Photo by Lachlan Donald. Used under Creative Commons.
So the sheath that came with your knife is less than desirable, or perhaps your knife didn't even come with a sheath when you bought it. Whoa now. That just might be a bit of a problem. We all know how important your sheath is when it comes to protecting and taking care of your survival knife, so what should you do when you don't have one?
One option is to buy yourself a sheath. There are quite a few of manufacturers who offer pretty decent sheaths that will probably suit your needs. Another option to consider is a custom sheath for your blade. Of course you can easily find a dozen or so custom sheath manufacturers, but what about making your own sheath? It's definitely the most affordable option you have of owning a sheath fit for your knife.
You'll need to buy the materials and some tools, of course, not to mention putting in a bit of elbow grease, but the cost of the materials won't be as much as a decent sheath you’d buy somewhere else. An added bonus to making your own sheath is that it will actually fit your knife perfectly. Sheaths are rarely custom made (unless you ask for them to be), so fit and stability are not always a guarantee. Aside from cost and fit, you can’t deny that there’s something unbelievably satisfying about making things with your own two hands.
All that being said, today we’re going to focus on how to make your own kydex sheath. There are plenty of tutorials and instructions to be found online. But some can be confusing and long-winded. To help you out, we’ll break it down to easy-to-follow steps so that even a rookie can figure this out.
What You’ll Need:
- Kydex sheething (choose the size and thickness you need)
- Rivets (choose the right size for the Kydex you will be using)
- Rivet punch
- Saw (hobby saw, hack saw, or band saw)
- Foam press
- Toaster oven
- Cotton sheet
A lot of the materials you’ll need can be bought from a hardware store. If you’re having difficulty finding some, you can visit Knifekits.com.
How to Make Your Kydex Sheath:
Once you've got all the materials and tools, the first thing you'll need to do is determine the size of the sheath you'll be making. While it doesn't really have to be exact, it's better to err on the side of caution and make it bigger than it should be. This way, you can easily trim it down to size. Make sure that the Kydex sheething is wide enough to encase the blade and long enough to cover both the blade and around an inch up the handle.
Then, mark your measurements with a pencil. Score the kydex a couple of times using your knife or a razor. This will make it easier for you to fold the kydex and break it.
Important note: You can use only one piece of Kydex to wrap around your blade. This is the easiest and most popular way to go about making your sheath, and it enables you to create a sheath that has a narrower, lower profile. Of course, you can also choose to use two pieces of Kydex for each side of the sheath if that is what you prefer.
Once you’re done breaking of the piece/s you’ll be using, you need to heat the Kydex in your--wait for it--toaster oven (!) for about 5 minutes at 325 degrees to make it pliable. The kydex is ready when its consistency is like leather.
Take out your heated kydex using gloves and lay the piece/s on the table. If you have only one piece, place your sheath-needing-knife on top of the kydex and fold the kydex over the knife. You can do this side to side or end to end.
If you have two pieces, place the knife first on top of one piece and then cover the knife using the other.
It's important to do all of this within 15 seconds because kydex hardens quickly as it cools. If you made a mistake in positioning the knife, don't worry. You can easily reheat the kydex again and start the process over.
Place the cotton sheet inside the foam press first; then, put the kydex sheath along with the knife inside and close the press. Keep the cotton sheet between the foam and the kydex sheath + knife. This allows your kydex to settle on its own without it sticking to the foam and keeps the kydex from shifting when you close the press. Give your sheath enough time to cool (around 10 minutes) before pulling it out. Make sure that the kydex has definitely firmed up before you proceed to the next step.
Get a pencil and use it to mark out your outline (final sheath shape) as well as where you'll be drilling your holes for the rivets.
Using your saw, cut out your final sheath design.
Before you start to drill holes, make sure that the blade will be secure enough within the sheath but can still be easily pulled out and pushed back in. The rivets will tighten the space within the sheath so you need to ensure that there will be enough space for your blade even with the rivets in place. Once that’s done, drill holes that match your rivet size.
Before you punch your rivets in, take note of which way you want to carry the sheath – left-handed or right-handed. This will dictate which way you put your rivets in. After determining this, go ahead and punch your rivets. If you have a belt attachment, this is the time to put it in place as well.
One of the finishing steps is to sand the edges of your sheath to smooth them out. Make sure to put some masking tape inside the sheath to prevent any grit from getting inside and scratching your blade. Afterwards, you can use an air compressor or whatever you might have at hand to blow out any grit that may have gotten into your brand new sheath.
Use some acetone on a rag to clean up any sanding marks around the edges.
The final step in perfecting your new kydex sheath is to do a general cleanup, removing any pencil marks and the like. You can use some WD40 or any other oil to wipe down the entire sheath.
...and there you have it! Your very own custom made Kydex sheath.
If you happen to be a visual learner and would like a visual to go with these instructions, you can watch the video below: