As best as I can tell by my research, these knives are about 1/8″ – 3/16″ steel and when 9″ long about 1 1/2″ wide. Most examples taper slightly back to the handle. Mos have a slight bulge at the butt of the handle.
Blade – 9 1/2″
Overall — 14 3/4
Handle – stabilized maple
1/8″ – 1095 steel
To make the brass pieces I clamped a straight edge across the back of the drill press table. I set the bit as short as I could to help avoid wobble. I used a bit 1/16″ smaller than the tang to allow some room to bring it back to straight if it was off a bit.
It’s a little off center but the brass is big enough that it will not matter.
I used small files to finish cleanup.
I used a hack saw blade I had narrowed the end to cut out some of the brass.
I discovered on the very last piece I had a small dremel cutter that worked to help open it up
I’m tapering the opening a little so the back is more open than the front. I can press it on that way for a tight fit, but a small gap in the back will allow for some epoxy, JB weld or solder. I will probably use epoxy. The blue marking on the back is to make sure I don’t confuse what is front and what is the back.
Filing the brass flat. Here i am using sand paper on the dmt. The dmt just provides a nice flat surface and the grit helps hold the sand paper in place.
Using a ball peen hammer to give some texture to the guard.
At this point i decided to make another. I need to stabilize some handle material anyhow, along with being out of propane. I made the second one out of a piece of 3/16″ 1084 and made it about an inch shorter.
The Leuku knife
Stabilized maple handle with brass guard and pummel
Not all knife makers make their own Leather Knife Sheath. Some farm out the leather work to leather professionals. Since I like to keep as much of the craftsmanship work for myself, I have chosen to make a leather knife sheath for each of my knives that need one. What follows are some ways I have experimented when I Make a leather knife sheath. I will try to explain the task as best as I can, and as I have elsewhere, I will try to mention my mistakes, so you don’t have to make the same mistakes.
There are many ways to perform the task needed to make a leather knife sheath, so you’ll eventually find your own style.
I’m using 7-9 oz Full Grain Veggie Tanned Double Shoulder
leather. (along with occasion recycled leather)
Lets Make A Leather Knife Sheath
One of the hardest parts of making a Leather Knife Sheath is getting the template made. Once you have a template, the rest is just a matter of process. Always stop and think through your process. Think what will be sown and when. It’s a bit of a problem when you realize you’ve sown the length of the sheath and forgot to sow the belt loop that is halfway down the tube.
With some knives and sheath designs I find it just as easy to lay the knife on the leather and draw it out. It also depends on how many sheaths you need for the same size and style knife. If you’re only making one, a template may not be required. The most important thing to remember is the leather needs to wrap the knife, with enough room for the welt.
It’s here I made a lot of mistakes at first. If you are doing the style with a belt loop, pay attention to whether you want it worn on the left side or the right side and make sure the inside of the leather will end up on the inside.
You can cut the leather with any good sharp knife. I typically use a utility knife but plan to make a knife for leather.
To help make a sharper fold, I’ve found cutting three grooves up the center of the fold helps. The center cut is made with two passes of the cutter and the two outside cuts are a single pass making the center just a little deeper. I use a straight edge to help keep the lines nice and straight and parallel to each other.
For the cutter I used a v groove carving chisel until i got the stitch groover.
To form the leather to the knife (which is an optional step) you need to wet the leather. It doesn’t matter how you wet it, dip it in a bucket, paint some water on, run it under the faucet. It just needs to be wet. It doesn’t need to soak for any length of time. This is another optional step but helps especially on heavier leather.
Wrap the knife in plastic wrap to protect it from getting wet (another option is use a wooden replica if you happened to make one for the knife)
Not all sheaths wrap (or are folded) and you may decide to design it to have stitches on both edges. This makes getting to a pattern a little easier. Just mark the form with enough room to wrap and sew in a welt all the way around.
To form the leather wrap it around the knife. If it’s a simple design you can sometimes get the form simply by rubbing the form in with your fingers.
To get a more definite form, clamp it like I show in several of the images. Use scrap wood with eased corners or pieces of scrap leather to keep the clamps from forming an impression where they are clamped.
Eventually i found making a few block with nice eased corners all the way around helped when forming the leather.
