/ Equipment

Home made leather sheath and upgrades for your Mora Classic knife

A simple Mora Classic is one of my favourite knife. It kind of resembles the Opinel type of knife, which I love, but with a fixed blade. Mora Classics are very inexpensive knives, and they are super-famous in the bushcraft and backpacking community, for beginners and experts outdoorspeople alike. Indeed, they perform great for many type of tasks. Very good for serious woodworking, carving, preparing food (I even use it in my kitchen everyday!), cleaning fish and small game, cutting ropes, so they have overall a great value for the money. Bushcraft gurus such as Cody Lundin and Mors Kochanski like and use them, too.
Perhaps the features that make these knives such popular are the nice functional blade, easy to maintain and meant for true everyday work, the price, the light weight, and the simple design. Also, they are very cool knives for many DIY projects and knife personalization.

BUT, mass-produced Mora Classics as they come from the factory have some drawbacks, for example the ugly and poorly functional plastic sheath and that slippery handle...

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Mora Classics have a red-painted birch handle that can get slippery when wet. With a couple of hours of hard work I scrubbed that paint off using sandpaper 400-600 grit and re-decorated my Mora Classic 2 using a cherry colour paint for wood. After some engravings I treated the wood with a specific product for wooden hunting knife handles (named "CCL Knife handle oil finishing set"), which closes the wood pores, and I laid two or three layers of oil coating included in this set. The oil hardens and does not come off during usage.
Using such treatment the handle improves quite a bit: it gets slightly thinner (better fit for my hands), very moisture resistant and much less slippery.

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The next level of improvement was re-making a sheath. For a knife sheath I like leather over kydex or other plastic materials because of the more natural material and classic style.

After some research I have got some information and material for leatherwork and started to make a project for my sheath. Actually, this is not my first attempt, it is the second sheath I am making!
Overall to complete this sheath project it required one afternoon (3-4 hours) and two evenings (2 hours in total) of work, but after all the efforts I have got a nice personalized product and a lot of satisfaction :)

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I wanted to make a sheath similar to the traditional shape, simple and not really decorated.

Here it is all the material I needed to make the sheath:

  • Some vegetable tanned leather for knife sheaths: for a Mora Classic 2 sheath, a piece of 20x12 cm big is enough
  • Food wrapping plastic foil
  • Two needles for leather work
  • Linen waxed sewing thread (about one meter long to complete the sheath)
  • A stitch marker
  • An awl
  • A punch set 2-5 mm
  • An hammer
  • Plastic liner for the blade (10.2 cm internal lenght)
  • Glue for leather
  • Hobby cutter knife
  • Some plastic clamps and metal clips to hold stuff in place
  • A pencil
  • A ruler
  • Modelling tool to engrave decorations
  • Satin finish paint for leather: for the final work. It makes the leather moisture-resistant and preserves shape and colour of the final product
  • Cotton balls for painting the finished sheath

I found most of the leatherwork-specific stuff on Brisa.fi. Since I am a beginner in sheath making, I invested in the most simple things I could find to understand what I really needed for such a project.

Day 1 - Shaping the sheath and sewing it (about 3-4 hours)

With an hobby knife I cut a big enough piece of leather to wrap the knife (leaving about 3-4 cm of excess leather). The height of 20 cm was good enough for my knife.
I let the leather soaking in warm water for about five minutes, than I drained it and dried the excess water with a towel. At this stage the leather gets soft and easy to work with.

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I wrapped the knife in plastic food foil to avoid the moisture rusting the blade. I used just one or two layers of plastic foil to avoid the handle getting too thick and eventually making the sheath too loose.

With the blade of the knife inserted into the blade liner, I started to wrap the blade and 3/4 of the handle with the soaked leather. With my fingers I modelled the leather to the shape of the knife and the blade liner, pressing it well on the top and over the edges. I also used some metal clips to hold the leather in place during the stitching.

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It is important not to mark the leather with fingernails or with the clips. All strong markings or scratches can potentially remain visible in the finished sheath.

Using the awl I punched three holes through both the layers of leather. One hole at the beginning of the handle, one in the middle, and one close to the end of the blade.

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Using the stitch marker I made markings to define the stitching pattern in between the three guide holes punched using the awl, on both sides of the sheath. I found the markings left by the the stitch marker I am using are a bit too close from each other. Therefore, for the sewing I punched holes with the awl every two markings.
I marked stitches also for the top part of the knife sheath, to shape the area where the belt loop would be attached.

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I started to enlarge the holes in the top part of the sheath (where the sewing begins) using the awl. I noticed it is best to proceed step by step enlarging few holes at the time, because they close on their on in a very short time.

After punching a few holes with the awl I started sewing. I cut a piece of waxed thread and connected needles at both the edges of the thread. I passed the thread in the first hole and I proceeded sewing using the two needled method for leather sewing. One needle is inserted into a hole, and the second needle goes into the same hole but from the opposite side. After passing the thread to both sides of the hole the thread is pulled tight. The same procedure is applied for the remaining holes till the end of the sheath. After sewing a few holes, I punched the next ones using the awl.
You can see the process of this stitching method in this video, after the 2:55 time mark:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qi3BRWO7kuo

Here some pics of the process:

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At the end of the sheath I passed the thread using the same way one stitch back. Instead of letting the needles go through the two layers of the leather, I pulled them out in between the leather sheets:

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I then removed the needles and made two overhang knots to close the sewing.

Most of the hard work is done!

I made I simple decoration on top of the sheath, a continuous line just 5 mm below the top part of it, by pressing the still wet leather with a modelling tool.
If one wants decorations, they can be added at this point.

I placed some glue in between the layers of the leather, I kept the layers tightly together using clamps and let the sheath dry for 24 hours.

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Day 2: complete the sheath, make a belt attachment and final touches (about 2 hours)

The next day the sheath was dried and hardened. It looked already rather cool! Using an hobby knife I removed the excess of leather from the sheath, paying attention not to cut the seams.

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I slightly moisturized the seam using water. I scrubbed the side of the seam back and forth using a pencil (any round tool would do) to round and smoothen it.

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The sheath is almost done! The last thing to fix is the belt loop attachment. There are many ways to make it, and I opted for a small leather ring to be attached to my belt using a carabiner.

First, I made a hole in the sheath where the ring would go. Unfortunately I did not have a specific oval punch for this job, so I ran with this idea instead:

I made two holes close to each other using a 4 mm punch:

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Then, using the hobby knife I cut the leather in between to make the hole oval:

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Maybe not that perfect, but functional.

Finally, I cut a strip of dry leather about 7 mm thick:

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I made a small cut, about 2 cm long, in one edge of that strip:

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I soaked the strip in warm water, passed it through the hole in the sheath, and inserted one edge of the strip within the small cut in the strip. With a simple overhang knot of the leather strip I closed the belt loop:

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I let everything dry overnight, waiting for the final painting.

Day 3: final painting (10 minutes)

I gave a good shake to the leather paint, I soaked the cotton tip and applied a thin coating on the sheath and on the belt loop.

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Here is the finished sheath after overnight drying! It looks beautiful, doesn't it?

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I took a lot of ideas for puukko sheath making from the Thetopicala Youtube channel, there are a lot of info on it for knife and sheath making!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lewcz7gKjpI

Making a sheath is not too complicated, and it grants a lot of satisfaction. I can't wait to try my "reborn" knife in the forest.

I hope you enjoyed this tutorial and had a good time.

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