Following on from making Andy a rifle cartridge case, he asked if I could make a leather sheath for a ‘hunting’ knife he’d made for gralloching culled deer in the field. Essentially it is an adapted kitchen knife with the blade reduce down to around 5”.
The plan was to wet mould a relatively thick piece of leather which would incorporate a retaining strap and have a loop for a belt up to 2” wide. The retaining strap locates over a bullet cartridge fixed to the knife butt. This meant the belt loop had to be a separate piece sewn on to the sheath, although this neatly avoids having an exposed flesh side for the loop which I think looks scruffy.
Leather : Jean Belt in Malt 3-4-3.6mm from AA Crack, Thread: Vinymo MTB colour #102 size 0.5mm
The pattern was made from a thick sheet of paper folded in half to align with the spine of the knife. The outline of the knife was traced and a generous allowance of 20mm added. The retaining strap extending upwards from the spine, although the detail of this was left until later.
I decided to go for a lighter tan colour but this would darken once Sno-Seal wax is applied to make the leather more water resistant.
A groove gouge was used to remove material from the inside of the sheath, which would assist in folding during the wet moulding process.
The leather was then immersed in warm water for a period of 30 minutes to ensure it is fully soaked. With hindsight, the use of warm to hot water and the duration of the soaking was wrong. So essentially the only bit I got right was the use of water!! The temperature and duration caused much of the leather dye to leech out.
The knife wrapped in cling film to protect it during wet moulding. This is probably more important when the handle is made of a more absorbant material however, being ivory in colour, I was concerned the dye might discolour it.
The leather is then just wrapped around the knife and then moulded tot its shape, working from the spine to the knife edge. The hardest area is around the transition from the handle to the blade as the excess leather tends to push the blade away from the sheath’s spine. Continual working eventually stretches the leather to adopt a good fit. Everything is then clamped in place, using protective pieces of leather, until the moisture content was reduced causing the leather to stiffen. Before it is fully dry the knife is removed. This allows the leather to shrink as it completely dries out to give a tighter fit.
The warm lighting in the photo masks the fact that much of the tan colour has been leeched out leaving the shealth’s colour washed out and insipid. Therefore I’ll need to apply some dye later on. At this stage a welt is cut out to be glued and stitched into the closing edge. This avoids the knife’s blade from cutting the stitching when the knife is pushed into the sheath.
The areas that will be in contact with the welt are sanded to provide a better bonding surface for the adhesive.
This photo gives a better impression of how the original tan dye has been washed away during the wet moulding. I decided to apply some English Bridle tan dye to remedy this.
The belt loop needs to be stitched on before closing the sheath. Again mating surfaces were sanded to aid bonding and the ends of the loop skived down to reduce their bulk.
I applied too many coats of dye which resulted in the sheath being much darker than I had intended. The other issue is that I found the applied dye is not as colourfast as hoped and it ended up slightly dying the cream thread.
The retaining strap needs a 10mm hole to fit over the bullet cartridge so I made it 22mm wide. This made it look rather agricultural and bulky, so I decided to reduce the width to 15mm for the majority of its length.
The cut edge – dyed and burnished to a smoot, shiny finish.
The completed sheath. I’m not entirely happy with it as it’s too dark and I was probably 1/2 mm too tight with the stitching line around the handle area, so I think it’s too tight a fit. I decided to make a new one but this time I’l use cold water and a soaking time of 15 minutes.