Making a Japanese Pocket Kiridashi With Leather Sheath (which Is Also a Handle)




About: Hi, I'm TheRedsmith. I'm a maker. I make stuffs. You can support my work on ( You can see my work on youtube &...

Hi! I'm The Redsmith, I'm a maker.

I wanted to make a kiridashi for a long time. In the shop, I often have to cut tape, paper, thread, cardboard and such, so I wanted to make a little knife, small and easy to carry, in other words, pocket size. But I also wanted it to have a leather sheath to protect myself when I put it in my pocket.

So I came up with this idea of having a kirdashi, inside a sheath, opening to become a longer kiridashi. This way, the sheath also become the handle of the handle. I really like and I hope you will too.

I made a full tutorial video that you can watch here :

For this build you will need :

  • A piece of 100x50x6mm / 3.9x1.9x0.23" C130 High Carbon Steel
  • A piece of 2mm / 5oz vegetable tanned leather
  • A 2mm / 5 oz leather strip
  • Some fine sand paper
  • A black sharpie
  • An x-acto knife
  • An angle grinder or 2x72" blet grinder or some really good files
  • A scriber
  • Some leather dye
  • Some cotton thread
  • Some leather oil
  • Leather hole punches
  • An edger
  • A large silver color snap
  • A snap rivet setter
  • Sharpening stones
  • Some blue tape

Let's get to it!

Step 1: Choose Your Steel

I used a piece of 100x50x5mm / 100x50x6mm / 3.9x1.9x0.23" of C130 High Carbon Steel for this build. It is mainly used to make blades, chisels and cutting tools. It needs to be quenched in oil or water between 790 and 810ºC / 1454-1490ºF (the color of the steel would be between red and bright red) and tempered for one hour between 190 and 220ºC / 374-428°F (the color would be from faint strow to blue) depending on the hardest you're aiming for. Be sure to use the right material and refer to the factory specifications of the steel you use.

You can use another type of steel to make it, as long as it is High Carbon Steel and your respect its specifications for heat treating. The piece I used was large enough for me to make two kiridashi, so you can use a smaller piece of metal for this.

The shape of the kiridashi is totally up to you. I made several sketches before I chose my favorite one. The most important thing is to keep its length under 10cm / 4", otherwise it won't be a pocket kiridashi anymore.

I drew my design on a piece of paper, then cut it and glued it onto my piece of steel.

I used a black sharpie to draw the contours of my design (I decided to leaver the paper on the steel but once the shape has been transfered onto your steel, you can remove it)

Step 2: Drill All the Holes (optional)

In my design, a strip of leather attaches the blade and the leather sheath. So I needed to drill a hole into the handle of the kiridashi.

I used a center punch to mark the hole of the handle. This step is very important because after heat treating, the steel will be too hard to be drilled. So be sure to drill all the holes before your harden the blade.

I clamped my steel into a vice, position the drill press and oil the drill bit and steel.

First, I drilled a 3mm / 5/64" drill bit for the pilote hole, then used a 6mm/15/64" drill bit to get the final size.

Step 3: Mark Them All

As I had enough metal to make two knives, I use a center punch to mark a line of holes I wanted to drill and make the cutting easier.

These following steps are totally optional. The holes only help to cut and seperate the two pieces with an angle grinder before shaping them.If you use a smaller piece of metal or only want to make one kiridashi, you can skip the following steps.

Step 4: Drill Them All

I used a drill press to drill all the holes into my piece of steel.

Be sure to clamp your steel properly and set your drill press on the lowest speed. C130 is a very hard steel and if you go to fast, you can break your drill bit. Don't forget to oil your steel as you drill.

Step 5: One Becomes Two

I used my angle grinder with a cutting wheel to split the two parts, following the holes I had drilled before.

Once again, take your time, go slow and just follow the line. Always keep the control of the angle grinder.

Step 6: Grinder or Belt Grinder ?

Now you can begin the final shaping. I used my 2x72" belt grinder to shape the kiridashi (but you can also use an angle grinder or files).

I went from #80 to #120, #240 and #400 grid belts, being sure to keep the metal down very often. The small wheel of the grinder comes in very handy to refine the shap of the handle.

Step 7: The Edge

I used my caliper to measure 10mm from the edge of the blade and define where my primary bevel should start.

I traced a line with a scriber, but a sharpie works also very well.

Step 8: Primary Bevel

I went back to the belt grinder to shape the primary bevel, once again goind from #80 to #120, #240 and #400 grid belts, cooling the kiridashi when it got too hot for me to hold.

Step 9: The Quench

When you make a blade, the most exciting part is always the quench.

I went to my coal forge for this one, but you can also use a torch or a gas forge.

I heated the kiridashi to get a red bright color (around 790 and 810ºC / 1454-1490ºF) and quench in oil. C130 can also be quenched in water (and it is recommanded to do so, but both work fine).

As the kiridashi is pretty small, I used a pair of tongs to hold and quench it.

Step 10: Hard As a Rock

I use a file to check that the steel was properly hardened and then tempered the blade in my kitchen oven for 90 minutes at 230ºC / 446°F (the blade should change color and be from faint strow to blue).

Step 11: Make It Shine

Back to the belt grinder to clean the blade. I used #240 and #400 to clean all the scales and get a shinny blade.

