Tooling up to make belt buckles

dave gibson

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Thread starter #1
I want to tool up to make some belt buckles, I want to be able to make my own since there's nothing commercially available but junk. I liked the ones GRS used to carry but they're discontinued years ago. Anyway I know I'll need a press, how many tons would I need? This is going to be a small production project not requiring years of daily service from the machines but I don't want to buy cheap junk parts either. I'll also want a band saw and a grinder/ buffer. I'll probably buy the plates to attach to the belts and solder them on. I'd appreciate any advice on tools and buckle making in general, Thanks all.
 
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#2
Hello Dave!

I have some decent buckle backs for your future production run if your interested.

They are pressed out with a set of forming dies in a 4 stage process. I have it set up in a 5 ton blanking press and they take me a short time per piece to make and I can make as many as you'd like. These backs are the classic flap style backs that possibly go back as far as the 1970's. The bars are 1/8" wire stock (for 1.5" belts) and the flaps are 18 gauge sheet and I think they could save you a lot of time as they do for me.

I would be more than happy to send you some if you would like. I've been hand making belt buckles for many years and it's always a balance between getting things done in an amount of time, but keeping up on high quality.

-Michael



I take a day or two per year to press out about 100-150 for myself to use on my own hand made belt buckles. I don't really sell them to anyone on a regular basis.
 
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#6
Dave,

Tell us more about the buckles your interested in making.

You might not need an expensive press, or tooling for making buckles. The less complicated methods I was thinking about depends on how complex the buckles you have in mind are.

Give us some details about the tooling you want to do. Is the tooling for blanking out the bases, or putting a dome on the buckle? What type of metal and what gauge? The tonnage of the press depends on these factors.

As far as a band saw there's a small "proxxon" band saw in that I've really been impressed with for making buckles. It's small and perfect for buckle making. The blades are relativity cheap, and they last a while.

-Michael
 
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dave gibson

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Thread starter #7
Michael,right now I just want to make a simple buckle for engraving, domed or arced, nickel, similar to what GRS used to sell, if you're not familiar I think they still are shown in their catalog. Band saw to cut them out I can do detailed cuts with a jeweler's saw. I don't know exactly what gauge, probably a bit thicker than GRS's. Nothing too complex just a simple buckle. I've read some buckle makers use a pipe cap, some rubber pads and a press to dome them
 
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#8
Oh, I see...

Yes,,, One of those basic automotive 12 or 20 ton H presses would work just fine for doming your buckles. Any kind of home-made domed male and female dies would work good, made from any material. Hard wood or aluminum would work too. I've never tried a pipe cap, but it sounds like it would work great for the top male part of the set.

I use a large wooden dapping block, leather pads and a rubber dead-blow hammer to dome buckles. I've never needed a press.

More tips for making nickel buckles.

I would go with 1/8" thick leather pads rather than rubber pads.

Use dead soft nickel or anneal it before doming. I've had nickel take a half dome, and just spring back up on me.

Get a 4" medium grit cratex wheel for your polisher. When you band saw out your buckle shape, the sides are very rough and takes forever to polish out. Use the cratex on the sides of the buckle blanks, then when you go to the polisher it's not such a terrible chore to polish the sides.

Use some aggressive polishing compound on a tight weave yellow-treated buffing wheel for the first round of polishing. Like bobbing, tripoli or similar.

For the second round of polishing use a normal white muslin buffing wheel with a med or fine polishing compound to shine them up, if you want them shiny.

Most importantly, use all that buffing crap safely. Breathing mask and filtration...etc.

I hope this has been helpful!

-Michael
 
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dave gibson

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Thread starter #10
Michael, Brian or anyone, do you think a 6 ton press would be enough? I have a limited budget and work space. HF has a benchtop 6 ton at a nice price.
 

Brian Marshall

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#11
Enough to bend the back findings and maybe 2.5 x 3.5" buckles?

I'm sure on the back findings, but never tried one that light for doming buckles...

A 20 ton HF would be the better choice if you are going that way.


Brian


You could also use a pickup truck and the pipe end cap. Jack the truck up and drop it - seen that done by Indians in Arizona.
 

monk

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#12
i make my buckles out of .062" or greater. the forming is done with an old c clamp and an 1.5" thick steel block. i put the curve in the steel with an automatic cutting torch. i make my own d rings and hooks. this buckle "masher" as i call it, has formed well over 1,000 buckles. ugly, but works for me
 

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dave gibson

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Thread starter #13
Monk, This is exactly what I've had in mind all along, glad to learn it really exists. Does it work with just hand pressure? Someone local suggested a vise or an Arbor press. A brake drum and shoe come to mind, anybody think that would be strong enough to bend buckles,,? maybe if they were reinforced?

Brian, I've considered your Arizona method too, don't have a truck any more, shucks.
 
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dogcatcher

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#14
I made my first press like this one. https://youtu.be/wqtdfb1dJ5I

My forms were made out of hard maple. For the round dome I turned a convex and a concave form that fit snugly together.
My hydraulic jack came from Harbor Freight, about $25.
2 all threads with nuts and washers about $10.
Scrap channel iron from the scrap metal salvage yard, about $5.
A can of paint to make it pretty, about $3

It can be made with a hand drill, but I recommend using a drill press.

My second press was a work of art, made by a local welder in exchange for some belt buckles for he and his wife.
 

monk

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#16
Monk, This is exactly what I've had in mind all along, glad to learn it really exists. Does it work with just hand pressure? Someone local suggested a vise or an Arbor press. A brake drum and shoe come to mind, anybody think that would be strong enough to bend buckles,,? maybe if they were reinforced?

Brian, I've considered your Arizona method too, don't have a truck any more, shucks.
dave: mine works very nicely on .062-.125" metal. mine does not do the domed, just a single bend. my idea would work with blocks of hardwood, no need for steel. if you decide to try making one, i'll send you info on mine. the radius must be tighter than you want, as there's always a bit of spring back when the pressure is released.
 

Archie Woodworth

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#19
I made my first ones from maple that I hand shaped the male " punch"...then pressed it into auto body puddy (wrapped in a plastic grocery bag-to act as the "release agent" to make the female die.....might not hold up for a hundred buckles but worked great for a few.
 

dave gibson

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Livermore,CA
Thread starter #20
Thanks Archie, I've read about using Thermolock , I never thought of Bondo. Either one could be used as a mold to make a casting from a harder product like poly urethane.

Those 3-D printers are probably good for making mold for this kind of thing, there's one at a community workspace near here.
 

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