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    Username Post: My Kydex sheath making process with pics        (Topic#794008)
    J33psr0ck
    Master Member KnifeNut!
    *
    04-25-07 16:07.15 - Post#1213430    



    Making Kydex sheaths
    I will start out by saying that making Kydex sheaths is not something that you just buy the tools and do perfectly. There is a fair amount of art and science involved in this process and Kydex sheath makers have put in a significant amount of time to produce a professional and quality product. I don't mention this to discourage anyone, but to point out the fact that if you are serious about making sheaths for your collection, you will need to put some time in learning the art side of the process. Much of the fitting involved in Kydex sheath making is based on experience and "feel" and difficult to explain or document.

    I had so many knives that I wanted sheaths for that it would not have made sense for me to pay someone to make them. If I had wanted a handful of Kydex sheaths, then I would have paid someone to make them.

    I needed about 20 sheaths so I decided to jump on and take a go at making my own. The information below is the result of what I have learned. If you end up making a Kydex sheath and have any questions, then pm me and I will do my best to help you with parts or the process in general.

    The sheath we will be talking about is for a Scrapyard Dumpster Mutt.
    Kydex: One source for Kydex and Kydex sheath making supplies is www.knifekits.com. These guys are not necessarily the cheapest on everything, but they have always gotten my order right and shipped it out right away. I don’t have any affiliation with the company, just a satisfied customer. To order from some of the bigger shops that carry Kydex sheet, you need to order quite a bit of it, like a few hundred bucks worth. I have also seen Kydex sheet for sale on eBay, but the colors and thicknesses are usually odd.
    You can figure out which color floats your boat, but it is worthwhile to talk about the thickness of the Kydex. I use .08 Kydex for 99% of the sheaths that I make for fixed blade knives. The .06 Kydex is ok for smaller knives, but once you get past a 4 inch blade, I prefer .08. I have used .093 for large blades 9?-12?, but the stuff is harder to mold than the .08. To make it easy on myself, I buy .08 Kydex when I do an order since it works for just about every sheath I need to make. Here is the part number for the OD Kydex I purchase from knifekits KYSHOD08-12, it’s a 12x12 inch sheet. They offer 12X24 inch sheets for longer blades like machetes.
    Flaring Dyes: The flaring dye allows you to roll the rivet in an arbor press or similar device to that the rivet does not split when you fasten 2 pieces of Kydex together. A rolled rivet is much nicer than one that is split. It’s worth getting the flaring dyes for $35. The part number for the flaring dye I got from knifekits is KYRD-88. I use ¼? rivets because they look more substantial, you can use the smaller rivets, you just need to match the flaring dye size up with the rivet size.

    Rivets: Obviously the rivets allow you to secure 2 pieces of Kydex together. There are various places to get rivets but I have had good lick with the ones from knifekits. I use the ¼? rivets for .08 Kydex and I usually buy black although you can uncoated rivets as well. The part number is KYSR8-100. You get 100 in a pack for about $12.

    Suggested Tools: I use the tools below for making sheaths. I had some of these tools and I got some of them from Harbor Freight. If you are low on cash, then you can make your own Kydex press (Google this there are plenty of sites describing this), use a drill for the rivet holes and use a hand held jig saw to rough cut the Kydex.
    Kydex press – price varies. You can get a steel model from knifekits for $80 or you can make you own out of plywood and foam camping pad material. A family member for the steel knifekits press for me as a gift so that’s what I use for most sheaths (12? blades max). If I had not gotten this press as a gift, I would have made a press out of plywood and camping matt foam. You may need to make your own press anyway to do sheaths for machetes.

    ½ Ton Arbor Press – About $20. You mount the rivet flaring dyes in the press and set the rivets using it.
    Belt sander – About $30. You will need to rip off all of the safety devices that they attach to it, but after you do that it works well on Kydex and touching up knives too.

    Drill press – used to drill holes in the Kydex that are straight. The Kydex gets hot when drilled and you need a precise way to drill the holes or else you end up with holes that are to oddly shaped and not covered completely by the rivet. You could probably get away with some sort of drill mounted in a bracket of some kind as well. I already had this tool.

