Leather and a few basic tools yield custom results
Create your own knife sheath
Every sharp or pointy metal tool needs a sheath, a good leather covering that protects the finely honed edge and provides safety for the operator and bystanders. Making a custom sheath for your favorite knife is a worthwhile project that can be completed in a single evening using the right tools and supplies.
Arrange Your Supplies
Besides the knife, you’ll need a few other tools and materials, with leather, of course, being the most important. It must be thick enough to hold its shape, but still bend pliably without cracking. Six- to 8-ounce vegetable-tanned cowhide works well.
Of course, the amount of leather needed depends on the knife’s size and shape. After making a pattern, you’ll know how much leather you need. You’ll also need heavy scissors for cutting the leather, a leather punch or awl, ink pen, two needles and false sinew or heavy waxed thread. You’ll also need some heavy paper for making a pattern.
The first step in making a custom knife sheath is deciding on which side of your belt you want to wear your knife. The accompanying photos show a knife sheath that’s meant to be worn on the right side. For wearing on the left side, the pattern must be reversed.
Create a Pattern
Making a good pattern is the most important part of this project. Be patient, because it may take several attempts to achieve a perfect pattern for a custom fit with your knife. To make the pattern, lay the knife flat on a piece of paper and draw around the blade. Leave a 3/8-inch barrier all the way around to allow for folding and stitching. Above the pattern’s blade portion, leave a long strip about 1 ½ inches wide to form a belt loop. This strip will be folded down and sewn to itself, creating a loop large enough to accommodate a 2-inch-wide belt. Fold the pattern up and staple the edges to check the fit.
I like to measure the stitches on the paper pattern just to make sure everything is even.
Mark and Cut the Leather
Once you have the paper pattern perfected, trace it onto the leather with an ink pen. Mark it out on the backside of the leather, because ink on the front side tends to show up on the finished work. Stop and think about this: Since you’re marking it out on the back of the leather, you must turn your paper pattern over. It’s easy to do this backwards and end up wearing the knife on the side opposite from planned. Of course, I learned this lesson the hard way.
Use heavy scissors to cut out the shape from the leather. From the same leather, cut a 3/8-inch-wide curved piece to use as a welt to be sewn into the sheath on the sharp side of the blade. This welt, or spacer, keeps the blade from cutting the stitches when the knife is returned to the sheath.
Put it all Together
To assemble the knife sheath, sew the belt loop first. After folding the strip down, measure out the stitches and punch the holes with a leather punch or awl. Prepare a length of false sinew or heavy waxed thread with a needle on each end. Sew by passing each needle through the same hole from opposite directions before advancing to the next hole. This saddle stitch forms a strong, attractive seam. Hide the end knot inside the belt loop.
Next, measure and punch the holes along one side of the sheath. Glue the welt piece temporarily in place along the other side of the sheath. This will hold it securely in place as you fold the sheath closed. Next, line up everything and punch holes all the way through the welt and the other side of the leather. Prepare a long length of thread with a needle on each end, and beginning at the tip, saddle stitch the sheath closed. Hide the end knot inside of the belt loop for a professional, finished look.
Dye it for a Custom Look
To finish the knife sheath, you may want to color it with leather dye or boot polish. Then, give it a good buffing with a boot brush to bring the leather to a striking shine.
Wear your belt knife proudly. When people admire your custom sheath, you can tell them, “I made it myself.”
2 1 The author’s belt knife is lying on the paper pattern. The left-side strip will be folded on the dashed line and sewn down to make the belt loop. The top part will fold down over the blade. 2 The pattern is marked on the backside of the leather...