Musical Instruments

Guitar Straps: That’s Why I Make My Own

This past week at the Songwriters Anonymous meeting, I was listening to a conversation between two other members. One was talking up a storm about his new leather guitar strap that someone in Ohio made for him that was emblazoned with his nickname. When asked how much it cost, the reply was $200.00. The other person walked away, saying, “I’ll just stick with my Fender one.”

You have to figure, for $200.00, one could actually buy a decent back-up guitar, or a decent beginner mandolin, or a good electric guitar effects pedal (or two), let alone cover the high cost of gasoline and food these days. One can get a cheap woven/vinyl adjustable guitar strap for about $10.00 these days. However, I have never had good long-term luck with those, being that they wear out quickly, and if the vinyl should come in long-term contact with a guitar finish, it can actually damage it.

My first true leather strap that I purchase probably 30+ years ago cost about $25.00. It was pretty basic, no frills or stitching, but it was better than the woven/vinyl types. I put some strap locks on it, and after a while, I noticed that the weight of the locks along with the guitar was tearing the leather to uselessness. The leather was pretty thin, and I saw that real quality leather straps were twice as thick, but they were at least $50.00, a lot at that time for me.

At the same time, I was also doing Civil War reenacting. At an event that I attended which had a number of different time periods participating (Civil War, Native American, French & Indian War, War of 1812, etc.), one of the sutlers there (sutlers are people that sell period clothing and accessories for the reenactors) that catered to Colonial America reenactors was selling large pieces of leather hides, which many use to make leather accessories such as pouches or moccasins. It gave me an idea, and I purchased a few long pieces for a decent price.

When I got back home, I traced one of my thin leather guitar straps on a sheet of cardboard, then cut that template out and used it to trace and cut out straps from this thicker leather. From the original pieces that I bought then, I probably made about 10 leather straps with a cost of less than $10.00 each. Since then, I have kept an eye out for bargain leather remnants at other events or on eBay to continue to make more straps. I have even kept the sizeable scraps for end pieces on my mandolin straps (I’m not sure if I mentioned it before, but I have learned to weave leather laces to make mandolin straps, which I sell on Craigslist). I have my own leather straps on all of my guitars, banjo, and mandolins, and have given other out as gifts and even sold a few.

My first strap is still with me after about 30 years. It holds up my Martin D-28, and shows its age with a number of scuffs and sweat marks. However, it still does the job, and has probably outlasted 10 or more cheaper straps. I’m not willing to pay a high price for something that I can make myself for a lot less cost with the satisfaction that I did make it myself.

Chew on it and comment.