When we talk about knives, typically the focus is on the blade itself, the materials it’s constructed of, and how it handles. An often-overlooked aspect is how you intend to carry it. For a fixed blade knife, the sheath is an integral part of the package. Unless you have a way to carry the knife that you’re comfortable with, it doesn’t do you much good. While most knife makers strive to provide a quality sheath with their products, sometimes it just isn’t what you were looking for or suited to your needs. Or, you may have a particularly well-loved knife that has outlived its original sheath.
One of the knives in this article is an old KA-BAR, which I’ve used for over 20 years. While still functional, the factory sheath is in rough shape. It’s been exposed to all sorts of weather and abuse while accompanying me on many a military deployment and camping trip. Lastly, sometimes you get a knife without a sheath! This isn’t actually that uncommon with custom knives. Some makers flat out don’t provide sheaths. Others make the sheath optional so you save some money upfront and have the choice of finding something that you like.
TK decided to take a look at some of the aftermarket options available to a discerning knife user these days. Since I already had my old KA-BAR on hand, I thought that would be a good model to work with as an example. The KA-BAR USMC fighting knife is a classic combat knife with a 65-plus-year history. Between issue knives, private military purchases, and civilian users, there are untold thousands of them in circulation today and they continue to be a popular seller for KA-BAR. I’m guessing that more custom sheaths are made for long service USMC Fighting/Utilities than any other model out there. In addition to my old KA-BAR, I was also provided with two current models from KA-BAR to use for this article, a Foliage Green Kraton handled version of the combat classic, and a Next Generation model. Let’s take a look and see some of what’s available!
While one can argue the utility of modern materials, a lot of folks simply like the look, feel and tradition of leather. This is especially true when you’re matching up the sheath with a leather-stacked handle KA-BAR like mine. I took a look at two different custom makers when it came time to find some leather pants for my KA-BAR, JRE Industries and Hedgehog Leatherworks.
JRE Industries is a two man custom shop consisting of Dan Rohrman and Glen Stelzer. The duo started their business initially as a supplier to a mid-sized knife manufacturer, along with doing custom work on the side. Since that time they’ve moved on to become suppliers to other custom makers and companies while still providing custom-made leather sheaths to individuals. For this project they supplied two sheaths. The first is a basic black, traditional model with large grommets to allow for easy lashing to packs, MOLLE vests, etc. It’s a good choice to replace that aging issue sheath, and is in keeping with the original issue design. The second is more of an outdoorsman’s sheath. It’s a deep pouch design complete with front mounted pocket for a Leatherman Squirt P4 and a large firesteel loop. Between the KA-BAR, the multitool and the firesteel, there isn’t a lot you can’t get done in the field with this model.
Hedgehog Leatherworks was founded in 2005 when Paul Scheiter lost a knife while out in the woods and decided that he needed to come up with a better carrying solution himself. Paul started making sheaths in his college dorm room and Hedgehog Leatherworks was born. Paul provided a horizontal carry sheath system with a leather retention strap for the KA-BAR. Where Paul’s sheaths differ from everyone else’s on the market is his patent pending Rapid Release Strap. Paul’s retention straps are fitted with an elastic cord laced through them that snaps the strap out of the way the moment that you release the snap. This ensures that the strap isn’t in the way of the blade as you draw or resheath your knife, and prevents cutting the strap. It’s simple and ingenious. The horizontal sheath also has a utility pouch large enough to fit a Zippo lighter or other items, and a firesteel loop. When you look at a Hedgehog sheath, you can see the attention to detail that goes into them. From the fine stitching and finish work to details such as insulating the metal hardware from the blade and handle to prevent scratching, to reinforced stress points and cordage tie down holes, you can tell that a lot of thought has gone into the product.
What’s new in custom knives—Focusing on the art and craftsmanship of the handmade blade.
by Tactical Knives / Jan 22, 2010