Brad's Nordic Sheath Making Instructions

A preliminary word about the leather that you use for Nordic style sheaths.   It is important that you use tooling leather for your sheath.  You sew your sheath wet and tooling leather will shrink as it dries, forming tightly around the liner and knife handle.  This creates a sheath that does not need a keeper strap to hold the knife in it.  I have found that leather in the 4 to 6 ounce range works well.  Another thing to remember is that the better the quality of your leather, the better your sheath will look.

I always put a blade liner in a Nordic style sheath to protect the leather from the blade edge.  I make my own from cheap 1 x 2" pine, but you can also purchase plastic liners that work well (Items 1501 and 1502 under Scandinavian Sheaths).

To make a wood liner, I rip the pine down its width, cross cut it about 1/2" longer than the blade length, and rout out the shape of the blade that I marked.   Note that I  rout out one section all the way through.  This is to allow water to drain out of the sheath.

Below is a picture of a liner after these steps.  The liner halves are then glued together using a waterproof wood glue and allowed to dry.

Sheath Liner      Sheath Liner

I use my belt grinder to smooth and shape the liner.  Because the leather will shrink around the liner you want it relatively smooth.  The shape of the liner will also determine the shape of the sheath.

Sheath Liner

The next step is to cut the leather to the rough shape of the sheath.  I do not make a template, but rather just lay out the shape on the back (rough) side of the leather using the knife in the liner as a guide.  I start on one side, leaving  about 1" of leather,  and roll the knife through all four sides to the other side, leaving about the same margin.  I use a pen to mark my cut lines.  I determine the height of the sheath by positioning the knife and liner about 1 3/4" from the bottom of the leather and marking the top so it comes one half to two thirds the way up the handle.  I cut out the rough shape using a large shears.

Leather Layout

I also cut the hanger strap at this time.  The strap is 1" wide and 10" long.  I use a knife to cut out the strap because you want the strap sides to be clean and smooth.

Now it is time to "case" the leather and start sewing.  Casing is done by soaking the leather in warm water until the bubbles stop coming out.  This takes about 5 to 10 minutes.  I use heavy waxed thread and hand punch my holes using an awl.  You can estimate the amount of thread you will need by measuring the length of the seam you are sewing and multiplying by 8.  I use a saddlers stitch shown below.  
Saddlers Stitch
Many of the knife steels don't take well to sitting in a damp leather sheath while it dries, so I heavily oil the blade before starting to sew.  To allow room for the knife to slide in and out of the sheath after it dries, wrap the knife with one layer of saran wrap and insert it in the liner.

I use clamps to hold the leather around the liner and knife while sewing.  I remove them as I work my way up the sheath.  You start sewing at the sheath tip.  I usually double stitch the tip and if I have thread left over once I reach the top, I will double or triple stitch the top and start working my way back down the sheath until I run out of thread.

Clamps      Clamps

This is the time to decorate your sheath if you desire.  I'm not very good at it, so I generally go with a very simple design or leave it plain.  I use the side of the awl to put lines around the top of the sheath.  Once you have your design completed, you can attach the hanger.

Sewn Sheath

Trim the excess leather from the seam you have just sewn.  I use a knife to trim most of the excess off and then use a skiving tool to trim close (1/8") to the sewn seam.   The entire sheath  is then rubbed with a leather rubbing tool (I use a smooth piece of wood) to smooth out and impart a shine to the leather.  I let the sheath dry so I can remove the knife before I attach the hanger and stain the sheath.  

To attach the hanger, you punch three sets of holes down the back of the sheath.  

Sheath Holes

The hanger strap you cut earlier has two holes punched at one end.  The other end is cut in a "V" shape 4" up the hanger strap.  I skive the legs so they are thinnest at the tips.  This just makes threading them through the holes easier.  Case the hanger strap and thread the legs of the V through the two holes you punched in the strap.  The legs are then threaded through the three holes in the sheath so they finish on the inside.  I  then rub the hanger with the leather rubbing tool, re-insert the knife, and let things dry.

Attaching Hanger     Attaching Sheath     Attaching Hanger

The next step is to stain the sheath.  I use Fiebing's leather stain.  It is readily available and comes in a wide variety of colors.

Staining Sheath

The last step is waterproofing the sheath.  I liberally apply a commercially available leather waterproofing and heat the sheath with a hair blower to help the waterproofing penetrate.  Another method is to soak the sheath in melted paraffin.

Finished Sheath     Finished Sheath

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