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DIY Martial Arts Belt Display

Earning a new belt in any martial art is something to be proud of. Show them off with this easy DIY karate belt display!

DIY martial arts belt display with text overlay

After over a year of work, my son finally completed all the white belt requirements for Tiny Tigers in the martial art of Tang Soo Do. He wears his yellow belt with pride! I couldn't wait to showcase his accomplishments with this DIY martial arts belt display!

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At my son's dojang, the students are tested on a quarterly basis as long as they feel they are ready (and trust me, he is ALWAYS ready!) His collection of white belts with colored stripes was growing quite quickly and I was tired of them being shoved into the back of the closet collecting dust.

martial arts belts in paper bag

Not only will this DIY martial arts belt display let him show off his belts proudly, it helps others to see just how much dedication and hard work he put into it as well!

Materials Needed for Martial Arts Belt Display

Don't forget your safety gear when woodworking! Here are my recommendations for safety glasses and ear protection. No excuses!

How to Make a Martial Arts Belt Display

Measure Your Belts

Begin by checking the size of your karate belts. Fold one up to a size that allows the belt to lay flat in the display without sagging. Mine was 1 ¾" wide and 15" long. The slats need to be a bit wider than the folded belt and a couple inches longer as well.

If you happen to have any leftover scraps of wood laying around, they are perfect for this project! If you don't have any, head to the store and purchase a 2' X 2' plywood panel.

Cut and Sand the Slats

Use a table saw or circular saw to trim down the plywood into 2" x 18" strips. The back supports are 1x2 pieces cut to 17 ½". This is long enough for six belts with ¾" spacing between them.

cut slats of ¼" plywood for DIY martial arts belt display

Sand down any rough edges. Here's a helpful tip:  Stack up the slats and sand all the edges at the same time. This also keeps them a consistent size.

sanding edges of plywood slats for DIY martial arts belt display

Assemble the Martial Arts Belt Display

This belt display is put together like a ladder, showing the progress from one belt to the next. It goes together really quickly once you get the first slat attached!

Lay the first slat on top of the 1 x 2 pieces and adjust the spacing until it's ¾" from the bottom and 2" inches in from each side. Use the square to keep the pieces aligned as you clamp it to your work surface.

two upright boards clamped to one crosswise slat

Nail the slats into place with ⅝" brad nails. The Ryobi Airstrike is one of my favorite tools because it's battery operated and doesn't need an air compressor. You can also use a staple gun like this one that also shoots brad nails.

Ryobi Airstrike brad nailer attaching wood slats

A scrap piece of 1x2 is the perfect spacer and makes the rest of the process quick and easy. Lay it across the display and butt the next rung up against it. Nail the next one into place, and move the spacer up to the next rung.

how to use a spacer to assemble a DIY karate belt display

There should be ¾" left at the top when you're finished attaching all the slats.

assembled DIY martial arts belt display ready for paint

Fill Nail Holes and Paint

Hide the nail holes with wood filler, then sand down the excess when dry.

filling nail holes with wood filler and putty knife

Spray paint is the easiest way to tackle these thin pieces. I set up my pop up spray shelter with a lazy susan to rotate the piece as I painted.

finished DIY martial arts belt display inside spray painting tent on top of lazy susan

Attach Elastic

I used ⅜" elastic to hold the belts to the display rack. This makes it simple to add belts as you earn them!

Simply staple one end of the elastic to the back of the slat just inside the 1 x 2 supports. Poke the other end through the gap in the slats to the front.

elastic stapled to back of DIY martial arts belt display

Hold one of the folded martial arts belts to the front of the slat, and wrap the elastic piece over the top. It's important to have the elastic tight enough to secure the belt without drooping, while not so tight that it makes an indentation.

wrapping elastic around martial arts belt for display

Poke the remaining end through the slats to the back again, and mark where you will attach the staples. Measure the length of the elastic and cut enough pieces for two elastic bands over each belt. Staple them all in place to form loops.

completed DIY martial arts belt display

Attach Hanging Hardware

Turn the martial arts belt rack over and secure picture hanging hardware to the back. I used eye hooks and wire, but you could use sawtooth hangers as well.

eye hooks and wire on the back of a DIY martial arts belt display

Stick each belt under the elastic loops in order they were earned. Then proudly hang your new martial arts belt display on the wall!

close up view of DIY martial arts belt display

I love how the bright colors pop against the gray walls of his bedroom. To personalize it further, I added a vinyl decal with the name of his class to the wall above it. I used this "Karate" font with my Silhouette machine.

DIY martial arts belt display with "Tiny Tigers" vinyl decal

Hopefully this inspiring display will remind him of all his hard work and motivate him to keep working for that black belt!

DIY martial arts belt display with text overlay
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