Knife handles are made of different materials. Some are made of synthetic materials, others are made of natural primitive ones, such as Wood, metal, or even leather.
What is a Stacked Leather Knife Handle?
You might have seen knives or even axes with leather striped handles and thought how unique and natural their look is. Those handles are the ones we call stacked leather handles. While in the modern days many knife makers choose to use a variety of materials for their knives, this stacked leather knife handle will always remain one of my favorites.
Of all the Knife handles I have used, the stacked leather is the most comfortable and long-lasting handle I have ever come across. They have a non-slippery primitive grip that makes them stand out. In addition, it is also a great way to use scraps or thick leather instead of disposing of them.
So, have you ever thought of making one yourself? Or perhaps you want to re-do an old stacked leather knife handle?
There are several methods to achieve the desired results, but the one I introduce here is one of the unique methods that was used the same way these knives’ handles were created ages ago.
While it’s fair to say that making stacked leather Knife handles is not complicated, it will demand specific tools, and skills and will consume time and money as well to buy some of the needed materials.
Let me list down the steps before we start to simplify the process:
- Step 1: Materials & Tools list
- Step 2: Choosing the blade
- Step 3: Preparing the leather pieces
- Step 4: Assemble the leather pieces to the tang
- Step 5: Saw and Sand the excess leather
- Step 6: Polish and final retouches
Step by step: How to make a stacked leather knife handle?
Having the right tools and materials before you kick off your project is essential. The estimated time for the project is about six (6) hours excluding the drying time. The suggestions of the tools and materials should not limit your creativity as you might substitute any of them with what you have around or other similar alternatives.
- A Knife blade
- Thick Leather (Preferably 1/8” thick)
- Bolsters material (they can be plastic, wood, brass, or any other preference)
- Elmer’s Glue (Any PVA Glue or non-toxic Wood Glue)
- Carpet/Razor Knife
- Rotary tool with Drill bits (Preferably DREMEL or DeWALT)
- Sanding Machine
- Sandpaper with grits of 100,200,400,600 and 1000
- Leather or Wood Wax (Other Sealants can be used as well)
- Figure Saw (To cut the leather pieces)
The Blade is going to be the foundation of the project. In order to have a beautiful stacked leather knife handle that looks magnificent, we need to have a knife, don’t we? If you already have a knife blade that is lying around you, make sure that the tang is long enough and quite slim to stack the leather pieces on it. The thicker blades would need wider leather pieces and a larger strip hole to be punctured. (See the below guide).
If you don’t have a blade around that fits this project, consider buying one. I find it, sometimes, easier to just buy the blank blade than to work around an older one. There are many options online for low as $15 to $20, depending on the steel type.
I would suggest getting this Bowie Knife Blade with a 12” Overall Length.
Remember to thread the end of the knife, so that you can screw the pommel later on. (see below)
It is essential to maintain safety when attempting this project. You should cover the sharp edge of your blade with a material such as masking tape to avoid cuts and injuries and prevent any damage to the blade.
Before cutting the leather bits, you want to decide first on the width of the handle depending on your comfort. The size of the leather bits will also depend on the width of your handle but approximately it will be around 1.5” X 1.5”. Add ¼” safety margin on top of that.
Trace the above measurements and cut one out. You can use this as a template to cut all the other pieces. The number of bits you need will depend on the length of your tang and the thickness of the leather. It’s wise to cut extra few pieces. Don’t forget to draw the center hole using your tang to trace it out.
Make a hole in each leather piece. While you can use a drill to punch a hole, a special tool, such as a drill press, would make your life easier. What’s crucial is to be consistent and ensure all the leather bits are all aligned.
To start assembling the lather bits, you will first need a solid piece at each end of the leather stack. These are called Bolsters.
Your bolsters can be anything from plastic, wood, brass, or any other preference but bear in mind that although it’s required to be solid and hard, we need it to be soft enough to be shaped and sanded along with the leather stack.
Both bolsters should be a bit longer than the leather bits, but the top one should be a bit longer than the bottom one to make a finger guard.
Insert the top bolster and begin dry stacking the leather. At this stage, I don’t add any glue; however, this is to make sure that everything fits perfectly before adding the glue. It should look terrible but that’s ok.
If everything fits perfectly, disassemble it again. And repeat the same process but this time dip each in the PVA glue on one of the leather bit sides.
Screw in the pommel or the bottom bolsters and let it dry.
Put your figure saw to work and start cutting the excess leather. Make sure that you start this process only after the glue has dried out. You can also use a sanding machine with 100 grit sanding paper.
Once you reached the desired rounded handle shape, begin using sandpaper of different grits to achieve the final shape according to your comfort.
We will add the wax to a rotary sanding machine to have the final shiny look. This is a leather burnishing technique, which makes the wax melt into the leather due to heat and friction. Polish till you are satisfied with the final look.
Congratulations!!! You have made it. This stacked leather knife handle will last longer and will have a good grip if you have sweaty hands.
Last update on 2022-07-27 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API