If you are looking for a leather knife sheath to house your knife, making your own pouch-type sheath is a relatively simple process. For those who love to sink their teeth into a DIY leather project, or just can’t find a quality sheath to protect their knife, then this project is ideal.
A sheath allows you to carry your knife wherever you may travel. You can then use it as and, when you need to, stow it away when finished. A leather knife sheath works particularly well on fixed blade knives and is extremely durable. Enhancing your knife collection has never been easier or more practical.
What do you need to make a knife sheath?
- Vegetable Tanned Leather
- Waxed Nylon Thread
- Permanent Leather Glue (Contact Cement)
- Pure Neat’s-Foot Leather Oil
- Leather Dye (Paint brush or daubers)
What tools do you need to make the task simpler?
- Paper and Pencil
- Masking Tape
- Utility Knife/Stylus and Razor Blade
- Belt Grinder/Fine Grit Sandpaper/Wood Rasp
- Leather Hammer and Decorative Stamps
- Overstitch Wheel
- Awl/Drill Press and Drill Bit
- Sewing Needles
- Pointy-Nose Pliers
- Spray Bottle
- Leather Hole Punch
A 12-step process:
1. Design the sheath.
Trace out the knife on a piece of paper, complete with handle, and create your classic sheath around it allowing suitable room for stitching. If easier, you can draw a dotted line down the middle of the page indicating the fold in the leather, so the reverse side is equal in size. Don’t forget to add enough leather on the reverse for the belt loop (this does not need to be mirrored on the front). Cut out your paper pattern to transfer onto the leather. Note the front and the back can be cut in one piece to save stitching. You will also need to plan for a welt or spacer for the knife blade, which can be modeled on the curved edge of the sheath. This is the only separate piece necessary to complete the task.
2. Cut out the leather.
Tape the pattern onto the leather and pencil it on the leather itself. Transfer it to a cutting board so you can cut out the leather. You can either use a utility knife or opt for a stylus and razor blade for trimming. The stylus is helpful for poking holes in the leather on corners and other tricky contours of your design before subsequently cutting with the razor blade. Sanding the edges is optional at this stage of the game.
3. Mark out the borders and design.
Define the boundaries for stitching or gluing (or both). Punch a hole in the center near the base of the sheath for the addition of the welt, and add a slot from the hole to the bottom of the leather. If you are planning on stamping the border, now is the time. If easier, you can wet the leather with water from a spray bottle to soften it a little; you may have to do this more than once throughout the process. You may also want to practice your stamping on a scrap of leather to experiment with your design beforehand. A solid work surface is necessary for even patterning. A compass may help you maintain even borders.
4. Mark out the stitch holes and drill.
Next, mark out the stitch holes on the belt loop. Again, a compass may help you keep equidistance from the edge. Once you have your spacing, you can drill with a drill bit or mark with an awl. You can then trace over it with an overstitch wheel.
5. Dye the leather.
If you are interested in dyeing the leather, proceed with caution. Wearing protective gloves is recommended to avoid staining your fingers. You may need to go over particular areas, such as the stamped designs, a couple of times. You can also spread dye onto the welt and the upper inside of the sheath using a dauber or a paint brush.
6. Glue the leather on the belt loop.
Leather should be sanded or roughened with a wood rasp before gluing. Fold over the belt loop and mark the area for stitching. You can choose to glue, or glue and stitch, for a solid finish. Contact cement is the best way to fix the leather joints together. It will be adequate in strength if you don’t wish to finish with stitching for extra reinforcement. Apply to both surfaces, wait; press together and leave to set.
7. Drill stitch holes and sew (if applicable).
Drill out the stitch holes and sew the belt loops. You will need to stitch the entire seam area. Nose pliers can be useful to help pull the thread through the stitch holes. Melt the thread ends with a match.
8. Glue the welt to the sheath.
Mark the area where the welt is to be glued, and join the welt to the sheath with contact cement. Leave the glue to set firmly. The welt should be slightly longer than necessary and will need to be pushed up through the slot. Take your time with the gluing process to avoid making any errors.
9. Squeeze the sheath together.
It is important that you press the sheath together firmly. Start at the top and work your way down to the point of the sheath. Fold and trim the excess of the welt and sand the edges with a belt grinder, wood rasp, or sandpaper. Now you can proceed to dye the edges to match the base color.
Mark the stitching on the sheath with the awl or the overstitch wheel. Drill through the three layers of leather and stitch as necessary. Again, you can use pliers to assist in pulling the needle through. Melt the thread ends to stop them from unraveling.
11. Slip your knife in the sheath.
Put your knife in the sheath and squeeze down on the leather to see how it fits. Remove and dry.
12. Buff it up.
Shine with a clean cloth and add quality neat’s-foot oil to line the leather. As soon as it is dry, the sheath will be better protected, not to mention water resistant. You should, if everything has gone according to plan, have one very smart-looking leather sheath in which to house your knife.
Now that you have the hang of this leather project, you can start creating sheaths for other knives in your collections.