Better Ankle Suspension Cuffs

Ever been hung upside down by your feet and beaten? It’s a trip! There are a number of designs on the market purporting relatively comfortable ankle suspension, but I’m less-than-enthusiastic about most. The best are designed to be used over boots… blech! I won’t claim that these feel like a pair of thick wool socks on a cold day, but they are pretty damn nice. By the way, if you want to use these over boots for whatever reason, you probably need to add about 2 inches to the tongue strap.

Difficulty: Hard

Tools

Mallet, Utility Knife, Punch, 1″ Oblong Punch, Edge Beveler #2, Edge Slicker, Strap-Cutter (optional but recommended)

Parts Checklist (per pair)

2″ two-tongued roller buckles (2)

1.5″ Welded D-rings (4)

3/8″ Key Posts (16)

Leather Checklist (per pair)

Base Strap (2): ~12″ x ~7″

D-Straps (4): 9″ x 2″

Tongue Straps (2): 7″ x 2″

Buckle Straps (2): 6″ x 2″

Steps

1 – Make Base Strap Template

I’m afraid Diagram 1 doesn’t do a great job of describing the base strap.. it doesn’t lend itself well to description. I recommend starting with a large piece of scrap and slowly paring it down to the right shape for you. The Finished Product picture should help. Here’s how it should fit.

Flex the target foot slightly down from a right angle. The bottom line of in Diagram 1 should be about ½ inch above the toes, allowing them to move about. The diagonal sides should roughly parallel the bottom of the foot. The top curve circles the front top of the foot, and should reach no more than half-way over the knobs of the lower leg bones. The ends should not quite meet in back of the foot.

When you have a template that matches this description, you’re ready for the next step.

2 – Cut Leather

You’re obviously going to make two units, one for each ankle. My personal preference is to make these mirrors of each other, which is simply a matter of turning the template from Step 1 upside down to mark the second base strap.

First, cut two base straps using the template from Step 1. Hold the template in place and trace lightly around it. Remove the template. Use a straight-edge to cut the straight lines, and freehand the curved ones. Note that the cutting bar from a strap cutter makes for easy freehanding (see Tips).

Cut four D-straps, two buckle straps and two tongue straps. Modify two of the D-straps by cutting the dotted lines in Diagram 1. The remaining half of that end and the short side of the buckle strap fit to form one layer during final assembly. Note that if you chose to mirror the base straps, you need to mirror these as well.

3 – Punch Holes

Make the holes indicated, using a punch large enough for the key posts. Skip the belt holes for now. Make the following template, and use it to punch all of the holes:

Template 1

All of the locations should be obvious, with the possible exception of the four-pattern on the left of the base strap. Just imagine that the left side looks like the right one, and position your pattern accordingly. The only critical point is that the bottom of the four-patter must be parallel to the diagonal sides.

The 2″ double-tongue buckles have rather wide tongues. To punch the slots through which they protrude, I generally make two 1″ punch slots right next to each other, then finish the ends of the resultant double-wide slot with a large round punch.

4 – Finish Edges

Finish the edges before attaching hardware. Use a #2 edge beveller to bevel all outer edges, top and bottom on all pieces. If you’re a perfectionist, figure out which edges don’t show and refrain from bevelling those. Rub all of the outer edges briefly with an edge slicker and apply Edge Coat. Allow to dry, about 15 minutes.

5 – Assemble

Put everything together using eight key posts per unit. Here is the order by layer, from top down, assuming the buckle is on the left as in diagram (note that ‘finish’ means the nice side of your leather):

Left Right
Four-pattern side of buckle strap (finish up) Four-pattern of tongue strap (finish up)
Two-pattern side of buckle strap (left two holes, finish down) and two-pattern side of modified D-strap (as indicated by dotted line, finish up) Four-pattern of complete D-strap (finish up)
Four-pattern of modified D-strap (finish down) Four-pattern of complete D-strap (finish down)
Base strap (finish up) Base strap (finish up)

6 – Lining

This is one of those projects that should definitely be lined. Use ¼” felt. Lay the lining on a flat surface, with the side to be glued up. Coat the inside of the strap below the first tongue hole liberally with Fabri-Tac. Starting from the first tongue hole, firmly lay the strap (glue-side down) onto the lining. Press down hard for several seconds. Allow the glue to set, then trim off the excess lining carefully with a pair of scissors.

7 – Punch Belt Holes

Punch as many sets of twin belt holes as desired in the tongue strap. You may want to size these with a pair of socks on and bare footed. Obviously, put on a boot if you want to use them that way. You’re done!

Diagram 1

Ankle Suspension Diagram 1

The Finished Product

Ankle Suspension Done 1

Ankle Suspension Done 2

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