Leather sheath break-in: best practices?

Discussion in 'Knives, Gear, Guns And Other Tools' started by Stone, Jan 15, 2017.

  1. Stone

    Stone Member

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    I am the most proud, happy owner of an ESEE RB3 that came to me in an unbelievable, unbeatable deal just before Christmas. I've used it virtually everyday since then for outdoor experiences (so far, only afternoon walks and work on some nearby bushcraft study areas) and carving projects using wood I'm bringing back from those outdoor ventures. A full "review" (I really don't like that term any more for gear; it's become almost cliche) -- overview, description, thoughts, etc will be forthcoming once I get to know the knife better.

    But for now, just this: it's unequivocally the best bushcraft knife I've ever owned (that number is not large, mind you, but has involved a few good ones), but is also already competing for the position of the best knife I've ever owned, period. Verdict is still out on the latter one, and may require years.

    But to my question. If I have any criticisms of the knife at all -- and this is minor -- it's that I wish the sheath had been finished better. Oh, let me clarify: the inside of the sheath, not the outside. Almost immediately, I massaged the outside and part of the inside with Hubbard Shoe Grease (my long fav for leather boots); it softened it nicely (with some massage), and darkened it pleasantly, even if in a two-tone pattern that I like -- yes, pics will come eventually ... :cool:

    I used a piece of cloth fastened to a plastic Lexan camp knife to apply some grease to the inside, which is more like raw hide than finished leather (like I found on two other BC knives that I've owned). It helped -- softened a bit -- but there's still more friction with the top part of the sheath around the handle -- especially with those Micarta handles, which add to the friction. (The effect is that I have trouble extracting the knife from belt dangle carry with my gloves on -- a problem right now in winter where outdoor activities can be in the 10F to 30F range.)

    So, I'm spending more time inserting/withdrawing the knife into its sheath -- dozens of times, rest, repeat another time. Yes, I know it'll break in over time, but ... I want to speed the process.

    Suggestions?

    I wish I could drive a teeny tiny lawnmower down inside and trim those leather shreds to smooth it, but ....:rolleyes:
     
  2. Andy the Aussie

    Andy the Aussie Moderator of the Century Staff Member

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    Be careful about what you apply, too much and too soft and you loose the function of the sheath. A nice dressing (done) and use is the best way to break it in.
     
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  3. Stone

    Stone Member

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    Thanks, Andy. I def don't feel the need to apply any more treatment. I think it's "coated" well enough; I paid extra attention to the stitches. I'll add that it's clearly a well-made sheath in terms of design, stitching, leather (IIRC, it's produced by one of the oldest -- or the oldest -- tanneries in the US, which is very cool; their craftsmanship shows). I know that leaving this little detail helped keep the price reasonable -- near $100, which for this knife I think is awesome.
     
  4. nathan shepherd

    nathan shepherd Member

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    Wet forming a leather sheath helps a lot.
     
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  5. Stone

    Stone Member

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    Nathan, I considered that briefly. I watched a vid somewhere of someone who did it, I think even for the RB3, but I can't recall exactly -- I've watched so many videos in the last few months. I do remember that he showed nothing of the process, just briefly described the process and showed the result, which he was happy with.

    But I was reluctant to jump in w/o more instruction. I'm not fluent with leather work. If you've got some tips, I'm reading. Example: how long, water temp the water, how to let it dry (no doubt away from heat), etc.

    Two other factors will play a role in that for me now, though. First, that I've already treated it with leather grease; not sure how that would affect a water treatment.

    Second, and at this point, maybe more important, I've continued to work with the sheath since I last posted. No more treatment on the sheath itself (though I did add a bit more to the cut edges of the belt loop, which helped), but I've spent some time -- probably an hour total -- just extracting/inserting the knife into the sheath, and "massaging" the sheath sans knife -- bending, twisting, folding, all gently, taking care not to stress stitching unreasonably.

    Result? Much improved. The sheath now feels more like a stiff moccasin, and extraction is considerably easier while not sacrificing any significant retention. I still have to hold the sheath with one hand and extract with the other, but it's less cumbersome now.

    For leather sheath users, I'm sure this seems like too much whining and moaning on my part. Break in takes time. But I've just become so spoiled by plastic sheaths -- yank on it, it comes right out with no friction, almost jumping into your hand -- that I've become less patient with leather, even though aesthetically, I like leather more, especially for a fine bushcraft knife like the RB3. My Mora Bushcraft Black has a plastic sheath, which works well. But I swear, someday, I may have a leather sheath made for it, just because it deserves one. :cool:
     
  6. nathan shepherd

    nathan shepherd Member

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    Wet forming is very easy to do. Just soak the sheath in warm water for 15 minutes. The water should be warm but not hot. I fitted the sheath to the knife then carefully removed the knife and left the sheath alone for a couple of days at room temperature. I too was slightly nervous of taking it on for the first time but in reality it is super easy to do. If you sheath is fitting better then there is no need to go through all that though!
     
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  7. Stone

    Stone Member

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    Thanks, Nathan. Indeed, that sounds very easy, and makes sense. Can I assume you did this procedure before any kind of leather treatment? I'm still wondering how the fact that I've already used Hubbard's Shoe Grease on it will affect the water-based shaping process. I'm willing to bet it will affect it in some way, though I can't reason whether that would be positive or negative.

    I'll probably hold off for now and see what the next few weeks or months bring. But I'm glad you posted that here for reference, whether for me or others.
     
  8. nathan shepherd

    nathan shepherd Member

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    As long as you didn't put the grease inside the sheath I guess you will be fine.
     
  9. anrkst6973

    anrkst6973 Member

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    I used ordinary Kiwi brand boot polish, using that and tiny dabs of water rubbed into the sheath with a cloth pulled tight over fingers 1&2. Rubbing the sheath briskly and with some downward pressure in circles, similar to polishing ones boots and with enough force and speed to generate low heat. ( knife was in sheath to provide stretch and shrink in the right places.) Then just carry and use as normal. I sometimes still use the oem leather sheath in the lower right tool pocket and extraction is done much like the plastic Mora or Kydex sheaths, push down on spine side lip of sheath with thumb and it "pops" the finger guard/ choil area out of its fitted spot.
     
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  10. TerryD

    TerryD Member

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    Zombie thread but I was searching today and found it.

    I used some boot polish cream on my RB3 sheath today after finding it to help protect it. I have some light brown cream polish I use on my wife's boots that matched the sheath perfectly. I'm not sure why I didn't think of using it before.
     
  11. theJman

    theJman Member

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    Well, since this thread was already resurrected from the dead...

    Has soaking it for that long ever caused an issue? I've never let a sheath soak for more than 2-3 minutes and always had good results. I'm curious what the extra time gets you.
     
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