This past week had me in the workshop making a wet formed knife sheath. As with most everyone in the country, I am laying low for a while until the pandemic calms down a bit – life for us has not changed too much yet and I do hope all of you are doing well! Typically I am in the shop all week prepping orders and designing new goods. I guess I will keep at it!
In wet forming a knife sheath you basically take the leather and soak it, drape it over the knife, then use a bone folder proceed to work and stretch the leather into the exact shape of the knife. It makes for one very nice looking sheath that fits that exact knife perfectly. Almost too perfectly as you will see in the last video of this post! One trick to keep it from being too tight is to wrap the knife in a freezer bag before forming the leather around it.
Originally I meant this to be more of a follow along instead of a tutorial, so if you are looking for a step-by-step procedure, hold yer horses for a bit until I have some time to throw one together. It’s a lot of fun to make and does not require too many tools. If you would like me to make one for your knife, multi-tool, or other item – they are now available in the shop here.
Laying out the pattern for the sheath, I made sure there would be enough leather to stitch close to the knife as well as close to the edge of the leather. The belt holes are best placed a bit out from both by about 1/2 inch.
Using the front template I made a back template with a longer flap than needed so I can cut it down to fit when everything is put together.
Above, I have cut out a larger than needed piece of 8/9 oz leather, soaked it in warm water, screwed it to a piece of plywood, and pushed the knife down into it. Here you can also see the beginnings of forming and stretching the leather around the knife. I used a bone folder, a piece of deer antler, and a few modeling spoons.
It takes a while to really get the shape in there, though it is a fun process. Almost like molding clay in many ways.
It’s amazing how much leather stretches when you wet it thoroughly.
I cut the backside out larger than needed and glued up the surfaces. There are different theories on glue depending on the leatherworker. Mine is this – it is intended to hold the pieces together while you stitch. The stitch is what ultimately holds over time, not the glue so I give less importance to it. I also tend not to use the highly toxic versions of contact cement. No point in inhaling those fumes if all you need is a temporary bond. All glues will give out at some point, whether the glue itself dries up and cracks, or the item it is stuck to gives and tears off.
Here’s a short video showing the stitching around the formed part and along the edges. Learning from experience, the next version will be stitched first, then wet molded.
Above shows the process of smoothing out the marks made by the sewing machine, then adding a decorative line along the flap.
Here I am hot wax dipping then on to waxing up the edge by hand and polishing a nice shine on it.
Above and below is a look at the final sheath with a directional snap installed. The style of snap only allows it to unbutton by pulling from the bottom upwards, a nice feature to have if you think the flap may occasionally hit things.
Here is the finished piece next to my knife. The slots are offset to allow for a forward ‘cant’ on the belt. It makes pulling the knife out easier if you tend to wear it further back on your belt.
This piece was hot wax dipped in beeswax to give it a final finish and waterproofing. Again – no chemicals needed, it’s just a bit more work to apply.
Next time when I build this sheath I will wrap the knife in a ziplock bag first. This gives a bit more room in the leather so that the knife wont be so tightly held in place.
You can now find these sheaths available for purchase and custom made to fit your item – in my shop here. Thank you and take care!