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Where do leather machine belts come from?

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  • Where do leather machine belts come from?

    Jerry's question about belt end joiners sent me off on a search for the answer n the subject line - I had not idea what the answer would be, but I found a great old book on the subject at Google:

    http://books.google.com/books?id=W53...20made&f=false

    It's also a free PDF download, so it's already in my eLibrary.

  • #2
    Cows.

    I had one cut for me for my SB at the local saddlery. Cost me $10.
    Free software for calculating bolt circles and similar: Click Here

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    • #3
      In Hampton,Va. is a useful place called Hampton Rubber. While the name isn't exciting,they sell all kinds of belting. Leather too,I think. They also have a great assortment of dust collection hoses. Just all kinds of things. Is there a rubber supply near you?

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      • #4
        Originally posted by Evan
        Cows.

        I had one cut for me for my SB at the local saddlery. Cost me $10.
        Well, yeah But not just any old contented cow. It was fun to read how it was done in 1900. It turns out there is a lot of science and art that goes into making repeatable belts from leather. One thing I was trying to discover is where very long belts come from and half expected to find a link to whaling. I'm left thinking they just splice the ones they make from cows.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by dp
          One thing I was trying to discover is where very long belts come from and half expected to find a link to whaling.


          Very long cows.....
          Location: Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada

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          • #6
            Longer belts/straps are cut from the hide in a circular manner. In these times the hide is put on a vacuum table which is rotated. The knife is cnc'd. One just punches in the desired width and presses start. I know a place close to me that does this sort of thing. They make lace for me out of Kangaroo. Out of one hide I get around 50 meters of one continuous lace and it is beveled on both sides of the flesh side. Lots of farmers here still use leather belts to drive different machines off their tractors here in Germany.
            Location: The Black Forest in Germany

            How to become a millionaire: Start out with 10 million and take up machining as a hobby!

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            • #7
              I missed out on an old belting handbook (Page, I think) that used to reside, utterly ignored in the shop library. In it was a detailed description of leather belting from selection of the hide, how it was graded, tanned, taken from the hide, assembled, etc. This book was written in the 1920's when most of US industry was driven by line-shaft. Leather belting came in several qualities but belting as I've read about it machine belting was never taken from the hind in a spiral. Lacing, strip, and straps, yes, but not machine belting.

              Leather stretches in different ways in use depends on where it was taken from the hide and its orientation. As I recall the best leather for belting came from a foot on either side of the spine omitting the center 6" or so and the length runs from the withers to the haunch. Further, the hide has a natural taper and if split parallel it still tends to bow in use. In multi-ply belting the leather is selected and laminated so the tapers. flaws, bows etc cancel. Good belting tracked well on its pulleys, was more tolerant of slippage, and lasted for a long time. Back in the 1890's leather belted power transmissions ranged up to several thousand HP. Look at the old Edison Electric photographs. When I was a pup, I've been in line shaft shops where some belting in daily use was generations old.

              The belting is laminated, scarph jointed, and laid up to form long spools and sold in trade widths and thicknesses. By the 1920's, leather belting, horse harness, etc had become a highly optimized and sophisticated product. From this I conclude that the 150 ft long belts used with steam traction engines to drive threshing machines, sawmills etc were enormously expensive. Stop and think about it: a 150 ft belt 10" wide and 5/8" thick - maybe 600 lb (wild a$$ guess) the equivalent of 40 or so full size tanned hides. Ever priced leather? Look at the Tandy website.

              Lesser removes from the hide is used for belting of lesser size and quality and the remander used for shoes, cheaper saddles, etc.

              That's about all the belting refinements I can recall from several readings 30 years ago. I wish I had stolen that book. It was a real resource.
              Last edited by Forrest Addy; 09-19-2010, 04:15 AM.

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              • #8
                Yep, long belts are made by spiral cutting. I've done a fair amount of leather work over the years. Just lay out some hide on a board with a screw in the middle that has a bushing on it of the right diameter. Use a non stretch cord like whipping twine to the knife that wraps around the bushing as you cut.

