how to make your own Hat band
Directions for Alias Smith and Jones fans that want to hand make their own replica of a “Hannibal Heyes” hat band
Preparing the leather strip
After years of trying different leathers, trial and error,
and learning more of what the “original” hat band
actually was over time, and adjusting to that, though
available pictures and fan information. The best leather
I have found to make a hat band with so far, is tooling
leather. The leather strip needs to be 1″ wide. The
length needs to be long enough to fit around your hat
plus at least an inch or two. Best to have extra length,
so it can be trimmed on each end once completed to fit
your hat exactly. As for the thickness of the strip,
thinner strips are easier to work with than thicker ones.
Tools I use for next two steps
The first step is to mark a line on each edge of the leather. Leather marking Tools are available to make this easy. This line will be your guide to make the cut edging. Having a line will make your cuts have a straighter line.
The next step is to use a leather tool that will cut the edges into the leather strip. When cutting, after making the first crimp, always put the last tooth of the tool in the last hole you cut when crimping. Place your cuts on the line. You will only cut two holes at a time, because one tooth will always be in your last cut… but it will keep your cut edge uniform. This will take a while to put cuts on both sides of the leather.
The next step is to get a Dark Brown Leather dye (or what ever color you prefer) to dye the leather strip. You may want to put a few coats on to get a uniform color. The edges will take more dye than the front. If you want to dye the back side of that hat band you can. I usually don’t, because it doesn’t show. Personal preference.
After the dye has dried. I like to put a coat or two of neats foot oil on the entire leather strip. Back and front, and around edges. A new strip of Tooling leather is very dry as you can see in above pictures, this makes the leather more supple, softer, flexible, and easier to work with. The oil also helps any ‘frizzy’ pieces of leather on the back and sides lay flat and neat.
Setting the conchos – Read both sections below before starting
From my experience, 18 conchos are normally what is needed for (1) hatband. (9) Diamond shaped conchos, and (9) ‘S’ shaped conchos. If you have a very large hat size, you may need 1 or 2 more to fill up the space. These are by far the very hardest thing to find for this project. It took me years and years of searching to find these.
Place and center one diamond shaped concho on the leather strip and press down hard so that ears on back of concho mark the leather. This can be difficult, so make sure the concho is where you want it to be. I like to start about an inch or more from the right end of the leather strip. Depending on how long the strip is and length I have to work with.
When you remove your concho area is marked were slits need to be made so concho can be inserted into leather strip.
Tools I use to set conchos in leather:
Take your lock knife and press straight down to make two slits were area was marked. With tooling leather I use a hammer to tap the top of the knife to make the blade go through the leather. That is why you need a pointed edge
knife that locks. You don’t want the blade moving when you hit it with a hammer. Be sure to do this on a wooden board so knife goes completely through the leather. Be sure not to
cut the slit to large. Go slow… Insert the concho into the slit to see if the cut is large enough. If the concho doesn’t go in well, cut the slit slightly larger so the concho will fit.
Press concho all the way through the slits. Flip the leather strip over, and bend down the ears on the concho to hold it in place. I use the hard handle on my knife to bend the ears over to try to get them as tight as possible.
o set the ears of the concho, I tap them with a hammer so the ears will go down into the leather slighty. This makes for a smooth finish on the back of the hat band so conchos won’t wear a place into your hat. After tapping, just run your hand over the conchos to see if they are smooth enough. If not, slightly tap again. The conchos are tough, but don’t
hammer them hard enough to damage them on the other side.
More Concho setting/spacing tips
**Please realize, these are old pictures below, when I used a different style of hat band leather with stitched edging, but they will give you an idea of how to SPACE your conchos. Please note: I no longer make the double holes on the end of the strip or use the leather strip with stitched edging. I have since found out that The ‘original’ hat band only has one hole on each end. And the leather strip has cut edges instead of stitches. Ignore the holes in photos until later. Do not punch the end hole now. Just using these old pictures to show how to space conchos, until I can get some updated ones.
This concho setting/spacing process is very tedious, and will take a while to do, to get conchos lined up correctly….. Just go slow and take your time. And make sure conchos are where you want them when you mark the leather. The ‘S’ shaped conchos are harder to center than the Diamond shaped ones.
I like to start near the end of the leather strip with a diamond shape
concho. Allow about an inch or so from the end. Do not punch any
holes at the end, at this point. You can make a marker strip out of thin
cardboard that is 3/4″ wide. I have found this spacing looks good for
the space between the conchos. Set the first concho, then use the
3/4″strip to mark the spacing for the next concho.
Carefully place next S shaped concho 3/4″ from the last diamond
conho. Place the S concho were you want it and press down to mark
leather. Try to get the correct angle you want the concho to be at.
This concho is harder to center than the diamond shaped one.
Take your knife and cut the slits just wide enough so concho ears can be entered. Be sure to cut your slits at the correct angle that your concho ears are placed so they fit through the slits correctly.
Turn band over and bend ears of concho down to hold concho in place. Turn leather back over. Use your 3/4” marker to Proceed to the next concho.
Continue on down your leather band in this fashion placing your
conchos 3/4 inch apart to the length needed for the size of your hat.
Take your time and take care to center each one correctly before
marking holes and cutting slits. The amount of conchos needed will
depend on the size of hatband you are making. Normally, 18 total
conchos are needed. When you are getting close to having enough
conchos, just slip the band around your hat to check to see how
many more will be needed for your hat size.
Your Completed hat band should look like this, with some extra room on both ends to custom size the hat band to fit your hat.
Fitting your hat band to your hat.
Once all the conchos are set, you will need to size your leather band to fit your hat. There
should be some space on each end if the leather strip so you can trim both ends for the
correct sizing for your hat. When sizing, keep in mind where your conchos are, so they are
even on both sides once trimming is complete. Cut the ends so concho can be pretty much
even on both ends. Better to make several cuts, slowly sizing it down, than to cut off to
much at one time. As for trimming ends of the leather, I just use a good pair of heavy duty
scissors, that will make a straight cut through the leather. I use a regular adjustable leather
hole punch, set on largest setting, to make the holes for the tie strap.
In pictures above it looks like the front side of the band is rounded slightly, and the back side of the band is bumped up to the front side, or maybe just slightly under it. You can leave the end square, or put a slight rounding on it, or square it like pictures below… Personal preference. Place your band on your hat and decide where it needs to be cut on each end to get the look that you want when pulled together. Once trimmed, place the hat band back on your hat to see if it needs more trimming. If it is to loose, you will have trouble keeping it on the hat. You want the band good and snug when tied, so it won’t be falling off. Trim each end accordingly until you get the fit that you want. Last step is to use a leather punch to punch holes for the tie strap to attach the ends together. Add your tie strap, pull snug and knot. And you are finished!
Just as an FYI, in case anyone is wondering. This is the type of lace I now use for attaching hat bands and other items that I make. I have just recently found this. It is the closest thing I can find that looks like the original tie strap. Many other types of lace can be used. But just posting as an FYI in case anyone wants to know that may be making several items. The Kodiak lace has a little bit of ‘stretch’ to it and I prefer that over regular latigo lace that is more ridged. I have used several different types of lace in the past. Pretty much any type of 1/4″ wide leather lace will work.
ENJOY YOUR NEW HATBAND! They are a lot of work, and very time consuming to make, but well worth the effort!