Why shiny leather?

Joined
Sep 5, 2010
Messages
1,995
Hey Dwayne, I remember sending an e-mail to you a long, long time ago asking about a sheath made of leather with a less shiny, more worn look, like ones used on boots. Stacy replied telling me it was probably latigo, and not ideal for sheaths because of moisture issues.

However, I see your Walking Dead tribute sheaths, and I think they're awesome, and I assume they're perfectly usable and practical.

So my question: Why is most leather used in sheaths that shiny, glossy, "hard" type, rather than full of wrinkles, mottled, and worn? Is it a practicality issue, or subjective one, where most customers just prefer something look more pristine and new?
 
Joined
Nov 24, 2010
Messages
1,165
Normally because most waterproofing leaves the leather looking that way and that is the secondary purpose of the sheath. Carry & protect.
 
Joined
Jan 3, 2013
Messages
5,689
Normally because most waterproofing leaves the leather looking that way and that is the secondary purpose of the sheath. Carry & protect.

And to add to this: Less shiney generally means more pourus meaning less protection..... that's not to say that it can't be done.
 
Joined
Sep 5, 2010
Messages
1,995
thanks for e answers, but I'd think shoes go through much more than sheaths do, no? they'd need to be just as waterproof and protective, if not more. however, there are a lot of inexplicable design points in shoes (and lots of things, actually) that I can attribute maybe to being fashionable or trendy, so I thought maybe that we're true of shiny, hard leather sheaths, as well. the type of leather that makes squeaky, rubbing sounds if you flex it. admittedly there are shoes like that, too, however they tend to be fancy dress shoes, which backs up the fashion correlation.
 

leatherman

leathermoderator
Moderator
Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider
Joined
Nov 30, 2001
Messages
13,541
Good question! :)

Well, you have a few ways to go with when you want a not so shiny leather sheath:

Go with a satin or flat acrylic finish, I have a solution called Satin Sheen that leaves a nice flat finish. The main problem with acrylic finishes is they eventually fail, either by cracking or peeling. The leather wants to be fed, thus oiled well before the finish is applied and the acrylic wants a nice dry surface to cling to. Either one will result in failure eventually.

Go with the old fashioned oil/beeswax mix. When its applied evenly in nice thin coats and heated it will soak into the leather and leave a very nice warm finish. Not shiny at all, but a sheen unlike anything else. Caution to use sparingly or you will end up with a floppy mess when over done. One I did for a fellow in the special forces over seas would bead water. I treated the sheath inside and out.

Lastly is the overlay method, its time consuming but I can use almost any upholstery leather over a veggie tanned core. I simply have to sew the overlay in place at every edge. Its a nifty effect but very laborious and the edges are a pain in the butt to get even. The sanding part always makes them uneven as the leathers are so different in texture. When it works its a very dramatic effect.

So, you have lots of options. :)
 

leatherman

leathermoderator
Moderator
Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider
Joined
Nov 30, 2001
Messages
13,541
Just saw the waterproof thing mentioned, most shoe leather (not all though) is chrome tanned. This tanning method uses chromium salts to cure the leather and changing its chemical make up making it totally water proof. You can machine wash a chrome tanned leather and not harm its structure. This is especially true with the more matte finished shoe leathers.

Italian leather shoes tend to be a mix, a relatively new method of chrome tanning vegetable tanned leather. This produces a water resistant leather with the structure of vegetable tanned leather and the flexibility of chrome tanned leather. Its a real Frankenstein.
 
Joined
Sep 5, 2010
Messages
1,995
Wow, thanks for all the answers, Dwayne. Your expertise really comes through here. I'm intimidated :p seriously

I'd be interested in one of those less glossy finishes on my sheaths. Hard to say which is best as they all seem to have some downsides. Though the oil-beeswax solution sounds nice, I know that the solution as a treatment for wood is meant for surfaces that don't encounter much friction, so I assume it wears off easily.

Do you have the ability to chrome tan over there? There must be some downsides if using that in sheaths, right?
 

leatherman

leathermoderator
Moderator
Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider
Joined
Nov 30, 2001
Messages
13,541
Yes, the oil/wax mix is the least resistant to wear, but its very protective of water. I normally use Fiebings Leather Balm with Atom Wax on my sheaths and it does provide a harder surface but is still not as strong as say a laquer finish. I do like the character that a waxed sheath develops with time. The Atom Wax does not leave as shiny a finish, but it is still a lot more than any of the aforementioned treatments.

Chrome tanned leather is death to steel. The process leaves a lot of the salts in the leather and they will leach out when wet. Definitely not recommended on fine knives. The only way to have it on a sheath is to put a layer of veggie tanned leather between it and the knife. I've done a few inlays of chrome tanned leather with good results.
 
