Leather sheath walkthrough

Discussion in 'DIY (Do It Yourself)' started by Grog, Sep 17, 2016.

  1. Grog

    Grog Member

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    Thought about putting this in the leather working thread but it's pretty pic intensive and I don't want to put people off from going through that. This is how I did a sheath for a Carothers Performance Knives Field Knife. Superb knife, second sheath I've done for one. Props as always to Paul Long's wonderful DVD's and helpful comments and pointers on the Sheaths subforum, Chuck Burrows Custom Knife Sheaths DVD, Dwayne Puckett aka leatherman of Armorall Leather, and a myriad of other fantastic resources available online. This is partly a tutorial, partly showing what I do and opening it up for criticism or advice.

    I didn't decide to start taking pictures of everything until I already had this one transferred to manilla stock. It's probably worth it's own separate topic in any case. Basically I made a center line on a piece of graph paper, drew another line a half inch off that one, and traced the knife outline. I marked a 1/8" gap along the outside of the design to allow room to fit into the welt, then drew another line 1/2" off that to allow for a full 1/2" welt. It's then folded over carefully to mark the other side then the belt loop is drawn in. Keep in mind that if you want to add a dangler loop you'll need to account for that in the size of the loop. Transfer it to some kind of heavier stock if you want to keep the pattern around, make sure you transfer the center line over also.

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    Make sure you have a clean, uncluttered work space. Or, this, crammed into your kitchen :)

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    The pattern is carefully marked out on the leather. I use 8-9oz veg tanned leather from RJF leather and I need more. Gotta start shaking my money maker on the corner or something. Mark the center line with a couple jabs from an awl.

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    I use all of these to cut out the leather. The round knife is the best in general for me but this particular one from Tandy doesn't hold an edge worth a dang.

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    Cut out and the center line marked. Red ink doesn't show up through any of the dyes I've used and you'll be cutting it anyways. Do not mark all the way to the edges, stay 1/2" away. Going from that pic ^ to this one is my absolute least favorite part of the process.

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    I hit the edges lightly with a used 120 grit belt on my belt grinder then cut a line 1/2" from the outside with the adjustable stitch groover, stopping at the center line.

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    Using this stitch groover I cut the marked center line, using a straight edge to keep the line nice and crisp.

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    I'm just going to tool the blade portion mostly so I draw a light line where the handle is going to be and use a smooth beveling tool and maul to bevel along the interior of the line just cut. This will add depth to the tooled portion.

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    I marked a light diagonal line and started my first line of offset marks with my basket weave tool, in this case a Craftool X510S. I flubbed one of my marks and will have to correct it as I go along. You will have to tilt the tool to get close to the edge but you don't have to try and go all the way there.

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    Basket weave portion completed.

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    Next I used a D436 border stamp tight up against the edge that was beveled earlier. Put a couple other lines above it just because with a veiner tool. I think that's what it is called anyways.

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    Using the adjustable stitch groover again a line is cut for the stitching on the belt loop. Stitch holes are marked for the stitch holes with the adjustable stitch groover then deepened with an awl.

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  2. Grog

    Grog Member

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    Connecting the two sides. The holes will rarely come out perfectly spaced, I opt for more, tighter stitches if this happens.

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    Skiving the end of the belt loop down. A skiving knife would be great but this Boker USA knife takes a fantastic edge and does well.

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    Using a number 4 edge beveler I knock the shoulders off along the sides (NOT the tip) of the belt loop and along the portion that will form the throat of the sheath.

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    Since it'll be difficult or impossible to do later I use my wooden edge slicker and gum tragacanth to smooth up the edges of the same part just beveled, smoothing the outer edge of the tip of the loop also.

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    Time to dye! Arr. I'm using tan antique gel so I spread it on liberally and rub it in with the sheepskin stuff then wipe across with a paper towel wrapped around a ruler. This lets the dye accumulate down in the parts cut into the leather by the tooling marks.

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    Dye applied and wiped down. I walked off and let it sit under a fan for about 15 minutes to dry.

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    Fold the belt loop over and mark the area that was marked to be sewn earlier then use some sandpaper to rough up this portion. The area that is going to be covered by the belt loop gets some Montana Pitch Blend rubbed in- again it'll be hard or impossible to do after the loop is formed.

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    Time to apply your adhesive of choice. I use Weldwood contact cement or barge cement. Once applied it needs to sit for at least 15 minutes. I usually apply a couple coats then start a timer.

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    Once the cement is ready the loop end is carefully lined up then firmly pressed into the sheath portion then tapped down with a mallet. Try not to hit the sheath like my dumb ass did here.

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    I usually let the cement cure for at least a couple hours if not overnight before I work it any more but I'm not sure that's really necessary. I definitely wouldn't put any pressure on it right away though. I use an awl chucked up in my drill press to punch the holes marked earlier then on the interior of the sheath I use the stitch groover to recess where the stitching will go. Don't want that sharp as sin knife to catch on and cut the stitching.

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    I mark on the interior of the sheath where the welt will go then apply a coat of Tan-Kote everywhere the welt will not be right on up the belt loop, staying off the exterior of the sheath elsewhere. If you want to skive down the center to get a tighter fold on your sheath this should be done beforehand but I don't find it necessary.

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    Belt loop sewn up with Tiger Thread. Similar to making a pattern, hand sewing probably deserves its own post. I almost messed my pants when I saw how expensive the Tiger Thread is, I had excellent results with Tandy's waxed nylon thread also. The Tiger Thread lays down very nice and the wax doesn't get pulled off but I had more problems with punching the needle back through the previous thread. If you're going to hand sew do yourself a favor and get a stitching pony at least, it makes the process much better.

