Questions on Dying and Finishing

tkroenlein

Well-Known Member
I've been trying some new finishing processes, specifically using oil based dyes as opposed to the alcohol Eco-Flo dyes I had been using. From various sources across the web, I've gleaned that most folks are using a dye, followed by a conditioner, and then top coated with a finish/sealer.

What I have done to date is dye with the eco-flo, wet form, and top coat. Honestly, I didn't and still don't know what types of dyes and finishes are compatible.

So what I am in the process of trying is this; apply Fiebings oil based dye, dry, wet form, dry, apply pure Neatsfoot oil, dry, finish edges, touch up etc, dry, apply 50/50 Resolene.

Now, what does everyone think of this? Am I on the right track? Any, I mean ANY, comments or suggestions welcome!
 

EdCaffreyMS

"The Montana Bladesmith"
So what I am in the process of trying is this; apply Fiebings oil based dye, dry, wet form, dry, apply pure Neatsfoot oil, dry, finish edges, touch up etc, dry, apply 50/50 Resolene.
My order of steps is a bit different..... Once a sheath is sewn, it's then wet formed and allowed to dry.
I keep my leather dye is a vertical plastic container meant to store spaghetti..... After the sheath(s) are dry from wet forming (usually a 2-3 day process), I then dip the entire sheath in dye, drain, and again, dry..... usually another 1-2 days. I found that if I dye, then wet form, the forming doesn't hold/stay as well.
I then clean the edges and dye them black..... and then allow to dry. I do not apply any type of oils, as it will "release" the wet forming. When I finish a sheath, it's either with a Fiebings product called "Tan-Kote" or common shoe polish.
I never do anything that will seal the interior..... I did that early in my career, and found it had adverse affects on knives, and the longevity of the sheath(s).
I'm a big proponent of allowing the sheaths to FULLY DRY NATURALLY. Again, early in my career I found that force drying leather causes significant issues.... whatever form the forced drying might take.

Frankly, leather work is my least favorite part of knifemaking, and I've tried many times to "farm out" my sheaths.....but it just never works out, so I do it myself. After recently purchasing a leather sewing machine..... I hate it a lot less than is used to! :)
 

tkroenlein

Well-Known Member
Thanks Ed. That raises another question in my process. I have dyed both before and after stitching (and by extension wet forming,) and I prefer to dye the sheath before stitching to preserve the stitching color. It just seems now that might be backwards because the oil dye seems to pick up some darker colorations during the wet forming, though it does seem to be sloooowly drying. The sheath on the left is done the same minus wet forming but is a couple days ahead. The welt on the right has just been touched up so naturally it's darker. 58C20A9C-D272-40F2-AB0B-5F83C1AD2854.jpeg
 

EdCaffreyMS

"The Montana Bladesmith"
I think the issue of the stitches picking up the dye color is a result of the type thread used. When I hand stitch, I use waxed artificial sinew (advertised as "natural" color), I believe that due to the wax, it doesn't pick up any of the dye color (and least it never has for me). Now that I'm machine sewing, I had to find a thread for the machine, that doesn't pick up dye color. That is bonded nylon in "natural" color. (DO NOT BUY/USE the cheap imported sinew....it's a nightmare to work with)

It looks to me like you're hand stitching?
And it appears to be a nylon thread you're using?

When I hand stitch, I use a overstitch tool (some call it a "star wheel"......a #5, which means 5 stitches per inch). I use this tool to mark my stitch line on the sheath, then I go to the drill press, and drill each an every hole with a bit that is slightly small than the needle I use. In my case, that's a #53 bit. Once all the holes are drilled, I then V-gouge the line of holes so the stitching lays below the surface, sew/stitch the sheath (saddle stitch....a longer piece of thread than I neee, and a needle on each end), then the steps I mentioned earlier.
Why say all that? To lead into this..... After everything else on a sheath (hand sewn) is done, I take that Overstitch (star wheel) tool, and go over the stitches with it.... with the waxed artificial sinew...... it makes the stitches nice and flat (kinda looks like a ribbon), and highlights them.

Looking at that photo, I'm curious as to what type of leather you're using? I'v found that unless you are using premium grade vegetable tanned, all sorts of various issue/problems seem to crop up....and they never seem to be the same twice....always something goofy.
 
Last edited:

tkroenlein

Well-Known Member
Yeah this is waxed nylon. I use it or waxed braided nylon. The leather is Tandy's 8/9 oz. "Crafstman" veg tanned. They advertise it as tooling and dying well. I think it was $50 for a single shoulder. I've made about 6 sheaths prior to this using the eco flow dye and it seemed consistent with it.

