What do you use to do layout?

C Craft

Well-Known Member
So the title pretty much says it but, here goes.

When using vegetable tanned leather, what to you use to layout with???

I have tried various mediums for layout on leather. Pencil sometimes shows and pen will definitely show after dyeing!! There must be something that won't show!!!


Well-Known Member
I tend to do my layout on the back side of the leather - that way the marks don't show.


Sheath Forum Moderator
Here's what I've found through the years.

Ball point of any kind is a smear waiting to happen, seems the ink never really fully dries.

I found a felt tip pen in my desk drawer one day and never looked back, the ink is very thin and dries very quickly.

I only work my layouts on the back of the leather, sometimes a flaw on the front sneaks in there but I can always cut it into straps and strips.

C Craft

Well-Known Member
OK so I may not have explained well what I was speaking of! I have the feeling that what Ken and Leatherman, you were both speaking of is the basic overall shape of the sheath!

I don't have a drawing program so will try to do this on the only medium I have available, pictures from the net!

I realize my groover can be ran from the edge by setting the guide.

So that takes care of the stitch line basically. However what if I have to do some freehand grooving. I would need a line to follow and if your hand is not particularly steady, you will leave the line!!

So the next area that comes to mind is something like this Chuck Burrows knife sheath!

If you look closely at the sheath, just inside of the tack line there are two lines that are parallels to the edge. I am guessing that those lines may have been done with a Swivel knife. A tool that I am still learning to master. Sometimes my lines look good and sometimes not so good. LOL Even the pattern he put in the field on this sheath. I would have to lay it out before using the swivel knife!

So here is another of Chucks sheaths. Now I realize this effect of the diamonds in the field was more than likely done with stamps, in the area around the diamond itself! However I know for myself I would have had to layout the pattern on the face of the sheath, so as not to screw up. Chuck on the other hand may have done it freehand. He had a way of making it look simple, even if it not!


So basically what I am speaking of when I say layout, I am talking of what will appear on the face of a sheath. I have done some pattern layout on the face of a sheath and when I get done I will realize some of my lines still show!!!

So on this kind of layout, (on the face of a sheath) Leatherman are you using the red felt tipped pen?? Something like these made by Sharpie!


I hope I explained myself well enough this time to make sense of what I was referring too!

Jim Moenck

Well-Known Member
I often use a tool I bought from Tandy. It looks like a pen with a little round stylus, actually two different sizes with one on each end. I'll just spritz the leather and draw my line with the stylus. Wetting it just a bit helps it to mark the leather and it will dry rather quickly. You can use a straight edge or a French curve to mark your lines, with no ink to smudge.
I think some of the lines on Chuck's example of the sheath may have been done with a divider in order to make a uniform distance from the edge and from each other. You could dress one end of the divider to make it smooth, and not cut the leather. The marking of the diamond pattern I would guess has been defined with the swivel knife and then stamped.
I may be all wrong, but that is my guess. Good luck, and practice, practice, practice.


Well-Known Member
You're right, I was thinking about the basic outline of sheath.

Would putting the pattern on tracing paper, then using a ball type stylus I'll trace the pattern on damp leather, then using a swivel knife do the cutting of the lines work?

C Craft

Well-Known Member
Jim I had not thought of dividers to get the parallel lines. It's funny sometimes, how the answer is right in front of you but never thought of doing it that way!!!

OK Ken I must admit I had to look this one up!! :nothing: Tracing paper, hmmmm :les: is he talking about old typewriter carbon paper?? Nope...........tracing paper is a different animal all together!!!

You must know someone who sews. https://www.walmart.com/ip/Tracing-Paper/19757795

You see in my house my Mama only sewed by hand and my Dad used the old pedal Singer to make canvas nail aprons, and bags to hold his hunting stuff, bags with draw tops that held his fishing stuff,...........you know the essentials of life!!

Here are the specs on tracing paper. I may have to try that!!!

Tracing Paper:

  • Wax-free paper
  • 5 sheets: White, blue, yellow, red and orange
  • Size: 5-1/8" x 19-1/2"
  • Use to transfer pattern markings and needlecraft designs
  • Use a tracing wheel to transfer the marks to the fabric
  • Marks can be removed with fabric eraser, brush, damp cloth or by machine washing

On a related note, I have been doing a lot of reading about leather tools today and from what I am reading about swivel knives, it may be very true, you get what you pay for!! http://www.barrykingtools.com/ I may be better than I thought I just have a lousy/cheap swivel knife!!
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Well-Known Member
At $55 for a swivel knife I just might have to "get by" with my Tandy swivel knife...... I expect it's better than I am anyway.


Well-Known Member
I use a fine point orange sharpie, virtually any stain will completely hide it. They can be a little hard to find without buying an entire set though.


"The Montana Bladesmith"
I first make a "pattern" for each and every sheath. I buy a roll of "builder's paper" from Home Depot (a single roll last for years). I use a ball point pen for marking. It does require some care, so I don't get any stray ink marks where I don't want them, but it's been my favored method for years. Hopefully later this year I'll have a video available on how I build sheaths.

Jim Moenck

Well-Known Member
Yes, this is just like the one I have. Its a good tool to have around. It also works for getting stitches out of places you don't want them or tightening them up.

C Craft

Well-Known Member
Thanks to everyone who has responded to this thread. I rarely if ever, fail to learn something new when I post one of these threads. So many makers seem to have secrets they plan on taking to the grave and some have and others will! To me it is such a shame to see that kind of info lost forever! I realize when you do this, (knife making) for a living, it is a different view. But gone is gone, and I always appreciate any info the people who frequent this forum seem ever willing to share!!

C Craft

Well-Known Member
I found something last night purely by accident. I was looking for an answer to a question for someone else and stumbled upon this goody from Chuck Burrows!

This was contained in something I have looked at several times but, I have never noticed this!! Until I ran across a post from Chuck on a leather forum, made a few years back.

Posted February 16, 2013
http://leatherworker.net/forum/topic/45981-knife-sheath-pattern/ under his post he wrote: [FONT=&amp]A freebie with the basics which can be adapted to various styles - http://www.wrtcleather.com/1-ckd/mexloop/_mexloop.html

When you follow the the freebie link as he stated you will find this about a 1/3 of the way down the page:
HINT #1: When transferring your pattern to leather, use a red roller tip pen if you are going to dye the item brown. If the item is to be dyed black then use a black roller tip. If you are putting a natural finish on your sheath use a soft lead pencil. After drawing the pattern onto the face side lightly dampen the area with a sponge and allow the color to return to almost normal. Use a sharp utility knife and cut your item out. When possible use a straight edge.

There is a lot more good information contained in this piece!! Chuck reached out 1 more time and gave advice.

RIP Chuck Burrows!