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Meet our Craftspeople

Discover our belt making process, brace making process and meet the people behind the scenes.

Our braces and the majority of our belts are carefully handmade in our factory located in Stanmore, Sydney. Our accessories, including those that are produced offshore are either ethically produced or sourced from internationally certified factories.

We continue to take steps to reduce our footprint to make sure nothing goes to waste. We engage in a simple recycling plan to rework our manufacturing offcuts to product components such as leather tabs for braces.

When you purchase your Buckle accessory, you can feel confident that it is thoughtfully produced and made to the highest standard possible.

Below you can discover our 21 step-by-step process that has progressed over 100 years.

 

Belt Making Process

 

1. Preparing and Cutting Leather

 

The process begins with the cutting and preparation of leather. Leather hides are irregular in shape and size. So the first step in the process of making a belt is to ‘block’ or square up the leather so it is cut into more manageable pieces.

 

2.  Cut Downs

Once the blocking step is complete, the leather piece is then fed through a specialised cutting machine, creating long thin strips that will form the basis of a more detailed belt.




Maria, pictured in the image above and below, has been at Buckle for 30 years. She began working at the Summer Hill factory in 1990. Over her time Maria has cut, glued and picked belts.

 

3. Gluing

Once strips have been cut, the next part of the process involves joining the top leather with a backing to form a very simple strap. Otherwise known as combining, the step involves a long production line, which is called the glue line and features a glue station, combining machine and several drying stations along the way.


Lee is pictured above gluing a belt. Lee has been working at Buckle for 23 years. Throughout the years Lee has learnt all the skills required to  make a belt from start to finish, making her one of the  most  skilled craftspeople.

4. Tips

The next phase requires tips to be punched out. This is the arrow shaped end which feeds through a buckle of the belt. Knives are fitted to air-compressor assisted machinery which punches these shapes out of the leather strap.





5. Bevelling

Bevelling is the process where the belt receives a trim. During the gluing and combining process things are not always perfect. When two pieces of leather are joined together there are often untidy edges or overlapping. This process takes millimeters of the edge to give the strap a nice clean finish.


6. Skiving

Now working with the buckle end of the strap, the next process is what we call ‘skiving’. The strap is fed through a specialised machine featuring a ball blade. The blade spins around, and when the strap is inserted, and with the flick of the wrist, several layers of leather are shaved off the buckle end, resulting in that area being now thinner than the rest of the strap. The benefit of this step is to allow the leather to be folded back onto itself so that a buckle can be attached.

Lily is pictured here skiving a belt. She has been working at Buckle for 25 years and is skilled in sewing. Lily started off with belts, but now primarily works with braces. Her favourite moments at Buckle were when the team would have lunch together.

 

7. Slots

Some of the belts progressing through our factory require slots. Slots are required when a traditional prong buckle is fitted to a strap. A slot is simply an elongated hole that is punched using one of our presses at the buckle end of the strap. Depending on the type and size of buckle used, we have many knives to accommodate different sized slot holes.

 

8. Prong Holes

On the tip end of the belt, prong holes are required to be punched out. Directly next to the press which punches out the slots is the machine which punches out the holes. Once again, depending on the type and size of the buckle used, we have many knives of different sizes and shapes. We also have some knives that have up to six holes. Straps are placed into the guide and punched using a machine which dates back to the 1940s. Our holes are not punched individually, rather the one knife features either 5 or 6 studs which allows the holes to be punched perfectly every time.

 

Jack is quite literally our "Jack of all trades"! With more than 25 years’ experience in our workshop he assists wherever help is required, from unloading shipments and machine maintenance to skillfully cutting leather and finishing belts. Here Jack is shown sitting at the large "Minor" press carefully sliding a belt through and punching prong holes and buckle slots.

 

9. Sanding

Prior to processing to the next stage of belt production, the straps are given a light sand simply to remove any rough edges remaining from the bevelling or tip cutting process. 

 

10. Colouring

The next step is where we apply a colour to the edges of the belt. The colour is also applied to the inside of the slot hole and prong hole. The main strap is fed through a colouring machine, however the tip, slot and prong hole detail still needs to be managed manually by hand - often involving a small sponge and a lot of concentration. 

 

11. Drying

Drying, although a simple process, would have to be one of the most important ones. Already the belt has transitioned through so many processes, and it would be a shame that the quality of the product was let down by this process being rushed. Less than 10 years ago, this process involved hanging the belts from hooks positioned across the factory to allow them to air dry. Now the process has been modernised where they are fed through a drying channel instead. 

 

12. First Clean

Belts then progress through a first clean. It’s not a detailed clean, but just focuses its attention on any edge colour which may have leached onto either the top leather or backing of the belt. For most leathers, a little eucalyptus oil is all that is required.  

 

13. Edging

Depending on the style produced, the next step is to place stitching along the edge of the strap. In the past, this was a must to keep the belt intact, however these days this step is not necessary, with many of our belts not moving through this process. We can either apply a standard light stitching, or a heavier saddle stitching. 

