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The Sheath/Holster Makers Forum This is the place to discuss all forms of sheath and holster making.

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Old 02-12-2016, 07:58 AM
WNC Goater WNC Goater is offline
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leather question

As a necessity I needed to learn to make some sheaths to go with knives. So far I've built a few simple sheaths from some leather I bought off Amazon. I got two, one foot square pieces and it was expensive at around $30 or so. After making what I could from that, I ordered a Tandy "Craftsman Oak Double Shoulder" which was on sale for $65 at the time.

http://www.tandyleather.com/en/produ...er-8-to-9-oz-2

I have not rolled out examined and inspected the whole shoulder, just looked at it briefly and was satisfied with the looks of everything. But when I started from one end and cut just enough to make two sheaths, I realize while the weight/thickness is the same, the stiffness is not. This leather seems very supple compared to what I had used and while it is certainly useable, I'd much prefer a much stiffer and harder finished sheath.

Is this normal and is there some means of hardening/stiffening the finished sheath?


Here is one of the first ones I made from those original foot square pieces I had. It is very hard and stiff.


edit to add: I HAVE read the sticky above, "How to harden leather" and wonder, is this the best way? And still wonder why the initial leather was so stiff and this Tandy shoulder is so supple by comparison.

Also of note, I notice the flesh side is more "grainy" or looser grain (for lack of a better term) almost "fuzzy". I think I may have a sub-prime piece of leather perhaps.


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Last edited by WNC Goater; 02-12-2016 at 11:57 AM.
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  #2  
Old 02-13-2016, 06:17 AM
WBE WBE is offline
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Wet mold the fit with rubbing alcohol is one way, but does cause some loss of natural oils. Another way is to cuir bouilli treat it after finishing. The leather is dampened, then baked dry at 140? F. to 150?. Much higher in temp will damage the cellular structure.
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Old 02-16-2016, 06:52 AM
WNC Goater WNC Goater is offline
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I suppose i will need to learn to harden by oven drying. I'm thinking that may need to be done before glueing and stitching. Seems the heat could be damaging to the glue bond and possibly the thread. Seems to me 140-150 may be a bit too warm. But I have no experience with this.

I did notice after the sheaths made with this leather were dyed and finished, they did stiffen up somewhat.


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Old 02-16-2016, 10:37 AM
NCBoy NCBoy is offline
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There is a Tandy here Charlotte. I go in regularly and will tell you that every piece of leather in the store is different. Including different qualities. I like having the store local so that I can control what I am getting. Most of what I have bought through Tandy has been fine. If you come to Charlotte, you may want to go by when they are having a sale and stock up. That way you control the quality.
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Old 02-17-2016, 05:46 AM
WBE WBE is offline
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Originally Posted by WNC Goater View Post
I suppose i will need to learn to harden by oven drying. I'm thinking that may need to be done before glueing and stitching. Seems the heat could be damaging to the glue bond and possibly the thread. Seems to me 140-150 may be a bit too warm. But I have no experience with this.

I did notice after the sheaths made with this leather were dyed and finished, they did stiffen up somewhat.
No. The oven treatment is done after construction. If done right, the leather is not pliable after treatment. Try 50/50 rubbing alcohol to harden it up. Just oil the leather after is dries. That should do what you want.
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Old 02-17-2016, 06:50 AM
WNC Goater WNC Goater is offline
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No. The oven treatment is done after construction. If done right, the leather is not pliable after treatment. Try 50/50 rubbing alcohol to harden it up. Just oil the leather after is dries. That should do what you want.
Thanks, I'll give that a try on the next one. When you say oil the leather. I usually end with a light coat of obenaufs, will that work?


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Old 02-18-2016, 05:27 AM
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Crex Crex is offline
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NCBoy is dead on with Tandy leather. I never buy from them unless I can handle the piece of leather because they are all over the page on quality. If you have one close by, get to know the manager and he will usually give you a heads up when something good comes in (if he knows his business).
Mine will actually pull a few sides for me when he sees something good.

That and learn to "read" leather......takes practice.


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Old 02-18-2016, 06:31 AM
WBE WBE is offline
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Any decent quality leather oil should work fine. The rubbing alcohol causes some of the natural oils to evaporate with it. Not much, but a light oil treatment after the leather is dry will put some back.
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Old 02-18-2016, 08:24 AM
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miketheknife miketheknife is offline
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If you find yourself down in the Ashboro area ride over to Zack White leather in Ramseuer. Great people to deal with and they, unlike the Tandy store i went to in Charlotte, know their stuff.
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Old 02-18-2016, 07:58 PM
WNC Goater WNC Goater is offline
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I just cut out and started construction on three sheaths this evening. The finished side of this leather is very nice and smooth, virtually blemish free. But the flesh side is very loose, open grain, almost fuzzy like. Lots of little fibers dropping out. It's almost as if it needed a sanding and didn't get one. I just think it's a cheap quality piece of leather and probably why it was on sale. It's useable but more difficult to use and a pain. When its gone I wont buy any more Tandy leather sight unseen.
Thanks for the heads upon the leather shop in Asheboro. I sometimes go to Raleigh & that's not that far out of the way.
Edit to add: I just checked out the Zack White website and very happy. Seems if they don't have it you don't need it! Thanks again.


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Last edited by WNC Goater; 02-18-2016 at 08:13 PM.
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Old 02-29-2016, 12:21 PM
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Colonel666 Colonel666 is offline
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Finished or Unfinished Leather

When I started out making knife sheaths I had the same dilemma as you. Unfinished oak and vegetable tanned is softer because it is used to do carving (stamping) designs on the surface. Thick and soft gives more 3D look and feel to stamped (carved) designs.
When leather gets tanned then tannery gives a finishing applied to the surface "Chroming" it is more dense and firm. This is good if you want consistent results without spots or damage by wetting the surface or cooking with ovens.
Look at remnants and what the seller had made with the leather for sale and that will give you a hint on how tough, firm, or finish it has and compare that to your particular size sheath you need to make. You can still do design and stamping with small amount of wetness in desired areas.
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