Mar 01, 2019

How to: 3 Ways to Punch a Hole in a Leather Belt

Get out your leather hole punch, 'cause sooner or later, you're gonna have to do it. It may be because you lost a little weight, and now it's time to notch over one more, and you're plumb out of holes. Maybe it'll be due to the fact that different pairs of pants sit on your body at different places. Or it may be that you'll simply had that belt for a little while, and the leather has stretched a bit. But, at some point, you're gonna have to make a hole in a belt. And if you do it right, it can look perfectly in line with the others, like it's been there the entire time.

How to make a hole in a belt with a leather hole punch

  how to use a leather hole punch

No matter which of the techniques below you opt for, 90% of your success will be determined not by how the hole gets there, but by where you put it in the first place. In most men's belts, the holes are spaced at a perfect one inch, making your job plenty easy. Simply use a ruler to set up a horizontal straight edge by making sure it crosses each hole at the same point, and mark on the back.

making evenly spaced holes in a belt

Or, if you're crazy obsessive (I am), you can make a little template with some painters tape. Just use the existing holes to mark their placement, then shift the whole thing down by one. Hold it up to the light to make sure your dots are placed right in the center.

tools for making belt holes

Option #1: Make a Belt Hole Using an Awl (or Nail) 

If you have at least a medium-ly equipped tool box, you'll definitely have a hammer or mallet. And you may have an awl, which is (basically) a metal point with a handle. It's similar to an ice pick, which you could just as easily use. If you don't have an awl, get one! They're like $2.00, and you'll find uses for them in all sorts of wood, paper, leather, and fabric projects. Or, try a large nail.


Using an awl to make a belt hole

There's not much to it: Mark your spot, and place your belt on some scrap wood. Use short firm strokes to slowly insert the sharp point into the material, driving it all the way through until you've reached the thickness of the metal that corresponds to the size of your holes. Which is another argument for the awl over the nail, as the tool is evenly tapered along its length.

Electric or power drill for belt holes

Option #2: Using A Power Drill to Add a Hole

If you take your time, and start the hole well, you can drill through leather with fairly clean results.

The trick will be to make the right sized hole, so test by inserting the solid ends of your drill bits until you've selected just the right one. You'll have the best results if you can start the hole cleanly. If you have brad-point bits, you'll definitely want to opt for those over metal tapping bits. If not, make a significant dimple where you want your hole with a nail or sharp knife, and use that to keep the bit in place.


created at: 02/22/2012

Option #3: Use a Leather Hole Punch 

This designated tool is by far the most ideal option. You can find them easily, and they're great to have around. This is the one I use.

These revolving punch pliers (sometimes call a leather hole puncher) have a wheel with multiple sizes to punch round holes in pretty thick material. The tension springs make it easy to punch by hand. Seriously for the price of a nice lunch...this is good investment to have around.

If your belt has oval shape or elongated holes, I'm guess you could use this tool to create the two round corners and then cut out the middle with an craft knife. But even I'm not that obsessive. A well-space round hole will do you just fine.


If you liked this post, please consider sharing it on Pinterest. Here's a handy image just for that (thanks!):

How to make a hole in a belt - use an awl, a power drill, or a leather hole punch




Post Comments

Add Your Comment!

(2000 character limit)

Kenny on Apr 07, 2019:

I use a spent 22 caliber brass case with a piece of soft wood behind it.
Its good for 3-4 holes before it deforms...

Dick Magnani on Mar 20, 2019:

I just learned this past weekend (March 17, 2019) from a friend who does leather repair work that the only way one should put holes through leather is with a punch, hammer driven or pliers type. The compression of the leather by the punching action compresses the leather fibers tighter together to better resist cracking or tearing of the leather around the holes. The tapered awl tends to split the leather and the drill bit tears the leather setting it up for early failure, especially as the girth of the waistline increases.

Ofer on Jul 30, 2018:

Useful info for pin buckle belts owners. Thanks!

Hari on Jul 05, 2018:

appreciate it! Useful post.

Toni on Jan 21, 2018:

Great info. Will try it. Found tool at Home Depot.

akshay on Dec 02, 2017:

This is so valuable! it will save a lot of time and money as well.

akshay on Dec 02, 2017:

This is so valuable! it will save a lot of time and money as well.

surfcoco on Sep 24, 2017:

Mike, they're called grommets or eyelets!

Mike on Sep 06, 2015:

what are the brass round rings with a centre hole that are on belts for decoration please

and can you fit them on your belt yourself

Thank you

ma on Aug 31, 2015:

thank you! it's useful.

Andrew on Jun 15, 2015:

I really don't want to buy a unitasker leather hole puncher.  I was wondering if the drill method works better if you sandwich the belt between two pieces of wood?  Or does it even matter?

Anonymous on Dec 17, 2014:

I am a woman and an artist and I appreciate this DIY as a helpful instruction on how to work with leather. I think an attempt to reach guys who otherwise would feel uncomfortable going to a sight that had flowers and pink in the heading is ok. Each person has their own stuff they got to work around. For some, that's learning to be ok with sewing or making things in general and a sight with swirling script might be intimidating. All things set aside, whether you are a feminist, a masculinist, a child, an artist, a novice, or whatever, this diy is useful for learning how to make holes in leather and leather belts ;). My dad hasn't worked in leather much, so he couldn't answer my questions. Thanks for the bit about sealing the hole with a hot nail/awl, that'll make it look nice.

Brent on Dec 12, 2014:

I have always used an old (30+ yr old) all metal leather punch to add holes to a belt. But what bothers me is it loses its cutting capability if I don't clean out the hole of the nosel of the leather punch. What is the best way to do that? I have tried a dental pick or awl which works for the first few layers of leather that is stuck in the hole, but I can't remove any leather that is compacted deeper. I tried pushing a paper clip from the rear and that did not eject any leather material out of the nose of the punch. So I'm wondering if anyone here has any ideas?
TIA Brent

Munawar Rahman on Oct 15, 2014:

I once used a dental rubber dam punch to make a perfect additional hole in my belt using the largest size.
Accurate inter hole distance and perfect alignment are the key to job well done. Cheers!

Joyce on Jul 25, 2014:

My dad taught me a great trick when using an awl to make a new hole: Carefully hold the metal tip in an open stove flame for a minute or two, then carefully push it through the leather. It goes right through it like butter!

Anonymous on Mar 28, 2014:

thanks for this man it really helped.

Anonymous on Oct 06, 2013:

I had no idea leather hole punchers existed. This will take way less time than finding the exact belt I have in a new size. Thanks!

Anonymous on Aug 18, 2013:

I seem to remember from when I was a kid that after you made the hole, you should heat the pointed end of an appropriate-sized nail by putting it in the flame of your gas range.  Then pick it up with pliers and stick it through the hole you just made in the belt.  It will seal the hole to the proper size and keep it from shrinking up.  By the way, I am woman (yeah, hear me roar).

Lucy on Aug 02, 2013:

Helpful guide! Thankyou. Also, I don't find "man made" a sexist term - I think it refers to "man" as humans rather than the male gender. Some women need to chill out; you're just making an issue where there really isn't one!

Daniel on Jun 29, 2013:

Thanks! I'm gonna try this! I recently bought an archery quiver, and even at the shortest setting, the leather straps are still way too long. And traditionally, men work with tools, so this site isn't sexist. Lola was obviously looking for a fight instead of reading the useful guide.