                For making laces you can use odd scraps and a cutter that has a spacer on it to automatically cut the right width. Just keep going around the edge until it gets too tight. It can be hard to find good leather around here though since the cattle here are all raised for beef and the ranchers don't care about wire scars. This isn't dairy country and most fences are barbed wire, including mine. If you raise your own cattle and use smooth wire, pipe and or board fence there are several local meat cutters that will do a good job on the hide and we have several local tanners that can still do chrome tanning.
                Free software for calculating bolt circles and similar: Click Here

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                • #9
                  When I got my SB 9, the leather belt was shot. I went to a Industrial Belt making company here in buffalo and the guy said they were using a high tech product now-a-days. My belt is leather on the inside with some kind of plastic like material glued to the outside of it for strength. It came in the mail with a serious scarf joint and two bottles of chemicals to be mixed to join the scarf. I made a wooden jig with a ridge in it to hold the belt in alignment, glued the joint and then C clamped it between the two pieces of wood while it dried.

                  I am forever forgetting to take the tension off the belt but still it nearly refuses to stretch. It worked out fantastic and I didn't have to take my Model A SB apart to get it on! Cost me something like $120.00 12 years ago. If I had to do it again I'd do the serpentine belt like Evan did.
                  Last edited by Your Old Dog; 09-19-2010, 09:04 AM.
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                  • #10
                    Tandy Leather

                    Tandy Leather had a sale a while back on half cow hides. The leather was about 1/4" thick. I bought one half hide and used it to make belts for the two SB lathes I was restoring. One of the belts I was able to get out of the hide was 80" long! I still have enough leather left to make several more belts.
                    Bill

                    Being ROAD KILL on the Information Super Highway and Electronically Challenged really SUCKS!!

                    Every problem can be solved through the proper application of explosives, duct tape, teflon, WD-40, or any combo of the aforementioned items.

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                    • #11
                      I can believe that round leather belts might be cut from the hide in a spiral, but for flat leather belts Forrest has it right.

                      Quoting Machinery's Handbook, 11th edition;
                      "The leather for the best grades of belting is taken from the central part of the hide along the back of the animal. If the leather is taken too far down the side, it will be flexible and lack strength and closeness of grain. If the strips are cut too long, the ends will be taken from the neck of the animal, which is also inferior stock."

                      Dave

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                      • #12
                        I noticed that there are some here that know leather. I'd like to make a holster for a firearm. I looked at Tandy Leather and didn't have a clue as to what type of leather to buy.

                        Anyone care to enlighten me?

                        Thanks,

                        Clutch

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by becksmachine
                          I can believe that round leather belts might be cut from the hide in a spiral, but for flat leather belts Forrest has it right.

                          Quoting Machinery's Handbook, 11th edition;
                          "The leather for the best grades of belting is taken from the central part of the hide along the back of the animal. If the leather is taken too far down the side, it will be flexible and lack strength and closeness of grain. If the strips are cut too long, the ends will be taken from the neck of the animal, which is also inferior stock."

                          Dave
                          So that's why they didn't use giraffes.
                          Weston Bye - Author, The Mechatronist column, Digital Machinist magazine
                          ~Practitioner of the Electromechanical Arts~

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                          • #14
                            At Field Day of the Past this weekend there were lots of machines running on flat leather belts. Long belts. Wide belts. One belt, that ran the main saw mill was almost two feet wide. That is a lot of cow.

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                            • #15
                              I just found another very useful book on the subject.


                              Power Transmission by Leather Belting

                              http://www.evenfallstudios.com/woodw...lting_1916.pdf

                              According to this book, which is filled with practical information, tables and calculations, the 1" belt on a South Bend 9" lathe is capable of transmitting up to 1 hp.
                              Free software for calculating bolt circles and similar: Click Here

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