At first I would leave them to dry overnight, but it doesn’t need to sit that long. It depends on how deep the impressions are, and the leather thickness, but even a few minutes is enough sometimes.
Next make the welt. This will help keep the knife from cutting the stitching. On a folded sheath the welt is typically only on the sharp side of the knife. It helps keep the edge from cutting the stitches.
The next step will most likely be making and fastening the belt loop. I like to glue the pieces in place first. It helps the process. The best glue I’ve used is regular contact cement.
Next I will sew it in place.
I’ve tried drilling and punching the
holes. I still use both processes on occasion but I like punching the holes the
best. I can’t give you a good reason why, so I suggest you try both way and see
what works best for you.
I have the set above. It allows punching 1, 2, 4 and 6 holes at once. It works well if the leather is not to thick. With the 7-9 oz. I normally use they work well if it’s simply two layers.
If the leather is thicker, I will also punch with a leather awl.
Some leather crafters recommend adding a layer of epoxy over the inside stitching to prevent wear from the knife sliding in and out of the sheath and wearing through the thread.
Another possibility to avoid wearing out the stitches inside is to use rivets either in addition to the stitches or just with rivets alone.
Before adhering the pieces together, you will want to round
over the edges of the exposed leather using a burnisher. I use one I made from
a dowel. You can decide if you’d like to make one or simply buy one. There are
many different kinds to choose from.
Along with the burnisher an edger is really nice to have. An edger is used to cut the corners off the edge to form a radius edge. It helps give a rounded and finished look.
You will glue the welt in one side at a time. Once it is glued you can even up the edge on the grinder. Start with a course grit and follow through to finer grits. There are differences of opinions on how high a grit you need to go. The higher the grit, the less need to burnish or the easier it is to burnish to a finish.
Using a stitching groover you can cut a grove over the stitch line. This allows the thread to sit slightly below the surface. This helps on wear when being rubbed against other surfaces.
The Stitch groover can be used to cut the welt line stitch as well as adding some extra groove lines for embellishments.
Now stitch the welt line. When cutting your thread, you will want about 4 or 5 times the length to be sown.
I use a saddle stitch.
Start by threading one of the needles through the hole closest to you. Pull the needle through and make both sides equal length. (picture)
Now each needle goes through the next hole, one at a time,
pushing through from the same side the thread is on (in other words, do not
cross over the edge).
A tip, as you push the first needle through, using a circular
motion, work the needle around to enlarge the hole to help make room for the
Now snug the thread tight.
You want them tight enough to pull the thread into the leather.
As you pull the first needle through, pull the thread toward
you so it’s behind the needle coming through
from the opposite direction. This pulling action also helps open the
hole for easy passage through.
When you get to the last hole you are going to back stitch at least three or four holes.
I will often use a small chunk of wood to help push the
needle through, especially when back stitching. A pair of pliers can assist as
well pull the needles through. I lined a
pair of electrician’s pliers’ jaws with leather (epoxied them one) to help with
While you can absolutely sew and hold the leather with your hands, I’ve found that it’s easiest to place the leather into a stitching pony. I made my stitching pony to clamp in a vise on my bench, but there are different versions you can find that you hold between your legs.
To complete the process, burn the thread ends and allow them to melt to form a bond.
To dye the sheath, I typically wipe on a couple of coats of
light brown dye. Wiping the center with a damp cloth will give a faded look. Then
after stitching I go around the edges with dark brown.
In this next photo I am going to darken the outside edges of the Leather Knife Sheath. First coat is with a dark brown dye.
Next coat will be with a light brown dye on this Leather Knife Sheath. The light brown goes over top the dark. The another coat of dark will be added to the edge. This gives a blended look.
I sometimes wipe on edge coat on the stitched edge and burnish again. This shines the edge up nice. Sometimes I just burnish the edges for a more satin look.
There are completed sheaths on each knife I’ve made, so you can see additional styles I’ve made. I learn something new almost every new knife I make and every new Leather Knife Sheath I make. It really is the fun part of this hobby.
