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Stitching a sheath

Discussion in 'Materials & Technique' started by Jim T, Nov 19, 2014.

  1. Jim T

    Jim T Active Member

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    Need some advice when it comes to stitching leather sheaths. I’m a frustrated novice when it comes to leather work. Made a filleting knife which turned out pretty well. Then I made a sheath.

    [​IMG]

    I was pretty happy with it until I tried to put the knife in. Found out the hard way it was too tight and the blade tip sliced right through the leather on the back.

    [​IMG]

    Swore a lot, then made another sheath. I used a 1/16 inch bit in my bench top drill press to make the holes for the waxed thread I used to stitch it together. Stitching doesn’t look too bad on the front....

    [​IMG]

    However, on the back, it’s another story. Very uneven stitching, too close to the edge, crooked lines. How do you prevent this?

    [​IMG]

    I’m sure there’s a technique to fix this, but I’m having a heck of a time figuring it out. Help.

    Jim T
     
  2. dancom

    dancom Dust Maker Best Shop Tool

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    I am a novice too Jim. I have found that using a groover really helps keep the stitches "in line". I also use an overstitch wheel to mark the holes and a drill press so they are nice and square to the leather's surface. They come out the back about the same distance from the edge as they go in on the front. The thread falls into the groove and looks nice and linear.

    More art than science at this stage. Rob is really good, maybe he can advise.

    When at the Metal Art Show in September, I was looking at some sheathes that had Lexan (a G.E. brand of polycarbonate) panels as an internal protector to prevent a razor sharp blade from tearing through. Something to think about.

    A least you know your filleting knife will do the job!

    Dan
     
  3. Icho-

    Icho- Staff Member

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    I had the same problems as you when I tried drilling the leather. Now I use an awl to pre poke the holes. I find I have a lot more control with it. I always start on the front side of the sheath and slowly poke thru while keeping an eye out where the awl is about to poke thru. If you are off a bit you can back up and adjust or you can push it from the back.
     
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  4. Jim T

    Jim T Active Member

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    Thanks guys.

    Dan, I do use a groover and an overstitch wheel (thank you, Tandy's). Still, the stitching on the back looks like I did it while I was drunk and I'm pretty sure I wasn't. My son-in-law, who I made the knife for, is perfectly happy with how the new sheath works. Me, I'm a lot more picky. The crooked stitch lines offend my sense of precision. I think "good enough" is never good enough.

    Icho, I know an awl gives you more control, I was just hoping to find a way to speed up the process since, as I said, leather work is not my forte. I might have to rethink that, however. A knife and a sheath should work together, both in functionality and design. I better stop before I start sounding too preachy. You guys know what I mean. Thanks for the feedback.

    Jim T
     
  5. dancom

    dancom Dust Maker Best Shop Tool

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    After some thought, what appears to happening is the downward force is causing the bit to deflect. A 1/16" bit will bend under pressure and come out the other side somewhere unexpected. I found a good sharp bit and going nice and slow, think up to 10 seconds a hole to get through 3/8" of leather. Let the bit do the cutting.

    A couple of other notes.
    • I use every other hole from the overstitch wheel as I find the spacing too close. I think the holes are about 5mm apart.
    • I groove after drilling. Maybe that's not the right way to do it but helps with getting the holes nice and even as we're drilling on a flat surface and not in the groove.
    • My preference is waxed artificial sinew. It's heavy I know, but IMHO easier to work with than the lightweight stuff.
    • All the pieces are bonded with contact adhesive before drilling so nothing slips around.
    [​IMG]

    I'd suggest you try a couple of pieces of scrap glued together and test some ideas. Maybe draw some lines and see if you can determine where things are shifting.

    It's unfortunate because the knife is stellar and the sheath is 95% there. If you can get the holes straightened out it's a winner of a package.

    Let us know what you discover.

    Dan
     
  6. Jim T

    Jim T Active Member

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    Hmm... Some good food for thought, Dan, thanks. I have to make a conscious effort to slow down when trying to get through the tasks that I see as tedious. I know some knifemakers really enjoy making sheaths. I probably would too, if I didn't look at it as a chore when it comes to knifemaking.

    Jim T
     
  7. dancom

    dancom Dust Maker Best Shop Tool

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    For me the leather work is so relaxing, I just have to go slow. Zamfir anyone? :whistling
     
  8. Icho-

    Icho- Staff Member

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    I like everything about sheath making except the stitching. I even looked into a sewing machine for leather. What probably helped me the most is my stitching pony. It actually helped speed things up a bit and i don't deform the sheath pushing the awl thru like i use to.
     
  9. Rob W

    Rob W Active Member

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    Jim take your 1/16 bit and grind the tip even thinner and up the shaft of the bit a ways too, makes a smaller hole and really tightens up nice around the wax thread, then it will almost pierce with the friction instead of drill.....holes on the back, I try and level off the thread side of the sheath while drilling with a scrap piece of clean leather that will bring your edge height up and level when drilling , then slow and steady , I try and check every hole after I drill.....if your stitch groove on the front is say 3/16'' from the edge and your barely hittin leather on the back you for sure are not level when
    drilling , no expert that's for sure but just how I do.....its kind of ironic we'll take days or weeks to make a blade and thne try and finish a sheath while watching Survivor on a thursday night !! I just finished an open back 10'' Nessmuck sheath and it took me about 4 evenings so I'm slowing down at least I'm trying to !!
     
  10. Jim T

    Jim T Active Member

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    Thanks for all the tips and advice, guys. You're right, Rob. It's become pretty clear to me that I have to slow down and learn to do the leather work properly.

    Zamfir? Really Dan?

    Where did you get your stitching pony, Icho? Tandy's?

    Jim T
     
  11. dancom

    dancom Dust Maker Best Shop Tool

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    Ahh yes Zamfir is awesome.
    But I draw the line at Nana Mouskouri!

    :eek:
     
  12. Brad

    Brad Active Member

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    I'm not a leather worker but here is my 2c worth. I grove before drilling (personal preference otherwise both sides look bad for me) and I use a tapered drill bit (Just grind one down). I use a drill press and a board as a backer. If my sheath is the fold over type I use the edge of the board so I can hold the sheath square, otherwise my holes wander off towards the edge. Another thing I have started doing is drilling just barley through or not quite through. Then once all my holes are drilled I cut my grove into the back. I find that hides some of my wandering drill holes
     
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  13. Icho-

    Icho- Staff Member

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    Jim. I made it. it cost me nothing accept about half an hour. Here's a pic.

    [​IMG]
     
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  14. Jim T

    Jim T Active Member

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    Wow, even your stitching pony looks like it's well crafted, Icho. You actually beveled the leather on the top clamp section. Forgive my ignorance, but what's the purpose of the wingnut at the base of the two arms?

    Jim T
     
  15. Icho-

    Icho- Staff Member

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    The clamp can rotate on the base incase you need a different angle while stitching. I haven't had to rotate it yet but i imagine the first time I do, if I ever do, I will be glad I can.
     
  16. Jim T

    Jim T Active Member

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    Brilliant!
     
  17. Icho-

    Icho- Staff Member

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    Thanks but it wasn't really my design in any way. I looked at the different designs online and at Tandy and just couldn't see myself paying $40+ so I bought some leather dye and other leather supplies instead and then made it while spending quality time with my wife. Lol.
     

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