leather belt for Hopkinson

Hi Guys just moving my large floor Hopkinson to its new location, it is still in pieces but plan to have it back together before Christmas the leather belts need to be replaced, anyone have ideas as to where to get these, have tried my local horse and leather shops but with no luck.? See Picture

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There are people who sell leather belting on eBay for fairly reasonable prices. That’s a large press, so you are going to have to find some pretty long ones. Hopefully you have the old ones to get measurements.


In many cities there is a district of leather goods makers, and I suspect there would be a supplier of raw materials around there. In the US there are still a few Tandy Leather outlets that used to sell leather straps sufficiently long for girts for a hand press, and I have bought them a couple of times at harness and tack shops in the US. With all the horsiness in UK (but maybe not in Australia) there should be some around.

And if you’re not too fussy there should be a supplier of industrial belting who can furnish a fabric-and-rubber substitute, which many old presses have had transplanted onto them.


When we were refurbishing our Washington press, we also were unsuccessful in finding replacement leather straps - short of purchasing a cow hide and cutting our own belts. To get the press operational while continuing our search, we found a company that makes straps for rigging/construction use. We found some two-inch webbing that we could buy by the foot. It is not ‘authentic’ replacement leathers, but was quite affordable and the press was ready for printing. We can always swap them out for new leathers when we find a source.

Good luck!

John Johnson

Have found that leather can be toooo streeeetchhhyyy-prefer webbing.

If you are dead set on leather, because it was what was furnished on the press originally, you could get some shorter pieces (not less than half the length needed) and have a shoe repair shop splice them end to end to make long strips. If anyone criticizes your solution just explain that cows aren’t as big as they were back then. :-)

The girts on an American Washington and similar presses are typically 1-1/2 inches wide and 1/8 inch thick or so, and about 6 feet long each, and typically three are required. I’m not sure how the Albion was furnished with girts.


For reference if you’re buying strapping from some place like Tandy, 1/8” is 8 oz leather. To my mind, 8 oz might be a bit on the thin side, but if it’s proper veg-tanned strapping it’s probably fine. Strap leather is compressed via rollers (basically the same technique as calendering paper) to reduce stretch and increase durability. This is the kind of leather used for saddle girts and the like, as well as old-fashioned shoe soles. The best strap leather is cut from the upper part of the bend of the hide along the spine of the animal. This region has the least stretch.

The Tandy here in Memphis sells this in various lengths, but I’m not sure it’s available as long as six feet. Splicing is, indeed, an option. The two pieces of leather have their ends “skived” off, or thinned in a tapering shape through the thickness of the leather (from the skin, or hair-side through to the flesh-side) one to match the other, and are then glued together. For added strength they can be sewn as well as glued. This will make the splice at least as strong as the surrounding leather.

The leather used in the belts you buy in the clothing store to hold your pants up are usually made of oil-tanned or latigo leathers. These are softer and cause less wear to the fabric, but they stretch a whole lot more. They are not suitable for this kind of use.

Michael Hurley (who’s worked leather since about age 8)
Titivilus Press
Memphis, TN

jnbirdhouse said “we also were unsuccessful in finding replacement leather straps - short of purchasing a cow hide and cutting our own belts.”

Done that - I’ve bought half and quarter hides. When you spread a half hide out on your sitting room floor it’s bloody enormous - a cow is a jolly big animal when flattened out!

One of the fields that traditional saddlers remain active in is re-enactment. An online search or queries on re-enactment forums will very likely lead to recommendation of both leather suppliers and to recommendations of leatherworkers / saddlers who could make up what you need. Be certain to specify the thickness that you require - there are quite a few cut-price suppliers that use overly thin leather when making cheaper goods. After my local leather supplier closed, I turned to using leather merchants that supply (at least partly) the re-enactment market.

I’ve seen quite a few sets of iron handpress girt straps that comprised two or maybe more lengths joined together (usually both sewn and glued) so, in terms of authenticity, joins seem okay.

Give up leather belts: 1. they eventually rot and have to be replaced. 2. they stretch a brt and that is a nuisance! 3. Get black nylon webbing for your press! It works, its easily found and it does not rot. Good luck!

In the time it takes for a leather belt to rot you will have many years of happy printing. And as for them stretching, the press has clamps on the end of the bed, and the belts can be easily re-tightened. I have three belts on each of my presses, one to pull the form in, and two to pull it out. A lot of press owners think that you only need two, but if you have any play between the tracks on the bed, and the sides of the rails two belts can pull the bed at a slight angle. Keep your press as close to original as possible, it is part of the aesthetic of the machine to use materials that would have been in use when it was made.


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Do a google search for a company named “Chiorino” (pronounced “key-or-reeno”). They’ve been in business since 1906 and make all types of belts (power transmission conveyor etc.) including leather as well as synthetic materials. I had them make a leather one for my linotype some years back.
Click on products tab, then power transmission belts, then “LL”. These belts have a synthetic core with leather on either side. Their home office is local for me, so I took my old belt and they helped me out. Chiorino has locations in 19 countries including the U.S.