You've landed yourself a beautiful USMC 1218 with a serrated edge and a gorgeous leather sheath. This leather sheath is arguably the most important accessory for your survival knife, like all sheaths are for the blades they carry and protect. This means that taking care of your sheath is almost as important as taking care of your knife. As one of the most popular sheath materials, leather is, unfortunately, one of the most difficult to maintain, so, we'll be listing some of the best leather sheath care tips to help you keep your leather sheath in tip top shape.
#1: Don't wait until the leather starts to harden or crack before you start taking care of it. Yes, you can still save the sheath by treating it properly with some leather conditioner. That's not the point. Aside from the fact that it looks ugly (not worn and used and manly and tough like you might think), moisture in the edges of your sheath and along the stitching can lead to the ultimate ruin of your blade. And if that moisture isn't ruining your blade, your knife will likely be cutting up your sheath if your it has hardened.
#2: Avoid using shoe polish because it will rub off on your clothes whenever you wear the sheath. 'Nuff said.
#3: Always read the label on treatment products. This is one of the most extremely important yet sometimes overlooked leather sheath care tips. Leather is basically just skin, and not all ingredients used by manufacturers of leather treatment products are good for skin. One example is neatsfoot oil. Some brands of neatsfoot oil out there contain petroleum which basically dries the leather up by removing all the oil. Think of it this way, if you wouldn't put it on your skin, then don’t put it on your sheath.
Some of the main components that you do want are beeswax, natural oils, and natural preservatives. Aside from ingredients, labels will also tell you if the product's purpose is not what you're looking for. For example, some leather conditioners are designed to soften leather used in footwear. And while that's great for your shoes, it would soften your leather sheath too much.
#4: Use your oil sparingly. Use too much and it will seep through your sheath and reach your knife. And even a stainless steel knife can get rust when exposed too much to moisture.
#5: A new leather sheath sometimes still has some abrasive grit embedded in it which will scratch your blade or, worse, dull it considerably. It may also destroy the stitches in the sheath. Of course, it's something you can always redo but why not avoid that scenario altogether?
#6: If your sheath gets wet, don't dry it out too fast. Let it dry out naturally. If it dries up too fast (because you placed it near your campfire or something), it'll lose all of its natural oils and become stiff and dry. Once this happens, say goodbye to your sheath because there is no restoring it.
Take these leather sheath care tips to heart, and you won’t have to worry about replacing your leather sheath for a long while. If you feel like it’s too much of a bother, keep in mind that you’re only as good as your gear.