How to Make a Wooden Knife Sheath

I used to carry a general-purpose slöjd knife on my hip every day. It was held in a leather sheath I made especially for that knife. It worked well at first but quickly stretched and the knife became dangerously loose in the sheath. This was my inexperience at work, not the fault of the leather.

Nevertheless, when I was on the search for a more secure way to carry my knife a couple years ago I came across Reid Schwartz’s design. His clever self-locking design was so simple and so effective. I just had to try it.

This weekend I finally made that new wooden sheath for my slöjd knife. Here are the steps I took:


First, I started with a piece of leftover (i.e. dry) maple from last year’s firewood pile and split a chunk to size. Once sized, I carefully split the blank in half with a froe.

With the two halves opened up, I traced the knife on the faces and began excavating half of the thickness of the knife into each side with the knife and carving gouges. Note that I positioned the swell of the handle deep inside the sheath (which creates the locking effect).

Once the halves were excavated and I was able to close the two pieces together with the knife inside, I glued the pieces back together with hide glue (without the knife inside). The irregular fibers from the riving process make accurate alignment impossible to mess up.


After the glue dried, I bored relief holes on four sides and sawed kerfs down to the holes. This allows the sheath to flex open at the top when the knife is installed. I then hewed the sheath close to size with a hatchet.

The hatchet work was followed up with the knife and spokeshave.

To hang the sheath on my belt loop, I braided a cotton cord and lashed it on with a freshly-dug spruce root. As the root dries, it will become increasingly tighter.


The final result is not nearly as fancy as Reid’s immaculate work but the understated simplicity of this sheath suits me.

The knife pops firmly into the sheath when installed and is held so solid that the most aggressive shaking will not budge the knife in the slightest. To remove, all it takes is a gentle twist and the knife is quickly released.

Now my knife is back on my hip ready to take on whatever may come. 

- Joshua


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