Friday, July 15, 2011

Custom Leather Sheath for Mora 612 Carbon Steel Knife

I've slowly been introducing my girlfriend to the types of knives typically used outdoors for camp tasks and we settled on the Mora 612 Carbon Steel knife design as her first beginner knife.

Mora of Sweden Knives 612 Carbon Steel FOS Morakniv Classic 612 Fixed Blade Knife with Red Wood Handle

I chose this knife for a number of reasons:
  • classic, time tested design for woodcraft
  • comfortable in the hand
  • carbon steel blade
  • the Scandinavian grind is a great beginner's edge design
  • cost (can't beat the cost-value ratio of a Mora)
  • the presence of a finger guard (a major concern for her, since she's still developing proper technique)

One thing against Mora knives in general though is that the sheaths they come with just plain suck.  For the price you pay you can't really complain, but then again there is nothing forcing you to keep it.  Wanting to turn it into a truly functional belt sheath, I opted to make my own out of leather and use the stock plastic sheath inside the leather as a liner to make it even more secure.  I felt using the stock sheath was the way to go since it actually locks the finger guard in place when the knife is sheathed, making for a very secure fit.  Rather than having to come up with my own mechanism, I choose to use what already worked and adapt it to my needs

The first step was removing the loop from the plastic sheath.  This isn't so much a belt loop as it is a button clip as it's meant to snap over the buttons on the overalls typically worn in Sweden (where the knife is made).  It's got to go.

the next step (which probably should have been the first) was sketching out a basic design for the sheath.  This served the purpose of solidifying my ideas of what I wanted from the sheath, and giving me a rough template to follow while working the leather.

Next comes the preparation of the plastic sheath which will need to be bonded to the leather with an adhesive to function as the liner. I roughed it up using 60 grit sandpaper which created microscopic groves for the epoxy to fill and bond to.

I used a simple two part epoxy which I mixed in small batches as I needed. As I wanted the leather to form fit the liner, I used a number of clip to wrap the leather around it. Simple binder clips do the trick, as they're cheap, secure and what I happen to have on hand.

Clamping the back of the sheath to the liner, the welts, and the firesteel loop that will be needed for the next step

Close up view of how I clamped the leather to the slit in the side of the plastic liner.  
A scrap piece of leather in between the clamp and the sheath helps to avoid marking the sheath.

With the liner attached to the leather backing I then trimmed and glued the welts and firesteel loop to it.

Once again, a piece of scrap leather acts as a protective buffer for the sheath in areas I don't plan on trimming away excess

Once the pieces were bonded I trimmed away the excess and drilled out holes for the stitching. The way I do this is to take a ruler and push pin, and begin marking out 0.25" intervals all the way around the sheath. I then drill out the holes using a drill press, using (if I recall correctly) a 5/32" drill bit. Once that is complete it is simply a matter of running the artificial sinew through using a saddle stitch with two needles.

All trimmed up and stitched

At this point I would normally wax the sheath and finish the project, but I tried something new this time around. I was never happy with the edges of my sheathes so I tried burnishing with Gum Tragacanth.

I'm ok with the results, those it took a lot of work to slick the edges. That's probably due to my lack of experience and skill. Next time I might try using Edge-Kote as well to see how I like the results.

The final step was to wax the sheath to give it some water resistance. I used Sno-Seal for this purpose, and I really like the way it applies and soaks into the leather. I think I'll continue using it on any future leatherwork I do.

Overall I'm pleased with the way this turned out. I was putting this project off for a while because I wasn't quite sure how to tackle the split for the finger guard, but I think this works out. If in the future the leather starts to pull away from the epoxy, I think I'll drill out some holes and simply saddle stitch it in place.

**Edit (July 2013)**
Since originally writing this post this sheath was taken out on numerous trips, some being in very wet conditions. On one particular trip the burnish on the edge ended up fraying because of the moisture and I had to repair it post-returning home. I've since treated it with edge kote and have not had that problem since. For anyone interested in sheath making I emphasize the need to use edge kote if the sheath it meant to be put through hard use.


  1. Are you selling these, or do you know anyone who is? Looking for a leather sheath for this knife.

  2. Hi,

    Unfortunately no, I am not selling sheaths...they're just fun projects I do from time to time. The best I can do to point you in the right direction is to check the vendor categories on knife forums to see if commission any leather workers or sheath makers.

  3. Awesome sheath mod. I have this same knife & have been looking for a way to improve the sheath that comes with it, think you may have just inspired me to get out the leather working tools and take a crack at it.

  4. Best Mora Mod Ive ever seen. I'm SO stealing this for mine

  5. Thanks! I appreciate the feedback.