Rolling over it with the star wheel is interesting. I don't have or use one. I use a stitching punch or awl for everything. But if it gives the "hammered stitch" look that might be worth picking up.
 

Daniel Macina

Well-Known Member
I’ve always used the over stitch wheel for marking my stitches I had no idea you were supposed to run it over the stitch when you were done. I guess it is right there in the name. Ha ha. I’m so stupid.
 

EdCaffreyMS

"The Montana Bladesmith"
I think if you were to start marking with an overstitch tool, and drilling rather than punching the stitch holes, you will see a night/day difference in the appearance of your sheaths/stitching..... especially is you give the waxed artificial sinew a try, and also use the overstitch tool on the stitching after it's in place.
Judging from the pic of your sheaths, I'd guess you're doing 3 or 4 stitches per inch? If you used a #5 overstich tool to mark, and do the 5 stitches per inch, that will give your sheaths a more refined look too. With more stitches per inch (to a point), you will have less "pucker" along the edges, because the extra stitches "pull" more evenly on the leather.

The leather is Tandy's 8/9 oz. "Crafstman" veg tanned.
Personally, I quit using an type of leather sold by Tandy years ago. I found that even the leather they label as "premium" is the el cheapo grade imported stuff. You can always tell imported hides....they are for a lack of a better term, white in color....or VERY light in color, where as domestic tanned cattle hide is more of a russet/tan color. Even those hides that the Salesman at Tandy promised me were "domestic", were pretty bad to work with, and the thing that griped me to no end was the way they accepted/took dye..... never evenly.... Always light/dark areas, and sometimes the "patchiness" was impossible to fix. I just thought that was how leather was, until I went to either of the leather below.

For a while I was buying from Herman Oaks, supplied through an outfit in Billings, MT. (Montana Leather), but after being sent, and returning a couple of sides with a LOT of waste (the industry standard for usable area for a hide labeled as a top grade is 70%....that means when you buy a "premium" tanned side of leather, no matter the square footage, 30% waste is acceptable, but I was getting 40-50% waste due to scars, brands, cuts, etc.) that they labeled "premium", I've since been buying and using Wickett & Craig leather and have been very happy it.

I won't try to explain all the reasons, because until you've compared/used leather from either of those sources, to the Tandy leather, you have no idea just how awful Tandy's leather really is.
The Wickett & Craig Skirting is what I use..... it wet forms like modeling clay, and it the most uniform over a side of any other I've used. The leather I buy from Wickett & Craig is dyed "russet" which I'm really impressed with.... you can leave it the color it is, and it looks great, but it will also readily and EVENLY take dyes, which just makes it that much more versatile.
Herman Oak has a reputation in the industry of having the "toughest" leather, and it's often the choice for those who care less about appearance...using it for "wear" items like saddles, tack/harness, etc.
Wickett & Craig has the reputation as having the best looking leather, which is the main reason I choose it. Knife sheath usually don't see the stress, wear and tear of say saddles, harnesses, and other "horse" gear.
 

Dennis Morland

KNIFE MAKER
Apply Fiebings oil based dye, dry, wet form, dry, apply pure Neatsfoot oil, dry, finish edges, touch up etc, dry, apply 50/50 Resolene.

This procedure will work. There are many variables. Ed hit a big one. What type and manufacturer of the leather.

Another would be type and size of the sheath. The color combination. Single color? Duel color? Carved leather? Stamped?

A tip or two. I have been using Fiebings Pro Dye. A couple dollars more expensive but I really like the stuff. Been weeding out the old regular Fiebings dye and will probably not be going back. I think I get a more uniform coloring with Pro dye.

I have never used resolene. I like to use super sheen and satin sheen. With older drier leather, I do use neats foot oil. Everyone has a favorite technique and product. Keep experimenting.

On a simple single color sheath here is my procedure. Finish the sheath, finish the edges, wet mold (I do not dive into this as much as others), dip dye entire sheath inside and outside, dip dye in super sheen inside and outside, touch ups if necessary, wax sheath with Obenaufs leather conditioner. Others will differ.
 

tkroenlein

Well-Known Member
Thanks Ed and Dennis.

I've heard similar about Tandy's leather. In fact, I bought a "c" grade double shoulder in person at the St. Louis store, and I think it was a better piece than this last single I bought online.

I am at 4 stitch/1". I agree that 5 would look better. It so happens I have an extra small bench top drill press devote to leather work.