Horace Kephart (1862-1931) is a familiar name to
bushcrafters along with George Washington Sears (See Knife 59) and was one of
the leading outdoor writers of his time. Kephart designed the knife. This is
how he described it in the first edition of Camping and Woodcraft:
“Its blade and handle are each 4¼ inches long, the blade
being 1 inch wide, 1/8-inch thick on the back, broad pointed, and continued
through the handle as a hasp and riveted to it.
“The handle of this knife is of oval cross-section, long
enough to give a good grip for the whole hand, with no sharp edges to blister
one’s hand. It has a ¼-inch knob behind the cutting edge as a guard, but there
is no guard on the back, for it would be useless and in the way.
“This knife weighs only 4 ounces. It was made by a
country blacksmith, and is one of the homeliest things I ever saw; but it has
outlived in my affections the score of other knives that I have use”.
He wrote of his experiences in a series of articles in
the magazine Field and Stream. These articles were collected into his first book,
Camping and Woodcraft, which was first published in 1906. While mostly a manual
of living outdoors, Kephart interspersed his philosophy:
Your thoroughbred camper likes not the attentions of a
landlord, nor will he suffer himself to be rooted to the soil by cares of
ownership or lease. It is not possession of the land, but of the landscape,
that enjoys; and as for that, all the wild parts of the earth are his, by a
title that carries with it no obligation but that he shall not desecrate nor
lay them waste.
Houses, to such a one, in summer are little better than
cages; fences and walls are his abomination; plowed fields are only so many
patches of torn and tormented earth. The sleek comeliness of pasture it too
prim and artificial, domestic cattle have a meek and ignoble bearing, fields of
grain are monotonous to his eyes, which turn for relief to abandoned old-field,
overgrown with thicket, that still harbors some the shy children of the wild.
It is not the clearing but the unfenced wilderness that is the camper’s real
home. He is brother to that good old friend of mine who in gentle satire of our
formal gardens and close- cropped lawns, was wont to say, ‘I love the
unimproved works of God.’
He also published some more books of the same theme such
as Camp Cookery (1910) and Sporting Firearms (1912). In addition, he wrote The
Hunting Rifle section of Guns, Ammunition and Tackle (New York: Macmillan,
1904), a volume of Caspar Whitney’s prestigious American Sportsman’s Library.
Combining his own experience and observations with other
written studies, Kephart wrote a study of Appalachian lifestyles and culture
called Our Southern Highlanders, published in 1913 and expanded in 1922.
He wrote a short history of the Cherokee and other books
which became standards in the field.
Kephart completed a typescript for a novel in 1929.
However, the book was not edited and published until 2009. It is published
under the title Smoky Mountain Magic.
Kephart never left the Great Smokies, having been
instantaneously killed in a mountain-road automobile accident on April 2, 1931.
My version of the Kephart EDC – Multi Part Handle Scales
Blade 1/8” 1080 4 1/32”
Overall length 9”
For these scales I used a piece of rosewood and a piece of spalted beech to make a two piece scale. First I made sure I had a good fit. Then I glued the pieces together while they sat on a piece of wax paper. The center piece in the picture is a single piece which then got cut down the center to form the two scales.
The I epoxied g10 spacers on each scale. I used the wax paper to separate them so I could clamp them together and get a good bond.
The handle of this Kephart EDC was finished with the help of 2″x72″scalloped belts. I have then in 220, 320 and 600 grit.
Then I finished with 1000 and 2000 grit felt backed belt.
“In 1838, Rezin P. Bowie, brother of Alamo hero James Bowie
claimed that he made the first Bowie knife while the Bowies lived in Avoyelles
Parish, Louisiana. He designed it as a hunting knife and gave it to James for
protection after his brother had been shot in a fight. Herzehian Dunham, Notary
Public in Avoyelles Parish certified that blacksmith Jesse Clifft, who lived on
Bayou Boeuf and was a close friend and neighbor of the Bowies in the 1820s,
forged the knife according to Rezin Bowie’s design. The original Bowie knife
was like a butcher knife in profile, with a thin blade but no silver mounts.
Bowie wore it in a silver-mounted black-leather sheath.”
There were several iterations of the Bowie knife since then, and there are countless books written with the Bowie knife as the primary subject matter. Today, almost any large heavy knife is likely to be called a bowie knife.
