Guest Blog: Belt Buckles – Walnut & Jobillo – 2014

By Brian and David Rae for Matt Rae

As you may remember I sometimes turn over the soapbox which is this blog to my brother Brian, who in addition to producing a bunch of stuff on his own has been a compatriot on several projects of mine over the last two years (guest blogs here, co-projects here).  Every time I get a report I am blown away by the creativity being stirred up at Brian and Laura’s homestead in Northeast Portland.  Here again I turn the torch over.  This year I was touched by David and Brian’s design and execution of a pretty fantastic birthday gift..  Knock on wood no more – strung along my hips lay a hand-crafted belt buckle.



I took a photo of my pants draped over the coat rack.  Let me tell you – I tried to get a live action shot of the belt in action but it is really hard to take a photo of your buckle since the Anthony weiner debacle.  and boy did i try.


Brian’s voice starts here:

Happy Birthday Matt.

You would think it is a challenge to make a wood project for someone who spends more time in his shop then anywhere else.  But as many woodworkers discover, many of your projects end up as gifts to family and friends. David and I decided to make Matt a gift, and one that he could really hold on to at that.  David had the idea to recreate a fabulous belt buckle that he bought a few years ago. He found the metal buckle blanks on etsy.

My job was the craftsmanship. Lucky for Matt, I had some fantastic scrapes laying around from a project he did for my wedding 3 years ago.  During the service Matt ceremonially lead us in joining two pieces of wood together.  The wood(jobillo and cericote) is straight from a friend in Guatemala.  These wood are very hard which make for a good buckle but a real challenge to plane and shape.  The main challenge in this project was shaping the back of the wood to match the curve of the buckle. At first I hoped to bend the wood, however was worried that the hard wood would snap rather than bend;  So I used a rasp and sander to shape the back. There was a lot of trial and error to fit the wood with curved corners. Lets just say I kept my hand plane close at hand.

Once fitted I used gorilla glue to attach the wood to the blank. I chose gorilla glue so it would expand to any errors in my shaping. Though this was a challenge to clean up as the glue oozed out of every edge and all over my bench.  For those trying this – clear sparsely used epoxy might be the better solution.  The final step was going to my favorite store, Oregon Leather Company and buying the English bridle leather belt blank and creating the belt to hold the beautiful buckle and hopefully Matt pants at bay.

Brian Rae, Portland, Oregon, 2014.


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