Reckon I need to try changing up the order of what I'm doing. It might give me some more uniform results with coloration.

How much dye/container size does a fellow need to dip dye? Are you using dye reducer n that?
 

tkroenlein

Well-Known Member
Here it is with the Resolene applied and dry to the touch. It's not so much that it looks baaaaad, it just isn't the color it should be. Tan. We'll see if it lightens up the next couple days. 8DB9013B-1369-4823-BCF3-7E2D42B9DD40.jpeg
 

oldknife

Well-Known Member
Well I seem to have a different way of making a scheath, make a paper pattern cut out the leather sew on the belt loop, then wet form it to the knife let it dry, make a welt to fit the blade, used to use contact cement but have gon to double stick tape it does not plug up my core drill that I use on the holes, I finish the edge on the grinder to 400 grit, put a stich line on the out side only, after the holes are drilled , sink the thread line on the back side with a air turbin with a ball bit,use two needles with waxed thread to sew it, redo the edge with 400 grit. Wet the edges and work harden them with a spoon or something smooth this lays the roughness downlet dry, I use only olive oil or obenaufs leather conditioner, pour the olive oil inside roll it around and pore it out, put it on the out side with your hand or a rag, put it on untel it is as dark as you want it, it will have light and dark places but they will even out. A good saddle maker told me never seal leather if you want it to last it needs to breath and take on oil. After all is done take a felt bob in the foredom and burnish the edges with some shoe polish. And like has been said by others buy the best of every thing.And I do use a star wheel. There are many variations that can be done, and may things can happen to the process . The sheaths in the picture are done in this manner, the bottom one in the top picture is done in obenaufs the others in olive oil.
 

Attachments

tkroenlein

Well-Known Member
Well I seem to have a different way of making a scheath, make a paper pattern cut out the leather sew on the belt loop, then wet form it to the knife let it dry, make a welt to fit the blade, used to use contact cement but have gon to double stick tape it does not plug up my core drill that I use on the holes, I finish the edge on the grinder to 400 grit, put a stich line on the out side only, after the holes are drilled , sink the thread line on the back side with a air turbin with a ball bit,use two needles with waxed thread to sew it, redo the edge with 400 grit. Wet the edges and work harden them with a spoon or something smooth this lays the roughness downlet dry, I use only olive oil or obenaufs leather conditioner, pour the olive oil inside roll it around and pore it out, put it on the out side with your hand or a rag, put it on untel it is as dark as you want it, it will have light and dark places but they will even out. A good saddle maker told me never seal leather if you want it to last it needs to breath and take on oil. After all is done take a felt bob in the foredom and burnish the edges with some shoe polish. And like has been said by others buy the best of every thing.And I do use a star wheel. There are many variations that can be done, and may things can happen to the process . The sheaths in the picture are done in this manner, the bottom one in the top picture is done in obenaufs the others in olive oil.
Thanks for the input!
 

Dennis Morland

KNIFE MAKER
When I look at your last picture I see a lot of good things popping off of the page. The color may not be what you were looking for but it is consistent and really shows the beautiful qualities in the leather. Your edges are nicely finished. Your stitches are straight and even. The dangler is well proportioned. Welt molding is solid. Overall that sheath is very well done.
 

bladegrinder

Well-Known Member
Apply Fiebings oil based dye, dry, wet form, dry, apply pure Neatsfoot oil, dry, finish edges, touch up etc, dry, apply 50/50 Resolene.
I use 50/50 Resolene too, one thing for anyone that tries it, make sure you cut it 50% with water. I use an air brush to apply it. speaking of water I only use distilled water, the city water where I'm at has too much bad stuff in it, I won't drink it either.
Another good product I always use is Montana Pitch Blend, that's good stuff.
 

tkroenlein

Well-Known Member
When I look at your last picture I see a lot of good things popping off of the page. The color may not be what you were looking for but it is consistent and really shows the beautiful qualities in the leather. Your edges are nicely finished. Your stitches are straight and even. The dangler is well proportioned. Welt molding is solid. Overall that sheath is very well done.
Thanks De-Mo. I really only aim to provide a sheath with "no flaws" that lasts as long as the knife and looks of quality handmade goods.

I'm changing what I'm doing because I don't feel like the finishing is on-par with life time quality stuff. I don't think the eco flo dyes in conjunction with Resolene conditions or allows for maintenance appropriately, much in the way @oldknife describes. I feel like a guy should be able to rub some Sno seal or whatever he's got into it 20 years from now. Resolene, unless it comes off, won't allow that.
 
Top