Friday, April 23, 2010

Replacing Torn Leather Tabs On Your Guitar Strap

Can this guitar strap be saved? When you have a guitar strap you love, that's the first question-- perhaps the only question-- you have when the dreaded "Rip of Death" happens to your leather button tab. The answer depends on how your guitar strap is constructed. If the pin hole is punched in a solid leather strip that adjusts only at the back, then no, you're out of luck. If, on the other hand, your strap is polypropylene or fabric that is riveted or stitched to the leather button tab, then yes, perhaps your strap can be repaired. It just takes a little creativity and some puzzle-solving skills on the part of the person undertaking the repair.

I recently had a Myspace friend approach me about repairing his 20-year-old guitar strap, affectionately named "Old Blue." Old Blue was in sad shape indeed. Both the front and back leather button tabs were hopelessly stretched and torn and he had tried to repair them using what looked like wood staples. I gave it some thought and decided to put my hand to saving Old Blue.

I started by cutting the back leather piece off the adjustment bar and replacing it with my own particular leather button tab design. This involved cutting a 2-inch leather strip, looping it through the adjustment bar, sealing the two leather layers with commercial strength tanner's glue, and double whip-stitching it with leather sewing thread. That was pretty easy.

Repairing the front tab was going to be more of a challenge. The front tab was riveted through the decorative surface fabric, the polypropylene foundation, and the leather itself, with two rivets so the only way I was going to be able to get the torn tab off was to cut the fabric and the foundation.
One of my worries was that the decorative fabric, once cut, was going to fray and also that, as I cut and repaired, the strap was going to lose length. The way I solved the fraying issue was to seal the fabric threads with a thin layer of tanner's glue.

I looked for a polished metal adjustment bar to use on the front of the strap but what I found had tiny sharp, unfinished spots that I worried would wear on the strap over time. I settled on a two-inch polished steel ring that wouldn't wear on the fabric and would compensate for any lost length when the front tab was cut off. I looped the doubled leather over the ring, folded the sealed fabric and foundation under so there was no exposure to wear, and stitched the fabric and foundation to the ring, preserving the material edges and the strap's length.

When I had finished the repairs, I emailed pictures to my customer and he was thrilled with the results. I was, too, actually, because I had saved a dearly loved guitar strap, it had not cost him a fortune, and it was a new service I was able to provide. So, Old Blue is back in business and I have a new and happy customer. Who could ask for more? Thanks for reading! Terri

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