AmericanLongRifles Forums

General discussion => Contemporary Accoutrements => Topic started by: Jerry V Lape on September 27, 2021, 08:48:45 AM

Title: Safety lined knife sheaths
Post by: Jerry V Lape on September 27, 2021, 08:48:45 AM
Never have heard this discussed here so I may be the only one with a fear of a knife puncturing a leather sheath and inflicting bodily harm. I have made several sheaths for my personal use that is lined either with a hardwood or rawhide.  I have seen historic wood sheath but not leather covered.  Any others lining their sheaths for added safety?
Title: Re: Safety lined knife sheaths
Post by: TN Longhunter on September 27, 2021, 01:43:01 PM
Iíve been known to add a rawhide liner along the cutting edge .

Title: Re: Safety lined knife sheaths
Post by: Robby on September 27, 2021, 02:54:02 PM
I use sheet copper, I think its about 1/32" thick. It is very malleable, i usually just do a V shaped liner where the cutting edge nests.
Title: Re: Safety lined knife sheaths
Post by: Marcruger on September 27, 2021, 03:50:00 PM
I believe many Bowie knives, bayonets and such had a wood or metal structure, covered in leather for looks. 

Another safety option is to make a side seam sheath with a thick leather welt against which the blade rides.  I have soaked the welt in superglue along the side where the edge rides for added cut-resistance. 

Over the years, many have riveted metal plates to the front and back of the sheath tip, or made formed 3D tips and throats for protection. 

God Bless,   Marc
Title: Re: Safety lined knife sheaths
Post by: RAT on September 27, 2021, 06:23:59 PM
Those fancy original Great Lakes knife sheaths made of black-dyed buckskin with quillwork... They were lined with birch bark.

Most original leather knife sheaths (and holsters, and bags, and other non-horse related stuff) were made from much thinner leather than the modern 20th century stuff. It seems in the 70's every want-to-be mountain man thought a knife sheath had to be made from 1/4" thick leather. That's just not the case.

Look at modern knife sheaths.

If the seam is along the edge, and you use a welt, 5-6 ounce leather is fine. No need to re-enforce it.

Most original knife sheaths seem to have had the seam running along the middle/back, not the edge. They seem to have worked fine. Some examples were wood lined, but I think that was not common.

Mid/late 19th century English factory made "Bowie" knives were very popular in America. I believe these came with sheaths made from paper-wrapped cardboard.
Title: Re: Safety lined knife sheaths
Post by: RAT on September 27, 2021, 06:41:04 PM
Oh... I forgot...

Remember the whole brass-tack thing? That dates to the reservation period (1870's-1900). It might date as early as the 1850's, but that's speculation on my part.

If you feel the need to re-enforce the edge, don't overlook rivets. Some 18th and 19th century knife sheaths survive with lead rivets along the edge. Some to re-enforce the stitching, and some to fasten the leather with no stitching at all.

I can't prove it, but I think Thornton Grimsley (of St. Louis) used harness rivets to assemble the knife sheaths he sold to the various fur trade companies. That would explain the "dots" that appear long the edge of sheaths shown in Miller's paintings. Some think these prove brass tacks were used. I think otherwise. The various ledgers that have been re-printed by modern researchers prove that Thornton Grimsley was supplying belts and knife sheaths.

I've been unable to date brass harness rivets, but have seen at least one photo of a belt and holster dated to the 1840's. Tin plated iron rivets were used since at least the mid 1700's. They were used on British bayonet sheaths during the French and Indian war. Copper harness rivets available today seem to date much later.
Title: Re: Safety lined knife sheaths
Post by: P.W.Berkuta on September 27, 2021, 07:21:08 PM
A knife will slice through a leather sheath very easily. I line my sheaths with thin vulcanized fiber spacer material that is used in knife making <>. I glue it to the inside of both sides of the leather with contact cement and then stich the sheath closed.
Shown here are knives that have the vulcanized fiber spacer material applied to the knife handle and some sheaths with it glued to the inside - hard to see but it's there.   
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Title: Re: Safety lined knife sheaths
Post by: DougS on September 27, 2021, 08:52:00 PM
As mentioned already, when I make a side seam, I will add a welt. When I make a center seam, I will sometimes add a rawhide outer piece to cover the knife tip.


