How to Repair a Leather Tool Belt

Squeeze a few more years out of a trusty, comfortable belt

When a good leather tool belt starts to fall apart, don't throw it away. With basic leatherworking tools you can easily fix holes and tears and get more productive years out of it.

By the DIY experts of The Family Handyman Magazine

Using the leatherwork tools

When I bought my tool belt, Reagan was in his second term, “Magnum P.I.” was king and I had a 34-in. waist. Time marches on, and my comfortable old tool belt now has nails leaking from the rips in the main pouch and my utility knife poking out of its compartment. Sound familiar? It's time to invest about an hour and a few bucks in materials to fix it.

The sewing machines at shoe repair shops could fix the seam on the edge of your main nail bag, but they can't get to those seams farther in from the edge. Handstitched repairs are expensive, so buy the leather-stitching awl shown here and do all the repairs yourself (Photo 1). This tool is easy to learn to use and its sturdy needles and heavy waxed thread are also perfect for repairing boots, canvas convertible tops and heavy vinyl tarps.

The building blocks for sewing with a stitching awl are the “lock stitches” visible on the underside of the seam (Photo 2). Lock stitches work best when an underside is either in a tight pocket or in the middle of a broad area of material where you can't easily maneuver a regular sewing needle through the seam.

Once you learn how to use the awl, you can sew about 12 to 15 seam inches per hour. When stitching “interior” pocket seams over the main nail bag, avoid sewing the main bag closed by putting your hand inside to separate it from where the awl is stitching the pocket seam above.

Once you've repaired the pocket stitches, reinforce the seams using a hand rivet tool (Photo 3). For large pockets, install several rivets spaced 1/2 to 1 in. apart.


Piercing the layers of leather requires steady force on the awl; keep the hand that's inside the pouch clear of the needle as it suddenly plunges through the seam.

You'll need a leather-stitching awl and a hand rivet tool.

Required Materials for this Project

Avoid last-minute shopping trips by having all your materials ready ahead of time. Here's a list.

  • Leather thread
  • 1/8-in. medium rivets

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