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Skye Knives, Glendale, Isle of Skye, IV55 8WY.

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Workshop ~ Hand-Sewn Leather Knife Sheaths

 

Most of my knife sheaths are made of veg-tanned cowhide, although my tantos, kwaiken and other Japanese-style knives often have wooden sheaths, as do some of my dirks and daggers. (Sgian Dubhs mostly have the traditional copper-with-goatskin construction, but some are all leather, and others carved wood.) All my leather sheaths are hand-sewn for strength, and coloured with ecologically sound water-based dyes. The finish and leather are then protected with a wax or acrylic polish.

 

Bowie Sheath, Welted, Handsewn

 

Traditional leather knife sheath

The most common form of sheath is welted, as shown above: a single piece of leather is folded to encase the blade, with an extra strip saddle sewn between to take the sharp edge of the blade. Some sheath-makers prefer to use separate pieces for back and front with this construction, but for me the most important line in knife design is the spine, and so my sheaths are folded, with a single seam, to emphasise this. If a belt-loop is required, this is saddle-sewn on.

Twisted Pouch Sheath

 

Scandinavian style pouch sheath

I like this form of construction: with a traditionally shaped knife, like a puukko, the shape of the handle is designed to allow a properly formed pouch sheath to lock to the knife with a satisfying 'click'. In this style, the leather is folded around the knife and saddle-sewn along the blade edge, but without a welt. After sewing, the leather is wetted, and the whole sheath twisted around the knife to leave the seam on the reverse, away from the sharp edge. These sheaths traditionally have belt-loops 'keyed' in and unsewn. The wet leather is then carefully hand-tooled to conform perfectly to the different volumes of blade and hilt, often using sculptural forms for decoration.

 

Bodice Dagger with Blade Cover

 

Blade covers

An adaptation of Scandinavian-style sheaths, these are more appropriate for thin bladed knives. Using a butt-stitch eliminates the seam ridge characterstic of the Scandinavian style, but leaves no room for error in the leather cutting. The attractive cross-stich effect of the seam shows the leather edges meeting exactly. Again, these sheaths are twisted after sewing, so that the profile of the sheath exactly reflects the lines of the knife. If a belt-attachment is necessary, these sheaths are given separate leather 'frogs'.

 

Merovingian Seax Sheath

Seax Sheaths

This distinctive style is ancient: the seax (or sax) was carried edge-upright, hung horizontally from the belt with suspension loops attached through the wide welt. This type of hand sewn leather sheath combines features of modern traditional and Scandinavian sheaths - welted with the pouch 'locking' to the handle - and is very robust, but it is literally a pain to sew its long seams through three layers of leather!

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