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Making a Leather Knife Sheath

Updated: Nov 7, 2021

Whether a hunting knife or an EDC,
keep it safely at your side

Because every once in a while I make one or several knives, it seemed appropriate that I also make leather sheaths for some of them. And that’s how my leather work began.

Growing up with a shoe cobbler next door, in a time when shoes had real leather soles, I am familiar with the double needle hand stitching, the use of beeswax for waxing the thread, and that of an owl for stabbing the holes prior to sewing. Something that I knew nothing about was the moulding of leather and so, I took Van Gogh’s advice, who said, “I am always doing what I cannot do yet, in order that I may learn how to do it”.

The first sheath I made was for a friction folder that I had made a while back. To make the mould I used some poplar lumber but any softer woods such as pine or linden are good, because of the ease of working them. This too starts out with a sketch of what I want the sheath to look like. After laying out the components of the mould, I cut them on the scroll saw. I’ll just call them “male” and “female”, where the “male” is the size of the knife and the female, the negative where the leather is pressed in. This is larger so that it allows for the thickness of the leather. I then radius the edges where the leather is pressed in. The piece of leather I’m using should be about 1 inch (26 mm) larger than the finished sheath, this will help while sewing it together and the excess will be trimmed off at the end.

Prior to pressing it into the mould, I soak the leather in warm water to make it soft and pliable and then use a couple of clamps to press it in. I leave it in the mould overnight, so that when I take it out it’s dry. Before I start to sew the two pieces together, I need to attach the snap on the front piece, and the belt loop onto the back one.

After this, using contact cement, I attach the two pieces together in the exact position they should be and I’m ready to start sewing. I use a pricking wheel with the appropriate spacing for the stitches. The wheel only leaves marks that I then stab through with a diamond shaped owl. In order to have both hands free for double needle stitching, I hold the sheath securely in the stitching pony, and this is where the extra leather comes in handy.

When the stitching is done, with the knife in place, I mark the location of the snap, punch the hole and attach it. Next, I trim the excess leather leaving 1/8in (3mm) outside the stiches, sand the edges all around and after applying some shoe polish wax, I burnish it with a wooden burnisher.

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