Sheath Materials

Many people have the tendencies to overlook the sheath of your knife. However, this is something that you should be paying more attention to because the sheath is where you store your knife and how you are going to carry your knife. Knives really play an important role in keeping your knife protected, safe, and in good quality. There are many different types of sheath materials. Each one comes with its own set of advantages and disadvantages.

Hoback Knives Kwaiback

Leather Sheath

A leather material is a very traditional material for your knife sheaths. This is a very classic option for your sheath that looks and smells great. Many people consider this to be one of the best materials for their sheaths. One of the biggest advantages to having a leather sheath is its aesthetic. Because it is a softer material, you can easily decorate your sheath, customizing it to whatever your heart desires. Leather has been known to be rugged, manly, and strong. Leather is a very strong material because it won’t break like a plastic sheath would. It is also strong because it is relatively easy to resew if the stitches happen to come loose. A second big advantage to having a leather sheath is that the material is going to be very quiet while putting your knife in the sheath and taking it out. This is a great characteristic if you are hunting or in a tactical situation where you don’t want to make any noise. Thirdly, leather ages well, which means that it will just get better over time (as long as you take care of it). The leather is going to break in overtime and your knife will fit perfectly in your sheath. Another sweet thing about a leather sheath is that it is relatively easy to make your own.

However, leather is not waterproof or weather proof. If exposed to water or extreme heat, the oils in the leather dry out which lead to cracking. Oiling the leather will help to put this off, but nothing will save it. You can also have your leather sheath treated to become water repellent, but again, it isn’t going to last forever.  Leather also has the tendency to get scuffed, scratched, and stained. None of those things actually effect the capabilities of the sheath, but it doesn’t look great. And, leather is a natural material so it will eventually become unusable.

Although leather eventually breaks down, this is truly one of the best materials for your knife sheath. One knife that comes with a leather sheath is the ESEE-4 Modified Handle, with a black blade and a black leather sheath.

Pros:

  • Great aesthetic—looks great, smells great, rugged, manly.
  • You can decorate leather into almost whatever design that you want.
  • Leather doesn’t break down quickly.
  • Can easily resew the seam if it comes undone.
  • Silent material while putting away your knife and taking it out.
  • Leather ages well and will slowly break in.
  • You can make your own leather sheath with a few instructions.
  • The best material for your sheath.

Cons:

  • Not water or weather proof.
  • Easily scuffed, scratched, and stained.
  • Because it is a natural material, the leather is eventually going to become unusable.

 

Kydex Sheath

TOPS Hazen Legion 6.0
TOPS Hazen Legion 6.0

A Kydex sheath is definitely more modern than a leather sheath. Kydex is a thermoplastic that was designed to be used for holsters and other items. Because it is more modern, there are benefits that you couldn’t get from a traditional material such as leather. For starters, it is extremely durable. It is actually waterproof, scratch resistant, and will not stretch or shrink after long periods of time. Kydex can survive in almost any environment, even the most extreme ones. Kydex can be submerged in salt water and even come in contact with skin acids and remain intact. Another big benefit of a Kydex sheath is that they do not require very much maintenance. Kydex is an extremely hard material, so you don’t have to worry about it scratching or breaking. Another big bonus about having a Kydex sheath is that it doesn’t need a strap to secure your knife, so it is going to be quick to draw your knife when needed. Kydex is a great material if you are looking for a diving sheath.

But, there are still drawbacks to choosing a Kydex sheath. A major drawback is that it is super noisy. If you are in a situation where you have to be quiet, this is not the sheath for you. If you so much as brush your sheath against something, it is going to make noise. Plus, drawing your knife out of the sheath is going to make a snap and putting your knife back into your sheath is going to make a snap. Some people say that there is a satisfaction that comes from the snap into the sheath, but it isn’t going to be quiet, no matter what you do. Another thing to keep in mind is that if you are repeatedly pulling your knife in and out of your sheath, your knife edge can have a tendency to dull.

One knife that comes with a Kydex sheath sit he ESEE Junglas Survival Fixed Blade.

Pros:

  • Extremely durable material.
  • Scratch Resistant.
  • Will not stretch or shrink, even after long periods of time.
  • Can be soaked with salt water and still maintain its high quality.
  • Can even come in contact with skin acids and remain intact.
  • Very low maintenance material.
  • Very hard, so no scratching or breaking.
  • Doesn’t require a strap to secure your knife.
  • Great for diving knives.

Cons:

  • VERY noisy.
  • The material will start to dull your knife if it is repeatedly drawn and then put back.

