Can sheath leather damage a blade?


Well-Known Member
I've searched, but can't find exactly what I want to know. I read on another forum that lots of/most custom knifemakers recommend that blades NOT be stored in a leather sheath. Apparently chemicals used in tanning can sometimes damage the blade if left in contact.

I've just begun making sheaths, so I'm interested to learn what I can about whether sheaths can indeed damage a blade. The leather I'm using is 8-10# veg-tan cowhide from Tandy. What's your experience and advice?
Chrome tanned leather is a big no-no. Veg tanned leather is "safe" for knife and gun use. But it is worth mentioning that leather is hygroscopic and will vary in moisture content based on environment, so it has been advised that items are not stored long term in leather. With that said, knives kept in climate control should be reasonably safe, so long as they go in dry and have some decent protection like oil or wax.
I found years ago that with well applied wetting with mineral oil, it actually offers some protection from rust, and discourages pests that might want to eat on it, AND NO mineral oil does not harm vege-tanned leather.
Vege-tanned should be fine as far as chemicals and rusting, but the potential for moisture in a sheath and causing rust is probably the biggest risk. Most hunts involve some kind of water - rain, snow, dew, etc. Leather absorbs it and that moisture in a sheath with a knife in it will cause rust even with a stainless steel.

I tell all clients to store the knife outside the sheath. That's a lot easier than trying to get rust off of a blade.
I've dabbled in making sheaths, too, and you're right; it's important to consider blade care. Some types of leather and tanning methods can cause blades' corrosion if they trap moisture. To be safe, you might want to consider adding a moisture-absorbing material or a blade protector inside the sheath. For more tips and guides on leather, check Von Baer. Happy crafting!
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90% of what I make are Sheaths for kitchen knives. I’m also known to not dry a blade off perfectly all the time.
Got to seal the inside before you stitch it up. Simple Elmers glue and water would work fine and it’s food safe. I line most of my work in deer skin
“ Paul Long style” I’ve never had a knife rust after I started sealing and or lining.
As everyone else has mentioned, the most important thing is to use Vegetable tanned leather for sheaths and holsters. Stay away from chrome tanned leathers. Veg tanned leathers are more stiff which is good for making sturdy sheaths and their edges burnish with friction which is good for finishing. Chrome tanned leathers are generally softer to the touch and more pliable. Chrome tanned leathers do not burnish with friction like veg tanned does and generally require some type of edge coat to dress the raw edges.

Good luck!
Using any kind of metal on your sheath may cause damage to a knife. Conchos, rivets, studs,. need to be placed extremely well if not covered up by a liner. Pushing/pulling your blade across a metal object is a bad thing to do.