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Tutorial: Padded Leather Headband for Grados (with pics!)

post #1 of 82
Thread Starter 
Most of you who own a plastic-cupped Grado (and MS-1) may feel that the vinyl headband looks cheap, feels cheap, and is flimsy. I sure do! It also has no internal padding, making it uncomfortable to wear after a short time from the metal band pressing against my skull. I know that you can use a Beyer headband, but that looks tacky. I heard Grado charges $75 in order to upgrade to a leather headband AND you have to send in your cans! Therefore, I decided to make my own. I modeled the design and construction after the one that came on my MS-Pro. Here is the recipe along with pics I've taken at each step...


- leather: I used lambskin which I got on eBay (search for “lambskin hide). Use (ultra)thin hide that is 1 to 1.5 oz. It is critical to use high quality leather that is relatively thin, soft, and "stretchable." If you use a thicker, stiffer, or non-stretchy leather (generally low quality hides), it will be impossible to smoothly wrap the leather around the frame as described in Step 3.
- thin cardboard: for use as the “frame." I used the back of a notepad. A cereal box will also work. I spray-glued together two layers (one was too flimsy; three was too thick)
- thick felt: for use as padding; I spray-glued together two 1/8" thick sheets to make 1/4" thick sheet
- masking tape: cut into narrow 1 inch strips; you will need a couple dozen strips
- contact cement: I used DAP brand
- superglue
- disposable single edge razor blade: use a fresh one for cleanest cuts
- very sharp scissors
- pen
- cutting board

PROCEDURE (to install my pre-made headbands, follow steps highlighted in BOLD)

Step 1: Separate plastic "block" from metal headband. You only need to this on one side, take your pick. Grab hold of headband assembly as pictured...
Twist plastic block back and forth along the axis of metal headband. Start off with light twisting force and gradually increase force until you hear a cracking sound (yes, it's scary!). The glue bond should now be broken and you can pull out the metal headband from the block. If not, twist some more or work on the other side as it may not be glued as tightly. Slide off the vinyl headband.
Step 2: Use vinyl headband as a template to cut cardboard "frame"...
You will need to slightly shorten and taper the ends of the frame after cutting. Test fit frame onto metal headband to be sure of correct length. Also, draw a centerline bisecting the frame.
Step 3: Cut two pieces of leather larger than frame (only one is shown in the pic; other leather piece will be used later)...
Wrap leather piece around frame and secure edges with tape. This step is VERY time consuming (may take over an hour). It involves alot of retaping, trimming, and stretching to get the leather edges to join (not overlap) cleanly in the middle while wrapping smoothly and evenly along the length of the frame. If you used a thicker and/or non-stretchy leather, this will be impossible to do. Use the centerline as guide to join the two edges of leather. Once taping is done, firmly press down along the tape line to smooth things out and get max adhesion. Here is how it should look if done correctly...
Step 4: Make felt padding; it should be around 1/8" narrower than frame on both sides and tapered on both ends
Step 5: Apply liberal amount of contact cement to entire side of headband that has the tape (use two thick coats)...
Step 6: Stick on felt padding...
Step 7: Lay other piece of leather over felt and FIRMLY squeeze together the leather pieces...
Here is how it should look when finished...
Step 8: Trim off excess leather with razor blade, being careful not to nick wrapped edges!
Use one continuous cutting motion for smoothest cuts. Seal edges (not the ends!) of headband with cement by using a screwdriver to dab small amounts of cement between the two layers of leather and squeezing them together. Allow cement to dry for several hours.
Step 9: Gently pre-bend headband into curve before installation...
Step 10: SLOWLY and GENTLY slide metal headband through "upper" side of frame exactly as pictured...
Be careful not to stretch the leather as you do this. Metal headband should run down center of leather headband.

<<<DO NOT slide the metal band through the "bottom" or padded side of frame as this will tear through the taped edges and felt padding!>>>

Step 11: Reattach plastic block. Check for fitment. There should be little to no gap between ends of headband and each plastic "L" and "R" block. If too long, slide off headband and trim down ends. Once fitment is correct, superglue end of metal headband and reinsert into the block. Once superglued, you will no longer be able to pull it apart ever again! You may want to use a less permanent adhesive (e.g. hot glue).


The leather headband turned out alot better than I anticipated. It looks (and smells) great and is quite comfortable. It makes my SR225 feel and look less like a cheap plastic toy. The headband actually looks better and is of higher quality than the one that came on my MS-Pro.

I stressed-tested one of my DIY headbands by twisting it like a pretzel and jamming a screwdriver into it to rip it apart...
Here is a pic after I straightened it out...
As you can see, despite looking tattered, it held together very well and was very much still usable. Therefore, the construction of my headbands should hold up well under normal use despite the lack of stitching.
post #2 of 82
Now that is one EXTREMELY NEAT JOB!
Well done!
post #3 of 82
This is neat! I could definitely use this for my Grado. I can't stand the headband as is.
post #4 of 82
That's a very nice, neat job. I've been planning to do a similar version for my HF-1s, although i was going to stitch rather than glue ... but my sewing machine wasn't up to the task. Might have to get some contact cement and try this method
post #5 of 82
Very, very nicely done.

Originally Posted by Rav View Post
... but my sewing machine wasn't up to the task.
Same here
I had visions of mine looking nice and neat, but instead wound up with a messy stitching along the back edge. Disappointing, but comfortable none-the-less.

I love the burgandy leather I used, so I may take some pointers from this and retry using this method.

Thanks for a great pictorial kontai69, it will be a huge help.
post #6 of 82
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the feedback guys. Since, I don't have a sewing machine, I would have to "hire" someone to make the stitches. With my luck, they will do a sloppy job after I spent so much time making everything "perfect."

I think a leather needle and upholstery thread is required to do the job right. I would actually handstitch the headband myself if I can find a way to make the "needle" holes. I think there is a tool that can do this. Looks like a small pizza cutter with spikes.
post #7 of 82
kontai69, excellent instructional sequence of photos and text. Clear, simple, economical language. You're either a natural DIY instructor or you spent a lot of time putting this tutorial together. Dunno what your profession is, but you could make a very comfortable living publishing DIY material. I don't even have these cans, but I read the entire piece, viewing all the pix. Good job!
post #8 of 82
Nice work there!
post #9 of 82
My jaw dropped when I saw this mod. Great idea!

I might have to try this, IMO the Grado headband is one of the biggest flaws of the design.
post #10 of 82
Super job!
post #11 of 82
Forking nice job K69 !
mr.shoe maker...
post #12 of 82
Super job - and please keep the howto pics hosted!
My Beyer pads slowly begin to wear off, that is a good alternative DIY to be done on a rainy autumn weekend.

Superglue & leather works indeed astonishingly well. That is how I keep my watch bracelets alive...anybody ever tried sewing leather? I tell you, that is pure pain in the ass.
post #13 of 82
Certainly much better than the attempt I made at softening up the headband. Getting some foam that came with a motherboard in the box and wrapping it around and using some electrical tape to hold it on
post #14 of 82
Nice job and thanks for the tutorial.
post #15 of 82
Top job. It looks very professional.

Grados should soon become available with a padded leather band either as standard or an option.
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