Test for leather sheath finish?

You fellas making leather sheaths....Do you have any kind of test for water/wear that you do pertaining to the kind of environment the knife is designed for?

Like how long you could put it under running water at a certain temp....or how many 90 degree bends before you can see hazing in the finish?

Or is just a good commercial finish enough...and the customer is responsible for keeping it pretty and protective?

Thanks guys.

Von Gruff

Well-Known Member
Ted, I deliver my sheaths in the best condition I can and like anyother comodity it is up to the new owner to keep them in good condition. I hot wax so water proofing is as good as it gets. There should be no need for any bending of the sheath after it is formed so I dont see that as of any concern

C Craft

Well-Known Member
Ted, I am more picky about my knives if I do a custom order, I want to know details about what you have in mind for use of the knife. At present I am still working with high carbon steels. So I will tell them say, you are looking for knife for scuba diving you need to contact someone else that uses the type of steel more suited for such a knife! IMO you as the consumer are responsible for "prudent care" after purchase!

1. discreet or cautious in managing one's activities; circumspect
2. practical and careful in providing for the future
3. exercising good judgment or common sense

You can guarantee you workmanship but, no one can guarantee stupid!!

Years ago back when I first started making knives it was for my own use. One of my first knives was a cheap throwing knife that I re-worked to make a knife to keep in my tackle box. So after reshaping I put black walnut handles from some my father had cut off of our property and rough cut. I decided that given for what my intentions were it would make an all right scaler, and gutter/de-heading knife. I treated the handle with a dip in hot bees wax and the same for the sheath, made from the upper of an old work boot. For years I used it like that and as long as I rinsed the knife when done and let it dry put a light coat of oil on the blade before shoving it in the sheath it worked great.
I loaned this knife to my son in law one weekend and told him when done rinse, the knife and let it dry and put a light coat of oil on the blade before re-sheathing it! When he brought it back I was busy that afternoon and I laid it aside. Several months later I open a drawer in the kitchen, (you know that dreaded junk drawer) and there is my fish cleaning knife. I then remember that my son in law had borrowed and I must have lain it on the counter and the wife got tired of looking at it and it was relocated to the junk drawer!
I tried to remove it from the sheath and it was stuck solid. Nothing I could do would budge it! Long story short it had been a long time since I had hot waxed the sheath, and my son in law had put it in wet. The cheap knife that had not been rinsed, (cause it still had fish scales on it), and had not let it dry or oiled had been jammed into the sheath. By the time I got it out of the sheath, I had damaged the sheath and the knife was solid rust!

Prudent care would have kept this knife from rusting. After-all I had used this knife close to 30 years, knowing it was a cheap steel and it had never ended up in that shape. Like I said you can't fix stupid!

To sum this up I don't do a lot of orders. I build a knife with the sheath that I want to make for that knife. If you like it you buy it! I do all leather sheaths, I use quality veggie tanned leather. If you do contact me I will build to suit, if it is not a zombie killer or something that won't work for what you want! I have had the occasion to contact another maker to make a kydex sheath! I don't particularly like them, (personal preference), but I am not set-up to do them!!

I have a sheet that I send out with any knife that states, that I back the workmanship of the knife, a knife is a tool but not meant for prying, chopping wire, etc. etc. It also states that the accompanying sheath is made of vegetable tanned leather and prudent care will make it last for many years and I go on to tell them how to care for both the knife and sheath!

So far I haven't had but one ever come back. The guy called me and told me the edge was failing on his knife. When he sent it back to me it was obvious that it had been used to cut wire or something. The edge where is wasn't chipped held up well to the brass rod test even after I got it back. I talked to the guy and told him I did not know what the knife was used for but this damage was not fair wear and tear! I could regrind a new edge on the blade or I could build him a new one, exactly like the old one at my costs without a new sheath. In the course of the conversation he finally admitted his teenage son had taken the knife on a camping trip and it came back like that! Then he tells me he would not feel right having me build another knife and what would the knife look like with the edge re-ground. I took a pic of the knife after drawing a line on the blade to show where the new edge would be. He agreed that was what he wanted. Sooooo if he is the one who decides he wants another knife,.......................I will be backed up for at least a year! You only get one chance to pull one on me!!
Cliff, I think we are at a point in time where many folks have been spoiled by the cheap stainless knives...maybe two or three generations now. Having to do anything besides popping it in a dishwasher might seem overboard...lol. I like O1 and A2 for blades...maybe because I've made a lot of tools out of them at shops I worked at over the years and am familiar with their characteristics...

Perhaps a knifemaker should only use stainless to avoid disappointed customers that don't understand that lack of care is also abuse. Dad always gave us non stainless pocket knives as kids...and taught us how to care for a non stainless blade.

Perhaps I'm being overly optimistic with A2....


Forum Owner - Moderator
Over the years I've become an advocate of NOT "waterproofing" leather sheaths. Early in my career, I did a hot wax treatment, but over time learned that for longevity, leather needs to "breathe". To that end I changed my ways to dying, and then using a leather protectant similar to shoe polish.

I can understand where you're coming from asking the questions you did...... but it's impossible to "bullet proof" either your knives or the sheaths from knuckleheaded actions (or inaction). For over a decade now, every knife that I've sold comes with "How to Care for you Knife" paperwork. Even with that, I've had many incidents where people have called me up, with all kinds of self induced issues. From tarnish/rust, to what you mentioned about "dishwashers". In most cases when it's something that I directly addressed in the paperwork, my first question is.... "Did you read the paperwork I sent with your knife?" Generally there's a dead silence for a few seconds...then a "No" follows shortly. I also offer free lifetime cleaning and sharpening to my clients. They send me their knife, with return postage, and I do the rest, but I'm always careful to indicate it's not a "rebuild" service. :)

Here's a short exert of what the paperwork I ship with each knife contains:

  1. DO NOT!
    1. Allow your knife to remain in a hot environment such as a dashboard or near a high source of heat.
    2. NEVER, NEVER, put your knife in the dishwasher (don’t laugh, a number of folks have done this and really wrecked their knife.)
    3. Use your knife as a pry bar, screwdriver, or as a makeshift hammer.
    4. Pound on the spine of the knife with a rock or other hard items.
5. Store the knife in the scabbard/sheath for extended periods of time (leather). Leather will draw any moisture that is present and will likely cause tarnish or rust to form on the steel.

All of my knives are covered by a lifetime warranty, for as long as I am physically able to work. If there is ever a problem, contact me, and I will do everything I can to "make it right".
My warranty DOES NOT cover the following:

1. Misuse/abuse (read the “DO NOTs” listed above)

2. Damage caused by disassembly/assembly (including lost/damaged hardware)

3. If ANY modification(s) are made to the original knife.

4. Of course common sense comes into play…use your knife as a knife, and it should last for generations.

Of course nothing works in every situation..... and each of the above points came about due to "problems" that I've encountered....... you still have to be prepared to deal with customers/clients who just pull a "bonehead", and then try to attribute it to something you didn't do right. It's just something you have deal with on a case by case basis.
That is probably the only way to deal with it Ed....A paper saying what is covered and how to care for a knife. My old boss used to say it is impossible to idiot proof anything because..."every time you do they build a smarter idiot"