My new (to me) way of making Scandi sheaths - very pic heavy!

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Draven

Native
Jul 8, 2006
1,530
5
31
Scotland
Howdy folks!
I love scandinavian knives and have always been impressed with how beautiful and functional the traditional designs are. That love has extended to the sheaths as well, which I had found somewhat intimidating. A couple years ago I made one for my enzo, which was a very drawn out process - precise measuring, lots of skiving leather and it didn't come out as well as I'd like. Well, I've been learning since then and I've picked up some much simpler methods from looking at pictures, blogs and forums. Last week knocked this up for a new Mora 1:
morasheath%20%281%29.jpg

It was still a bit wet when this pic was taken, and it has since been dyed - but I was extremely pleased with the result and it was much easier to make than my previous attempt. So I decided to do another for my Enzo and this time document the process for others to learn from my mistakes.

First up, I use a wooden liner for scandi sheaths - I like how it looks and the additional protection it affords. I imagine this being much less necessary with half-tan leather, but that's not very available here. I'm pretty used to making wood cores for sword scabbards, and this is simple by comparison - so the first bit of the tutorial is dedicated to that!

I started with scrap wood:
scandisheath01.jpg

These are all offcuts from the aforementioned sword scabbard making - they're poplar. I've also used pine and plywood with success. For a thin knife like a mora, it's probably easier to just carve out a recess for the blade in a piece of wood, but since this blade is thicker and I had some thin wood I sandwiched three layers together.

scandisheath03.jpg

These inner pieces were just shaped with a mora knife to match the enzo blade roughly. I always make liners for knives a bit oversize - retention should be supplied by the leather, not the liner. You don't want it dulling the knife or swelling a bit and gripping the knife!

scandisheath05.jpg

Here it is after thinning the walls a bit. I wanted them really thin - the leather will provide support for them once complete. Rough shaping was done with a mora knife, then the belt sander.

scandisheath06.jpg

I put the blade in the liner-half and marked the thickness so I could pare it down a bit.

scandisheath07.jpg

Other side glued

scandisheath08.jpg

A wing divider +pencil will help keep everything even when grinding, but since there's a color difference on this one it wasn't necessary, just did it to show it.

scandisheath09.jpg

I then beveled the liner like it was a knife blade, giving it a hexagonal section. This was just for aesthetics, as I would later burnish the leather to show this beveling as on the above Mora knife sheath.

scandisheath10.jpg


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It fits! note that I did leave a drain hole.

scandisheath12.jpg

Beeswax on the outside, linseed oil on the inside - those medical cotton swabs really help get the oil inside without saturating the thing. I wanted wax on the outside so the wet leather didn't swell the wood or cause it to delaminate, as I just used regular wood glue.

On to the leatherwork!
I moved inside for this bit as it's almost 40 degrees outside and SWMBO's away!

scandisheath13.jpg

This is the leather I used - probably about 2, maybe 2.5mm thick. Just plain veg tan.

scandisheath15.jpg

Here I'm marking the proportions. I want some excess at the tip end for the fishtail type tip, then I mark where the liner ends and where I want the sheath to end on the knife. Then I take the distance between those two marks and add it again to the end.

scandisheath16.jpg

Take a strip of leather (from the leather you're using so it's the same thickness) and wrap it around the thickest part of the handle that will be within the sheath. Mark it.

scandisheath17.jpg

Then I added 1.5" to it to get the total width of the leather necessary. This was barely enough - I wish I added 2".

scandisheath18.jpg

Cut out - as you can see, the leather is much bigger than you would think necessary. I promise it will become clear why!

scandisheath20.jpg

For some god awful reason I got the leather wet right after that, which was stupid. Anyway. Here I take the thick handle circumference I measured eariler (WITHOUT the 1.5" added) and mark it, centered, on the leather. In this pic it's marked right where I wanted the sheath to end but that was wrong - it should be about 1.5" above, which I correct momentarily. Then I take the leather again and this time measure the circumference of the grip right at the blade, and mark that and join it up in a nice curve.

scandisheath21.jpg

In this pic I still haven't realized I screwed up. I radiused the corners with a 3/8" punch.

scandisheath22.jpg

Now I realize it and feel silly.

scandisheath23.jpg

Fixed! As you can see here, the goal is to fold the top portion of the leather over - this gives you thick leather at the grip where you need it for retention and sturdiness while giving you thin leather around the liner and for most of the seam. After folding over, I flatten the crease hard - I think I used the above mentioned center punch.

This is where the wet forming starts and lots of trimming. The one thing I hate about this method is the waste.

scandisheath24.jpg

I use a heavy-duty spring clamp at the top where there's the double thickness of leather. The rest is just steel paperclips.

scandisheath26.jpg

Nice thing about the paperclips is that they're pretty strong and narrow enough that you can remove one at a time as you move along in stitching. A lot of trimming was necessary in the liner area of the sheath to get these clips on, as there was quite a bit of excess leather - but at the fat part of the handle, it was only just enough.

scandisheath27.jpg

It's well worth clipping, burnishing the leather a bit, then reclipping - as you wet form the leather you'll stretch it a bit and it'll get a bit baggy - so form, reclip and repeat until you're happy.

scandisheath29.jpg

One thing I use in burnishing - a marlin spike I made from an old antler point. It's polished, so works quite well.