Joined
Sep 5, 2010
Messages
1,995
Yes, the oil/wax mix is the least resistant to wear, but its very protective of water. I normally use Fiebings Leather Balm with Atom Wax on my sheaths and it does provide a harder surface but is still not as strong as say a laquer finish. I do like the character that a waxed sheath develops with time. The Atom Wax does not leave as shiny a finish, but it is still a lot more than any of the aforementioned treatments.

Chrome tanned leather is death to steel. The process leaves a lot of the salts in the leather and they will leach out when wet. Definitely not recommended on fine knives. The only way to have it on a sheath is to put a layer of veggie tanned leather between it and the knife. I've done a few inlays of chrome tanned leather with good results.

I definitely want to see oil/wax on my sheaths :) you gotta give me an update!

Now... how do you usually treat your leather?
 

leatherman

leathermoderator
Moderator
Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider
Joined
Nov 30, 2001
Messages
13,541
Oil/wax it is! and I've been researching some really nice Asian/Japanese motifs, I think I'm on to something. :)

I treat my stuff with one of at least two, maybe three things. I have the aforementioned Atom Wax from Fiebings, I also have Aussie Leather Conditioner, again my Fiebings, PURE Neatsfoot oil makes a good rejuvenation oil, I've also used Saddle Soap on various old school leather items. Lastly theres Mink Oil, but I've found other materials, like the ones above, that work just as well. I hear, but not used yet, that Sno Seal does wonderful things for leather and its natural as well. I have a suspicion its basically Aussie Leather Conditioner under a different name. Aussie Conditioner smells awesome as well! :)
 
Joined
Aug 16, 2012
Messages
1,230
Here's a couple of pics of the oil and wax treated leather i used for my kz2 sheath, this type of leather is pre treated with a hot oil/wax and it's completely saturated the stuff. I was told this kind of leather was intended for making harneses for horse drawn farming equipment.
IMG_2978_zps3a45c52a.jpg
[/URL][/IMG]

IMG_2979_zpse1396958.jpg
[/URL][/IMG]

IMG_2977_zps36293b1e.jpg
[/URL][/IMG]
 

leatherman

leathermoderator
Moderator
Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider
Joined
Nov 30, 2001
Messages
13,541
I love the look of that sheath! :) Well done!

That kind of leather is called "hot stuffed". Its nifty stuff because of its rustic look and it weathers in very nice, ends up looking 100 years old in a year or two, lots of character.

Be careful of the source of the hot stuffed leather, some cheap manufacturers will simply use latigo and or chrome tanned leather and soak it in a hot wax/oil mix to mimic the effect but producing a chromium salt filled rust trap. The hot wax treatment makes the salts rise to the surface of the leathers rough side.

Research is a good thing, and if its cheap, really cheap then its probably too good to be true and will not be kind to your knives. Sno Seal and Aussie Leather Conditioner will give the same effect on good quality leather by using a system of low heat and thin applications, a hair dryer works well for this.
 
Joined
Aug 16, 2012
Messages
1,230
I love the look of that sheath! :) Well done!

That kind of leather is called "hot stuffed". Its nifty stuff because of its rustic look and it weathers in very nice, ends up looking 100 years old in a year or two, lots of character.

Be careful of the source of the hot stuffed leather, some cheap manufacturers will simply use latigo and or chrome tanned leather and soak it in a hot wax/oil mix to mimic the effect but producing a chromium salt filled rust trap. The hot wax treatment makes the salts rise to the surface of the leathers rough side.

Research is a good thing, and if its cheap, really cheap then its probably too good to be true and will not be kind to your knives. Sno Seal and Aussie Leather Conditioner will give the same effect on good quality leather by using a system of low heat and thin applications, a hair dryer works well for this.

At my local leather shop it costs about 120$ for two square feet :eek: so i bought some scraps they couldn't use, i was assured it was the goog stuff with only natural oils and waxes in it.
 

leatherman

leathermoderator
Moderator
Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider
Joined
Nov 30, 2001
Messages
13,541
Very cool!! Looks like you've found a winner! Its not easy in this day and age to find a good supplier. I've been disappointed more often than pleased.

60.00 a square foot is quite steep, wow! I balk at 8.00 and really start whining at 10.00. This must be some special stuff indeed. I'd love to hear more. Norway is the home of some of the best leather I've ever seen, the best leather work, and some of the best teachers I've ever encountered.
 
Joined
Sep 5, 2010
Messages
1,995
That's a pretty cool look. However, texture-wise, you can still see a stiffness in the leather, as if you can polish it up pretty easily. I don't quite know the right terminology for this, but it looks like "hard leather" vs. that soft, pliable stuff with a velvety texture, like in suede.

Dwayne? Your expertise? :p I assume it isn't so simple like that, though, to just say there's slick, hard leather and then there's fuzzy, soft leather.
 
Joined
Aug 16, 2012
Messages
1,230
The hot stuffed leather can be polished but it will not stay shiny, i tried this but it got the matt finish back as soon i touched it (i used wax), this kind of leather is really heavy and a bit oily and soft to the touch and it gets scratches from just looking at it but it is really strong stuff .
 
Top