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Thread: Working with leather, Knife sheaths, Holsters, etc

  1. #1
    Member Rancid Crabtree's Avatar
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    Jan 2014

    Default Working with leather, Knife sheaths, Holsters, etc

    I was asked in another thread to speak to working with and sewing leather so I will do so in this thread. These are MY methods (not to be confused with the only way to do it) its just how I go about working with leather.

    I will post some of the sheath work Ive done in the past.

    I like to use 8 Oz. Tooling leather. It always starts with a cardboard template that I fit to the knife until I am happy with the shape. Leather is not cheap but cardboard is free. Then I transfer the pattern to the leather.

    After folding the belt loop and attaching it with two brass rivets, I used a swivel knive to cut in an outline for a pattern I would be tooling into the leather.

    Then I wet the leather so the tooling will remain after the leather dries.

    I used a pear shaped shader to dimple the leather. Here's what it looks like after it dried.

    Next, I wetted the fold line, added a welt and used rubber cement to join the welt to both halves of the fold. The welt protects the stitches from the knife blade. Then I punched the stitching holes.

    After stitching, I trim the excess leather for an even outline. Then the sheath is soaked in water and fitted to the knife. Its like working with clay. The leather takes the shape and stays put while I use a hair dryer to dry the leather.

    While it might be hard to see, I stained the inner pattern with a little darker red/brown stain than the rest of the sheath. After staining, I apply neatsfoot oil and after two days wrapped in a paper towel, I give it a good rub down with warned mink oil. Now it's nicely waterproofed and has a good sheen.

    The same is true for the neck knife sheath.

  2. #2
    Member Rancid Crabtree's Avatar
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    A wetted (wet formed) leather sheath.

    I started with 8 Oz. leather for the face.

    in order not to trap the finger guard (and the knife) in the sheath. I had to build up the area behind the guard. I used foam and tape.

    I soaked the leather front and back.

    then started massaging the leather over the knife.

    It's kind of like working with a piece of balogna. The white thing a bone folder/creaser

    When finished. I set it in the sun to dry.

    When it dried and while I still had it on the form. I punched the lacing holes.

    Then I cut it out and used it as a template to make the back of the sheath. For this I used 8 Oz. leather

    To keep the leather from cracking during the bend, I got it wet.

    Then I glued and sewed the belt loop in place.

    I then added a deer head stamp to the face.

    Next, I cut the pieces for the welt out of the scrap from the face and glued them in place.

    Then I changed my mind and added a 2nd row of lacing holes To give it more strength.

    After stitching, I trimmed all around for an even margin.

    next, I wetted the edge and used the slicker to round it off.

    I want this sheath to have a deep rich color but also wanted to see some of the tan through the die so I diluted the stain with alcohol.

    Once thoroughly saturated, I let it sit for a few hours to dry.

    To waterproof the leather and give it a nice sheen, I used mink oil and then warmed the sheath of the burner of the stove to make it soak in.

    The knife and sheath are done.

  3. #3
    Member Rancid Crabtree's Avatar
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    This is a Taurus chambered in .357 magnum.

    It came without a holster so I needed to make one. Im not excited about having another thing to carry into the woods (especially something that weighs about 2 pounds when loaded). I've never made a holster before but it can't be too much different that a knife sheath.
    I started with a pattern I cut out of cereal box cardboard with approximate stitching lines.

    The holster will be made of two pieces of 8 Oz. tooling leather

    To hold the two pieces in place for working, I used rubber cement.

    Then added brass rivets in the stress areas and began punching lacing holes.

    I hand stitched it with a heavy , braided, brown, waxed, thread.

    I then added stitching around the outer edge.

    Then I wetted the leather for shaping to the contour of the gun.

    Here it is prior to molding the wet leather to the gun's details.

    Using a piece of bone and the back of a sharpie marker, I creased and molded the leather.

    After 10 minutes under a hair dryer, the shape is locked into the leather.

    Then it was time to cut belt loops. I punched holes at each end of the loops.

    And connected them with a razor knife.

    To smooth the lines, I used a sanding drum inside the slot.

    And then a larger sanding drum for the outside edge.

    Then I wetted the holster again and formed the hip curve and pre-shaped the belt loops as well and slicked the cut edges. Again a bit of time under a hair dryer locked in the shape.

    Despite rubbing the edge, its still a bit fuzzy, I will address this later.

    Then its time for a deep brown stain.


    Now to address those fuzzy edges. Edge kote is used on belts and billfolds and anywhere you want to protect, waterproof and smooth the cut edge of leather.

    After 2 coats and a bit of slicking with a bone.

    The wetting and heat used for drying and the alcohol base stain has really dried out the leather and made it very hard. Neatsfoot oil will restore those lost oils and be the first step in water proofing the leather.

    This darkens the leather even more.

    After letting the neatsfoot oil soak in I further seal and waterproof and conditioned the leather with warmed mink oil.

    The finished product. I have about 6 hours into it.

  4. #4
    Member Rancid Crabtree's Avatar
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    This Quiver is for my Son Josh. It goes with the Longbow I made for him. He does not like back quivers and thinks a hip quiver is ok but when I explained this quiver to him, he thought he would like it.

    I made a pattern from a piece of padding from when I installed hardwood floors in my dinning room. It is about as thick as the leather I am using but a bit more flexible. It makes a good prototype material.

