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The Sheath/Holster Makers Forum This is the place to discuss all forms of sheath and holster making.

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  #1  
Old 09-02-2003, 03:22 PM
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Basic Sheath Questions: Finishes, Sewing, Glueing

Hi guys,

I have read that the preferred thread for sheath making is 7 stands. I have found a shoe repair store that will order it for me @$30 a roll, about 4" in diameter. I was wondering if this was a good price? If so, how do I prep it? Should I just wax it like linen?

While buying some supplies I was taking to the storeowner and he was commenting on a couple of things. When I asked for an edge slicker he said that the slickers didn't come in a size big enough. He said to use a polished wood rod. Anyone have a better way? He also said that neatsfoot oil would cause a break down the fibers as the color it gives is from burning the fibers

Last question is how long should a good sheath last with being carried for hunting/camping? And what could I recommend for proper care to help extend the sheaths life?

Thanks for your time,
Jim


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Last edited by Chuck Burrows; 11-05-2003 at 04:38 PM.
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  #2  
Old 09-03-2003, 01:50 AM
Mut Mut is offline
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Leather Finishing & Other Basic Sheath Questions

I'm not sure about the terminology you are using, but will try to guess what you mean. It's amazing isn't it, how knives are the same all over the world, but the terms used for equipment are not!

Anyway. In Norway you can buy thread on a roll of about 100-200 metre that comes either white or black and is ready waxed and ready to use. It saves an awful lot of time.

In addition I always use 5 strand as I find it looks neater on the Scandinavian Style sheath that I make.

As for neatsfoot , I use normal saddle fat from a saddlery or something calld gold quality leather fat. This is great and is neutral in colour.

EDGE slicker...... Do you mean smoothing pin? something used to flatten and shape the leather. You can use hardwood, but I use a lamb rib that had been ground thin, and sanded to grade 2500. I then polish it and use that. It's really good. You can get then from J?rn jensen it is called "falsebein" in Norwegian and is relatively inexensive... you can getthe thread ( called tr?) there too.

Looking after the sheath is quite simple, if the knife is not going to be used for a while then do not store it in the sheath, after you are finished using the knife smear the blade with some olive oil to protect it, and after use let the sheath air out so that you do not trap moisture in it.

Make sure that the sheath is cured on the inside. You can use liquid shellack for this. Fat the sg\heath once a month if used a lot of after it has been exposed to water.

Does this help?


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Last edited by Chuck Burrows; 11-05-2003 at 04:29 PM.
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Old 09-03-2003, 08:50 AM
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Mut,

It was very helpful, thanks for your time and input, I'll look into the web site.

Jim


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Old 09-03-2003, 02:51 PM
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I know there are other sources locally, but Hidecrafters
http://www.hidecrafter.com/ sells 5 strand unwaxed linen in both 4 oz and 8 oz rolls, as well as synthetic sinew, nylon, and lacing.
For a slicker/shaper I use a polished muley antler l tip, sanded to shape before final polishing. It has both a small and large end, and is useful for a variety of jobs. I've made them out of polished hardwood, but find I use the antler most often.
I've heard some oldtimers (not on this forum ) badmouth neetsfoot oil, but our own Wikd Rose has opined that pure neetsfoot is perfectly safe. Don't know what your leather guy meant when he sez it would "burn" leather fibers; he might be refering to the natural darkening that results from using any oil on leather. I'm sure that a search of this forum will drag up detailed discussions on neetsfoot oil. (Chuck -- didn't put words in your mouth here did I?)
MtMike


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Old 09-03-2003, 05:24 PM
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Chuck Burrows Chuck Burrows is offline
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Nope Mike not putting words in my mouth. PURE Neatsfoot oil (not neatsfoot compound) was scientifically tested in the laboratory and proved NOT to be harmful to leather. The test was funded by a custom saddle maker and was reported in the Leathercrafter's & Saddlemaker's Journal sometime back - don't remember when or which issue though.
There has been much written/discussed over the years about the "bad" effects of using animal fats on leather, but the fact is animal and fish oils are used in the tanning process! Otherwise vegtan leather would be as hard as a rock and brittle (alcohol/chemical based will in fact dry out vegtan as many of you may have noticed - one reason I add a touch of olive oil to my mix.) Heavy using leather such as harness leather has been more heavily treated with fats & waxes (the process is called stuffing). Montana Pitchblend also had a lab test run on their product which uses mink oil and it was found to have no deleterious effects on good leather.
Now with that said like anything leather goods should be treated sparingly - over oiling can cause "damage" by over softening the sheath or other like product that needs to retain stiffness. And there are bonafide makers that will tell you that neatsfoot will rot threads, but in my experience thousands of leather goods of all kinds I believe that the worst culprits are sweat (salt and water), water damage, and crud/abrasion. Over oiling or over waxing acts like a magnet to crud and the subsequent abrasion. Water damage often occurs when leather is not allowed to PROPERLY dry in between soakings.