    Orbital jig saw – used to rough cut the Kydex prior to heating it up to wrap a knife with. You could use any sort of saw you want to rough cut the Kydex. A hand held jig saw would work there nothing magic here, but the orbital jig saw makes for some quick and relatively clean cuts. I already had this tool.

    Heat Gun – used to final fit the sheath for the proper tension. These are like $10 or less.

    Large Toaster Oven – used to heat the Kydex. I am not too excited about using my kitchen stove for this as the chemicals in Kydex are nasty. My wife would probably flip out if I did this anyway. You could use a heat gun to do a small sheath without the use of an oven, but getting the Kydex to a uniform heat is tough with only a heat gun, get the toaster oven.

    Blue painters tape – I tape the blades with blue painters tape to provide a very small amount of space between the Kydex and the blade of the knife. This is not a cosmetic thing so much as a tension fit thing. The tape adds just enough space to not trap the blade and screw up the fit of the finished sheath. The tension should be at the mouth of the sheath, not necessarily on the blade.
    Sanding Media – used to finish the edges after you mold the sheath. The belt sander leaves rough edges depending on what grit belt you have. Using increasingly higher grit sand paper will give you the edge you want on the Kydex. Some people like the edge of Kydex shiny, some people like it matte. If you want a shiny edge, then use 000 steel wool and wd40 or some other oil on the edge. I leave a matte finish usually down to 600 grit sand paper.
    C Clamps – used to keep pressure on the Kydex while it cools in to shape. You clamp the Kydex press shut with these to apply the pressure.
    A leather glove – used to handle the Kydex out of the oven. The Kydex will be hot when you handle it. Don’t try to bear skin it, I did and it sucks. Do yourself a favor and wear protection. Your neighbors will look at you strange as you are pacing around your garage wearing one glove waiting for Kydex to cool, eventually they get over it.
    The process: The following process assumes you are making a fold over Kydex sheath as opposed to a 2 piece type of sheath. I will focus on the fold over for now so that I can be more thorough in my description. A fold over sheath uses one piece of Kydex to wrap around the knife where the spine of the knife ends up being where the fold in the Kydex is.
    1. Get your press and clamps ready and setup in preparation for the Kydex wrapped knife. Get a pair of gloves; I use thin leather, to handle the hot Kydex.
    2. Rough cut the Kydex – You can use a jig saw or whatever saw you have on hand to cut a piece of Kydex that is big enough for your knife. Don’t skimp out here and remember that you will need enough excess around the knife for the rivets. All in all, the Kydex is relatively inexpensive and you can’t add any back to a sheath that you tried to skimp on. When first starting out, give yourself at least an inch of room from the tip of the knife.

    3. Cover the blade – Put one layer of blue painters tape over the blade of the knife. Don’t cover up the entire knife or the handle, just the blade. You can use a razor blade to cut away any excess. You don’t want excess tape because it can add unnecessary space between the Kydex and the knife.
    4. Preheat your oven – Heat the oven to 350 and let it get hot for a few minutes.
    5. Put the Kydex in the oven - Don’t wander off, talk on the phone or work on some other project, stay next to the oven. It will take 5-7 minutes to get the Kydex to the proper temp, but once it gets too hot, it’s ruined so stay put. You will need to learn when to remove the Kydex from the oven, this takes some practice.
    6. Pull the Kydex out of the oven and wrap the Kydex around the blade leaving plenty of room for rivets by the tip of the blade. Make sure the Kydex is tight around the spine of the knife. You don’t want a bunch of space where the Kydex wraps around the spine of the knife because the blade will move around in the sheath.
    7. Let the knife and Kydex cool for at least 30 minutes. Don’t try to rush and pull the knife and Kydex out when it’s not cooled completely.

    8. Once the Kydex has cooled, remove the knife from the press and remove the knife from the Kydex. Be careful here not to cut yourself. Grab the spine of the blade and pull the knife out (see picture below), do not get your fingers or any other body part in the path of the blade. The knife will have a tendency to come out of the molded Kydex very fast once it reaches a certain point. I have a few scars from doing this the wrong way.