Don't forget to cool down the blade very often or it could overheat and ruin the heat treating.

Step 12: Mirror Finish

I glued fine sand paper on a flat board to polish the blade.

I used #600 and #1500 grid sand paper. I got my best results when I polish doing a 8 shape. This way, you can remove all the scratches due to the previous grid of sand paper and get a really smooth finish on the blade.

Finally, I used a buffing wheel and polishing compound to get a mirror finish.

Step 13: Make a Sheath

Then it was time to make the sheat/handle of the kiridashi.

I used 2mm vegetable tanned leather. I cut two piece for this sheath. One is the sheath itself, the second one wraps around the sheath to close it.

The shape is pretty simple as you can see in the video or the picture, but a pattern will be available on my website very soon.

I traced the contours and marked the holes with a awl.

Step 14: Punches

I used a diamond hole punch and a round hole punch for the stiching and the leather strap.

Be sure your leather is dry and the punches are waxed, it makes this step easier.

Step 15: Live and Let Dye

I cleaned the edges using a edger and a nail file, then dyed the leather with brown leather dye.

Once it was completely dry, I applied leather oil and burnished the edges with a wooden burnishing tool and burnishing compound.

Step 16: Sewing and Snap Setting

I used a snap setter punch to set the snap. Be sure to set the snap properly before punching it, otherwise you will not be able to close the sheath.

Step 17: More Sewing

I used waxed brown cotton thread attached the second piece of leather to the sheath and used a lighter to burn the wax of the thead and all the excess thread.

Step 18: Glue and More Sewing (again)

I used leather glue to glue the tip of the sheath, but you can also use crazy glue or contact ciment.

I clamped the tip of the sheath for a few minutes, waiting for the glue to cure, then I closed it for good with more sewing and waxed cotton thread.

Step 19: A Bit Tricky

The most tricky part is to finish the sewing with a hidden knot, inside the sheath itself.

Then, I burned the edge with some burnishing compound and my burnishing tool.

I applied a second coat of leather oil and cut a 20cm/7.8" long strip of brown leather.

Step 20: Make It Sharp

I wrapped the kiridashi in blue tape to protect the mirror finish and started the final sharpening.

Step 21: 1, 2, 3.... 10000

I used wet sharpening stones, starting with #1000 grit, and working my way up to #3000, #4000 and #10000 grit.
Be sure to keep the same angle when you sharpen your blade, and always keep the stones wet. It's the most time consuming part of the build, but you'll be very happy to get a really sharp blade in the end.

Step 22: Clean It and Test It

Once I was done with the sharpening, I removed the blue tape, cleaned the blade and tested it on leather.

It was cutting very well and was really happy about my new kiridashi.

All I had to do left was putting it into the sheath, and using the leather strip to attach blade and sheath together.

Step 23: It's All Done

And congratulations! You're done. You have now an awesome pocket kiridashi, with a leather sheath/handle.

You can customize it the way you want, shape, color, size, let your creativity speak!

I hope you liked it and if so please vote for the contest and like this tutorial, share it and watch the videos.

Here is the full tutorial video :

I tried to make this Instructable as clear and easy as possible.
If you have any questions or requests for clarification, don't hesitate to comment.

I hope you liked it and if so please vote for the contest and like this tutorial, share it and watch the videos.

See you soon for my next Instructable!

The Redsmith

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    27 Discussions


    1 year ago

    Fantastic project and Instructable...dude just back from Makers Central and I find you are a winner as well!

    1 reply

    Reply 1 year ago

    Thank you very much. Yes, I got the notification when I was still there. Great surprise :)


    1 year ago on Step 23

    Excellent Instructable! You clearly know what you are doing and the finished product shows your skills. Thank You

    1 reply

    Reply 1 year ago

    Thank you very much for your kind words :)


    1 year ago

    This is awesome project, definately gonna try this

    1 reply

    1 year ago

    Why is it so Hard to put the Measurement's in Inches as well as Metric? I'm 73 and Don't do Metric.

    1 reply

    Reply 1 year ago

    Both are mentionned, metric and imperial, for lengths and temperatures.


    1 year ago

    admirable! me intriga qué uso se le da a ese tipo de cuchillo

    1 reply

    Reply 1 year ago

    Muchas gracias. Un kiridashi es un cuchillo multipropósito. En Japón, por lo general era el primer cuchillo que se le daba a un niño. Entonces puedes usarlo para cualquier cosa :)

    Nicely done. I see we both had a similar idea for a pocket sized kiridashi. You did a really good job getting that mirror finish. I usually don't do it becuase I don't prefer the look but also because I'm not very good or patient enough to get it as perfect as I would like.

    1 reply

    Thank you.I like the idea of your wallet knife. And yes, getting a mirror finish is very time consuming. But I really like the result :)


    1 year ago

    Great Job! Can you say what angle you used on the blade when sharping?

    Thank you for sharing.

    1 reply

    Reply 1 year ago

    Thank you very much. I tried to keep the angle between 10 and 15°. I don't use any jig to creat the primary bevel, but it helps a lot to get a precise angle. Thanks a lot for watching.


    1 year ago

    Excellent work and instructable! Thanks for sharing!