DIY – Make a Belt Buckle from a Craft-Beer Can

March 29, 2019


A recent family get together left me with a recycle bin full of cool craft-beer cans. And yes, I can recycle the aluminum; but better yet, I can repurpose them. Inspired by the colorful images I set out to find the perfect jewelry-related use. Read on for my step-by-step pictorial tutorial on making a craft-beer-can belt buckle.


You will need the following supplies:

Choose from a variety of belt buckle styles and plated finishes available at Rings & Things.

You will need the following tools:

You will also need the following supplies:

  • craft-beer can (or any other pretty aluminum can)
  • copy machine and paper
  • sharp scissors
  • Scotch tape
  • heavy-duty side cutters (not your good jewelry-making pair)
  • painter’s masking tape (low tack)
  • isopropyl alcohol
  • paper towel
  • paper plate
  • mixing stick/applicator (or use a disposable craft brush to apply the adhesive)
  • work gloves

Use a photocopy machine to make a perfectly sized pattern for your belt buckle. I recommend setting the copier to the lightest setting possible. Tips: To avoid scratching the copier screen, place a clear plastic sheet down first. Before making the copy, cover the buckle and screen with a white cloth.

If you don’t have easy access to a photocopy machine, you can make a rubbing of the buckle blank to use as a pattern making guide.

A side-by-side view of the belt-buckle blank and the copier pattern.

Use sharp scissors to cut out the inner face of the buckle blank. This is your paper pattern.

Check the fit of the paper pattern in the buckle blank. If necessary, trim the pattern for the best fit.

The cut-away part of the paper works as a “window” for selecting image placement on the beer can. Use cellophane tape to seal the split created when cutting out the paper pattern.

Here is the paper window in use–this makes it easy to see what images will work best for your belt buckle shape.

Cutting apart the can is the trickiest part of this project. I like things done neatly, and this step is a bit rough to start with. In hindsight, I should have worn work gloves to protect my hands. All is well with my hands, but why take risks?

Use the heavy-duty side cutters to cut through the rim and create an opening. I cut the rim in two places and then cut the can between.

This is the resulting opening or gap in the can. Make sure it is large enough to insert the metal-cutting shear’s blade.

Insert the metal-cutting shear’s lower blade into the opening and start cutting. Cut full circle around the can and remove the can top.

Now cut down the full length of the can (I cut along the label seam to preserve the design area). Follow up by removing the bottom of the can. You should now be able to lay the aluminum can flat.

If the edges of the sheet are rough and jagged, trim them.

Prepare your buckle pattern by attaching low-tack tape to the back side. Place the aluminum can flat on the table and use the paper window to frame the craft-beer logo image.

Carefully line up the buckle pattern with the paper window; press to adhere it to the aluminum-can sheet.

Remove the paper window, now the aluminum-can sheet is ready for cutting.

Use metal shears to cut around the buckle pattern, being careful to follow the pattern with precision.

Insert the cutout into the buckle blank and check for fit. If needed, trim to fit.

Use the 3M sanding pad to clean and scuff up the recessed area of the belt buckle blank, and the back side of the cut-out aluminum buckle piece.

Use rubbing alcohol to clean and degrease the metal surfaces.

Epoxy glues form the strongest metal-to-metal bonds. Most epoxy products instruct you to mix equal parts of adhesive and hardener and apply the mixed material to the surfaces you are bonding. Be sure to read the instructions that come with your glue.

The 5-minute epoxy cement adhesive comes packaged in a double syringe with plunger; this makes it easy to dispense equal amounts of hardener and resin. Because this resin hardens quickly, only mix as much as you can use in a few minutes time.

We also sell two-part epoxy with longer working time. If you are making several belt buckles at a time, consider using a different epoxy: Rings & Things Two Part Epoxy Glues.


Gluing Metal Findings 101

A free printable pdf featuring helpful gluing hints and tips from Rings & Things.

The manufacturer’s instructions suggest mixing “thoroughly”. Keep in mind the 5-minute epoxy sets quickly, so work quickly.

Spread a thin layer of adhesive in the recessed area of the buckle blank. I chose to use my stir stick as an applicator, however it was awkward and time consuming (not such a good idea when you only have a few minutes working time). A better applicator choice is a disposable craft brush.

Spread a thin layer of adhesive on the back of the aluminum-can cutout.

Without delay, apply the cutout to the buckle blank. Use a dry paper towel to smooth out any air pockets starting in the middle and working outwards.

I should note, that most people have a preferred buckle direction (this can vary based on gender and hand dominance). Make sure to consider your preferred buckle direction before adhering the cutout to the buckle blank.

“Starburst IPA” Belt Buckle by Rings & Things designer Mollie Valente. Beer can from Ecliptic Brewing of Portland, Oregon, Earth.

Make (recycled) Things!

Mollie

Supplies available at www.rings-things.com

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