Building a Kydex press and making a Kydex Sheath Tutorial

Discussion in 'WIPs and Tutorials' started by BossDog, Oct 3, 2009.

  1. BossDog

    BossDog & Owner

    The materials are pretty simple for this kydex press.
    3/4" plywood. I bought a 2'x4' piece for 8 bucks.
    The clamp was $20 I think.
    2 common heavy duty door hinges. These were $2.25 each
    I needed some more screws so I bought some deck screws. Drywall screws break off too easy in this much plywood.

    The top is press plate is 12"x12". The bottom plate is 17"x12".
    3ea pieces (4"x12") are stacked (screwed and glued) for the hinge mount.


    Glue and screw the 3 4"x12" pieces to the bottom plate. Use the top plate to line it up. None of these dimensions are critical. Adjust it anyway you want.


    Here is what it will look like from the side. The bottom plate is left intentionally long in this case to secure it to a bench later. You can leave the extra at the top or bottom. I left it at the top. You don't even have to leave any extra. Just cut the bottom plate to 16" if you like.

    Give the hinge just a little room to swivel freely by spacing just an 1/8" away from the hinge mount stack. I used screws for spacers. Mount the hinge to the top plate first. (You won't like doing it the other way first.)

    Starting these screws is a pain sometimes. I hammer them in just a little and then screw. Much easier.

    A bit of the screws came out the back of the top lid. No problem. Just use the grinder to grind them flush.

    I am using 2ea 1" thick pieces of neoprene for the mold foam. I have a knife clamped in there.

    Just using the bar clamp wasn't getting enough pressure so I moved the whole thing over to the bench vise for a little more pressure.

    Press design concept from Sharpshooter Sheaths. A part of Bark River Knife and Tool.
    Last edited: Oct 31, 2009
  2. Jeff Pearce

    Jeff Pearce KNIFE MAKER

    very cool press i will have to make me one. i need to buy all the tools from you to do the rivots you need to make a kit. or do you have a kydex stater kit..
  3. BossDog

    BossDog & Owner

    First tape the knife. I like the low tack blue stuff. It doesn't leave that much adhesive on the blade. Make sure there are no wrinkles or overlaps. Use 2 layers on each side and cut away the excess. Any wrinkle will show up in the kydex. It's amazing how it will imprint all the way through. Duct tape will work too. The two layers of tape isn't to protect the blade during this process (although it helps) it is to give your sheath just enough clearance around the blade so it doesn't bind and scratch.


    Here I have 12"x12" of OD concealex (from :D)
    I've cut about 3" strip off one side to use later for the belt clip. Don't try and scrimp too much here. You will end up just having to make another one.

    I used to use a heat gun. I am sold on this flat electric griddle now though. I bought the griddle new for $35. I set the heat at just under 300F. Cook it slick side down. If you cook it on the textured side, you may melt some of the texture. Move it around just a little to make sure it doesn't stick. It's like plastic tortillas.

    As it heats up to the proper temp. You will see it curl around the edges and then go flat. It should be as limp as wet pasta. Move quick before you lose the heat. I wear cloth gloves. 300F plastic isn't fun to hold.


    I have wrapped the concealex (or kydex or boltaron) around the knife.
    This knife is a clip point to there will be a little loose material at the top. If you can, pull the kydex tight down on the top of the spine and slip it in the press. Quick close the lid and squeeze it - hard.

    You can purchase the foam at or >click it here<
    Last edited: Oct 31, 2009
  4. BossDog

    BossDog & Owner

    This impression wasn't all that crisp. I had lost some heat taking pictures but it will work just fine. Leave it in the press for 3 or 4 minutes.

    To help cool it off and set the mold, I'll dip it in water so I can move to the next step quicker.

    Looking at the knife outline, I draw a cutting line giving enough room for the eyelets and belt clip mount at the top.

    I use the 4x6 metal belt grinder to cut away the excess and then step over to the grinder to grind it to the shape I want. Nice clean, smooth curves please. We will come back later and burnish the edges.

    I keep a pattern belt clip for reference. The large hole allows a screw driver to go through and tighten a screw post. Picture of that later. I don't trace it or anything. I just helps me figure out how I want to mount this style clip to this sheath.
  5. BossDog

    BossDog & Owner

    We had our own custom eyelet dies made by Precision Plus. We sell these on They go into a common hand arbor press. We are using Siska 1/4" eyelets.

    Here I am lining up the belt clip (more pics on that in a minute) to mark holes for drilling the eyelets and chicago screws. I tend to use chicago screws at the top of a sheath so I can adjust them to better fit the knife when I am done.
    Kydex always wants to climb the drill bit. It all happens so fast you are lucky to get out with all your fingers. I had marked and drilled the eyelet holes to size. The hole near the tip had a large plastic burr so I went over to the next drill press that has a large bit in it and I was going to use that to debur the hole. In an instant the kydex climbed right up the bit boring out the big hole near the tip. This is now an official water drain hole and a feature we will throw in for free. Hold onto the kydex very firmly. Start the hole slow.
    Note in the lower left is the screw posts we will be using. These are also called sex screws or Chicago screws.

