ball-jointed dolls & accessories

You've seen handmade buckles on my crafts quite a few times. I prefer to make my own buckles, because I can control the size and shape much better than if I'd purchase them. Also making my own buckles saves me a lot of time, as most doll sized buckles are available only on Internet with a long waiting times, and it takes me an hour or two to make a dozen of buckles. Also they have that handmade, unpolished feel that is so proper for period and ethnic costumes. All those possibilities!..


Here I'll show you how to make your own.





Pliers and cutters. It's a bare minimum that I use, and each tool has its purpose.



1 - flat thin nose pliers with tiny teeth on the jaws. Leave marks on wire but are necessary when you have to close loops and so on, as they have a better grip on wire. They also have a cutting area on their jaws.

2 - diagonal wire cutters. Pay attention that they make a clean cut on one side and V-shaped cut on the other side, while most heavy industrial cutters make both sides of the cut V-shaped, like the #1 pliers above. You can even out the V-shaped cut to make it flat each time but having a flat cut from the start saves your time.

3, 4 - long nose pliers with perfectly flat jaws. Handle your wire with care, without adding unwanted scratches. I need two to close big loops, to bend the wire, and so on.

5 - round nose pliers, useful for creating a tiny loops.


Also you'll need the rasp, the hammer and the anvil. I also use a big thick sheet of rubber to put under the anvil so my neighbors won't hate me too much))






I recommend to use these wire kinds:

1 - brass, 2 - iron, 3 - copper.



Brass wire is golden all way through, so it stays golden after you hammer it, cut it, and so on. I usually buy brass wire with a coating on Aliexpress, but it can be listed there as "copper" wire. Technically brass is a copper alloy, where the amount of copper varies and other metals are present.


Iron and copper wires are often available in hardware stores, while iron wire is used for plumbing works, and copper wire covered with insulation is used for electric works. Steel wires can also be available, but there are various grades of steel, and some are too hard to operate, so try to test your wires prior to purchasing.


Never, ever use aluminum wire for buckles!))) I absolutely hate it, because it's too weak and breaks easily, after you bend it once or twice at a sharp angles. Even hammering doesn't help much. And yes, ironically it's the most common craft wire which comes in a variety of colors. 


What thickness you should use highly depends on the size of the buckle. The bigger the buckle - the thicker the wire should be. 


Let's examine this buckle.



It has a thicker frame, a thinner bar with a prong attached to it with a loop.

This buckle is cast, and as we'll be making our buckle out of wire, its frame and bar will be of the same thickness.

I prefer to make a prong out of a thinner wire than the main part, because I have quite a selection of wires, but you can use the same wire for all parts.


The simplest buckle to make is a round buckle.


Pick a rod of appropriate diameter and wrap your wire around it as many times, as many buckles you want to make.

I recommend to use a sturdy rods, like a hard plastic, wood or metal.



So, we have such spring.



Make a cut with wire cutters (#2). If the wire is too thick to cut all the way through a big dent is enough. Then move the excess wire with any of flat nose pliers until it breaks at the dent.



Make another dent to separate the first ring.



Hold it with your flat pliers (#3 or 4) and pull away until it separates from the rest of the wire.



We have an "open link chain", as it's called on Aliexpress. Our buckle frame.



If the edges are too rough even them out with the rasp.



Now we have to make the prong.
I hammer the edge of wire to make it more flat. It's easier to wrap this way, and it looks more neat, to my opinion.



Even out the very tip if it's too rough. Then take your round nose pliers and make a loop. As you can see my pliers are very fine so I can make loops with holes of 1 mm diameter and even a smaller ones.



Bend the wire in direction, opposite to the loop. It will let the leather stripe to lay flat in the buckle.



Put the loop of the prong onto the frame.



Close the sides of the frame. That's where you'll need two pliers.



Adjust the loop closing it even more. #1 pliers with tiny teeth come in handy here. It's hard to do with #3 or 4, as those can slip off the loop easily.

Still, the prong should rotate freely on the frame.



Place the prong in the middle of the buckle and cut the excess wire.



Remove any burrs and uneven places with a rasp.

There are dedicated tools for rounding wire tips called "cup burrs", but you have to have a selection of those for each wire diameter, so I prefer my good ol' rasp))


That's what we have: an almost finished buckle.



But the tip of the prong looks too far up and can cling to things, so real buckles have it bent down. That's what we'll do too:



Round buckle is finished!



Square buckle is a bit trickier to make and requires some practice.

Bend it corner by corner:



The last corner turned out too round, and the wire is rounded:



Clench the wire with #3 pliers so it straightens, then you can adjust the corner.



Much more even now:



Make a dent with #2 wire cutters and remove the excess wire.



So we ended up with an open frame. You already know how to make the prong.



After you close the edges you get a nice, even square buckle frame.



You can hammer the frame and/or the prong to make them flat.


Hint: hammering helps a lot if your wire is too soft, as it makes metal sturdier. Many lighter hits work better than a few hard hits.


You can also use ball side of the hammer if you have one. It gives a pretty rugged texture which looks best on a thicker wires and patinated wires.



Examples of handmade buckles in my crafts:

A few dozens of round buckles on leather armor and boots:




Cosplay sandals required a certain width of leather stripes (6 mm wide) so the obvious decision was to make the buckles rather than to search for a proper kind on the net:



These Poulain Medieval shoes also have a small tidy buckles + a metal loops to hold the tips of the belts:



These sheaths and straps have some hammered copper buckles, both round and semi-round, and a couple of rings:



Round copper buckles with heavy ammonia patina:


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