Where to get leather and a few other questions

Discussion in 'Knife Sheaths' started by OmegaRed, Jan 25, 2011.

  1. OmegaRed

    OmegaRed Well-Known Member

    Hello all,

    I'm currently making some knives for my groomsman. How do you estimate how much leather you'll need? Also what weights / thickness do I need.

    Where do you get your leather from?

    I'll probably have some other questions but that is a start. Thanks
  2. Mike Carter

    Mike Carter Well-Known Member

    Tandy leather has decent leather and everything you need to work it. It can be hit or miss, you just have to see what they have in stock at the time. They have stores in most cities.

    Wickett & Craig has great quality leather http://www.wickett-craig.com/index.html

    Most knife suppliers also carry leather in smaller pieces.

    You will need roughly twice the size of your blade, plus about 1/2 inch all around for stiching, plus your belt loop. You will also need some 1/2" wide strips for a welt. For larger blades people generally use 8-9 oz leather and 6-7 oz for thinner sheaths for smaller blades.
  3. cappaletti

    cappaletti Well-Known Member

    Weaver leather is another good place to look at (google 'em) and Mike nailed it on 8-9 oz leather for sheaths. Weaver also has all the tools etc. that you'll need to work the leather....
  4. Cliff Fendley

    Cliff Fendley Well-Known Member

    You used to have to be a business in order to buy from Weaver unless something has changed. I used to buy quite a bit from them, theirs is "TR" grade so it's hit and miss on the quality. If you are buying a few sides and ask they do seem to do a better job of picking you some good stuff. I still buy a lot of my supplies from Weaver, they have most of what you need.

    I buy almost exclusively Wicket and Craig leather anymore. USA leather that is worth the price.

    If you have a Tandy in your area that is your best bet if your just starting and need to get just one or two pieces. Getting to hand pick the piece yourself is a big plus. Look for double shoulders for knife sheaths, they are the best bang for the buck since you dont have the waste in the belly.
  5. Ironlath

    Ironlath Well-Known Member

    Would you please explain to a dummy like me what you mean by double shoulders? Also, to buy from Wicket and Craig do you need to be a dealer?
  6. Church & Son

    Church & Son Well-Known Member


    Zack White is a supplier to Tandy and several other retail outlets but they also sell to the public. Don't know about the shipping cause they are about 10 minutes away( I'm in central N.C.). MOST of leather is US tanned, also have a good selection of exotics and hardware. They do sell horse butts for holsters at a good price. Tell 'em Randy sent you, may get you a deal or thrown out........Randy
  7. Cliff Fendley

    Cliff Fendley Well-Known Member

    The double shoulder is both shoulders or the front part of the two sides. When you buy the shoulders you don't have the belly area to worry about which is where most of the waste is. I don't know if you have to be a dealer or not to buy from them. I do know they don't have minimums, they'll send me out one side or ten when I call.

    Wickett and Craig generally only have sides, you can buy the side with the belly removed for an additional charge per foot. I just get the whole sides and figure in the waste. I cut belts out along the length of the back and then use the rest of the side for holsters, sheaths, or whatever.

    A really good cut is a double bend which is the back of the cow, basically the top of both sides from the shoulder back. Not everyone offers them though, Wickett and Craig hasn't had any in a long time and I was told the only time they do is when a large order is place for it from someone.
  8. Ironlath

    Ironlath Well-Known Member

    Great info! Thank you, I now know more of what to look for!
  9. ChuckBurrows

    ChuckBurrows Well-Known Member

    In addition to what Cliff said maybe this will help....
    Price reflects quality in two ways - where it was tanned (generally either USA or South American/Mexican - there are European tanned hides as well and they are normally premium quality) and the grade. Of the two most commonly tanned hides, USA tanned (Wickett & Craig, or Herman Oak) is normally the best tanning, but you can get good SA/Mex or the old time pit tanned from RJF Leather.
    Grade is based on how "clean" the face of the hide is i.e how free of range marks and brands as well as how tight the back or flesh side is.(just as important as a good face.) No hide is totally free of range marks and frankly as long as the hide is not badly scarred I like them as they add "character". Brands can be cut around, but they do take up space, but hides with brands are normally less expensive.


    1) IMO don't even bother with bellies. On the chart above cuts F/H and G/I are the bellies.

    2) Shoulders/premium shoulders: Same animal basically. Probably the most used Veg-tan leather for sheath/holster making - the most bang for the buck normally due to size and lack of belly leather along the edges. Difference between the two is quality based on grade as explained above. Referring to the chart above: Double shoulders (average 14-16 sq ft) = parts A, B, C, F, & G. Trimmed shoulders have parts A, F, & G trimmed off. A single shoulder is half of a double shoulder.

    3) Nature-Tand, Oak Leaf, etc. - proprietary names for various lines of veg-tanned hides.

    4) Saddling/Skirting: heavy weight (10+ ounces) veg-tan sides normally used for making saddles. It is finished by the tanneries with a bit more oil so that it retains it's flexibility. It is thicker than necessary for most knife sheath work, although for big Bowies or swords it can be the thing to use.

    5) Kip is a hide from a large calf rather than a mature cow. Usually comes in lighter weights only and I have noticed when using it that the grain is usually not quite as tight as cow hide.

    6) Sides: The most common cut/size of leather sold average 20-24 sq ft. A side is half of a full hide split longitudinally along the line between B/C, D/E. Trimmed sides have the belly sections cut off.

