THE WRTC METHOD OF STITCHING A LEATHER KNIFE SHEATH
by Wild Rose Trading Company
The following is a tutorial on hand sewing leather using a method I have
My first suggestion is to get the book "The Art of Handsewing Leather" by Al Stohlman. This picture shows the set of tools I use for sewing.
This picture shows the set of tools I use for sewing.
1) Do whatever decoration you're going to do on the face of the sheath whether a foldover or two seam style. I make the back side and welt of my sheaths slightly wider than the face. That way when I cement the whole thing together before sewing, the back and welt stick out slightly around the face.
2) Groove for the face seam only. (all expert hand sewers do this and it doesn't weaken the leather as long as you don't cut too deep). It will help keep your stitches even and also helps set the stitches below the face so the thread won't wear as easily.
3) Lightly dampen the stitch groove and then use a stitch mark wheel and mark your stitches (if you get the leather too wet let it dry until almost the same color as the fully dry leather). For sheath construction (6 - 10oz leather is the norm - I use 8/9 oz most of the time - an ounce of leather equals 1/64" of an inch ). For stitching I use a 6 stitch per inch wheel because I think it works and looks best with 5 cord thread. For decorative stitching, such as around inlays, I use 7 or 8 spi and use 3 cord thread.
4) Make a single hole punch from a diamond awl blade and polish it on a firm buffing wheel using red rouge (As an alternative to making your own, you can purchase an Osborne #143 peg awl haft which will give double duty as both a hammered punch and a hand awl. It will also allow the replacement of your awl blade if it gets broken). Using a light non-metallic hammer and this punch, punch all the holes IN THE FACE ONLY. Make sure when punching the holes that they are are lined up properly as illustrated below. Keep a block of beeswax handy and wax the awl frequently; this helps punch cleaner holes and makes it easier to pull it up and out. A slight twist should be all it takes to remove your awl blade.
I use a double thick "Silent Poundo" rubber board as a backing when punching the holes. I use a double thickness to make sure I don't bend the point over against the hard table top. Also you don't have to hit real hard, just enough to ease the blade through the leather.
5 ) After punching the holes in the face I glue everything together and let it dry overnight. It's best not
to sand or sew until you've let the glue dry completely (voice of experience!). I then use a belt sander with a
clean 80 grit belt and sand the edges flat and perpindicular, barely touching the front face. Take it slow and
easy so you don't burn the leather. You can also trim the back/welt very carefully with a SHARP knife and then
use a chisel-edge bladed knife, and while holding it flat use it like a draw knife to get the edge smooth and even.
9) I start my seam with three back stitches and end it with 2 1/2 (back stitch the top thread three stitches and then cut both threads off on the backside). When pulling your stitches tight don't yard on your stitches - just pull snug - firmly and evenly. Otherwise two things may happen: You will either break your thread or you will tear a stitch. Actually, if you sew long enough both of these things will probably happen and in a future tutorial I will explain how to "fix" them without having to start your project all over again. After you're done sewing, tap over the seams lightly with a slightly convex face mallet or hammer (they make special hammers for this, but a good steel carpenters or ball peen hammer with the edge rounded will work fine). Then LIGHTLY dampen the seams and run your overstitch wheel carefully up and down the seams front and back. This is the final process for sewing that really evens and burnishes the stitches giving you that "professional" finish.
11) Using your belt sander, sand the edges LIGHTLY with a worn out 150-220 grit belt or use the draw knife technique
noted above to smooth the edge(s) again. Then take your edge rounding tool (#1 or #2 works best) and trim all of
the edges. I edge slick by dampening the edge slightly and then use a piece of coarse cloth (worn denim works great)
first and and rub vigorously up and down the edge until smooth. Then I dampen lightly again and then take a smooth
elk antler tip (bone folders or a commercial slicker work well too) and rub the edge. Let it dry and then apply
a THIN coat of Gum Tragacanth and while still damp rub it in with a coarse cloth. Again let it dry and follow with
a second thin coat of Gum T and slick it with the elk antler.
The above tutorial was originall written to share with my fellow leather craftsman on the CKD
Forums Sheathmaking forum.
It is copyrighted and all rights are reserved by Wild Rose Trading Company.
Printing a copy or copies for private, non-commercial use is allowed.
Any commercial use is strictly prohibited.
Any non-commercial leather working site wishing to display or link to this tutorial
must get written permission from Wild Rose Trading Company