This Brut de Forge Bowie was forged from a similar tine as Knife – 42 Hunter Forged from an Implement Tine. To the right it is being normalized. Notice the groove (or fuller) in the tang. I cut that with the belt grinder. It serves a couple of purposes. It lightens the knife. It makes less surface area of the tang that must be flattened and gives the epoxy some space.
Blade – 8 ¾”
Overall 13 ½”
I also used the cross peen to hammer a slight fuller across the top of
the knife. This gives the knife a little more width from the piece of metal
without weakening the blade.
In the photo below I tried the Brut de Forge Bowie out before I put the scales on. This is chopping a stick of hophornbeam to make sure it is performing as expected. It wasn’t even fully sharpened yet when I did this test.
I also found this to be a little harder than I wanted after
two tempering cycles, so I wound up tempering it for one more 2-hour cycle.
The handle was finished with
the help of the scalloped belts. I have
then in 220, 320 and 600 grit.
Then I finished with 1000 and 2000 grit felt backed belt
Because this Antler Handled Carving Knife’s antler was put on with the base end first, it required a little different technique. It seems the base is bone and is harder. It did not soften like a cut end that exposes the softer insides. To get around this I drilled a hole then slightly widen it to be about the width of the tang. I drilled with a drill bit the approximate width and used a Dremel with a cutter to widen it.
I then boiled it again. This time for about 15 minutes.
I also had this antler soaking in water for several days
before I was going to install it.
I added a sheath made with hair-on deer hide. I tanned this hide last year. It was my first tanning experience. I thought it was a good fit for this knife.
Bunka knives are general purpose knives tackling a wide range of common kitchen tasks. Their reverse tanto profile gives the knives a dexterous and delicate tip and a unique and eye-catching aesthetic. It is a general-purpose kitchen knife like a Santoku and it used to be just as popular as the Santoku. With its wider blade, the Bunka knife is suitable for cutting vegetables, while the triangle-shaped tip area is particularly useful when cutting fish and meats.
Bunka Chef’s Knife – Making The Makers Mark
I had a mishap while making my touch mark in this knife. I made a dent by missing steel stamp. Because of this mishap, I’m changing the way I make the mark. I cut a 3″ hole in a block of oak. I use this to protect the blade should a miss again.
I also went to a slightly larger hammer. This meant I didn’t need to swing as hard and helped with control. The extra weight had enough momentum to still make the mark as needed.
I sanded this knife to 600 grit, then sandblasted it. I then etched it with ferric chloride for 20 minutes.
I asked the new owner for his thoughts:
“I used it almost exclusively for
Thanksgiving. The pros:
It held its sharpness for almost all
the prep. Ran it though my sharpener and it was razor sharp again
When I would cut something that
required more “rocking back and forth” instead of actual chopping, the edge
closest to the handle digs into the cutting board. Rounding off that corner
just a bit would help there.
Got to remember to keep it oiled.
Not having a knife like this before, it’s just a learning curve”
A railroad spike knife is made (….wait for it….) from a railroad spike and it’s a project that seems to be a right to passage for a lot of blacksmiths and bladesmiths. It takes a little knowledge and experience to get it right, but honestly, I find them more of a novelty item.
There are two basic ways to make a knife like this. First by
adding some high carbon steel or just drawing out what’s there.
The railroad spike is not high carbon so it’s not going to
make a great knife by itself. There are railroad spikes marked “HC” which
stands for “Higher Carbon”, but it’s still not high enough to make a great
Most you see will have the handle twisted, which is done by
heating the spike in the forge to working temperature, locking it in a vise and
twisting it with a wrench. I just used an adjustable wrench, but if you plan to
twist square stock often, adding a handle extension helps quite a bit.
I then forged welded a file into this knife. I drew out the
end of the spike a bit, split it with a cut off wheel in the grinder (although
a hacksaw or bandsaw would work as well) drove the file in, added flux and
forge welded it in. After that it’s grinding and heat treating as you would any
Making a railroad spike knife is more about learning a few blacksmith techniques and having some fun with the forge than anything else. Although it doesn’t come out as an extremely high quality knife, it does come out as a cool blacksmithing and knife making project that you can add a few of your own twist (pun intended).
And these knives to seem to sell, although that could be a perception. You can find them all the time on etsy, knife makers websites, Instagram and at knife shows.