Leather knife sheaths not only protect you and your knife from harm but, they also give a sense of aesthetic pleasure. When modeled on traditional designs from across the globe they also give a sense of living history and culture. You do not have to be into historical re-enactment to make your own traditional knife sheath.
You Will Need:
- Pencil and paper
- Leatherworking toolkit
- Leather dye (optional)
- Leather oil or Butcher’s Wax
- Cord and/or Contact Cement
Research the type of sheath you want to make. A traditional English sheath will differ from a traditional Arabian sheath. For the purposes of this article we are going to deal with a simple sheath design.
Design your sheath based on your research. First make rough sketches of the sheath you wish to make. Next measure your knife and draw a full-size sheath on paper. You will need to design a long piece, a short piece. Another option is to include welts or side pieces. A welt is a v-shaped side piece which gives the sheath a three-dimensional look to it. Another option to consider is a belt loop or a loop.
Make a prototype out of paper to make sure your design is good and that the knife fits. Do this by transferring your design on to a separate sheet of paper. You can do this by tracing it or by cutting out paper templates as you would on leather. You can also make a quick test using scrap leather and glue.
Making the Sheath
Put the leather, making sure it is in good condition, on a work board and transfer your drawings onto the leather using a pencil. The best way to do this is to draw around paper templates for each piece. Cut the shapes in the leather as cleanly as you can. Do not worry about getting the cut perfect first time because you can neaten it up with a smaller knife later. Of course, if you cut inside the line then you will have to start again. Too big is manageable, but too small is a disaster, so be careful.
Tooling your sheath is optional but a lot of people enjoy this part of the process. Soak your leather in hot water for 15 minutes to make it supple then pad it dry. Transfer any designs or patterns lightly with a pencil then use a tool to work the leather. Once finished you can paint, dye or leave the pattern as you desire.
Now you can assemble your sheath. Now you must decide if you want to use traditional or modern glues. Spread the glue along both sides of the leather along the edges, wait fifteen minutes for contact cement (great for leather) and then press the leather together. Contact cement will set on contact so make sure you get it right.
An alternative or addition to glue is stitching. Use an overstitcher or hole-punch to make evenly spaced holes around the edge of your long piece and short piece. Stitch the two pieces together or to the welt if you are using one. Cut off any excess cord.
The final step is to finish the sheath. First, cut off any rough edges with a small knife. Apply leather dye to your sheath and once dry seal with butcher’s wax. You can maintain and condition the leather with leather oil.
Wear your newly homemade knife sheath with pride. If at first you do not succeed, try again. Making objects like knife sheaths are all about practice. And the process is so simple you will no doubt want to make others, experiment with patterns and styles. The world is your leather knife sheath oyster so to speak.