DIY Stacked Leather Handle Bowie Knife




About: I am a Swede living in Stockholm, with two beautiful kids and one wife (equally beautiful!)..

Hi fellow DIYers!

It has been a while since I posted anything, but I hope that this Americana styled Bowie knife has been worth the wait. Warm season here in Lusaka now, so it has been a challenge to start any project because of the heat!

I am not an american, but I do have a friend that is. Since I like the idea of the Americana style (within limits), I decided to make this as a surprise present for him. He liked it!

This instbl shows an overview of the different steps that go in to making a stacked leather handle on a pre-made knife blade. The cost of the project is around 70 USD and it takes approximately 6 hours (excluding drying time).

I have yet to make an instbl on the present box and the leather sheath. If there is interest I will do this shorthly.

OK-let's go!

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Step 1: Material and Tools Needed

You will need;


  • One pre-made knife blade. I should be the type of blade in the photo, preferably including a brass guard and a screw on brass pommel that fits the knife. You can normally order this from your knife blade supplier online.
  • Thick and stiff leather (1-3 mm thick) in different colors
  • Plastic material (1-2 mm thick)
  • PVA glue (non toxic wood glue)


  • Carpet knife
  • "Hole puncher" for leather (this needs to make holes that will approximately fit the knife's tang - you will see later)
  • Hammer
  • Standing belt sander or rotary sander (any stationary sanding machine will do really)
  • Sand paper with different grit (100, 200, 400, 600 and 1000)
  • Leather wax, wood wax or any sealer really
  • Possibly a figure saw (for cutting strips of leather - but not necessary)

Step 2: Cutting Leather Into Pieces

Depending on the width of your handle you will cut the leather into squares of approx. 35x35 mm (1.4x1.4 inches). Then punch a hole in the middle using a special tool that you can get at leather dealers. You can also drill it, but that will take ages... The number you need depends on the thickness of the leather and the length of you handle. So just divide the length by the leather thickness and you should get the number needed (I probably didn't need to explain that).

Also cut any plastic material that you want to use for stripes on you handle. Cut this into same dimensions as above.

Step 3: Stacking the Leather on the Handle

I normally mount all the pieces without glue first - to make sure everything fits well. Remember to start with the brass guard in front!. Then add the plastic stripes of your choice - red, white and blue in this case.

Start adding the different colored leather pieces. You may do this in any pattern you like (or randomly).

Nearing the end of the handle add another set of colored strips and then mount the pommel (that brass end piece of your handle) using the threaded bolt.

By now, your project should look terrible! That's OK. If everything fits - take all the pieces off and redo the process - but now gently dip every piece (on one side) in some PVA glue before mounting. Finally screw on the pommel and let dry.

Step 4: Saw, Sand and Polish

When dry, use a saw (band saw or figure saw) to cut of excess leather. If you don't have one - start sanding on a sanding machine of choice using 100 grit paper. Keep rotating the knife while sanding. Note that I took the photo of me holding the knife to the sander afterwards (and using a different knife)

When you have a somewhat rounded handle shape - start using pieces of sandpaper to get the final shape. Gradually work yourself up to 1000 grit to get a very smooth surface

Step 5: Finishing Polishing

I normally use hard (soap shaped) Karnuba wax for the final polishing. Add wax to a rotating polishing tool (it melts down on the cloth by the heat from friction) of your choice and apply and polish wax until the result is satisfying!

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    17 Discussions


    Question 1 year ago

    I know this is a somewhat older post, but could you put up a picture of the tool you used to punch the holes in the leather pieces?


    Reply 2 years ago

    Thank you for your nice comment! Using a hard natural wax (carnauba wax) gives a very shiny result - and a good grip.


    2 years ago

    Really nice knife handle. But please loose the gloves when using the sander or any rotating machinery for that matter. Google degloving and you will understand why.

    1 reply

    Reply 2 years ago

    Thanks for the tip! I normally tape the knife blade to avoid cuts and hold it without gloves for a better feel. But this was a photo taken after the project just to show what direction to hold the knife on my particular type of sander. And I felt a bit naked holding the untaped blade in my bare hand....hence the gloves. But thanks for the warning still!


    2 years ago

    Great looking handle! The first thing I thought of when I saw it was my old Estwing hammer that my dad gave me 40 years ago. It had the leather handle but that has now disintegrated. I am thinking this is the perfect solution to restore what was a very fine, tough as nails, well balanced hammer. Thanks for the inspiration.

    1 reply

    Reply 2 years ago

    Thank you! Changing the leather handle of the hammer sound like a project well worth doing. Good luck and it would be fun to see a photo of the before/after hammer.


    Reply 2 years ago

    Thank you! I appreciate to get praise from someone who knows a lot about Bowie knives!


    2 years ago

    Nice work. I now have a purpose for all my small leather scraps.

    1 reply

    Reply 2 years ago

    I am glad you liked it - and yes it would be great to use scrap leather for stacked leather handles. It feels like a waste when I buy large pieces of leather and then cut them down to size...


    2 years ago

    I make the Bolt Action Pen's with Leather.

    About the same way you stack on your knifes

    I glue to the tube and turn on my Lathe. Now I need to do Your knife handle.

    Jan 1. 2015 008.JPG
    1 reply

    2 years ago

    Bravo sir Bravo. Very nice project. Looks really nice. Amazing how you can cut and polish leather like that.

    1 reply

    Reply 2 years ago

    Thank you! It is not very difficult to learn.