Tooled and Antiqued Leather Sheath for a Kiridashi

A few weeks ago I made a razor sharp kiridashi knife. Since it is so sharp, I need a safe way to store the knife. So… In this video I am going to make a leather sheath for the kiridashi blade. The Japanese marking knife will get a beautiful sheath, since I am going to tool and antique the sheath. The pattern will be a basket weave pattern with camouflaged edges. I never have stamped and antiqued leather before, so I first tried out the process on a set of coasters. It worked, so in this video I am going to make a nicely decorated and antiqued leather sheath.

Click here to see how I made the kiridashi.

And here if you want to find out how to make a leather strap cutter.

Video transcript:

Hello ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Tony Needs Hobbies. My name is Tony and I have a little challenge. A couple of weeks ago I made this extremely sharp kiridashi blade and now I need a safe way to store it. But no worries, I’ve got a piece of veg tan leather that I will use to make a sheath out of that I will decorate by hand tooling and applying an antique finish to make it look really nice. Have fun watching!

I’ll start off with this 5 centimeter wide strap of the veg tan leather that I just showed you. The dimensions don’t really matter as it only needs to fit the knife or blade with enough room around it for stitching it together. The shape will follow the general shape of my kiridashi: long with a taper on one side. By the way, the strap has been cut using the strap cutter that I made myself. If you want to make one too, check out the video that is linked in the top right corner – after finishing this one of course…

Once the two pieces have been cut to size and shape I need to prepare both of them for stamping. I found many instructions on different websites on how to case leather. All of which were very different, so I compiled a version of my own, which worked just fine:

  • First, I soak the leather in water for five minutes until all bubbles are gone
  • Then I take it out of the water, remove the surface water and put it in a zip loc bag
  • After an hour, I take it out and let it air dry for half an hour before commencing stamping

The stamping is done on this large and heave piece of granite.

First I mark the area where to put the basket weave pattern. I mark 8 millimeters from the sides using the wing divider. This leaves enough room for stitching. Then, with the swivel knife I cut into the leather where it was marked. When all borders are cut, it is time to start stamping.

I will use a basket weave stamp for the main texture and the edges will be stamped with the camouflage stamp. I try to stamp at roughly a 45 degree angle and with a good blow the pattern is immortalized in leather. To make the sheath look the best possible, I repeat this patterning at the same angle on the other piece of leather. When done, it is important to let it dry completely.

These are the products that I will use to finish the leather:

  • I will use neatsfoot oil to make it a little bit darker and to feed it
  • Then I will apply tan-kote as a resist so that the antique finish doesn’t go and color all the leather brown
  • Obviously I am going to use antique finish. This will color the sunk-in areas a bit darker than the rest of the leather
  • And I will finish it all off by applying a protective coating of resolene

The first thing that I will do in my antiquing process is applying just a little bit of neatsfoot oil. I apply it from the center pushing it outwards in a circular motion to disturb the edges of the leather as little as possible. A thin coat will darken the leather just a little bit and will feed it so that it will last longer. I’ll let it soak in for a few minutes before moving on to the next step.

That is applying the resist. I couldn’t get real resist from my leather supply dealer, so I am going to use Fiebing’s tan kote which should work fine. Since I also couldn’t find sheepskin on the cheap, I will use these sponges to apply it. I apply one thin coat and let it dry for 30 minutes.

Then I apply a generous layer of dark brown antique finish. This has a shoe polish texture and I found, when doing some experiments with it, that it’s easily applied using wool daubers. It has to be worked in into the pattern and I also apply it on the unpatterned part leather to prevent uneven coloring. Before wiping the excess off, I wait for it dry for about an hour. If you don’t wait long enough, you might wipe off too much and the effect will be negated.

By the way, in this shot you see the coasters that I am making simultaneously. This is just so that I can try out the stamping and antiquing process without potentially ruining the actual sheath. It’ll also give a nice byproduct in the end so neither my time nor the leather goes to waste.

After wiping off the excess paste I let it dry overnight before applying the top coat. I guess all the waiting in between the different steps is the most difficult, but for all steps in this project it’s really important to get the best looking result. So just be patient and try to work on something else in the waiting time.

I can’t just apply resolene now, since it will dissolve a large part of the antiquing paste. That’s why I apply one coat of tan-kote as a barrier layer. When that has dried, I can move on and apply two layers of resolene. This is an acrylic top coat that will remain flexible when dry and will give the leather a semi-gloss finish. After roughly an hour, I can continue…

With the antiquing process finished it is now time to construct the sheath by gluing and stitching it together and then finishing the edges. I’ve experimented a bit with edge finishing and antiquing on this set of coasters. I think they turned out really nice so I’m going to do exactly the same for the sheath. Let’s move on.

All the sharp corners will be knocked off with a sharp knife making them nice and round. Then I bevel all the edges that need beveling. On the larger back piece I only need to bevel the grain side and just half of the suede side: the part that is not going to be glued to the front piece. I mark it with an awl, bevel it and continue with making a stitching groove at 5 millimeters from the side.

After that I have to finish one edge already, because later on I cannot reach it any more. I simply apply gum trag, smoothen it out with a rag, apply beeswax and then slick it with a wooden slicker. Later on, I’ll do this on all the sides, when the two parts are glued and stitched together, which is what I am going to do after the snap button is installed and the stitching holes are punched.

To prevent the kiridashi from slicing open the stiches, the point will nicely go into this triangular shaped skived piece of leather. I glue this in at the bottom of the sheath before gluing the rest together. The contact cement has to be applied on both sides and has to be dry before combining the parts. Using a couple of needles in the mirrored holes, I make sure that when gluing the pieces together, the holes are nicely aligned and stitching will go more easily.

Before stitching, double check that the leather pieces have dried completely. If there is any moisture left, the stitches will sink into the leather and it will look horrible. I’ve stitched before and made a video on how to do it a long time ago. My stitches look much better now – practice makes perfect!

And then, when all stitching is finally done, I’ll finish the edge by applying gum trag, smoothening it with a rag, applying some beeswax and slicking it with a wooden slicker. You can see all of that in the following montage…

A final application of some beeswax based leather conditioner on the inside of the flap – the area that will bend most often – will ensure the sheath will remain in good condition for a long time.

And there you have it: a nice tooled and antiqued sheath to hold my kiridashi blade. I had a lot of fun making it. Although it isn’t perfect I learned some new valuable skills and in the process I also made a set of coasters. I hope you have enjoyed watching this video. If you did then let me know by hitting the like button. Please also consider subscribing to the channel for more content like this in the future.

That’s it for now. I would like to thank you for watching. Bye, bye!

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