As for slickers - I'm like Mike I make mine from antler tips or pieces. You really don't have to have a groove in the piece but if you so desire take a rattail file of the proper size and groove the antler. Round and polish the edges so you don't mark it. Along with antler I use old jeans material or canvas to burnish edges.

Finally thread - first Jim what material is the 7 cord your maker can get for you made of? The reason I ask is you ask whether to prep it just like linen? No matter what thread you use: poly, nylon, linen, or cotton - wax it.
As to size of thread I offer the following image scanned from Al Stohlman's book - The Art of Hand Sewing Leather.


Personally I use 5 strand Barbour's Red Hand Linen - the best in the world IMO - at 6 SPI for most of my seams. It's available at around $35.00 for 1094 yards from Mid-Continent Leather Co, Coweta, OK, USA 1-800-926-2061. How long will it last - Well I bought a roll of 5 strand and 3 strand (I use the 3 strand for sewing on belt linings and doing the stitches around inlays) about two years ago and I have used about half of each roll. Not tooting my horn here, but I'm sure I sew more miles of thread in a month than most of you do in a year so you can see that it's going to last a LONG time for the average user .
As for strength - well most of my work is actually gun rigs (for every sheath I make I probably make 10 holsters) and I use the 5 strand on my main seams and those seams see a whole lot more wear and tear than the average knife sheath. So decide for yourself.

How To Care for a sheath - there are literally thousands of ideas floating around out there but the following are ones I've tested under all kinds of conditions and they work for me - so take it for what it's worth.
A lot depends on how much one is used but also in HOW it is used. For a Hunting/Camping sheath - Mut's advise is pretty good. The main difference is I would suggest CLEANING the sheath intermittently before reconditioning. Like Mut I also seal the interior of my sheaths and this way you can rinse them out with clean water. Blow out the excess with Canned Air or a LOW air pressure - hang upside down and let AIR dry. You can reseal if necessary by pouring a small amount of the original sealer in and draining thoroughly. I then clean the outside with a good saddle soap - follow the directions. Apply a good top coat - for a heavy using sheath I like Mt PitchBlend or Obenauf's. Apply a couple of LIGHT coats (it's like drinking - a little is nice - too much and well
).
For light use sheaths I would clean/condition maybe twice a year. For light use I usually recommend Lexol Conditioner or Fiebings 4-Way Leather Care - a heavy conditioner just isn't necessary and these will not normally rub off on clothes like the heavier duty finishes can.
Bottomline - There are many, many other leather care products such as Skidmore's Leather Cream, Leather Amore, and Leather Nu - try them and see what you think. The ones I use have been tested by myself and others in some of the most extreme environments/conditions on this earth and I know they work so that's why I use them.
Well it seems like I've once again followed my own advise - why use one word when ten will do - but I hope the information is helpful to some of you any way.


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  #6  
Old 09-04-2003, 03:39 AM
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Wow,

Thanks for all of your information, Mut, Mike And Chuck. I have severial antlers around that the tips aren't being used for anything.

Thanks for the information on taking care of the sheaths.

The picture was great Chuck, it gives a good idea just how thick each material is. Seven does look to a little thick for smaller sheaths. I'll check out the sites for the five cord. I normally use a drill press for making the holes for sawing and have been using the flat waxed cord from Tandy and a 3/32 inch bit. Would I used the same size for the 5 stand cord?

As for it just being your guys opions, that's what we're all here for so we can draw on that 100+ years (that's including everyone, not calling Chuck that old .)

Thanks again for being so willing to share freely what you have learned.

Jim


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Last edited by Drac; 09-04-2003 at 03:50 AM.
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Old 09-04-2003, 07:32 PM
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Chuck Burrows Chuck Burrows is offline
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Jim-
I can't say for sure about your drill bit size since I use an awl. Best suggestion is to try it and see how it works on some scrap.

Yep I'm not a 100 years old but I sure feel like it some days!

But even with years of experience I still test my stuff and am always open to new ways and materials. If they work better I'll change - but the only way to know for sure is to experiment.

As for techniques I maintain that what works best for you and produces a quality product use it no matter what someone else might say.


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  #8  
Old 09-05-2003, 05:37 AM
Mut Mut is offline
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Sealant

Wild rose!!

I have to ask what sealant you use?

I use shellack that is dissolved in spirit but it makes such a mess. The ready made one from the shops here in Norway are ok, but cost an awful lot of money. I am a hobbyist ( as you have probably seen from my knives) an do not have the cash to blow on really expensive sealants as yet.:confused:


