When it comes to buying handmade knives, people tend to focus on the blade itself – while there’s nothing wrong with that, you should also pay attention to the sheath that many knives come with. Knife sheaths do the important job of protecting the knife and providing a mechanism to carry it, so you choose the knife sheath carefully.
Leather is one of the most common materials used, and was most likely the first knife sheath material used in ancient history… let’s look at some of the reasons why.
Pros of Leather Knife Sheaths
Leather knife sheaths have a traditional look and feel to them , due in part to them being used by ancient hunters for their knives. Back then, the leathers sheaths that they carried were made from the hide of the game that they killed, which gave the hunter a sense of pride whenever they wore it on their waists.
Aside from the traditional look, leather sheaths are also aesthetically beautiful. Who doesn’t love the sheen of well processed leather? Add this to the natural textures formed by the folds, pores and wrinkles of an authentic hide, and you’ve got yourself one impressive knife sheath.
Leather knife sheaths are also pretty durable, and when taken care of properly, they can even last longer than your blade. However, this is only true if you take care of them properly… including applying a coating of leather protector or conditioner.
If you are worried that your knife may cut into the leather and hurt you, then you’d be glad to know that such instances are rare. Rare enough that few people even care to mention it.
Cons of Leather Knife Sheaths
One of the biggest disadvantages of leather knife sheaths is that they are prone to cracking. This happens when it is exposed to extremely high temperatures, like leaving them out under the hot sun for too long or leaving them near the campfire or cooking pit for instance. Doing so will dry up the moisture and natural oils in the leather cause the upper layers to crack and break. In most cases, you should still be able to use it, but it won’t be as beautiful as when you first bought it.
Another drawback to using leather knife sheaths is that they are not water resistant, and when exposed to water, may develop unsightly water stains. Leather has natural oils that help prevent water and moisture from entering into the material, but these alone are not enough when the leather sheath is submerged in water (like when you jump into the water with your knife on your waist or when left under the pouring rain). Unfortunately, when these water stains penetrate the leather, it will remain there permanently.
Finally, leather is pretty much a high-maintenance knife sheath, as can be gleaned from the above two paragraphs. You need to apply leather conditioners and coating of water protector if you want to maintain its natural appeal and beauty.
There are a variety of knife sheaths available out there, even for handmade knives, but it seems that leather is still one of the most preferred materials as far as knife sheaths are concerned. They do not only look good, but are tough and durable as well. However, if you want to keep it looking like brand new, you need to make sure to take good care of it – and when you do, you’ll have a knife sheath that will look good and last you for years to come.