sheath 3

Now I am putting the welts in place following my trial fit pencil lines.

I am going to have to fold this leather over if I want to make a sheath. Here I am carefully wetting the inside of the sheath where the crease will be. I will also wet the outside. I use a solution of Pro-Carve in a spray bottle. Pro-Carve soaks in quickly and loosens the leather a bit so it will fold easier. Water works just as well but will take a few more minutes to soak in. I make sure I don’t get any of the cement area wet. Note the cement has been applied on top of the welts we have just put on.

I also wet the outside before I fold the leather. If I don’t the leather surface will crack as it is bent over and the sheath will eventually fail much quicker than what it will with out doing this. Pro-Carve is simply mixed with water. I keep a spray bottle full of it all the time when I am working leather. We will be using it again later.

Just after wetting the sheath, but before cementing, I trial fitted the knife by folding the leather over and checking the fit. I saw that I needed a little extra clearance around the bolster. In this picture you will see I have added an additional spacing welt. It might be an inch long. You can see it has been skivved to a slope. It gets cemented in just like the rest. You can see the leather is wet and the glue is ready. If you get glue on the outside, let it dry and use a pencil to lightly ‘erase’ it away. Dye doesn’t stick where there is glue and that will matter later. If you get a little glue on the inside, it won’t matter and it won’t hurt the knife.

The knife is in place and the leather is folded over so the cemented welts are joined. You have just a little wiggle room but generally as soon as the two cemented sides touch, they better be in the correct position. (If you have tear it apart, do it quick. You will have to reapply fresh cement and wait.) Most of the time this cement sticks like the dickens and no clamp is needed. Here I am using a clamp with very light pressure (don’t want any marks in the leather) just for the picture. I almost never have to clamp if the cement is properly applied. In this case, the cement was a little light so I had to sneak some in the crack, let it set and then stick it together. No big deal.

The sheath is now glued up and is an ungodly mess of over lapped edges and glue ooze. I didn’t line up the edges when folding it over, I lined it up for a snug fit with the knife in place. This is why we have a little extra in the edges at the start. Ignore over laps. When it is glued up, I use my sharp edged utility knife to rough trim the excess leather away. Once that is done, it’s off the ginder to smooth things out. Using a fresh, sharp 120 grit belt. The edges are all ground flush and smooth. I get the contours I want in the top of the sheath and the outline. Remember that extra width to the welts? This is where it pays off. The leather will glaze from the grinding and the heat, which is just what we want for a nice finished edge. Your grinding belt will load up so use one of those rubber sticks for belt cleaning like wood workers use.

We are no where near done. Here are some of the tools we have left to use. From top to bottom: a stitch groover, an edge creaser, a stitch wheel and a french edger. The stitch groover carves out a narrow little channel for the linen cord we will use to stitch it. The little channel recesses the thread for wear protection. It also looks nice. The creaser is the final tool we will use and it puts a little finishing touch around the edges. I don’t have a picture of the creaser in use. Just use it as one of the last steps. The leather doesn’t have to be wet to put a nice mark in it with this tool. The stitch wheel helps you put in an evenly spaced stitch. The french edger (freedom edger now?) is another finesse tool that rounds off the sharp exposed corners of the leather.

I use the edger right after I grind the sheath to knock off the loose leather feather edge. Just run it along the edge and it will chamfer the square corner. Once the edges have all been ground and the sheath profile is what you want, we use the stitch groover. Carefully, trace around the outline of the sheath where you will be stitching. Do this on dry leather. Wet leather clogs it up. A little bee’s wax helps but I never seem to think of it in time. We only do the front side right now. We will do the back later.

Once the stitch groove is in place, now it is time for the stitch wheel. This is basically a metal star with sharp, evenly spaced points mounted on a hub. When you drag it along the surface of leather it leaves little dimples where you will eventually insert your needle. It’s job is only to give you an evenly spaced stitch mark. I have modified mine by grinding off every other point so my stitches are larger than most. Less sewing this way and just as strong. I also find it more eye appealing. Once I have made my dimples, I use an extra fine point sharpie marker to highlight the dimples so I can better see them when I use the awl to make the holes. Start at the top or bottom of the groove but make sure it comes out where you want at the end. Normally, I have to manually adjust the last stitch space so it ends where I want it to.

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