scandisheath30.jpg

Fun part over, stitching time. This first bit was a PAIN - 4 layers thick and I had to use an awl rather than a drill, which I normally use. To start with I went 2 holes at a time, always making sure to pull everything tight and make sure it was centered before punching the hole.

scandisheath31.jpg

I punch one side at a time, and line up the hole on the opposite side like so - looking down from the top to see the hole and line the awl up with it.

scandisheath33.jpg

The thinner leather was much easier going and I did about 6 holes at a time until I got to the curve, when it went down to 1 at a time.

scandisheath34.jpg

Then I back stitch a bit and leave the threads like this. Will show why later.

scandisheath35.jpg

This wound up better than I hoped! The seam on the folded over section of leather is about perfect.

scandisheath36.jpg

The whole reason for the extra thickness of leather at the top of the seam was for this - to drill a hole for a carabiner. I used the thickness of the drill bit to figure where my stitching had to be - it was a tight fit! This is why I wish I added 2" rather than 1.5".

scandisheath37.jpg

Stitched. The little blob there is how I secure artificial sinew (the thread I use on nearly everything these days). I backstitch, knot the thread, melt it and press it down with the lighter. Never had it come loose and it doesn't make the leather brittle like superglue can.

scandisheath38.jpg

Trimmed with just a sharp knife. Managed to get the seam pretty uniform! The clamps really do help.

scandisheath39.jpg

Hole for the biner.

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I don't know what I got on the leather, but this ones getting dyed dark anyway. Keep burnishing!

Back to the garage for vinegaroon!
scandisheath41.jpg

I'm doing this sheath black, so I use vinegaroon. This produces a really nice blue-black that won't run, and you can make it at home - I take a steel wool pad, degrease it real good with brake cleaner and throw it in a jar with about 2 liters of vinegar with the lid only on loosely. After a couple weeks, it becomes a lovely red juice with no steel wool floating in it. It dyes veg tan leather and oak black very well - I think it reacts with the tannins. I always do it when the leather is wet so it doesn't soak in too deep and it has to be neutralized and rinsed afterwards to avoid rotting your knife blade. And stinking.

scandisheath43.jpg

Done until it dries so it can be waxed up!

Well folks, that's about it - i really like this method and it's made me much more inclined to make scandi sheaths in the future. Some thoughts on it:

Pros:
  • No template
  • No real precise measuring to mess up
  • No skiving
  • Only using thin leather
  • No diagonal stitching - all stitching is perpendicular to leather surface
Cons:
  • lack of template + precise measuring wastes a lot more leather

Tip: as soon as the liner is secure, periodically draw/sheath the knife. It will probably feel a bit snug, but I find this loosens up a bit as you go. Just be careful to get the blade in the liner when you're re sheathing, as the wet leather has some give and lets it wander!

I hope this is of some use to someone - I like making stuff :D

Pete
 

dewi

Full Member
May 26, 2015
2,644
5
Cheshire
Nicely done... really nicely done... that is a fine looking sheath!

When you'd made the wooden part of the sheath, were you not tempted to thread wrap it in leather and add a loop so it functioned as a sheath without the leather outer you've created?
 

Draven

Native
Jul 8, 2006
1,530
5
31
Scotland
Thanks y'all :)

Dewi, been there done that :D I've made some strange sheaths before, but plain wood/plywood ones have actually been neatly functional - just not what I was going for :D
 

Macaroon

A bemused & bewildered
Jan 5, 2013
7,117
272
70
SE Wales
An excellent tutorial for a really nice thing to make - there's a lot of character to those scandi sheaths. Thanks for this :)
 

Biker

Bushcrafter (boy, I've got a lot to say!)
Very well done! Like that a lot and a very clear concise tutorial. Looking forward to seeing the end result.

Thanks for sharing AND taking the time out to photo the stages. I often forget a stage and then just give up doing the rest. D'oh!

Newbie question I know, but what do you use to neutralise the vinegroon?
 

Draven

Native
Jul 8, 2006
1,530
5
31
Scotland
Thanks for the kind words all, glad that it is useful :)
Biker, I've done that more than a few times too :D Baking soda is fine for neutralizing the vinegaroon - mix some in with water and neutralize away. If you don't want to submerge the part, you can spray it on too.

Thanks Mark, I've been trying! I think I've improved quite a bit in terms of sheath/knife work but I have to go quite a ways to find some woods to use them hereabouts!
 

HillBill

Bushcrafter through and through
Oct 1, 2008
8,114
61
W. Yorkshire
El Paso way?

Good place to go wandering though.... bit different from here. Cant be as bad as Djibouti anyways :D
 

Draven

Native
Jul 8, 2006
1,530
5
31
Scotland
Mark, that's right! Yeah I reckon Djibouti has us beat :D A few hours into new mexico is much nicer though - plenty of trees and places to fish! Bears too though!

Thanks Old Jimbo, love traditional knives and sheaths - can't fix what ain't broke :D
 

bilmo-p5

Bushcrafter through and through
Jul 5, 2010
8,168
8
west yorkshire
I had a most enjoyable evening in Djibouti a few years ago. :)

Great tute, BTW. There's another similar here, that may be of interest. Deals with a few things differently.
 
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Draven

Native
Jul 8, 2006
1,530
5
31
Scotland
Thanks Bilmo! I don't think I could handle Djibouti's heat - even hotter than here and I can barely handle it here! That other link is almost exactly how I did them before - it certainly worked but wasn't ideal for me!
 

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