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Title: Re: Safety lined knife sheaths
Post by: RAT on September 27, 2021, 10:16:26 PM
I'm 57 and I've never had a knife sheath fail because the knife sliced through the leather. I've cut the stitching at the very top... I think once. When they wear out it's generally because the leather simply gets old and the outside gets worn from rubbing on stuff.

I guess my knives aren't sharp enough.
Title: Re: Safety lined knife sheaths
Post by: Notchy Bob on September 28, 2021, 02:25:01 AM
I'll have to say, I'm with RAT here.  I have not had a knife poke through a leather sheath.

I have heard of traditional Scandinavian sheaths made with a leather-covered wooden core, but they look funny and kind of unattractive to me.  Also, I have seen photographs of Saami sheaths made of reindeer antler, with a leather "throat" added on at the top.  Some of these are very nicely engraved.

I don't know about the construction of eastern Indian sheaths, but I have seen a number of plains Indian sheaths in museums.  The beaded ones are typically made of parfleche (heavy rawhide) covered with buckskin.  The beading is done on the buckskin cover.  There are also a number of plains Indian sheaths just made of parfleche, and often nicely painted.  I have worked with parfleche, and made a couple of sheaths from it.  Here is one that was copied from one I saw online, with a red trade cloth binding.  Don't pay any attention to the biscochitos... They are long gone.  I still have the knife and sheath, though:

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Parfleche, the real thing, is as tough as Kydex, and you can wet mold it to hold a knife firmly in position.  I use tin snips to cut it when I'm working with it.

I have made some sheaths of vegetable tanned leather with thin (deer) rawhide covers.  These are fun to make, and they are very practical, giving good protection to the knife and the person carrying it.  I think they have a very appealing, rustic appearance.  This is a knife and rawhide-covered leather sheath I made for a buddy a while back:

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I use 6-7 ounce leather for the core, with a leather welt, and I wet-mold the leather core to the knife before covering it with rawhide.  Some people use heavier leather for the core, but I don't think it's necessary, especially with the rawhide cover.  I soak the rawhide in black tea instead of water, to give it a little color.  The actual sheath is not orange, as shown in the photo.  That's just the way it came out on the iPhone camera. Unfortunately, these are not authentic to any time or place on the American frontier.

I think concerns about the knife poking through the sheath may be realistic with regard to "neck knives."  For the life of me, I cannot understand their popularity.  To each his own, and I know they were used to some extent by eastern Indians, but I just can't tolerate having something like that flopping around on my chest.  And, if you are running from an angry bear or something, and you trip on a log while going full speed, I could see the knife jamming against the ground and poking through the sheath and beyond.  The bear might get a free lunch.

Best regards,

Notchy bob

Title: Re: Safety lined knife sheaths
Post by: Jerry V Lape on September 29, 2021, 08:01:32 AM
How are you attaching the copper v in the sheath? 

Several interesting variation given.  i appreciate the shared ideas
Title: Re: Safety lined knife sheaths
Post by: rich pierce on September 29, 2021, 04:13:03 PM
Iím seeing some really nice workmanship on sheaths! Iíd like to know how to apply a rawhide tip to a leather sheath and make it stick. Cause when my dog was a pup he chewed the sheath on a favorite knife.
Title: Re: Safety lined knife sheaths
Post by: heinz on October 01, 2021, 03:32:56 AM
I use a rawhide liner sewn with copper wire.  The buckskin cover is stretched over it.  You can twist the cover for a center seam or leave it on the side.

The rawhide liner tends to take a set that will hold the knife in the sheath.  My knives are shaving shark and will cut through the stitching on a sheath if they are not, lined , or welted or metal riveted

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I have one with a rawhide lined sheath from Lally House I will post in a separate thread.