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    Marking out the welt to be cut out. The interior portion and ends needs to be cut out precisely but I leave about 1/8" of excess on the outside, just in case.

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    Lay the welt on the interior to check and make sure everything is lining up right.

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    Two coats of contact cement down. This is messy and usually drives me a little crazy. Trying to find a way to set the welt down without one of the cemented sides being laid down on something is frustrating, I've stood there like an idiot holding it for 15 minutes before. I forgot to apply Tan-Kote to the interior of the welt portion before and do it while the cement dries.

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    Leaving room for the welt to fold over I lay it down along the front of the sheath first then fold the back side over. Then it gets a little judicious beating from the mallet.

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    Trimmed the edge carefully with the knife then hit it lightly with the 120 grit belt on the sander.

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    Edges are rounded with the number 4 beveler.

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    Edges sanded with dry then wet 220 grit sandpaper.

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  3. Grog

    Grog Member

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    Likewise with dry then wet 400 grit sandpaper.

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    Gum tragacanth and the wooden slicker applied with a heaping amount of elbow grease.

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    Desperately seeking tennis elbow now, with a piece of antler this time.

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    I messed up and skipped taking some pictures in this process. The stitch line was marked with the stitch groover then the stitch holes were marked with the overstitch wheel and deepened with the awl. Then it's back to the awl chucked up in the drill press to punch the holes. It is HARD to try and get the holes perpendicular and even on the back of the sheath, I have to take a couple breaks in the process and it's still never as perfect as I want it.

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    With the stitch pony and a comfortable seat it was 35 minutes to sew this up. Quite the improvement over the hour plus it used to take me . When I measure the thread needed I lay the thread along the line to be sewn, double it, then double it two more times. 8x the length seems about right. Once it's sewn I test the knife for fit for the first time. Thank goodness, it fits, and it fits well!

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    The retention is very good already but a little wetforming is in order. I wet the sheath inside and out, insert the knife and press tightly against the leather along the contours of the handle. Be CAREFUL of your fingernails, with wet leather you can cut a line in very easily. I'm not going for a fully molded impression of the knife, just deepening the recesses along the contours of the handle. Then I remove the knife, remold the impressions a bit, and let it sit in front of a fan for a day.

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    After trying the knife out a few more times in the sheath and being happy with it I put on another coat of dye and stick it back under the fan.

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    There are a dazzling amount of leather finishes, I like Fiebing's Leather Balm and Montana Pitch Blend. The only acrylic finish I use is Resolene and that's as a resistor for carved pieces. I opt for Montana Pitch Blend on this one, rubbing in a liberal coat with my fingers first.

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    Then I treat it like a pair of boots needing polished, buffing it in with a shoe brush first then a cotton T-shirt. And here it is. It's not perfect but it is a dang fine piece of work. Few things I've done feel as satisfying as finishing a project like this and being pleased enough with the result to share it.

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    Here's the back side. I forgot to mention that before sewing you want to really dig in with the overstitch wheel to recess those stitch lines as much as you can, back and front.

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    If you're still awake through all of that, thanks for following along! It'll get a couple more coats of the Montana Pitch Blend but it's ready to face the world now.
     
  4. Grog

    Grog Member

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    Holy ****. I don't know how accurate a measurement of time such things are but that took a half a bottle of Blanton's to format and post up. :confused:
     
  5. ozbushy

    ozbushy Member

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    Nice work @Grog cheers for posting it
     
  6. Grog

    Grog Member

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    Strangely enough some ************ had to pick a fight on Bladeforums directly afterwards, how weird. :mad:. ******* I hate passive aggressive bitches.
     
  7. Grog

    Grog Member

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    Thanks ozbushy, sorry about that. Little need for choke slamming should be right at home here yeah?
     
  8. 91bravo

    91bravo Guest

    Wow, that's a very in-depth write up! Thanks for sharing Grog!
     
  9. The Warrior

    The Warrior Member

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    Very nice man.
     
  10. mwramos76

    mwramos76 Member

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    Very very nice. Thanks for sharing
     
  11. RegaliaJoe

    RegaliaJoe Member

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    Very cool. Thanks for sharing.
     
  12. 91bravo

    91bravo Guest

    All I know is that sheath that came with the MMD I got from you, was bomb proof!
     
  13. Stagehand

    Stagehand Member

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    Very informative. Thanks!
     
  14. JAD

    JAD Member

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    @Grog Awesome post with great pics. I may never try this myself but I really like seeing the technique and how you guys do it.
     
  15. AddictedToSteel

    AddictedToSteel Member

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    That was a tutorial. I like your tutorial. Thanks.
     
  16. charles bower

    charles bower Member

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    I'll be bookmarking this thread. Thanks, Grog.
     
  17. Grog

    Grog Member

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    Much thanks, all around. If any of you fellas want to tackle this project and need some help I'm not always drunk and crazy, that's just on special nights :) Most of the time I'm pretty grounded. I'd love to help you with a leather sheath, all day.
     
  18. Rook52

    Rook52 Member

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    @Grog great post, thanks for taking the time. I always wanted to try to make my own sheath. I live pretty close to Tandy leather one of these days I'm going to get what I need to make a sheath. Very nice work!
     
  19. ozbushy

    ozbushy Member

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    @Grog Haha all good mate that's why I hang out on esee when online, most people are friendly and knowledgeable. Can also make fun of each other without getting butthurt
     
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