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Old 09-05-2003, 01:26 PM
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Chuck Burrows Chuck Burrows is offline
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Mut-
I don't use anything real expensive either. Currently I've been using Minwax (a trade name here in the states) Wood Finish. A quart ran about $6.00 USD. I've used it a lot and I still have about a half of a can.
Any of the Varathane type wood finishes of whatever brand should work fine - experiment on scrap! One thing I have found is that the thinner types like the Minwax can seep completely through the leather, especially in the thinner weights. On a hunter type that's not a problem but it is something to consider when making a fancy sheath.
Another good sealer is any of the paste car waxes that use carnuba in them. Melt them at a low heat and brush it on. I haven't tried them but the liquid waxes that use carnuba should also work fine.
Another oldy but goody is spar varnish, which is relatively inexpensive and should be available at any boat shop.
The final one I have used and the one I use on most of my frontier stuff is pine pitch - I see you live in Norway but don't know if you are in the city or country. If in the country or if you have place available to you - take a look around any of the evergreen trees and where they have been damaged the pitch will have oozed out. Scrape this off and take it home. Melt it at low heat (it is highly flammable so be careful - I use an old crockpot, but an electric hotplate works good too.) Skim off the dross (garbage) that floats to the top and then let it cool completely. Grind it up to a fine dust by pounding on it or use an old food blender. Sift out any lumps and soak the dust in alcohol or acetone. It should be about the same consistency as your shellac mix. It too is a bit messy but it sure smells good.

I test all sealers by sealing and then CAREFULLY filling a mockup sheath with water after gluing and sewing. If the water leaches trhough the sealer find something else.


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  #10  
Old 09-05-2003, 01:55 PM
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Sealing: same old double edged sword, though -- a sealed sheath is a perfect container for moisture. Cleaning all the gear after use should be a ritual, but if not a good piece of steel can be ruined pretty quickly.
Mike


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Old 09-05-2003, 02:33 PM
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Chuck Burrows Chuck Burrows is offline
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Quote:
Sealing: same old double edged sword, though -- a sealed sheath is a perfect container for moisture.
Agreed but only up to a point... (you knew that was coming ) With a GOOD snug fit moisture instrusion from rain, etc. is limited. Unsealed - the flesh side of leather will pick up even ambient (high humididty) moisture and since the ouside is water "proofed" that moisture gets trapped in the leather (it's the nature of the beast - the flesh side of leather is a perfect moisture wick). On the other hand with a well sealed sheath I have left unoiled carbon blades in them for long periods of time in high humididty conditions - the Pacific Northwest Coast - and had no rust appear as long as the blade and sheath were dry to begin with. (this method of storage is NOT suggested - I did it only as a test and my tests on both knife sheaths and holsters was extensive and over a long period of time - both in the house and in my unheated shop). Another good thing about a sealed sheath is can be more easily cleaned of crud - blood, grit, etc. - and yes those things are a consideration. Boy could I tell the horror stories of guys abusing good leather and then complaining!

Is sealing the BEST WAY - my tests convinced me it is, but as I always say each to his own.

Bootomline- Once a sheath gets wet, sealed or unsealed than it must be properly dried to prevent rust/damage. As you note Mike proper care is the only way to prevent that damage.


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Old 09-05-2003, 04:08 PM
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Agreed - the wisdom and logic of your explanation is irrefutable -- doesn't hurt to have test data to support it too
My point was more to remind folks that sealing a sheath doesn't guarantee waterproofing, nor does it replace the need to clean up after use. Just as there are is no such thing as rustproof steel (only rust-resistant), sealing a leather sheath provides water-resistance, not waterproofing. I know we've had this discussion here before, just bears repeating once in a while for any newcomers (and a reminder to Seasoned Minds like mine )
Mike


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Old 09-05-2003, 04:39 PM
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Chuck Burrows Chuck Burrows is offline
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Mike -
Well said. There is no way to completely "waterproof" a sheath if for no other reason a sheath has a hole in it so although it is technically possible to waterproof the leather (back in the '70's an outfit used to sell some stuff that actually was waterproof) the water can still get in the hole!


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The beautiful sheaths created for storing the knife elevate the knife one step higher. It celebrates the knife it houses.

Last edited by Chuck Burrows; 09-05-2003 at 04:42 PM.
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  #14  
Old 11-10-2003, 07:02 AM
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Pure neatsfoot oil should not damage leather. Neatsfoot COMPOUND however will due to the sulfer content. I use common mineral oil. To slick edges I sand to 220 grit, dampen, and rub with a piece of denim. Works very well. Tandy has nylon waxed cord in brown, black, and white. Cannot tell from linen to the eye.
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Old 01-18-2004, 08:59 AM
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Chuck, How do you seal the inside of your pouch type sheaths?
I usually make a pattern of the knife on paper, allowing so much for the folding and such then cut it out, wet, fold and sew.

Do you wet it, let it dry and then apply the minwax. I was just curious on how you know you've sealed every spot inside the sheath. Or do you apply on the inside before you fold and sew?

I am always looking for ways to improve also. I use a little mink oil/w vitamin E oil added and a 1/2" artists brush to apply to the inside when dried, but I have no way of knowing that I got every spot covered, I just hope.
Have you heard anything bad about the mink oils for applications like this?

Another thing, do you apply the minwax to the outside of the sheaths also? I use a couple coats of super leather shene, but I don't know if its that great for water protection, the dude at the leather store said it was the thing to use so thats why I use it.

Thanks,

Bill
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