How To Pimp Your Basic Knife

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Sheath in progress
Sheath in progress

Here, keen and extremely amateur leather worker, Marcus O’Dean, shows you how to make a nice leather belt pouch for your folding knife.

Osprey Folder and Nylon Sheath
Osprey Folder and Nylon Sheath

 

One of the nicest little, inexpensive folding knife I have had the pleasure to use recently is an Osprey single-blade folder that Sporting Shooter has been giving to new readers who take out mail subscriptions. Pretty hefty at 155 grams, they have beautiful dark-grained Micarta scales, brass-lined stainless steel rivets, a brass lanyard hole and solid stainless steel bolsters. But the standout feature is the blade; of drop-point hollow-ground design, it is forged from 3CR14 stainless steel (420JC plus chromium and molybdenum)and comes from the factory with a wickedly sharp edge, fingernail groove and a square-notched section at the bottom of the spine to enable finer control of the blade when hands are wet or bloody. There’s one thing though – it comes in a very functional, but really boring black ballistic nylon belt pouch. What to do? Make a nice leather one, because the knife deserves it.

To start with, I went to a leather supplier and bought some off-cuts of 5mm, fairly stiff leather and worked out a plan. This thick leather was intended to be the base and top fold-over flap and some 2.5mm alligator pattern off-cut leather I already had would form the top piece that would be shaped to the knife. I would use a 5mm strip for the belt loop that was to be sewn to the back part.

 

Folding knife pouch side 1
Folding knife pouch side 1

Method

 

  1. Make a plan on paper, tracing the profile of the folded knife. Plan out the back “plate”, the top piece and the belt loop. You must allow a hemline on the base at least 12mm from the knife outline so the stitching is 4-5mm inside the edge. For the top piece, you must allow a lot more space around the knife to allow for the thickness of the knife laying flat on the back plate. In this case I allowed around 25-30mm “flange around the knife to allow for the eventual shaping. Take your time and get it right. When you plan on paper, locate where you will put the press-stud closure and stitching lines.

  2. Draw the plan on the leather. Cut out the paper plan elements and lay them on the suede (rough) side of your leather to allow minimal wastage and draw an outline of the elements with a Sharpie or similar.

  3. Cut out the elements. Using a Stanley Knife or other sharp knife, slowly and carefully cut out the leather elements. Hint: turn the leather so the knife is mostly working in the same direction – this helps you control the cutting more accurately.

  4. Soak the top piece – in water for 10-15 minutes until it is wet through, softer and more pliable. This will aid shaping.

  5. Wrap the knife in Gladwrap. You will use the knife as a “form” and it saves getting it wet in the process.

  6. Form the top piece to the bottom piece. Lay the wet top piece over the wrapped knife and base and roughly push down around the knife to stretch the top piece into shape. Then, on a breadboard, tack the top piece down while carefully checking that the tacks enter the back plate with an allowance for the eventual stitching to go inside the 5mm hemline. Once tacked you can use a “former” like the blunt end of an antler to push the top piece more closely around the knife. Leave it outside and let it dry in the sun for “a while”, then remove the tacks.

  7. Punch out holes for press-stud halves. You can buy bags of a hundred studs at leatherwork suppliers, or you could just go to a boot maker and purchase just what you need. Once you have punched your holes insert the press-stud halves and whack them in place with a tool made for the job – once again, you could get your boot maker to do this if you do not plan to continue being a leatherworker.

  8. Skive your stitching lines. Draw a line along where your stitching will go on the smooth side of the leather and using a skiving tool or a sharp V-shape woodworker’s gouge, run a 1mm deep “skive” along the stitching line.

  9. Punch in your stitching holes. Measure 3mm intervals along your stitching line on your top section and correspondingly on the base plate, as well as doing the same on the smooth leather back of the base-plate and belt loop. The more accurately you do this, the better your stitching will look. You could go as rough as a small nail as your stitching punch, or buy one that does single or multiple holes.

  10. Stitching. Starting on your belt loop (which will not generally be seen to be criticised), commence stitching from one end with a blunt-nosed needle and waxed twine, which you can get from saddlers, and when you get to the end, you will see that you have “skipped” each second stitch. Now you double back the other way filling in the “missed” stitches to complete the job. To conceal the leftover ends, you can just go back and stitch them inside the pouch and trim off with small, fine scissors.

  11. Ornamentation (optional). If you intend punching letters or special images on the top piece, it is best to do this when you remove the tacks at the end of Step 6 above and do it while the leather is still a little moist.

 

Folding knife pouch other side
Folding knife pouch other side

The end result. As you can see, it’s been a while since I have made a pouch; the stitching is a bit so-so and the hem is uneven on one side. Nevertheless, it will do its job well and look a bit more “outdoorsy”. No doubt I would perfect it on Version 2

 

Fixed blade sheath made before the pocketknife pouch
Fixed blade sheath made before the pocketknife pouch

 

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