A friend of mine gave me a rusty old boning knife and I thought it would serve very well as a fillet knife. I cleaned it up and built a new handle from a deer antler for it. As I admired it, I thought about building a sheath to protect it; as well as trying to make an Instructable at the same time. Online instructions are numerous, but vague; I'll try to explain how I built mine in more detail. This project cost me nothing except for minor costs for gluing and finishing products I already had on hand. The Black Walnut was given to me free of charge as someone had cut it for fire wood (what a shame)!!! I tend to keep a lot of stuff around, that I sometimes find a use for. I am quite used to making something just to keep busy; "on a shoestring"!
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Step 1: Gather Material
I love black walnut and as I have a little on hand, I rough cut a few pieces and selected one 1/8" thick for the front and another 3/16" thick to back this project. The tools and supplies used are as follows:
Router with 1/8" radius cutter with bearing
1" belt sander
Various chisels (including 1 re-purposed 1/2" chisel I use for carving concave areas and other detail work)
Various grits of sandpaper (150 to 400 grit)
Various marking pens and my favorite pencil
Rubber contact cement for leather
Cyanoacrylate glue (extra thick, slow setting)
Clear fuel proof epoxy
Brown sharpie (because I don't have brown thread and twine on hand)
Step 2: Check Material/ Start Marking Pattern
I lightly sanded the inside of each board ( I want the wood to remain slightly rough to help bond when glue is applied) and checked the boards for cracks. Good thing to do, since i did find one of the pieces was cracked at the end. I cut it twice to get past the crack. The angle you see cut on the left board was cut to accommodate the end of the knife handle. A different angle is marked on the right board to alter the grain direction (more later). You also see the pattern of the blade traced on the left board that was done after the angle was cut.
Step 3: Continue the Pattern
I traced the blades onto the boards so that the direction of the grain was intentionally diagonally slightly crossed in hopes that it would add strength and prevent warping. I also chiseled out a bit at the ends to let the handle fit into the throat of the sheath, and provide lead in for inserting the blade more easily.
Step 4: More Marking
In the area at the tip of the blade I used a divider to extend the pocket deeper into the sheath to allow extra space for further sanding. Hold the divider so the marking end points toward the tip end and follow the curve on the sharp side of the blade starting with the lead against the blade and ending with the pencil 3/16" out from the end. I then clamped the blade down on the boards with a dime in between to raise the sharp edge and marked them with my divider to make another line 1/4" out from the blade, at the end where the tip is, I free-handed the line around the extended portion. This line is where the blanks will be cut with the bandsaw. The space around is for gluing the pieces together later, it is good to make sure there is enough room for glue, but not too large to keep it from looking bulky. Nothing here is super critical except that the shape of the blade is correct, and the sheath will fit snugly when finished.
Step 5: Start Carving
Now the blanks had patterns on them, and I started carving them out. I measured the tip on my X-acto knife and saw that the grind extended 1/8" up the point, and my knife is 5/64" thick at the hilt and decided to cut 1/16" deep along the back side of the blade at the hilt end and tapered the cut toward the tip where the blade is very thin. Be careful to keep the knife vertical (not like you see in the picture (ha-ha)), keep the knife on the line (the grain will try to pull you off course if you are not careful) and don't go too deep! After this line was cut on both pieces I began to carefully carve them out trying very hard to carve to the cut line and leave the line at the sharp edge alone. After the first go with the chisels, I sanded the pieces and kept test fitting them. The hilt ends were the hardest, they are not flat cuts because of the shape of my blade. Keep at it until you are satisfied that the pieces fit well together with clamps and the blade slides in and out with some good amount of resistance; you want the sheath to fit snugly if you don't want to lose your knife! Later the sheath will be worked on and off the blade to hone it in. There is a fine line here, so do as you see fit.
Step 6: Start Cutting and Gluing
When I was done with the carving, I cut the pieces out on the band saw; they came out looking pretty shaggy and uneven looking. I decide to glue them together anyway and clean it all up later since the glue would surely seep out at the seams. I rubbed a little bit of paraffin wax carefully into the cavity area, avoiding the edges near the glue joints. I used a slow cure extra thick cyanoacrylate glue. I assembled the pieces with the glue and the knife in position and clamped it all down to my bench with a wood block between the sheath and clamps. I pushed things around to make sure the blade was fitting well before clamping it tight and pulling the knife out, the knife was coated with paraffin wax and repeatedly pushed in and out to remove glue and further hone the fit. It sat for a couple of hours before I pulled the clamps off.
Step 7: Clean It Up
After removing the clamps I trimmed excess off on the band saw. Then I used the knife to trace the line of the back of the blade tapering the sheath down toward the tip end and trimmed it with the saw before block sanding it, then did the same with the sharp side. I clamped sandpaper to the table under a square edged block to help sand the curved side to keep it square. After rough sanding, I ran it very gingerly on the router to get nice rounded corners. After routing it was time to hand sand it which really wasn't bad at all, using 150, 220, 320 and 400 grit I was done in under an hour.
Step 8: Hang It Up
At this point I realized that I should have built a "boss" into the back to space a belt loop out from the sheath; my knife handle is much thicker on the side that will be facing in. Some more thought showed that the knife handle is also quite heavy, thus making it top heavy. More thought said to use wire, so I bent a piece of 1/16" music wire to fit and angled it upward to lower the center of gravity of the knife by about an inch. I colored the wire with a brown sharpie roughed the ends and super-glued it into 2 holes I drilled in the top of the sheath. I then thought about giving it more strength and beauty by wrapping it with thread in half hitches giving it a spiraling effect (roughen the surface to give epoxy a good grip), dowsing it with super glue, colored it with my sharpie and then coated it with clear epoxy. Sorry for lack of photos, but this happened without remembering to shoot them. Along with wrapping the top of the sheath with polypropylene twine that I also colored with my brown sharpie. The belt loop was recycled from webbing on an old leather belt that was given new life with a little bear grease. I also wrapped over the loops' stitches for insurance and to cover over poor sewing skills LOL. I covered the twine with semi gloss polyurethane, and the rest of the sheath got satin finish (before it was wrapped).
At 8 1/2" x 1" it fits easily in the front pocket of my jeans; will it qualify for the pocket sized contest?
Participated in the
Pocket Sized Contest