 

Nylon Sheath

Nylon is another one of the common materials used to make sheaths. Nylon sheaths are known for being tough and strong, in similar ways to leather. Unlike leather though, nylon is resistant to rot and mildew. Plus, they are not as vulnerable to water like leather sheaths are. Nylon is a very tough material, so it is going to take a lot of force to tear them. Because they are a material, they are harder to scuff. A huge bonus about nylon is that it is MOLLE compatible. This means that it is compatible to the military gear; you can strap this on to your gear and it will fit perfectly. Nylon sheaths are also relatively inexpensive, especially compared to leather and kydex. Nylon is a relatively quiet material, so your nylon sheath is going to keep you concealed in a tactical situation. But, if you are going strictly for quiet, I would recommend a leather sheath.

But, because they are cheaper, a nylon sheath is going to break down and wear out faster than most other materials. Nylon also gets stretched out over time, so eventually, your knife isn’t going to fit as snugly and safely as it once did.

A great example of a tool that comes with a nylon sheath is the SOG PowerPlay Hex Multi-Tool.

 

Pros:

  • Tough and strong.
  • Resistant to rot and mildew.
  • Not vulnerable to water.
  • Hard to scuff.
  • MOLLE compatible.
  • Pretty inexpensive, especially compared to leather and kydex.
  • Relatively quiet, you can stay concealed, but if you are going for a noiseless sheath, try a leather one.

Cons:

  • Nylon will break down faster than most other materials.
  • It will get stretched out over time.

 

Plastic Sheath

Although Kydex is a type of plastic, the plastic sheath genre does not encompass Kydex. Plastic sheaths are most likely going to be the cheapest sheath that you can find on the market. With plastic sheaths, you get exactly what you pay for, so don’t be surprised when your sheath falls apart quickly; they are truly the cheapest quality. Another negative aspect about plastic sheaths is that they are the worst for your blade to be housed in. They have been said to dull your blade while being pulled in and out. And they really give no breathing ability to your blade. If your knife happens to come with a plastic sheath, replace it as soon as you possibly can.

Pros:

Cons:

  • This sheath material has horrible quality—they will break down the fastest out of any of the materials.
  • With plastic there is no breathing ability for your blade.
  • Dulls your blade over time.
  • Really you should just try to replace your plastic sheath earlier on, before it can cause any harm to your knife. While it does start out being a cheap option, it will cost you in the end because it will harm your knife.

 

Special Characteristics to Look for on Sheaths

The three things to look for mostly apply to survival and tactical knives, but you might decide to look for these three things in all of your sheaths.

First, you should be searching for a lower attachment. This is a type of hole or attachment piece that sits at the tip end of your sheath. This hole is primarily used for strapping your knife to your leg or onto a backpack strap.

Second, you should be looking for a belt and lanyard attachment. You want a belt loop on your sheath so that you can carry your knife hands free. And, you want there to be a hole for your lanyard. There are many different reasons to use a lanyard on your sheath. First off, it helps secure it against losing it. Another great reason to use a lanyard is to help with finding it. If you choose a brightly colored lanyard, it is going to stand out better against the surroundings than your neutral colored sheath would.

Thirdly, you should be searching for a strap. There are a few different varieties of straps but one of the great ones is having your strap at the base of the handle. That way, your knife can easily slide out.

 

Conclusion:

Each sheath material comes with its own set of advantages and disadvantages. When searching for the perfect sheath for you and your knife, it’s a good idea to weigh the pros and cons depending on what tasks you want to be able to complete with your sheath. If you are looking for the most custom sheath possible or if you are looking to be as silent as you possibly can, go for leather. Leather also looks great for custom knives because it is so gentle on the blade and looks traditional. However, if you know that you are going to be getting wet often, either while diving or in other scenarios you are going to want to look for a Kydex sheath. Another reason to look into getting a Kydex sheath is if you know that your sheath is going to have to endure a beating, Kydex is one of the most durable sheath materials that you are going to come across. One of the biggest advantages to Nylon sheaths is that they are MOLLE compatible, meaning this type of sheath is going to work great with your military gear. Nylon is an inexpensive option that is still going to give you high quality results. If you are looking for a budget sheath, you are probably going to lean towards buying a plastic sheath. Just know that while you do save money in the first place, you are going to have to replace the sheath pretty soon and the plastic can actually harm your blade.

Another thing to keep in mind is that you should never store your knife in its sheath for long periods of time. Moisture will collect, no matter which material you choose, and that moisture leads to dimples in your blade. Many people have the tendency to overlook the sheath when purchasing a knife, because they don’t understand the full importance of a sheath. However, sheaths make quite the difference. You are going to be carrying and storing your knife in whatever sheath you choose, so you should choose a good one. When you treat your blade well, your blade is going to treat you well.

 

 

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