 

14. Keepers

Prior to attaching the buckle to the strap, a keeper needs to be made up. The keeper is the smaller leather loop which is designed to keep the tip end of the belt tucked into the waist. The process of making a keeper is not too dissimilar to producing a strap and will move through processes such as cutting, bevelling, colouring and, sometimes, edging. These small pieces of leather are then cut to size based on the width of the belt then stapled together. The keeper is then either sewn into the buckle end of the belt, which we refer to as a ‘fixed’ keeper, or, attached to a small piece of leather that allows more movement in the keeper, which is called a ‘floating’ keeper.

These small pieces of leather are then cut to size based on the width of the belt then stapled together. The keeper is then either sewn into the buckle end of the belt, which we refer to as a ‘fixed’ keeper, or, attached to a small piece of leather that allows more movement in the keeper, which is called a ‘floating’ keeper.

 

 

15. Assembly

Buckles are now sourced and placed onto their straps, but before the next stage, we then attach swing tickets onto the base bar of the buckles. 

 

 

Ping, pictured assembling a belt, has been with Buckle since 1995. She has strong skills in sewing and assembling which requires attention and precision.

16. Bartacking


 

Yes, it is a funny name, but this process involves the sewing of the buckle onto the strap. This is also the part where the keeper is attached to the belt. We have different machines in our factory which accommodate different belts and bartaking applications. Once a belt has progressed through this process, extra thread is sniped off and prepared for the final stages of production.

 Becky, pictured, has been with Buckle full-time for over 22 years. She is organising the belts before she begins sewing.

17. Stamping

Stamping is one of the final stages of belt production and involves a machine which is both energised using a combination of air and electricity. Stamps are heated up and can either be punched into the strap using a foil or blind embossed method. Not only do we punch our logo, or our customer’s logo, into the belt, but we also punch the size of the belt, the country of origin information, but also too a four digit identifier or number. 

Goreti, pictured stamping, has worked at Buckle since 1996. She has experience, gluing, skiving, cutting and thinning down. Today you can find her stamping or, picking and packing your order. 

 

18. Supporting Materials

This stage requires the final touches to be applied to the belt. Normally this includes hangers or barcodes. Making our products floor ready helps retailers quickly get our product onto the shop floor. We also take the time to prepare our belts appropriately so that they don’t get damaged during transit.

19. Final Clean

We are almost there! The final clean is the process just before they are shipped out. To assist with the identification of the straps, chalk is used to mark up the straps. This is removed, and buffed out with nice soft cotton rags.

 

20. Picking and Packing

Belts are then consolidated into orders with our other accessories and carefully wrapped, rolled then packed into boxes or jiffy bags. The order is confirmed in its entirety and the final quality control check is made.  

 

Goreti and Linh who know the workshop like the back of their hands (pictured). Together they have almost 50 years experience in the Buckle factory. They know exactly where to find a product amongst our rows upon rows of shelves and as such are our amazingly fast order pickers, processing huge quantities of orders every day.

 

 

21. Invoicing and Dispatch

Using the information provided by the picking and packing team, our invoicing clerk, Max, weighs, invoices and books the order in for delivery. He has been at Buckle since 2016.

 

 

Brace Making Process

 

Since the 20s Buckle has been making braces in Sydney. To this day, braces are one of the best selling product lines with a range of different patterns, including a collaboration with Australian designers; Jocelyn Proust and Ali Wilkinson.

 

 

Our braces team consists of Lily, Anh, Betty and Connie.

 

1. Elastic Preparation

Our elastic is sourced from Belgium, and is received in large rolls. Due to the nature of the product, there are numerous breaks in each roll and yield is closely determined.


2. Cut Downs

For small orders, lengths of elastic are hand cut with a sharp pair of scissors using notches marked up on our cutting tables. For larger orders, the rolls of elastic are mounted onto large spindles and we use the Minor press (similar to the major press) fitted with a blade to cut the elastic.


 

 

 Lily pictured on the right, and Connie in the background, are at our braces station working on punching tabs and packing. Accumulatively, they have over 50 years of experience. Connie started working at Buckle in 1987.

 

3. Punch Tabs

Tabs are then punched out using the scrap leather left over from the belt leather belt blocking process. A specialised die is attached to our clicker press and punches out the small triangles used to make our Y-back braces and leather tab ends.


4. Back Joins and Tabs

Two pieces of leather triangles, back to back, are used to join two long lengths and one short length of elastic to make our Y-back braces. Two long elastics are feed through a ‘butterfly clip” which then creates our X-back braces.

 

5. Adjusters

Metal adjusters are then feed along the elastic. These components allow the user to fit themselves perfectly with braces.


6. Ends   

Ends are then sewn onto the elastic. We have two different ends: pressed metal ends or a traditional leather button end. The leather button end tabs are riveted onto a metal loop which is then sewn onto the braces.



7. Pack

We always joke that this is the hardest process involved, and during peak times sometimes involves staff from the office to assist with packing. There is a true art to wrap braces around a board and slide them into the box.

 

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8. Floor Ready Preparation

Braces move through this process where barcodes and other information such as back type are included before they are sent out.

9. Picking and Packing

Like with our handcrafted belts, braces are then consolidated into orders with our other accessories and carefully wrapped then packed into boxes or jiffy bags. The order is confirmed in its entirety and the final quality control check is made.  

10. Invoicing and Dispatch

Using the information provided by the picking and packing team, our invoicing clerk weighs, invoices and books the order in for delivery.