    My biggest concern with having such a big opening in the side of the quiver is that, over time, as the leather softens, it will fold or collapse. I will reinforce the quiver to prevent that from happening.

    I am making the quiver out of 8 Oz. tooling leather.

    In order to stiffen the sides of the quiver, I stitched long strips of leather to the inside of the quiver.

    I left one end open so I could insert 3/32 dia. music wire the entire length of the quiver.

    the next step is to at a bit if stiffness and decoration to the opening.

    I stitched this piece of 5 Oz. leather to the quiver while flat (before shaping.

    The next step is to shape the quiver into it tubular shape. I wetted the leather to allow me to shape the quiver and then used a blow dryer to save a bit of time drying it off. I then marked an overlap and used rubber cement to join the to ends so that I could punch the stitching holes.

    With the bottom stitched, I joined both sides of the quiver opening.

    Then I cut a slot for the shoulder strap.

    Next, I added a piece to the bottom of the quiver that I could attach the other end of the shoulder strap to.

    And then gave it a bit of decoration and some stitching holes.

    Stitching the already rolled tube proved to be a real pain.

    For the bottom of the quiver, I used a piece of 3/4 inch thick pine.

    And then added a layer of foam to reduce the noise.

    The bottom is held in place with decorative nails.

    I do not have a large enough piece of leather to make a continuous shoulder strap so I have to join a few strips together that I cut out of one of my bigger pieces.

    I stained the quiver with a mixture of dark brown and oxblood to create a burgundy. I added about a tablespoon of this mixture to a pint of denatured alcohol. I did not want a dark stain but rather an antique look and I know the neatsfoot oil will darken the leather even more. Once the quiver was dry (blow dryer assisted) I applied brown edge kote to all the exposed edges of the leather. Once it dried, I polished it with a piece of bone.

    The next step was to return the oils to the leather that were lost during staining due to the alcohol and blow dryer. Without this step, the leather would crack when flexed. As you can see by the buckle on the right, the oil has a darkening effect on the leather.

    After a few hours sitting in the sun, the oils had soaked in and I applied a coat of mink oil to further moisten the leather and to waterproof it.

    The burgundy was a good color choice for this project.

    The end user seems satisfied.

  5. #5
    Member Rancid Crabtree's Avatar
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    A coworkers bought a sidearm but needed a holster and wanted to learn leatherworking. He asked that I teach him basic leatherworking. He wanted to do as much of the work himself as possible so I would show him on a portion of the project and he would complete each task.
    We started by making a few patterns out of cereal box paperboard until we arrived at what he wanted.

    Once we settled on the pattern we cut some 8 Oz. tooling leather. We wetted the leather and wet formed it to shape and contours of the handgun. We use a hand dryer to dry and lock the shape into the leather.

    Then he cut out a more refined shape.

    A backing piece of the same thickness was cut and after stamping stitching holes, the two parts were hand stitched together. Then we cut belt loops

    He had a holster for a snub nosed revolver he brought along because it featured a quick snap feature for the thumb and he wanted that feature on this holster. After a little experimenting, this is how it looks.

    Then we gave the holster a deep dark black die job followed by a good soaking in neatsfoot oil to restore the oils lost during working the leather. Then we rubbed it down with warmed mink oil to waterproof. He (and I) are pleased with the results.

    In all he made 3 trips to my shop that were each 3 hours long for a total of 9 hours to construct but this was a hands on learning project and could be repeated in about 4 hours.

  6. #6
    Member Rancid Crabtree's Avatar
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    Another knife sheath.

    I used the knife to make the pattern for the sheath. I always make a pattern out of my favorite leather substitute.............. Cereal box paper board. This sheath will hold the knife by friction with a deep pocket that goes part way up the handle. It is a one piece with a folded belt loop.

    Seems like a good fit.

    I then transfer the pattern to some creamy 8 Oz. Veg. tanned leather and cut it out with a razor knife.

    The first step is tapering the end of the belt loop so I have less bulk down in the pocket of the sheath.

    Then I crease and wet the leather to make the fold.

    I hold everything in place for stitching with rubber cement.

    Then punch the stitching holes with a forked punch.

    I want to see the stitching so I am using a waxed white cord. I put a needle at each end of the cord and stitch back and forth around the hole pattern.

    Before I fold the sheath in half, I add a welt made from 4 Oz. leather. It protects the stitching and adds a layer of leather thickness so the blade has room in the sheath.

    Once cemented, I wet the leather with a small paint brush and stamp in a pattern along the edge of where the stitching will go.

    And then punch the stitching holes.

    Using the same white cord and double needle method, I join the two sides and the welt.

    It's hard on the hands and a pliers is needed to pull the needle through but the end result looks pretty good.

    With the stitching complete, I trim off the excess leather.

    8 Oz. leather is pretty stiff but once wetted, It can be formed and molded like clay to the shape of the knife.

    A little time at the end of a blow dryer, locks the shape into the leather.

    The next step is to give it a bit of color. I mixed, brown and Ox Blood and a little alcohol to get the reddish brown I was looking for.

    Once all the alcohol is evaporated, I need to replace all the oils lost during the forming and dyeing process. I use warm neatsfoot oil and a cotton daubber. The oil also darkens the leather a bit more.

    After sitting for a few hours wrapped in a paper towel, I warm the sheath with a blow dryer and apply a rub down of mink oil to further condition and water proof the leather. It turned out pretty good considering it's humble beginnings and will hopefully protect the knife better than it protected the cow that once wore it.


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