    The eyelet dies in the press. Point die goes up. The eyelet is pressed into hole and pushed flush with the kydex. Set the eyelet on top of the point and slide it to the bottom. Don't push the eyelet away from the kydex. Press the top die down until it is all registered. Press it briskly and firmly. The eyelet rolls out better that way.

    They aren't terribly high. I have these custom made and I will put them up against anyone's for a good finish.

    These will fit in a 3/8" hole in a 1/2 ton (or any size really) hand arbor press.


    Now we are molding the belt clip. It is even lower tech than the press. It is simply some 2"x3/16" steel and some other scrap used to wrap the kydex around. Heat the kydex a little wamer than normal. The metal takes the heat out pretty quickly. Wrap the strip of hot kydex around the 2"x3/16" (use what ever size you want here) and then press the other scrap down on the loose ends to form the crease and bend.
    Last edited: Oct 21, 2009
  6. BossDog

    BossDog & Owner

    Molding the belt clip is simple. Wrap it and press in another piece of metal to form the bend. This only takes 30 seconds.


    Drilling the belt clip. One hole is quite a bit larger. That is so you can get a screw driver in to tighten the chicago screw that mounts the clip to the sheath.

    Here is the back of the sheath with the clip mounted. I will take the clip off now and take it all to the grinder and buffer. I finish grinding any edges I noted as rough or change any lines that needed adjusting. I use a 120 or 220 slack belt attachment along with a small wheel. Don't forget to blow out all the dust from drilling. The to the buffer for burnishing just the edges. The buffer will melt this stuff so just keep it to the edges. In this case I had a green chrome wheel mounted on the buffer so I just used that. The dark spots on the sheath are Sharpie marker and dirt. A little cleanup and it looked brand new.

    What do you think? Does it make my butt look big?
    Last edited: Oct 3, 2009
  7. Jeff Pearce

    Jeff Pearce KNIFE MAKER

    Great info... by the way i like your
  8. SPAknives

    SPAknives Well-Known Member

    Oh My Hell!!!!!! I have had the wood cut the foam bought and have been going to make one of these for months now but have been kinda stuck on how to put it all togethor. You made it so simple and that jsut cleared up all my questions. I was not real sure about the hinge part but that is a simple awesome way. Thanks now I can finish mine!
  9. Brett Long

    Brett Long Well-Known Member

    boy you made that look easy. going to build that tomorrow. what kind of foam and where can i get it.
    man i love tutorials 2thumbs
  10. JAWilliams


    I have bought most of my supplies from Tracy and he got them to me quick and everything was right. Now to use them. Thanks Tracy for the tutorial.
  11. RAGUEL3

    RAGUEL3 Well-Known Member

    Do the gloves come free with purchase?,.. I want the special protective taped index finger and thumb vent kind . :) :)

    Cool tutorial- quick n dirty Kydex press, neat.
  12. Mike Barton

    Mike Barton Well-Known Member

    Nope, I think the checkbook is taking care of that :p;)

    Great tutorial goodjob1kewlpics1

    Thank you Tracy rockon
  13. BossDog

    BossDog & Owner

    I don't have any foam to sell you today. I will in a few weeks.
    I have several different kinds of foam I am testing. I will test some more today and order in some to list for sale early this week.

    In the mean time, you can buy the Blue Foam Camping pads from Walmart sporting department and cut that up. These come in a roll and it is light blue in color. It is fairly stiff polyfoam and I've used it for years myself. I think there is better material out there but it also works pretty well.
  14. Denny Eller

    Denny Eller Well-Known Member

    Thanks a bunch for the tutorial, Tracy. I'm building one this week. Do you sell Tek-Lok belt clips?
  15. ChipI.

    ChipI. Well-Known Member

    Great tutorial Tracy!!! Thanks for posting
  16. BossDog

    BossDog & Owner

    not yet. I will at some point. I have several other new lines to bring on first.
  17. M.Olexey

    M.Olexey Well-Known Member

    I love the griddle idea. I bet that works great!

  18. p moore

    p moore Guest

    The only thing I could add to this great tutorial is, For some of my smaller knives, I only have foam on the top half of the press. This to say, the outside of the sheath will have all the curves. While the back side with the belt loop is fairly flat. I will sometimes lay down a 3/16" thick piece of felt to slightly conforum the back.

  19. Fiddleback

    Fiddleback Well-Known Member

    Built your press, and bought a griddle. Best damn advice I've gotten for kydex. I'd stopped doing them because of my press sucking, and my wife hating the smell in her oven. Thanks BD.
  20. JAWilliams


    How did the testing go?

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