts and showing you how to make stamped leather bracelets. This is a fun and simple craft, but it does require a few special tools, which are relatively inexpensive. I’m by no means an experienced jeweler, leatherworker, or metal stamper, so please forgive any crudities here.
First, some context. My wonderful hubby and I are teaching a seminar in a few weeks for our church. It’s for young people in their late teens and early twenties, and we’re discussing relationships (the romantic kind). Our catchphrase for the seminar is “set apart” (taking a page out of Leslie Ludy’s book). So, that’s why all the bracelets say “set apart.” We know it’s not terribly cool, but it’s way better than “true love waits.” We’re giving the bracelets to the girls as a takeaway. (We’re cooking up something different for the guys. My husband said the bracelets are way too girly.)
Here are the supplies I had to buy because I didn’t already have them. (I did already have the wire cutters and pliers. I don’t know why they’re in this pic!)
Here is a list of exactly what I got in case you’re interested.
- Bead Landing 16 gauge aluminum wire (5 yards)
- Bead Landing leather lace cording (3/16 inch by 3 yards) in
- Bead Landing 6 mm iron jump rings (144 pieces)
- Bead Landing 4 mm iron jump rings (144 pieces)
- Blue Moon Beads metal clasps (45 pieces) These come with the claw and the ring it attaches to
- Bead Landing 1/16 inch letter stamp set
- The Bead Buddy metal hole punch
Everything I didn’t already have I got at JoAnn’s and Michaels (with 50 percent off coupons!!), so all this stuff should be readily available.
Here are the materials I already had around the house.
- Heavy and fine grit sandpaper
- Rubbing alcohol (is it bad to use if expired??)
- Cotton balls
- Painter’s tape
- Needle nose pliers
- Wire cutter
- Regular scissors (not pictured)
- Permanent marker
I also ended up requiring an awl and a piece of wood. I’ll explain later!
There are two parts to the process:
1.) stamping the metal
2.) Affixing it to the leather and securing the clasp.
Let’s start with…
Stamping the Metal
1. With the wire cutter, cut a 1.25-inch piece of metal from the aluminum strip. This may seem small, but it’s PLENTY long enough in proportion to the bracelet. I cut tons!
2. The edges of the metal strip should be sharp. Ouch! Make them safer by sanding them.
First, sand down the edges with the large grit sandpaper. Keep rubbing until the dangerous corners are shaved away.
The edges are now no longer sharp, but they are probably still rough. Use the fine sandpaper to smooth out any little bits that might snag.
Note: this process does take it’s toll on the metal, making it look roughed up and scratched. I didn’t think the teens would mind. They love “distressed” things, right?
3. Tape the metal to a firm surface. I used my granite countertop for this one example because I was rapidly losing light for picture-taking, but I do NOT recommend it. Use a stamping anvil or just the sidewalk outside. You CAN crack granite.
4. Place the first stamp where you want it on the metal strip. I didn’t worry too much about getting everything perfectly aligned. (Teens don’t care.) Just make sure the letter doesn’t appear backwards when stamped.
When everything is ready, strike the stamp with the hammer, and you should end up with a nice, clear letter. TIP: Practice a few times on a piece of scrap aluminum to get a feel for how hard you need to hit.
Mine is a bit off. Eh, no big deal. Keep going.
5. After you’ve finished stamping all the letters, you’ll probably notice that the aluminum metal strip is now misshapen and not flat and pretty like it was originally. In my picture below, the strip is actually coming loose from the painter’s tape. If that’s the case, give it a few light taps with the hammer to straighten it out.
You should have a nicely stamped and reasonably flat piece of metal. See how I hit the stamp too hard in my picture below? It left markings around some of the letters? Some of you may want to avoid that if you want your finished product to look really clean and professional.
6. With a Sharpie or other permanent marker, fill in the grooves of each stamped letter.
7. Dampen a cotton ball with a little rubbing alcohol, and wipe it across the metal strip. This cleans up the markings on the surface, leaving only the grooves filled in.
8. Now it’s time to drill holes into both edges of the metal strip. Align the metal strip with the hole punch, and start cranking the lever. You’ll get a nice, clean hole.
If you notice a sharp edge around the hole you can sand it or tap it flat with the hammer. (Apologies for the blurry pic.)
The metal strip is ready!
Prepare the Leather Strip
1. With regular scissors, cut your leather strip. I cut 6-inch strips for my girl bracelets.
The clasp setup adds another 1 inch to the bracelet for a total circumference of 7 inches, which is great for a girls’ bracelet.
If you’re making a men’s bracelet, cut a 7-inch leather strip for a bracelet that is 8 total inches around.
2. Drill one hole in either end of the leather, using the same method as with the metal. These holes are for the clasps.
3. You also have to punch holes in the middle of the leather strip to attach the stamped metal. To determine where the holes should go, place the metal strip onto the leather where you want it to go. You can measure to the center, but I just eyeballed it.
Place a fine tipped pen through the metal holes, marking the leather.
NOTE: If you’re making more than one bracelet like me, your metal strips won’t all be alike. Some holes will be a little farther apart, and some will be a little closer together. It’s important that you mark the holes for each individual metal strip on the individual bracelet you’re attaching it to. Don’t use the same strip over and over again for multiple bracelets.
Punch holes directly over the pen mark.
4. Now, attach the stamped metal strip with two 6 mm jump rings using needle nose pliers. (The 4mm rings look a little cleaner, but they are so small that it’s very tedious to thread them through and close them.) Make sure one of your jump rings encircles the top of the leather strip and the other jump ring encircles the bottom, like so.
If both jump rings are on the same “side” you get a dangling hinge effect like this:
5. All that’s left is to attach the clasps on either end of the leather strip. Here is the configuration.
Use the pliers to attach the clasps, and you’re all done!
Now, time for a confession.
My metal hole punch BROKE! I don’t know what I did wrong, except work the poor thing to death. After drilling about 50 or so holes in the aluminum strips, I started noticing problems. It was more difficult to turn the levers. Bits of metal were getting stuck in the bottom part. Pretty soon, the “drill bit” on one side completely broke off, and the drill bit on the other side wore down to a small nub.
So, I had to figure something else out. My husband dug around in his toolbox and found me a good ol’ fashioned awl. Simply position the sharp pointy edge where you want your hole…
…and pound the handle a few times with a hammer. (Make sure you place some wood below so the awl edge doesn’t puncture your kitchen table.)
The awl works great on leather, but it doesn’t produce a very clean hole on the aluminum.
Anyway, three cheers for troubleshooting!
The finished bracelets turned out great. (I still have quite a few more to make, but I’m off to the races.)
I got my original inspiration for these bracelets from Erin at Sometimes Homemade. Her bracelets are wrap-arounds, and they are very beautiful. She stamped birth dates, which is always a great idea for moms and grandmas. There are a million other phrases and sayings that you can use to personalize a custom stamped leather bracelet.
If you give this craft a whirl, please email me a picture or show it off in a comment below.
Most of all, have fun!
QUESTION OF THE DAY
If you were limited to 20 characters, what inscription would you choose for your stamped leather bracelet?