Have you ever wanted to make your own frontier worthy accoutrement, like a custom sheath for a belt knife?
A sheath that not only looks good but really works-
I did, but I also needed a proper knife to start the process.
To my surprise I only had to go as far as my kitchen to find it.
The simple butcher knife ruled much more than the kitchen. This style of knife was important to families and frontiersmen for more than 3 centuries. The butcher knife’s usefulness extended far greater than the kitchen, we know this from old text and pictures.
Knives like these dominated the fur trade, won the west and held favor in most homes in early Western civilization. Every home, chuckwagon and frontiersman had at least one for good reason and has proven its worth on every continent.
They’re simple, inexpensive and easy to produce…what was not to love?
But how were they carried?
Some carried knives and large sharps in a tool roll or cloth bag. This was the safest way to carry large knives over distance and to have an extra swatch of material to use for that purpose was not hard to find at that time.
I do not think there were too many swashbuckling pirates’ that grasped them between clenched teeth!
So let’s look at the more realistic approach to carry a large butcher style knife…The sash belt or leather belt carry-
Early frontiersman of the fur trade era carried most of their tools on them every where they traveled. This included an extra long sash belt that was used for many things and one of those uses was to have a secure way to hold a wrapped knife close to their side.
To have an unwrapped or un sheathed knife so close to the body was just plain silly so they made sheaths for the big knives that were carried.
At that time processed leather was at a premium!
Commercial furs and leathers came from the tanner or local tannery if at all.
Most prime leathers were shipped off to be made into garments, hats and boots. The natives used leathers of the braintanned type. This natural process made thick leather supple and more enjoyable to wear. It soon became a staple for those who lived in the wilds at that time. There were more animals with thick leather than women and textile mills to make there clothing-
One of the attributes of quality braintan leather is that its soft and pliable. This is okay if you simply want to cover and protect the blade of a large butcher knife, but to carry it you need something a bit more robust.
At the time natives were carrying bone tools and items of importance in “parfleche” bags: Parfleche is another word for rawhide.
Rawhide was used extensively during that time frame and was a very useful item to have and to make. To make rawhide you simply skinned the animal and scraped the flesh from the hide and stretched it on a rack or frame. This frame could be pinned to the ground but a raised rack would deter bugs and most small critters wanting a quick chew.
ALSO SEE- Making Rawhide
After the hide was dried they either they kept the hair on or scraped it off.
Mostly the hair was scraped off because the hide was not tanned or smoked to keep the hair from falling off at a later date. When done the rawhide could be re wetted and shaped then dried again to a very hard and almost woody feel… it was a perfect way to sheath sharp knives and tools for extended carry.
Fast forward to the modern ages-
Now we can find and source rawhide in many forms.
Dog chews are one of the “go to” articles of modern made rawhide that can then be further be processed down into a thin sheet…IF you buy the proper dog chew. This can be very tedious and after the extra work you place into making the dog toy a usable sheet of parfleche…you will soon realize that its better to buy a commercially dried hide if you want to produce some high quality arts and crafts.
I love my butcher knives for the same reasons our grandparents did- they were simple, effective and easy to obtain.
The sheaths that I make are just as effective as they are useful!
To make a quality rawhide sheath you need just a few basic tools and materials….
You start with a template made from a tracing of the knife you want to sheath. Then you transfer and cut out the shape using tools from your tool list. I prefer heavy medical shears or special leather shears but a simple utility knife will do-
CLICK HERE for this scannable PDF template!
Many of the sheaths I make are made from 6-8oz rawhide leather bought in what’s called “bends” from Tandy or Weaver leather. It can be bleached or natural. I prefer natural for its imperfect color patterns, it adds to the vintage weathered look.
The tools I use can be found in almost any home or workshop.
Being the thrifty craftsman I outsource my dyes and accoutrements from many places like shoe outlets , craft stores and local hardware stores.
Let your imagination be your only limitation when creating knife sheaths and other projects from rawhide.
Click on video below to watch an overview our Rawhide Sheath Course…
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