Most of my sheaths are 7-9 oz. leather. Over 9 oz. and it gets hard to bend and shape into a sheath. IMHO.
By way of a tip. Use Wickett and Craig leather. I have purchased leather from Tandy and other local providers. By far the best leather that I have ever used is Wickett & Craig.
As a plug, they are really easy to deal with. My suggestion would be to buy a few drummed dyed bellies off of their website to get started. Look in the discount area for even better deals. Just call them, very helpful with suggestions. They know there stuff.
Black, dark brown, and light brown would be a good start. But, look around and see what you like for colors.
Here is their website and a couple of other interesting sites to look through.
Both. Some I use veg. tanned leather and dye. Some I use drum dyed leather that is colored. Most of the drummed dyed leather needs the edges colored after the sheath is completed.
I just started using Wickett & Craig leather about 5 sheaths ago. I just had them send me 8 assorted bellies that were on clearance. Unfortunately, the color and type of leather were not marked on them.
I can get 7-10 sheaths per belly. It has some bites, scars, marks to work around. But, I'm sold. Way better leather than anything I had used before. So I am still learning a little bit at a time.
If you are going to tool the leather use heavier leather (9 oz. or so). You can get deeper marks with thicker leather.
If you are going to make a plain sheath with little to no tooling use lighter leather (7 oz). Easier to shape and mold around the knife IMHO.
Some makers like leather work. Some hate it. I am one that doesn't mind making a leather sheath. I actually enjoy it.
Here is the best WIP that I have found for sheath making. Lots and lots of tips as you follow along.
I am giving up on Tandy Leather. I have been using them for two years, primarily because of cost. I would wait for shoulders to go on sale and order a couple. It's always a lottery in what they send you quality-wise and up til now I've usually been on the verge of satisfied/happy. This last one they sent me is a total piece of crap. It has the consistency of dried carboard and is slick to the touch. Looked good..until I went to use it on a sheath. I needed a bunch of leather to make a stacked leather handle and the leather was fine for that, but for a sheath... what garbage.
In this life you may not always get what you pay for, but you will never get MORE than you pay for. I finally feel like my knives are good enough that the sheath's leather quality is no longer up to snuff. Every knife I made up until now got a sheath thrown in for free, but now I charge for them (it's baked into the total price). At any rate, I now have higher expectations for myself and the sheath is part of that.
I use 8-9 oz for sheaths. I'm sorry I will never use bellies. There is not enough body to them. I buy double shoulders. I agree Wickett and Craig are good.i use mainly number twos ,in a full side. You may find scratches and maybe a brand but those areas can be used for welts.
I have one hide that is a number one but spread it out for nicer knives. It takes stamping and is a pleasure to use. It costs a pretty penny also.
Fred, I use 7 oz. Herman Oak leather from Springfield leather. that weight seems to work for me for skinners and hunters with 3.5 - 4" blades.
I agree with John about Tandy, while their leather is good for just starting out doing leather work due to screwing things up for a while, their leather has a lot to be desired in my opinion.
For one thing, it's imported from Mexico so there's no guarantee on the tanning process, with some weird things going on in the texture and dyeing of it. It also seems to have a lot of range marks on it, bug bites, barb wire marks, and other stuff that just shouldn't be there.
Some may disagree and like it, but once you unroll a side of Herman Oak after using Tandy leather you will be amazed at the difference in quality and the way it stamps, carves, and takes stain or dye.
Well, to go against the grain a little, I've been really happy with the leather I've got from Tandy. I've bought 2 double shoulders from them and still have some left. One was 8-9 oz and the other was 7 oz, I tend to prefer the 8-9 oz for most sheaths. Both times I ordered, it was a special sale or deal and I got them at a great price. I've also visited one of their stores in person and there are hundreds, if not thousands of shoulders to go through. If you live close to a store, you can hand pick. I'm not nearly as experienced as some of you other guys, but so far I've been very happy with my Tandy leather. I might get screwed on the next one though, who knows.
On the Tandy thing, Steve (Bladegrinder) warned me at the Lakeland knife show to stop using Tandy and the very next order bit me in the butt. This last double shoulder I bought feels like a roofing shingle. Anthony is also right though- if you can PERSONALLY drive to a Tandy leather store and go through the leather you can pick out some that you like. That's something people have said for a long time, which I also ignored. I learned the hard way buying wood online from Woodcraft, too.
Back on topic:
I personally like 6-7oz leather for my knives with blades up to 4 inches for the style of sheaths that I make (taco style that comes 3/4 the way up the handle). Whenever I do a large knife or one with a full guard I go to 9oz because that style of sheath has so much less stiffness due to shape and construction method.
"Anthony is also right though- if you can PERSONALLY drive to a Tandy leather store and go through the leather you can pick out some that you like." AGREED!!
I had purchased leather at Tandy and selected some nice stuff, also. I was happy for the most part with Tandy. However, the nearest store was a 2 hour trip for me. One way. The one time I ordered online. The result was just like John's.
Someone on this site. I cannot remember who off the top of my head suggested Wickett & Craig to me. I bought some clearance bellies and have not looked back.
That is not a bash on Tandy. It is praise to Wickett & Craig. They make a very good product at an acceptable cost.
A little bit of internet research indicates that Wickett & Craig ise the oldest running American leather producer. Not sure if it is true, but, I can support the made in America concept.
Personally I use 8-9oz and/or 9-10oz...... I look at it this way....if I paid the money for a Cadillac, I'd want a nice, heavy duty garage to park it in.
Just a thought on leather types. I'd highly recommend buying/using only "Oak" or "Vegetable" tanned leather. Unless you know what to look for, and what to ask, most of the leather at the "stores" is going to be chrome tanned...and it's always the cheaper priced leather. Chrome tanning is done with chomactic acids, and it can never be fully "rinsed" out. Ever seen an older knife/leather sheath, and when you pull out the knife, it has "green goop" on the hardware? That's the chromatic acids reacting with the hardware. If the knife is of the non-stainless variety steel, the blade is usually pitted up pretty badly too. That doesn't happen when a sheath is made of Oak/Vegetable tanned leather. Oak/Vegetable tanned leathers also work, mold, and take dyes much better then chrome tanned leather.