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  1. #1
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    Scandi Sheaths My Way

    Some time ago I posted a simple tutorial on how I usually make pouch sheaths for my fulltang knives. Now it’s time for a new one on how I make a standard and plain Scandi sheath. For details like simple lines and markings in the leather you can use different pressure tools. For a more elaborate sheath with pauting (a special shaping and forming method of which I don’t know the correct English word – some kind of leather plastic technique…) you basically make the actual sheath the same way as shown here, but the shaping of intricate details in the leather will not be covered in this tutorial.
    The sheath made in this tutorial is a simple but very popular type of sheath made throughout Scandinavia today. The attachment of the actual belt loop is based on a design used during the Middle Age, and still used in various forms by a lot of Scandi knifemakers today.

    First thing to do is to prepare the knife by oiling the blade. Then place two pieces of cardboard or something similar on each side of the blade (one on each side). These should be taped to keep them in place. The cardboard pieces should be about 1 mm thick or so, and should be cut in the exact shape of the blade. Then wrap the whole knife in a piece of plastic film - I use ordinary household cling foil (plastic wrapping foil) for this. Wrap the handle in two or three layers overlapping, while the blade can be wrapped a couple more times.
    I then tape the blade a bit more, to ensure that the plastic will come out in one piece when I pull the knife from the sheath when finished…
    When the knife has been prepared in this way we are ready to start taking measurements for the template.



    I always start by folding a piece of paper, and using the knife as a guide I mark several points along the fold and on the actual knife. I start by marking the knife at the place I want the top of the sheath to be. Then I make a mark for every two centimetres or so all the way down to the point of the blade. It does not need to be exactly two centimetres; the most important thing is that the marks are evenly spaced, that there are enough of them to get an exact fit of the finished sheath etc. Two important places to mark and take measurements are in the transition area where the blade and handle meets, as there will be a huge difference in the measurement of blade part and handle part in this area.
    When the knife has been marked I place the knife on the paper and make a corresponding mark along the fold – hope this make sense. Please look at the pics.
    We now have made a mark from the top of the sheath to the point of the blade. We then add another 10-20 millimetres to the length of the template to make sure the finished sheath will cover the point of the blade, and to make enough space for a drain hole.

    Now we are ready to measure the knife. This is done by using a strip of leather to wrap around the knife at the marks we made, and then measure the length of the circumference. The leather strip should come from the same piece of leather used to make the sheath (or at least of the same thickness).
    Gerd
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  2. #2
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    Re: Scandi Sheaths My Way

    I usually note the measurements in a column down the right hand side of the folded paper. When I have taken all measurements I start on a new column, noting the results I get by using the following calculations: Original measurement + 3 or 4 mm and then divide by two. The added 3-4 millimetres are for the stitches and shrinkage of the leather. Some leather shrink a lot more than other types, and you may even have to add more than 4 mm (on some half tanned leather I have even had to add as much as 6 mm). Why the calculation and divide the measurement by two ?
    Remember we have folded the paper. This is mainly to get a symmetrical template when we are ready to cut it out. By folding the paper we only need to draw half of the sheath, and therefore only need half length measurements – this is a lot easier to keep symmetrical than drawing the full sheath template in one go.
    Once the calculations are done, its time to measure and mark the length on the paper template. When all marks have been done, I add a width of about 10-15 mm on the very bottom of the sheath (the point that was added as extra length before), and then connect all points by drawing a line between them. I smooth the line out by “freehand” as I don’t want any angled or sharp corners on the sheath (unless it is part of the design).



    The top of the sheath can be formed in many ways. Personally I do not like straight edges, but prefer at least a slight curve etc.

    The click sound or the so-called “lock” of a Scandi sheath, is only possible to get if the knifehandle has been made correctly. That is, the handle has to swell in the right places – there has to be a swell in the belly, as well as a swell in the width of the handle. The mouth of the sheath has to be above the swelling. The swell do not need to be excessive – in fact too much swelling will only make it harder to make a good fitting sheath. About 1,5 – 2 mm swell is enough. Note the measurements in the columns.

