Knife Sheath

While I’m blog­ging about things that aren’t shoes, this is a sheath I made about 18 months ago for a knife by Richard Van Dijk of Hoiho Knives. Richard’s stock in trade are beau­ti­ful pat­tern-wel­ded art knives but a couple of years ago he brought some simple medi­ev­al knives to an event, I bought this one and it is now one of my favour­ite knives.

The sheath isn’t based on any par­tic­u­lar extant example but is a col­lec­tion of ele­ments pulled togeth­er from dif­fer­ent examples in Knives and Scab­bards. The sheath is two lay­ers of ~1 mm veg tanned yearling. The inner is grain-in the out­er grain-out, as per medi­ev­al examples. There is no glue hold­ing the two lay­ers togeth­er. The inner lay­er was wet-formed over the knife and the out­er lay­er was sewn damp over that.

The seam on the inner lay­er is a but­ted seam so it lays flat. The seam on the out­er is a lipped seam saddle-stitched with the same thread I use for shoes then trimmed back and burn­ished down flat.

This seems to be a fairly com­mon way of doing things on medi­ev­al examples. I haven’t seen one yet that had a but­ted seam up the back. There are two reas­ons for this I can think of the first is simply because this style of seam is far easi­er to pat­tern than a pre­cisely but­ted seam. The second is that a lipped seam is far less likely to tear out under ten­sion so the seam can be used to pull the out­er lay­er tight and both form it to the inner lay­er and cre­ate enough ten­sion to hold it in place without any glue or stitch­ing between the two lay­ers.

The dec­or­a­tion was done almost entirely with a scratch awl and I’m really happy with the way it came out. I scratched out the out­line free­hand and then used the point of the awl to rough up the back­ground sur­faces. The arms are my SCA arms. They were painted on using lamp­black for the black and lead oxide car­bon­ate for the white with a dilute hide-glue bind­er. It’s not ter­ribly neat but paint­ing really isn’t my strong suit.

The one aspect of the dec­or­a­tion that really didn’t work on this was the ‘vine’, which was the bit I didn’t do with a scratch awl. Instead I used a free­hand groover I made, with the idea that a wider line than the scratch awl was mak­ing would be good. The prob­lem is it’s much too deep com­pared to the rest of the dec­or­a­tion. In future I’ll make a more blunt poin­ted scratch awl for this type of dec­or­a­tion.

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