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Attaching metal chape and throat

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I'm probably going to be faced with making a sheath that has metal accouterments in a few weeks. I'm not great with sheatmetal work, but am confident I can make a decent chape and throat with enough effort. However, how are these things attached to the leather sheath? This will be for a knife that is my interpretation of a Wostenholm style bowie, and those sheaths did not have wood cores, so there really isn't anything to "Nail" in to.


I'm thinking there will be enough leather thickness around the welt area to insert some pins, but I haven't been able to find an example of how other people are approaching this.



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I normally just glue them in place and form the leather over the top a bit, I have also used the attachment screw for the frog button to hold it on, but this requires a lot of pre-planing as well as lining the neck of the sheath to prevent the screw head from scratching the blade. the second option isn't always possible depending on the thickness of the blade thickness of the leather etc.


Edited by Matthew Parkinson
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The originals were usually pinned with U-shaped fine-gauge pins through the welt or the very edge of the sheath, keeping in mind these sheaths were always center-seam construction, no edge seams like we prefer now. A lot of times they are not even solid leather, but rather papier-mache covered with a thin sheet of bookbinding leather. These are often pinned with a sort of split staple thingy, like the ones you used to use to hold a bunch of notebook paper together with.

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  • 3 years later...

Hi Alan,

Do you know of any books or tutorials that provide info on period correct paper machie scabbards used on mid-1800s Sheffield bowies.



Dave Suitor

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Hey, Dave!   I do not, unfortunately.  The Bowie Knife book that came out a couple of years ago has some good pictures, but no how-to's.  I saw one once that Alex Daniels did, and when I asked him about it he just said "don't do it, it's not worth it." 

That said, the ones I have handled looked pretty basic.  Heavy cardstock like cereal box cardboard for the wide sides,  heavy brown kraft paper like grocery bags for the spine and edge, two layers of both, the whole lot bound with bookbinder's leather that was then pressed and gilded just like they did for book work (or it may have been pressed and gilded before gluing to the cardstock), then the throat and chape added, pinned on with tiny bits of wire.  I do not think they are really papier mache, I think they're just painted with hide glue to bind everything together.  More like plywood than plaster, in other words.   On the cheaper (at the time) ones, the leather wrap usually folds into the throat and extends inwards an inch or so, just far enough to make it look like a leather sheath until you shine a light down inside.  Good enough to fool most people back in the day.  The best ones are lined in short-nap velvet, just like the nickel silver sheaths.  

Might be a fun project, but be sure to use acid-free or archival cardstock and heavy paper, and only veg-tan leather.  Those acidic cardboard and chrome-tanned leather sheaths have been responsible for much rust over the last 160 years or so.  Which is also why Alex Daniels switched to stainless for his bowies.  He couldn't stand the thought of putting that much work into something that might rust.  

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