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I Coulda Been a Contenda belt buckle

No person is truly fulfilled in life until they make a belt buckle. There is something about creating a piece of jewelry that will hold your britches up, which, btw, is the purpose for a belt buckle. Who knew? I thought these chucks of metal meant you packed a fierce punch. Shows what I know!

SUPPLIES

  • 1” x 2” piece of 18-gauge copper sheet metal (for the hardware)
  • 2” x 3” piece of 18-gauge copper sheet metal (for the top plate)
  • 2” x 3” piece of 18-gauge brass sheet metal (for the base plate)
  • 6” of 10-gauge copper wire
  • 1” of 12-gauge copper wire
  • 1.63mm or 1⁄16” OD (outside diameter) thin-wall copper tubing

TOOLS

  • 3 “I Coulda Been” patterns (below)
  • #51 drill bit 
  • #46 drill bit
  • Ruler
  • Drilling setup
  • Riveting setup
  • Liver of Sulphur setup
  • Roundnose pliers
  • Flatnose pliers
  • Jeweler’s saw
  • Chasing hammer
  • Center punch
  • Steel bench block
  • Metal file
  • Disk cutter
  • Dapping set
  • Sandpaper
  • Carbon paper
  • Scratch paper
  • Fine-tip Sharpie

INSTRUCTIONS

I Coulda Been a Contenda belt buckle Step 1
Step 1
Round all the corners and sand all the edges/sides of your copper and brass. Set the two larger rectangles (copper and brass) aside for now. Trace the pattern for the belt buckle hardware onto the smaller piece of copper using carbon paper, and cut it out using a jeweler’s saw.
I Coulda Been a Contenda belt buckle Step 2
Step 2
Place the squared end of the newwly-cut hardware piece on a steel bench block, and using roundnose pliers, start to roll the metal inwards. Switch from one side to the next until you have a nice curve; it should look like the front of a sled.
I Coulda Been a Contenda belt buckle Step 3
Step 3
It’s important that there is a little lip on the curve. This may be difficult, so take your time. Place a #4 dapping punch in the curve, and use a chasing hammer to form the “sled” into a tube at the end of the metal. Move your piece around on the steel block, and try hammering from different angles. Again, take your time—you’ll get it. And don’t worry about the hammer marks; this piece has a lot of texture. Sand the hardware piece once it is formed. 
I Coulda Been a Contenda belt buckle Step 4
Step 4
Cut a 6” piece of 10-gauge copper wire, then file and sand the ends. Form the wire using flatnose pliers, following the pattern. Hammer the wire piece with the chasing hammer on the steel bench block, to work-harden and to texture the wire.
I Coulda Been a Contenda belt buckle Step 5
Step 5
Insert the ends of the wire piece into the tube that you created on the hardware piece. Press the sides of the wire so everything is nice and snug. You’ll need to press strongly here. SQUEEZE.
I Coulda Been a Contenda belt buckle Step 6
Step 6
Center-punch the circles on the hardware piece as shown on the pattern to create a divot to guide your drill bit, and then drill holes with a #46 bit.
I Coulda Been a Contenda belt buckle Step 7
Step 7
Trace the circles from the front pattern onto the copper rectangle from Step 1. Use a disk cutter to punch out a 1” circle and a 3⁄4” circle at the marked spots. File and sand the edges. Shape the two circles of copper into domes with the dapping set.
I Coulda Been a Contenda belt buckle Step 8
Step 8
Flare the holes in the copper rectangle by placing a hole facedown on the dapping block, lining it up over a hole that is a few sizes bigger (when the sheet is facedown the large circle is located in the lower left corner). Place a piece of scratch paper between the metal and block, then dap the circle with a dapping punch. Repeat with the other hole.
I Coulda Been a Contenda belt buckle Step 9
Step 9
Place the copper rectangle on a steel bench block (facing up), and hammer a texture on the edges of the metal, using the back of the chasing hammer. Center-punch the domes in the center as a guide, then drill a hole with a #51 drill bit. Sand and file the domes.
I Coulda Been a Contenda belt buckle Step 10
Step 10
Line up your brass rectangle with the copper rectangle, with the copper  facing up. Line up the sides so that you do not see any brass showing. Place the domes into the flared circles, centering them. Taking care not to move anything, use a fine-tip Sharpie, mark through the drilled holes of the domes onto the brass sheet. Center-punch a guide and then drill the brass with a #51 drill bit.
I Coulda Been a Contenda belt buckle Step 11
Step 11
On the back of the brass rectangle, line up the copper hardware piece so the pointed end is on the right and sticking out past the brass sheet by about 1⁄2”. Make sure that the loop is centered and sticking out about 1⁄2” past the opposite side of the brass. Use your fine-tip Sharpie to mark through the drilled holes of the hardware onto the back of the brass. Center- punch a guide and drill the brass rectangle with a #46 drill bit. Using Liver of Sulphur, oxidize the hardware and discs, then brush with steel wool.
I Coulda Been a Contenda belt buckle Step 12
Step 12
Wire-rivet the hardware to the back of the brass sheet using 12-gauge wire. Tube-rivet the domes to the front of the brass sheet using the tubing. You will have to drill through the hardware with a #51 drill bit since it’s covering up the hole. This also means that the tube length for this rivet will be longer than the other. Use the dapping punches to help rivet the domes. See Facet’s How-Tos for more guidance on setting tube rivets and wire rivets.
I Coulda Been a Contenda belt buckle Step 13
Step 13
Mark each corner of the brass sheet about 1⁄8” from the edges with fine-tip Sharpie, then center-punch your guide. Drill each mark with a #51 bit file, and sand the holes. Place the copper sheet on top of the brass sheet, centering the flared circles with the riveted domes.
I Coulda Been a Contenda belt buckle Step 14
Step 14
Hold the sheets together and use the Sharpie to mark the drill holes through the corners of the brass sheet onto the copper sheet. Center punch and drill the holes. File and sand any excess metal. Oxidize, and brush the copper sheet with steel wool. Tube-rivet the copper sheet to the brass sheet with the copper tubing.
I Coulda Been a Contenda belt buckle Step 15
Step 15
Round the pointed end of the hardware on the back of the belt buckle into a catch using roundnose pliers.
I Coulda Been a Contenda belt buckle Pattern A
Pattern A
I Coulda Been a Contenda belt buckle Pattern B
Pattern B
I Coulda Been a Contenda belt buckle Pattern C
Pattern C
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