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Leatherwork – knife sheath and QC

Posted by is9582 on April 15, 2016 with No Commentsas , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

I’m sorry its been a while between articles, as it seems I’ve had less periods of contiguous time to knock out a full thought. For those who don’t know, I am (somewhat recently) active on my InstaGram account (@LeeLairdWoodworking) and as it is a more brief scenario,  post quite regularly which hopefully can help fill any voids. Ok, lets get on with it…

I made a small detailing knife, using a repurposed blade, and wanted to make a sheath to keep it (and anyone around it) from getting dinged or nicked. I have a small range of leathers from which to choose, and decided on a fairly thick and supple dark brown piece, that was large enough for my pattern.

 

Knife laid on leather blank, with pattern drawn onto leather with white-lead pencil.

Knife laid on leather blank, with pattern drawn onto leather with white-lead pencil. Red arrows point to almost invisible pattern line.

 

I used a white-leaded pencil to draw the pattern onto the dark leather, so it would be easier to see while following the line with my take-no-prisoners Fiskar shears. Ok, so I cut it out, blah, blah, and marked along the edge on the top side of the piece, where I wanted my stitches to go. I used my multi-tooth thonging chisel to create the stitching holes on one side, and then applied my contact cement on the mating surfaces. After it dried, I aligned the edges and pressed them together with my vise, to activate the cement.

I’ve always used the single-toothed thonging head (from my little kit from Tandy, that came with six heads), to go back through the holes I punch before the cement was applied, so the alignment between the two layers would be spot on. When I used some of the “old standard” basic tanned leather for this type of process, everything went beautifully. With the leather for this current sheath, the soft and supple nature comes with a caveat, which is it can get damaged a bit easier. I noticed the surface of the leather, around the stitching holes (after the second pass with the single-tooth head), looked a little different, but figured it was no big deal.

I put the un-stitched sheath into my stitching pony, and used my usual saddle-stitch pattern to stitch it up nice and secure. After I’d removed the sheath from the pony, I was giving it a good once-over, and I noticed something odd. The stitching, on what was the second surface to get it’s stitching holes, looked great, but on the first side, not so much. The stitches were almost getting lost down in the leather. I thought this was strange, but it was the first time to work with this type leather, so thought it was just a one-off type thing.

 

Completed knife sheath, with visible damage from the shoulder of the thonging chisel.

Completed knife sheath, with visible damage from the shoulder of the thonging chisel.

 

After I’d used this same leather for another couple of projects, I noticed the same issue was recurring, with the stitching on the top surface looking different than on the bottom surface. I finally realized what was causing the issue, and devised a work-around, which is providing a better product.

Since the leather I’m using was fairly thick (about .130″), and the thonging chisel had to go through two layers, the shoulder on the chisel was actually going into the leather (on the top surface of course) and damaging the area between the holes. As the length of the chisel’s tooth was fairly short, it was very difficult to make it pierce the rear leather completely, while also keeping the shoulder from contacting the leather.

 

Comparison between the multi-head designed single-tooth chisel and the solid single-tooth chisel, with red lines to focus on tooth length.

Comparison between the multi-head designed single-tooth chisel and the solid single-tooth chisel, with red lines to focus on tooth length.

 

My solution is a two-pronged, which provides me options. I went and looked at the single-toothed thonging chisels that were one solid piece (read you can’t swap out the head), and saw the tooth was quite a bit longer than the multi-bit counterpart. I bought one of the solid chisels! While at Tandy, I’d also seen a tool that looked sort of like some type of pliers, but had a chisel on each jaw, that came together upon squeezing the handle.  After assessing this tool, I bought this, too!

 

These are two solid thonging chisels I bought at Tandy Leather.

These are two solid thonging chisels I bought at Tandy Leather.

 

Chisel pliers from Tandy Leather.

Chisel pliers from Tandy Leather.

 

So with these two new tools at home, and with a quick sharpening of the single-tooth chisel, I was ready to test my “new work-flow”. Check back in the next day or so, and I’ll update you on the new tools in use.

Thanks for stopping by and checking out the article. I really appreciate everyone for their continued support. And as always, please let me know if you have any questions or comments.

Lee Laird

@LeeLairdWW on Twitter

@LeeLairdWoodworking on InstaGram