    9. Rough cut the molded piece of Kydex on the jig saw making sure to leave a good inch of room around the knife for rivets and on to the handle so you can set the tension. Once you get better at making sheaths, you can reduce the amount of room you leave for rivets because you will get an eye for how much extra Kydex to leave on the sheath.

    10. Remove the Kydex debris from inside the sheath and insert the knife in to the sheath and make sure everything looks and feels ok. I use a rag to wipe the inside of the sheath to remove debris and a little flat head screwdriver to remove any Kydex.
    11. Test fit the knife until you get a good fit around the mouth of the sheath. Use your jig saw and or your belt sander here. This is probably the trickiest part of making a Kydex sheath because it’s the easiest to screw up and there is more art than science. Usually a rounded shape with lips that grip the handle will work to retain the knife. Until you get an eye for this, just remove small amounts of Kydex at a time until you get a nice snap fit. Also, keep in mind that the fit at the mouth will change based on where you put your rivets and also when a belt device, like a TekLok is added. Adding rivets and belt retaining devices will tighten up the sheath around the knife. If the sheath ends up being too tight, you can break out the heat gun and work the Kydex around the mouth remolding it with your fingers. One note about heat guns, use them with caution. If you use a heat gun after rivets have been set and you heat the rivets up (remember they are metal and heat up quicker than Kydex) too much, the sheath can be ruined.

    12. Measure and drill the holes for the rivets. Use a pencil to mark the holes for the belt attachment device you will be using. The rivets I use are the larger ones from knifekits and require a .25? hole to be drilled in the Kydex. I use a drill press for this. Make sure you hold the sheath tightly when drilling holes. After you drill the hole closest to the mouth of the sheath, hold up the belt attachment device and make sure you other hole will line up. Remember to measure twice and cut once. If the sheath spins out on you in the drill press, it’s most likely ruined because the hole will be too large and jacked up. I have never done that, I promise.

    13. Finish the edges of the Kydex using sandpaper, steel wool or whatever else you can find to give you the finish you are after. I typically use 200-400 grit sandpaper and then work my way up to 600-800. I will usually finish the edges with 000 steel wool for a matte finish. If you are looking for a shiny finish, then use oil with the steel wool. Finish the edges of the sheath now because if you use coated rivets, the sand paper or steel wool will rub the finish off of the rivets.
    14. Clean out the inside of the sheath again removing all of the debris from drilling the holes and sanding. There will be Kydex dust and other stuff in the sheath from finishing the edges. Again, I use a dry cloth or rag for this.
    15. Use your arbor press to set the rivets in the sheath. If the sheath is primarily going to be carried on the right side of the body, then put the rivet with the largest roll out. In other words, put the side of the rivet that gets rolled (the small side) on the inside of the sheath. It typically looks the worst, especially if the rivet splits on you. One advantage of the rivet dies is that they tend to prevent the rivet from splitting. The amount of pressure that you apply to the arbor press and the rivet material itself will determine if the rivet splits or not. This is where the art and experience side comes in. You will get a feel for how much pressure to apply to the arbor press without splitting a rivet. If you split one, get over it and move on. Practice on scrap Kydex, because rivets are relatively cheap.

    16. Test fit the sheath at this point. The sheath should fit in the sheath as you would expect it to for a final product. Ideally there will be a “snap? fit and the knife should not fall out if you hole the sheath upside down.
    17. Add the belt device to the sheath and test the fit of the sheath. Once again, the knife should fit as you would expect it to for a final product. Ideally, you should be able to get a snug fit with the knife in the sheath with the belt device on or off.

    18. If you find that the sheath is either way too tight or way too loose, then you will need to use the heat gun to fix the problem. Don’t keep the knife in the sheath while you are using the heat gun, remove the knife. Don’t get the rivets hot, they will warp and melt the Kydex. Use the heat gun sparingly only applying heat to the mouth of the sheath. If you need to heat up the blade section of the sheath, then you are probably in trouble. Use heat very carefully here because you can’t reset the rivets, once they are in, they are in.



