A Knife Sheath to Last

Make your own sturdy leather knife sheath to protect your favorite blade.

  • Knive sheaths make great gifts.
    Photo by Getty Images/FotoCuisinette
  • Roll the knife with the broad side parallel to the folder crease.
    Photo by Jim Sowers
  • Draw a dotted line at least 1⁄2 inch around the edge of the knife.
    Photo by Jim Sowers
  • Draw your belt loop.
    Photo by Jim Sowers
  • Cut out your pattern.
    Photo by Jim Sowers
  • Test the fit.
    Photo by Jim Sowers
  • Trace the pattern onto your leather.
    Photo by Jim Sowers
  • Cut out the welt from the leather.
    Photo by Jim Sowers
  • A leather groover makes folding easier.
    Photo by Jim Sowers
  • Test fit your welt pattern.
    Photo by Jim Sowers
  • Shave the bottom edge of the welt, called skiving.
    Photo by Jim Sowers
  • Place stitch grooves if you choose.
    Photo by Jim Sowers
  • After stamping, a coat of neatsfoot oil conditions the leather.
    Photo by Jim Sowers
  • Size up the belt loop.
    Photo by Jim Sowers
  • Glue and clamp the belt loop.
    Photo by Jim Sowers
  • Mark where the stitches will go.
    Photo by Jim Sowers
  • Sew the belt loop, or use rivets.
    Photo by Jim Sowers
  • Tan-Kote helps protect and seal the leather inside the sheath.
    Photo by Jim Sowers
  • Glue the welt into place.
    Photo by Jim Sowers
  • Pricking irons are helpful for evenly spacing marks for the stitching.
    Photo by Jim Sowers
  • After the welt is glued in place and stitching marks are made, the sheath can be glued and clamped shut.
    Photo by Jim Sowers
  • Excess welt can be sanded smooth.
    Photo by Jim Sowers
  • Burnishing the leather with a piece of canvas helps seal the leather further to protect from dirt and other debris.
    Photo by Jim Sowers
  • An optional step is to use an edge beveler to round off the edge of the sheath.
    Photo by Jim Sowers
  • The final product will last you for years to come.
    Photo by Jim Sowers
  • A homemade knife sheath is a fun introduction into leatherworking.
    Illustration by Brad Anderson Illustration

One critical step to making sure your knife stays sharp and well-protected is to have a good, strong knife sheath in which to stow it when not in use. The following are the steps I use to make my sheaths. I’ll show you how to make a pattern to fit a knife you already have, cut the pattern out, and assemble a good strong sheath that should last for many years. But I’ll leave out a few of the more intricate parts of the process, like stamping and saddle stitching. These steps aren’t pertinent to assembling a workable sheath. Information on either of these is fairly easy to find online these days.

Let’s start with a basic sheath.

Materials and tool list

You don’t need the fancy tools to make a good, strong sheath. The tools help, but aren’t necessary.

• 1 piece of 7⁄8-ounce vegetable tanned “belly” leather
• 2 manila folders or other strong paper
• Pencils
• Ruler
• Sharp utility knife
• 150-grit sandpaper
• Neatsfoot oil
• Strong leather sewing thread or copper rivets
• 2 leather sewing needles
• Contact cement

• Leather sealer (like Tan-Kote)
• Edge beveler tool
• Leather v-groover tool
• Leather stitch groover tool
• Leather overstitch wheel
• Mink oil or Sno-Seal
• Vise to hold the sheath while sewing

Sketching the pattern

First, make a paper pattern. These instructions will be for a right-hand sheath. I use manila file folders to trace my patterns. They already have a fold in the center, and they are strong enough to hold up to repeated use if you want to make more than one of the same sheath.

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