How to attach a button stud

My favourite feature of the Brighton Sandals is definitely the button stud used to secure the ankle strap. I love the look of them, of course, but I also like how easy they are to attach - making them perfect for beginning shoemakers! So today I thought I'd share with you the simple process for attaching them, as well as two ways that you can make the button hole for the stud to go through. 

What is a button stud?

Before I go through the process of attaching a button stud, it's probably a good idea to check that you're familiar with what I'm talking about. Button studs are small metal studs with a ball-like top and a thinner shaft or stem. The stud is attached securely to one piece of leather, and the other piece of leather (the other end of a sandal strap, or perhaps the flap on a bag) has a special shaped hole in it that fits over the ball-end of the stud and holds it in place. 

It's important to note that the instructions I'm sharing with you here relate to the screw-in type of button studs (there is a different kind that requires specialised setting tools to attach them). Each button stud is made up of two separate pieces. One piece has a flat base with a thin screw-like stem. The other piece has a thicker, smooth stem with a ball-like shape on one end (you can see these two separate pieces in the images below). 

Attaching the stud

The first step in attaching a button stud is making a small hole with a rotary punch in the place you want the stud to be positioned (if you're making the Brighton Sandals, you'll see a guidemark on your pattern piece). For the size of stud I used in these photos, I made a 2mm (1/16in) hole (it just needs to be the same diameter as the thin screw-like stem of the base piece of your button stud).

Then, all you need to do is poke the screw-like stem base piece through the hole so that the base of the stud is on the 'wrong' side of your strap (the lining side), and the stem part is visible on the 'right' side of your strap (the upper side). Screw the second piece of the stud on top. You'll probably be able to do this with just your fingers, but you can use a flat head screwdriver to tighten it if you want.

Making the button hole

This type of stud requires a special shaped button hole - it needs to be able to open up enough to get over the large ball end of the stud when you want to do up or undo the strap (or bag flap), but it also needs to then sit securely around the thinner stem of the stud when the strap or flap is done up or closed. So, this results in a button hole that looks a bit like a round hole with a small straight cut coming out of one edge of it. There are two ways you can make this kind of hole. 

Firstly, you can purchase a hole punch designed for this type of button hole, as pictured above left (I'm holding it upside down so you can see the shape it cuts in the leather). Just make sure that it corresponds to the size of stud you are using - they are size specific. As with any time you're making holes with a punch, remember to use a nylon or polymer mallet to hit the punch and place a scrap piece of thick veg tanned leather (or a plastic chopping board) under your work to protect both your punch and the surface you're working on. This is an easy one-step way to create the button hole you need. 

Alternatively, you can create your button hole in two steps using a rotary punch and a utility knife. Just punch a hole the same diameter as the smooth shaft/stem of the button stud (NOT the diameter of the ball on the end) - for the stud I used in the photos, this was 3mm (1/8in). Then use your utility knife to cut a line approximately 1/2cm (1/4in) long, as indicated in the photo above. 

Whichever way you make your button hole, remember that the cut line coming out from the circle should be parallel to the long edges of your sandal straps and should be on the opposite side of the circle from the end of your strap (or the opposite side of the circle from the edge of the flap if you're making a bag). This way the slit will sit closed once the strap (or flap) is in place and any strain placed on the buttonhole during wearing (or using) is taken by the circle not the slit. 

Where to find button studs

Button studs are available from many leathercraft supply stores so it's worth checking you're local store. I've previously bought them from Tandy (who have online stores worldwide as well as brick and mortar stores in some locations), Adelaide Leather & Saddlery Supplies and DS Horne in Adelaide, and S & K Leathergoods & Fittings in London. Wherever you purchase them, just make sure to get the screw in kind.