    Can you hear the serpents call, look deep in those deceiving eyes. Ignore the writing on the wall, you should read between the lies.


     


    Deepnorth1
    Journeyman KnifeNut!
    *
    Re: My Kydex sheath making process with pics
    04-25-07 23:39.28 - Post#1213589    


        In response to J33psr0ck

    Well Done !
    Thanks for sharing, it was well organised, clear information from the pics, & you have shown the way around lots of pitfalls . Wish I had seen this about 5 sheaths ago,it would have saved a lot of swearing & remakes
     
    J33psr0ck
    Master Member KnifeNut!
    *
    Re: My Kydex sheath making process with pics
    04-26-07 03:48.22 - Post#1213696    


        In response to Deepnorth1

    Thanks. Of course there are always things I could add, but I tried to get the bulk of what I do documented for other new people to make sheaths for their collection since this information was MIA when I was looking for it.
    Can you hear the serpents call, look deep in those deceiving eyes. Ignore the writing on the wall, you should read between the lies.


     
    helmar4578
    helmar4578
    *
    Re: My Kydex sheath making process with pics
    04-26-07 08:14.46 - Post#1213888    


        In response to J33psr0ck

    As most of you know, I am a professional leather craftsman---and have never used Kydex. Out of curiosity, I read this tutorial,word for word. To say that I am impressed would be a huge understatement. The thoroughness and the precise description of each step made me feel as though I could do a presentable piece right out of the chute, so to speak! I shall probably never use Kydex in my work but, at least, I now feel that I know some of the problems that exist, and can appreciate same! ---Sandy---
    Sandy Morrissey, Master Leather Craftsman. Custom Knife Sheaths. Blairsville, GA 30512


     
    AussieBlade
    Journeyman KnifeNut!
    *
    Re: My Kydex sheath making process with pics
    04-27-07 23:18.26 - Post#1215433    


        In response to Deepnorth1

    Deepnorth1,

    Do you mind me asking where you get your kydex from? I only know of one place in WA and it's pretty expensive as well as only 30x30cm

    cheers

    Troy
    "Adapt, Improvise, Overcome..."


     
    jgkort
    Journeyman KnifeNut!
    *
    04-28-07 02:19.04 - Post#1215471    


        In response to AussieBlade

    Excellent pictorial, you must have put a lot of work into this! Thanks for sharing, also the result is worth a closer look!

    Gijs
    "We can only understand nature by cutting it up along its natural articulations" Henri Bergson, (1859-1941) in "Creative Evolution", 1907


     
    wjzgma
    Journeyman KnifeNut!
    *
    05-03-07 17:27.46 - Post#1219978    


        In response to jgkort

    Great job on this tutorial...gives me the confidence to try Kydex...Thanks!!!!
     
    J33psr0ck
    Master Member KnifeNut!
    *
    05-04-07 16:49.43 - Post#1220724    


        In response to wjzgma

    No problem. I hope it helps.
    Can you hear the serpents call, look deep in those deceiving eyes. Ignore the writing on the wall, you should read between the lies.


     
    Deepnorth1
    Journeyman KnifeNut!
    *
    Re: My Kydex sheath making process with pics
    05-08-07 23:47.31 - Post#1224030    


        In response to AussieBlade

    Sorry Aussieblade, I have been off the air for a whole lot of reasons. As well as WA I have imported more exotic colours from several US suppliers such as Knifekits. Search the web and make your own choice .They also have a bigger range of rivets , fasteners, techloks etc. Make up a big package while the Aussie dollar is so high
     
    steveH
    Master Member KnifeNut!
    *
    05-10-07 17:09.46 - Post#1226167    


        In response to Deepnorth1

    J33psr0ck, thanks for the painstakingly precise tutorial. Murray got me interested in Kydex sheaths years ago, but I meandered off like a stray yearling. After reading this, I'll have to take some action and try this for myself.
    ************************* *


     


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