Project: Cleaver Scabbard II

The project has been finished, and I thought I’d show you a few of the stages involved. Here we can see that I have completely cut the final design and beveled the edges. I’m quite happy with the result, although I have once again forgotten to purchase tracing paper and got one of the trefoil arms slightly off-center at the join. It doesn’t stick out too terribly bad. It gives it character, dammit!

Fresh cut

Once I had that done, I glued together all of the welts and then carved them back down to the proper slope. That was tricky, almost ended up throwing the first attempt away. Once I had it all laid out though, I knew it would work. So, on to some glue and garage bondage:

Glued & Clamped

Bulldog clips are your friends.

Once that was dry, I gouged the stitching groove and used my overstitch wheel to mark off the stitches. Then I took a long look at myself in the mirror and forgave myself for what I was about to do…

I cheated.

The ghost of Al Stohlman may haunt me for it, but I knew there was no way I was ever going to push an awl through all of that leather – Hell, I stabbed myself in the finger on a test piece and damn near severed a nerve!

While I could have possibly driven the awl through with a hammer, my stitching awl is a two-piece model that can change blades and I figured I would probably just break the darn thing. Instead, I put a 1/16th inch drill bit in my Dremmel and drilled about 95% of the way through everything from the cut side down. That took about 75% of the work out of pushing the awl through it to stretch the holes and the last layer of leather – this way the stitch is held more firmly by the leather trying to seal up around it. It also allowed me to make sure the hole on the far side was in the groove.

The next day it was time to break in my new stitching pony and get sewin’. Of course, I broke a needle on the third stitch – crappy needle selection on my part. For leather this heavy (8/9 ounce) get a #000 Harness needle and you should be ok. Those “general purpose” Tandy needles are too thin at the eye and will snap if you wiggle them in an effort to stretch the hole.

Almost done

Note the extra chunks of leather glued to the pony to protect the work as I stab it.

Now, if you read Al’s book on hand sewing, he tells you to make your threads a double-arm length, or about twelve feet. Here’s why: math. Each of the smallest stitches in this piece took up about 1/2″ of thread on each needle, and the full 26″ seam (24″ inches linear, with an inch of back-stitch on each end) took 18 feet of thread.

Eighteen feet!

The first 5 feet got me just around the first bend, starting from the skinny side. The second 5 feet got me even with the hilt of the sword in the artwork. The third 5 foot thread got all the way to the last linear inch, and then I had to grab another three-foot length to go that inch and the back-stitch.

For your first few stitching projects, your fingers won’t have any protective calluses, and they are going to hurt when you are done. I suggest you get some good leather gloves, which will add protection without ruining your grip or traction. And when you are done, don’t pick up anything hot or you’ll drop it on your foot when you yank your hand back. I almost lost a dinner plate that way.

In this picture, you get to see the finished product: (Thanks to my buddy for the much better pic.)


Now, you may be wondering how I got that interesting finish out of it. Here’s how:

Be a dumbass and try an un-tested Fiebing’s Walnut Oil Dye on a finished project, watch it dye unevenly and panic. Add a second coat of dye before the first has really dried, then rub with a cloth. Watch this one dry until a weird patina forms, then leave it be for 15 minutes. Freak out a little more, then use a Deglazer to remove the patina. Let this dry for about 2 minutes.

After the two minutes, notice that the dye is still uneven and apply a third and fourth coat. Let it sit for ten minutes this time and get that patina going, then hit it one more time with the Deglazer. Now give up forever on getting the color you wanted and rub vigorously with Neatsfoot Oil to try and repair what damage you can.

Voila! You know have a mildly distressed finish to the project that you worked so hard on! The closure tab is the only thing that came out the right color, and there is a small chance that the leather had something to do with it – that bit is from a different hide. It was probably all user error though.

Next project: something a little smaller – a needle case, and possibly a travel case for all my carving tools. Something like a leather pencil box. We’ll see.

*UPDATE* The new owner loves it, and wants to wear it around. If I had thought she might, I would have built it with belt loops…

Comments are closed.