    7) Back or Bends: The cleanest most even (and therefore most expensive) part of a hide consists of sections D & E. Hope this helps.

    Carving or stamping requires the same quality hide.

    If you can afford it get the best leather possible. For my own use I buy almost exclusively from Wickett & Craig or a new source RF Leathers, who sells shoulders as well as backs - it's really nice leather (old time pit tanned from Portugal) at a decent price.
    If you are just starting out, don't have a lot of spare cash, and are unsure of what to get try I'd recommend the single shoulders in 6/7oz weight from Tandy/Leather Factory. They average about 6-8 sq ft and is frequently on sale - it's best though for blades under 6".

    For other supplies here's some choices:
    Veg/Bark Tan Leather:
    Wickett & Craig - www.wickett-craig.com
    I order the 8/10 oz Tooling-Holster or 10/12 oz Skirting and have it split to 8/9 oz - they will split it to whatever size you like if need be...
    RJF Leather - http://rjfleather.com/content/index.php
    Very nice double shoulders and sides - these are old style pit tanned hides from Portugal and are VERy nice and reasonable

    Dyes, all types of leather including some exotics, hardware, etc.:
    Leather Unltd - http://www.leatherunltd.com/care/dye/dye.html
    Siegel of Ca - www.siegelofca.com
    Leather Factory/Tandy

    Linen Thread - 5 cord left or right hand twist is a good all purpose thread:
    Campbell- Bosworth: http://campbell-bosworth.com/catalog/advanced_search_result.php?keywords=linen - I have not used the less expensive Hungarian thread myself so cannot offer an opinion whereas I have used the Barbour's for close to 50 years..

    Tools: Cheap but OK:
    Leather Factory/Tandy - the Craftsman brand

    Tools: Better - Osborne and other better quality tools:
    Campbell- Bosworth: http://campbell-bosworth.com/catalog/advanced_search_result.php?keywords=linen
    Osborne https://www.osborneleathertools.com/

    Tools: Best:
    Jeremiah Watt - www.ranch2arena.com
    Expensive but worth it - made by a master saddle maker and a heck of a nice guy!

    Gomph-Hackbarth Leather Tools
    10754 N. Martineau Road
    Elfrida, AZ 85610

    Robert Beard: http://robertbeardtools.com/index.html

    Gore Tool Route 1
    Box 306-B Caddo Mills
    Texas 75135-9801

    McMillen Leather Tool Company
    864 Four Waters Drive
    Sunrise Beach, MO 65079

    Barry King

    I can recommend all of the above having used them for several years (some several decades) - There are many other good suppliers including Hidecrafters. Montana Leather, Oregon Leather, Zack White, Leather Unltd, Springfield leather, and others including some suppliers on EBay - as always with any unfamiliar suppliers it's caveat emptor.....
    Last edited: Jan 27, 2011
  10. Josh Dabney

    Josh Dabney Moderator

    Alotta GREAT info being posted by all here. Just the sorta thread that should end up in the Leatherwork Sticky's section IMHO.

    Yall just gave this nice fella 2 years worth of figuring it out on his own in 9 posts or less, LOL

    Calling Dave Cole.... Please add this too our stickies buddy !

  11. Jeff Pearce

    Jeff Pearce KNIFE MAKER

    I will add it.
  12. Josh Dabney

    Josh Dabney Moderator

    Awesome Jeff ! Thanks

  13. OmegaRed

    OmegaRed Well-Known Member

    thanks so much for the info...that's what is so great about this forum!
  14. gaelic forge

    gaelic forge Well-Known Member

    Did not see my favorite leather supplier. If you are in Missouri or north Arkansas go have a look at Springfield Leather Company. I travel down there when I need a shoulder for knife sheaths, since I can pick what I need first hand. Good folks to deal with. They also handle Tandy stuff, but have better tools such as Osborne. They also offer a full line of sewing machines designed in Calif., assembled in China and then QC'd iin California before being distributed. These folks are knowledgeable and won't pee on yer leg! Tell 'em Gaelic Forge sent you and after the laughter subsides they will offer help. Oh, they mail out their orders quickly. Check them out on-line.
  15. Chuck,
    Josh is right. You just gave us THE GOODS on leather and leather related stuff! Can anyone give me some advice on working with Sting Ray skin? One of the guys down at Tandy said that all of the little bumps on the skin are filled with calcium and are bone like. He said that he recommends soaking it in a 50/50 mixture of white apple cider vinegar and water for about 2 hours and then using an old knife that you don't mind throwing away afterwards to cut the stuff. Does this jive with anyones experience or do y'all have better methods? Do any of the above noted suppliers carry exotic leather such as crocodile or ostrich that is veg tanned for sheaths? I have gotten my hands on some elephant skins and some rattlesnake that I'm itching to try out. I need to get a stitch marker that is tighter than the ones that I have which may be 6 holes per inch - any suggestions? I also want to experiment with some lined sheaths and need to save up some $ to buy some light weight leather so I can use two pieces back to back. If I'da known knife making was gonna cost this much I might just have kept collecting only - nah, it was no where near as much fun!!!
  16. Chuck,
    Thanks again for posting all of the leather info. I have returned to those links several times now. I've ordered a maker stamp from Grey Ghost Graphics and am going to order an 8 holes per inch overstitch marker from Jeremiah Watts. Watts has all kinds of super nice tools and otherwise cool stuff on his website - I spent about 3 hrs. one night looking at all of it. Many thanks!!!
    Last edited: Jun 21, 2014

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