    Gerd
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    Re: Scandi Sheaths My Way

    You can cut the leather wet or dry. Some prefer to cut when dry, and others when it’s wet. I do both, but for this tutorial I have cut the leather when dry. Half tanned leather is a lot easier to cut when wet, but here I have used normal 3,5 millimetre veg tanned leather.

    I usually tape the template to the leather, and then cut with a 15 – 20 degree angle. Main reason for the angled cut is to make it easier to get a nice tight fit of the edges when sewing the leather.

    Gerd
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    Re: Scandi Sheaths My Way

    Once the leather has been cut, I thin parts of the leather on the flesh side for a nice taper. Several reasons for this too – one is to make more space for the blade part, but it is also a lot easier to get a nicely shaped bottom part of the sheath. Particular the drain hole area needs thinning to work better IMO. Do not thin too much – I make one or two passes with the thinning plane! Thickness of the leather at the very bottom of the sheath should be no less than 1 millimetres or so.



    Gerd
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    Re: Scandi Sheaths My Way

    Once thinned on the flesh side, I turn the leather around and mark a line along the sides to be sewn together. This line can be marked with a marking wheel or any other tool that are capable of making a parallel line to the edge of the leather. On the pic I have used an old 9mm retractable snap-off blade knife without blade, as the “mouth” make a nice even line about 2,5 mm from the edge of the leather. The holes are then marked with a spacing/overstitch wheel tool. I've got spacing wheels that makes a mark 3 and 5 mm apart. I usually use the 5 mm one. It’s important that you start marking at the same place on both sides. And it is just as important that there are the same numbers of marks on both sides.

    Using an awl I then make holes for the stitches. Holes are made at an angle, and I try to get the exit hole of the awl point approximately in the middle (or slightly past) of the edge of the leather (see pic). On half tanned leather I try to get the exit just past the raw hide core of the leather for maximum strength of the leather.
    As you can see, the holes do not go all the way to the top of the sheath. The top 1,5-2 cm is not going to get sewn, but will act as a kind of “spring” above the swell in the handle.



    Gerd
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    Re: Scandi Sheaths My Way

    Once holes have been made, I wet the leather in lukewarm water before I start sewing. There are different opinions on how long the leather should be left in the water, I usually leave it for 10 minutes – or until there are no longer coming air bubbles from the leather (easily visible if the leather is placed smooth side down / flesh side up in the water). This is for ordinary veg tanned leather, half tanned leather usually has to be wetted for a longer time. Be careful though, on leaving half tanned leather for too long in water. It may swell and stretch a lot, and then shrink excessively when drying – in fact it can shrink so much that it is virtually impossible to get the knife out again. To compensate for this, I usually use a small strip of plastic wedged along the back of the handle – thickness of the plastic should be about the same as the cheap plastic / nylon tarps. The wedge is removed (by pulling it out) when the leather is “slightly more than half-dry”…, and the sheath is left to dry completely. As the sheath in this tutorial is made of veg tanned leather – which I understand is more common in the UK and the US than half tanned leather – I have not included pics of this here.
    I sew the sheath using one thread with a needle in both ends. The needles are locked into the thread - see pic.




    Some Scandi sheathmakers start sewing from the top, some from the bottom. I do both, but most often I start from the top and then finish by making a “knot” when tightening the last 3-4 stitches (see pic) – or by "backstitching" 2 or 3 stitches at the bottom. I sew each stitch from both sides one at a time all the way up. Make sure you tighten well, but do not draw so hard that the thread breaks or you tear the leather apart.

    Gerd
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    Re: Scandi Sheaths My Way

    Once the sheath has been sewn, there are several ways to attach the belt loop. I use a method that was used already during the Middle Age, and is common in various forms throughout Scandinavia today. A strip of leather (same thickness as the sheath or slightly thinner) is prepared by making a hole and then cutting so you get a “swallows tail” in the end. Note the hook like effect of the transition of the “tail” and the hole – when this is pulled through the holes in the sheath it ensures that the belt loop is securely fastened to the sheath. Three holes are made on each side of the stitches, and the “swallow tail” is “braided” through the holes and tightened. Then the excess is cut off, and I usually give the outer part of the loop attachment a whack with a small hammer to really lock it in place. The pics should be a lot more helpful than the text here. When hitting with the hammer I place a dolly inside the sheath, and not the actual knife…








