We’re going to break down this seemingly complex DIY project into 10 manageable and easy to follow steps. You’ll learn how to make a knife sheath that’s custom-designed to fit your favorite knife perfectly. If you’re a first-timer, you’ll have a clear and practical process to work with – and some awesome knife sheath making ideas.
Regardless of where you’re starting, you’ll have a clear and actionable path laid out for you. We’ll litter in some pro tips along the way to keep you moving in the right direction. Let’s dive in!
10 DIY Steps to Make the Perfect Custom Knife Sheath
The steps we’ve carefully crafted will take you from scratch to a fully-functional knife sheath. If you run into any knowledge gaps (e.g. stitching techniques), you might want to fill them in before moving onto the next step. Each step builds on the last, so make sure you have the right tools and techniques ready to go. Take your time, stay consistent, and you’ll be surprised with what you can pull off!
Step 1: Mark the Outline on Paper First
Let’s kick it off with our first step on how to make a sheath for a knife! You’ll need sturdy white paper (standard size), a ruler, and a pen. Fold the paper in half (vertically), making sure that all the sides line up perfectly. Measure the thickness of the leather you plan on using. Use this measurement to draw a vertical line along the folded side.
For example, if your leather is 3.2mm thick, make sure the line is 3.2mm from the folded edge of the paper. Place your knife/knife template on the paper, making sure the spine never crosses the line we’ve just drawn. Mark the outline of the knife onto the paper – but don’t cross the thickness line.
Pro Tip: You don’t want the completed sheath to be longer than your pocket knife. We like it to reach about 2/3rd down the handle. This keeps it secure and easy to pull out.
Step 2: Don’t Forget to Mark the Welt
When you’re learning how to make a sheath, welts are essential (and often overlooked). Before we move onto cutting out the profile, we need to mark the welt. The welt helps to protect the sheath from being cut by the blade. A 10mm welt should be enough for most small-medium size sheaths.
Use the ruler to measure out and mark dots around the outline we drew in step 1. Make a dot every 1-2cm around the outline. Once you’re done, connect the dots – making sure that you keep the thickness as consistent as possible. Don’t draw the welt to the edge of the sheet of paper, stop it at the thickness line we drew in step 1.
Step 3: Cut Out the Paper Outline
Quality outlines are very important when you’re learning how to make custom knife sheaths. Take your time here and try to be accurate. Using a sharp paper cutting knife, cut your outline out. Your cut needs to include the welt we drew in step 2. Follow the welt line closely.
If you want to play it safe, leave 1-2mm of space around the welt line to give yourself a little leeway. The only cut you should make is for the outline of the knife. Unfold the paper and leave it flat on the table. We’ll use it soon.
Step 4: Choose the Right Leather Thickness
This is an important step to get right and depends on the knife you’re making the sheath for. Get it right and you’ll have an easy way to make a knife sheath! For small to medium-sized knives, use leather with a thickness of 3.2 mm – 3.5 mm.
This has the right balance between work ability and sturdiness. The leather should be touch to fold, but not impossible. If you’re making a sheath for a large knife, you need to use thicker leather.
Step 5: Mark and Cut the Leather Outline
Place the unfolded paper cutout on your leather. Use a silver pen or a leather-marking pen to trace the outline onto the leather. When you’re done, get an awl or spike. You need to dot the line of the knife’s outline onto the leather. Keep the light piercings about 1cm apart.
Remove the white paper and connect the dots with your marker. This is the outline of the knife’s sheath, and the remaining space will be the welt. Start by cutting the outline out of the leather (including the welt’s outline). Go slow and steady here as it’s better to cut too little than too much.
We can shave the excess off later. Take your freshly cut outline, and carefully cut the welt off. The line should be marked and easy to follow. Once you’re done, put both the welt and the sheath outline aside. Using the original leather (and not the outline you just cut), cut out the belt loop.
The size is up to you – just make sure it’s big enough to fit your belt after being stitched. For a classier finish on your DIY knife sheath, use an edge-bevel tool to chamfer the sides of the outline, welt, and belt loop.
Step 6: Stain the Leather
You need to choose which color (if any) you want to dye the leather in. My personal preference is a dark brown – but the choice is yours. Start by spraying water all over the leather. This gives a bit of variation to the color and looks stunning.
Use a dye brush to apply the dye onto the hard and smooth side of the leather (not the fluffy and softer side). Stain both sides of the belt loop too. For consistency, you should dye the first 2” or so of the internal pouch – but you can go for any look you’re after!
Step 7: Seal the Edge with Bee Wax
Use bee wax (room temperature) to seal the edges of the cut leather. This helps to waterproof it and protect it from fraying – plus it looks sleek and attractive. Be quite generous with the wax, but don’t drown the edges in it. To work the wax in, use a bone folder tool to rapidly rub and slightly heat the wax, sealing it into the edge.
Step 8: Attach the Belt Loop
You need a stitching iron with 3mm (up to you though) spacing between the teeth. We need to make stitching holes in the belt loop and the sheath. Use a mallet to steadily hammer the iron, making the holes in both the belt loop and the sheath. Make sure you mark out where you want the holes to be.
Give the leather a moment to set before stitching the belt loop to it. Secure it in a leather-friendly vice while doing the stitching. Avoid making the holes with a drill press as they don’t look great in the final product.
Step 9: Fold and Glue the Knife Sheath
Use water to soften the inside part of the leather (soft and fluffier side). Spray the water along the fold line to help you work the leather into place easily. Fold the leather a couple of times to wear in a slight bend (along the correct line). Using good-quality leather glue, paste it along with the 1cm around the sheath’s outline. The glue should be on the soft side of the leather.
Apply glue to the welt (very thin pasty layer) and stick it onto the sheath (before folding). As you fold the sheath into position, make sure the welt doesn’t slip out of place. Use a hand-held press to work along the edges and press it all into place. The glue will dry quickly, so make sure everything is in line. Once it’s dry, cut away any excess welting and smooth the sides out.
Step 10: Stitch the Sheath Together
You should use a stitching iron with 4-5 mm gaps between the teeth. On the glued sheath, mark this 4-5 mm gap (from the sheath’s edge). This is your stitching line. Use the stitching iron and mallet, making holes all along the stitching line. Work on a soft surface so that you don’t blunt the iron’s teeth. Our preference is 0.8 mm tiger thread for 4 mm teeth spacing.
Use 1.2 mm for 5 mm spacing. You’ll need about 8-times the total circumference of the sheath of thread. Make sure the threads are even and work with a stitching awl. When you’re reaching the edge of the sheath, do at least 3 back-stitches. This will stop the stitches from coming loose over time. Fit the knife into the sheath and pat yourself on the back!
You’ve got a lot of information to work with here. It’s quite densely packed, so feel free to take your time and work through it comfortably. You must get the right tools and materials. If you want a high-performing sheath, don’t skimp on any of these.
All that’s left now is for you to get started! Take what you’ve learned on how to make a knife sheath and get to work. All you need is a little practice and experience to craft the perfect sheath for your knife!