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Captain Eyestrain
1,194 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Scabbard making.

If you have a sword , you need a scabbard.

Making a wood and leather one is far from impossible if you can get the right materials .
Fine grained wood which you can carve easily , such as jelutong . limewood or basswood, from Model shop stock ; sometimes doll's house suppliers have a really good selection of ready cut laths.
And really thin leather , for which it might be necessary to take apart an old wallet , or whatever.
It needs to be less than 0.5mm thick , and preferably stretchy. Charity shops, leather dealers. Craft shops also sell scraps of coloured sheepskin.The brown thin stretchy sheepskin from Little Trimmings is perfect .


Presuming you have a sword, or at least a blade ( I cut mine from thin mild steel sheet , then grind and file to shape ) , the rest is common sense.
Either use two pieces of wood and hollow the cavity in each side , or build it up from flat strips , so long as the strips are the same thickness as the blade .

Mark the blade's outline on both pieces of wood. Using a router or a little chisel, hollow out the two outlines until the blade fits neatly into them…. or build up the hollow by cutting strips of wood and arranging them to fit the blade tightly.
Fit them carefully together with the blade inside, and make sure it's all flush , and that the blade moves easily in and out.

Mark the cavity on the OUTSIDE as well to ensure alignment when gluing , and so you know where the blade hollow is from the outside : this is important when it comes to rubbing down the outside.

When you are happy, Glue the two laths together with wood glue, trying not to get any into the cavity. Clamp thoroughly. Run the blade into the cavity a couple of times to spread any glue inside .

Now carve and rub it all down : carefully, you don't want to go right through.
This requires some judgement , since ideally the wood should be very thin, but not so thin that it collapses.
It often helps to have the blade inside to support it.
Don't rush it.

When you have rubbed as far as you dare , cut out some really thin leather to the rough shape shown, cover in glue and pull very tight around the wood. I use the quicker setting type of white glue for this.
You have to make a few fiddly tucks at the tip, or pull it out to full stretch to shrink the volume of the leather , which can then be trimmed when dry.

Clamp the two leather edges really tight and leave.
It's best to use two more laths to spread the pressure evenly along the join, putting the clamps outside those.

When all dry , trim the join right back against the scabbard.

Done : this one , a Civil War broadsword, fitted with a Littlecote type baldrick :

A selection of sword scabbards made this way : early scabbards, particularly the cheap ones issued to the rank and file, didn't always have chapes and throats. Throats became general in the mid-18th century, but before then they often just had a chape , and the throat of the scabbard had no more than a wire binding to hold the hook on.


There is another alternative , which is to stitch a scabbard from wet leather , without the wooden lining. Some scabbards were made like this, but if they are for a long sword they do need a stiffener on one side of the blade.
For bayonets you don't really need one.

This is a bit more technical : you need thin vegtan leather , glovers' needles ( which have a sharp blade at the tip )and waxed linen thread ( These available from leather suppliers like Le Prevo, Newcastle ).
If you can't get glovers' needles , use ordinary ones but make a little awl out of another to help make the holes.

Cut a piece of leather to give a good overlap when wrapped.
You can also cut a stiffening piece of plastic or wood the same shape as the blade, and lay that inside .
Soak the leather.
Wrap around blade , pull taut, mould it with your fingers to be a neat fit ( it's very plastic when wet , almost like pastry ), and clamp the edges : some square sticks of wood can be useful to make an even clamping surface.
When it's finished , the leather may shrink somewhat on drying, so leave a little extra at each end.
When it's stiffened up somewhat , stitch along the seam
using a saddle stitch .

These bayonet scabbards have, from the end of the 18th century , throats and chapes made from brass , which are shaped from flat sheet , then soldered, filed and polished , then fitted and glued to the leather. The vegtan leather is stained black with Punch shoe dye.

Quite tricky , and time consuming, but there's a great satisfaction in making 1/6th items more or less as the originals were made .

This selection shows some variants :

Left to right :
1750 with a button rather than a chape ; 1780 with chape; Napoleonic one with full throat and chape ; Martini Henry 22" lunger ; Baker sword .

These are all my own bayonet castings rather than commercial ones.


2,235 Posts
Thats some impressive craftsmanship.

Action Figures
11,275 Posts
Awesome Tutorial! A long time ago I had issues making a Scabbard for a Project I was working. Thumbs up!
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