    Gerd
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    Re: Scandi Sheaths My Way

    The knife is put in the wet sheath (I usually give it a light coating of waterfree Vaseline or a similar kind of grease), and I start forming the sheath. I do his by pressing and rolling a modelling tool on the leather. I also flatten the blade part with the handle of the modelling tool. You will have to do this several times while the leather dries (you can use a hairdryer to speed up this process).
    When the leather is so dry (but still damp) that it holds the shape that you have formed around the knife, it is put aside to dry completely. Drying time varies, but for a Scandi sheath I typically leave the sheath for at least 48 hours before I remove the knife from the sheath. To speed up the process I sometimes use a hairdryer. A heathgun is too hot, but a hairdryer works ok. Leather that is dried in hot air from a hairdryer tend to set harder than if it is allowed to dry slowly, and the sheath will be stiffer. Don’t overdo it though, as excessive heath will also cause more shrinkage…


    Gerd
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    Re: Scandi Sheaths My Way

    I usually wait until the sheath is dry before I dye and colour the leather. If I am going to use several colours on the same sheath, I always start with the lightest colour first. You might have to dye the leather a couple of times to get the dye to penetrate evenly all over to get a nice even colour.






    When the leather is dyed I leave the sheath to dry. The leather can then get some leather hardener which is a commercial product, or you can make a very thin solution of shellac and spirits which is applied on the inside of the sheath with a brush. This will also seal and fixate the dye so that it will not stain light coloured handle woods.
    Gerd
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    Re: Scandi Sheaths My Way

    I usually make my belt loops in two ways. One way is to make a small button of the same material as I have used in the knife (ie bone, horn, antler, wood etc) which the strop can be secured to. This makes it very easy to take the knife on and off the belt without undoing the belt.... and thereby dropping your trousers. The method is quite secure, and very practical if crossing into public places where carrying a knife is prohibited.
    The other method I use is to sew the belt loop with a single thin leather strip. Also an easy way to fasten the loop, and it can look quite good too - especially if using a contrasting colour on the leather strip.

    When securing either the button or when using a strip of thin leather only, I always make two holes through the doubled belt loop. The holes and the leather strip are wetted, and everything is tied together - then left to dry. You may wish to use a drop of superglue or something like that to secure the knot. Though, if tightened up properly, this shouldn't be necessary.




    Gerd
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    Re: Scandi Sheaths My Way

    Finally the sheath needs some sort of leather dressing applied to make it waterproof. You can use any of the commercial products used for leather boots, buy special products at the leather store or make your own.
    On a lot of my sheaths I use a mixture of beeswax, caranauba wax, lanoline (wool fat) and a dash of peanutoil. The beeswax and lanoline being the main engredients. Mixing is something around 40% beeswax, 40% lanoline (wool fat), 10% caranauba wax and 10% peanutoil. I apply this mixture with my fingers and work it into the leather several times, then do a final polish with a soft cloth. In my opinion this mixture gives the leather a more "soft" or deeper natural shine than most commercial products.




    Finished sheath !
    Gerd
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  12. #12
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    Re: Scandi Sheaths My Way

    wow really great tutorial Gerd!

    rep point!
    'Got tight last night on absintheand did knife tricks.' - Ernest Hemingway

  13. #13
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    Re: Scandi Sheaths My Way

    Hope the above make sense. Been working on it for a while, but it has been veeerrry late after work and while I've been almost gone....zzzzzzzzz
    Any questions, just ask
    I might do some editing later if the text and explanations are too stooopid

    Forgot to take a few pics - like one of the spacing/overstitch wheel tool in action. But there is one in my other tutorial on pouch sheaths.
    Gerd
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    Re: Scandi Sheaths My Way

    Quote Originally Posted by tomtom
    wow really great tutorial Gerd!

    rep point!
    Thanks mate
    Gerd
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  15. #15
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    Re: Scandi Sheaths My Way

    Really appreciate that one Gerd. Great work!
    " I never said that." Albert Einstein.

 

 

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