I pondering doing some custom kydex sheaths...

Jim March

Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider
Oct 7, 1998
As many already know, I designed a Kydex sheath to go with the knife I designed, The Outsider. The sheathwork was done by Scott, and he added two key elements to the design that I'll describe below, both of which I feel he owns.

There's more on a Shop Talk thread here:


In addition, my original blueprint that Scott worked from is here:

Here's one of the photos Scott took for comparison:

As you can see, I can claim more than a small part in the design. What Scott added were:

1) Recessing the holes in front of where the primary blade edge swings out, to avoid snipping the lacings on draw (Doh! on my part).

2) Running two seperate thicknesses of Kydex on the top layer, to allow "springiness" which makes the whole draw work yet have solid retention around the grip area where most of the retention happens.

So the overall design is "mostly mine, partially Scott's".

I feel it's the best possible system of street-carry for big fixed blades in an "open carry only" legal climate such as California, or total concealment. Because it's got no built-in belt channel the ride height is extremely flexible, from "all the way above the belt and concealed" to "completely below the belt and peeking out legally from underneath a longish coat".

I find I usually tie it to my belt at the "halfway" point, with the grip exposed but the tip area under a sweater, sweatshirt or short jacket. It's still legal open carry, but by covering the upper half near the tip the "brutal reality of a huge monster knife" isn't rubbed too far into Sheeple noses to preclude casual social contact. With a conventional tip-down sheath, covering the grip would radically slow the draw...you could mount tip-up with a regular rig somehow but the necessary "straight down" draw would be slow and clumsy.

With this setup, the grip is close to where your hand casually dangles in any case, you can grab, roll the grip FORWARD and up, and have a clean fumble-free draw even though relatively little of the grip is free of semi-concealing clothing.

The version I'm planning will be of mixed Kydex/Leather construction. We're talking high-end here, probably in the $60 range, plus accessory silver accents done right, hand-tooling, whatever you want.

Leather over Kydex will allow me to avoid using two layers of Kydex like Scott did. Across the "mid-section" of the blade area, the kydex will be fairly narrow so that if the leather was removed, a fair area of blade would be clearly exposed. Special attention will be paid to keeping the tip area completely encased in either seamless kydex or extreme strength rivets, so that if you fell feet-first and the pommel snagged on something, the belt or laces would give way before the tip would punch through the sheath and into your gut or underarm.

Also: for those into reverse-grip combat, I have plans for a "tip DOWN" version of this rig tentatively known as the "slick shifter". You would put the "web of your thumb" area on the pommel, trigger the snap with your forefinger and do a "shifting into first gear on a floor-mount shift" type motion to start the draw, then come right up into a reverse grip. The problem is that this isn't going to work on "grip seriously above the belt" rigs that the original Outsider Sheath setup is superb for, including shoulder rig carry, above-the-kidney carry, etc.


This sheath is only fair at protection from the elements, due to it's somewhat "open" design. If you know how to use marine tough-cloth or similar treatments on your carbon-steel blades, or are into stainless pieces, cool. Or if legal, do full concealment.

I can also do a non-leather version for those who'll face extreme wet conditions. Bikers who might ride in the rain are a good example, unless they can legally alter their carry to full concealment to protect the leather.


Anything with about a 7" or above blade, out to around 12" or so. An 18" overall Khukuri maybe, or any big combat Bowie or other large fighter.


This is for people who want to carry serious combat knives comfortably and legally. Walter Welch and Ralf have seen The Outsider and it's sheath, and my draw sequences, I hope they comment.

For the moment, Scott Evans is not doing custom work. I would hope (and expect) that'll change. For my part, I just signed a 1 year computer contract starting in two weeks, so I intend to do small-scale hand-production only. I doubt the volume will be anything that'll take biz from Scott or the other top Kydex craftsmen.

Right now this is "just talk". I'm picking up materials in 2 to 4 weeks, and at that point I'd like to make a couple of these up for free for two or three forum regulars, with hopes they'd comment on the designs and provide input on improvements, etc. It'll be a good way to learn, and won't cost anybody anything except temporary lack of the blade and shipping in my direction only. I'd like to do one "combat oriented" Khukuri for certain, I'd guess a Sirupati or BAS versus the heavier Ang Khola? Maybe Cliff Stamp or Cobalt are interested? And if I recall right, Steve Harvey has a stainless Black Cloud fighter that might be a good testbed, other types certainly considered.

The "free beta test" program
will be only for regular posters at least interested in street carry of "streetfighter class" pieces.

Let's talk about it in this thread.

ALSO: Scott, I'd like your blessing on this. One possibility is for me to do one of these sheaths free on a good standard common fixed-blade of your choice, one you think might produce a good market for improved sheaths, and have you do a PRODUCTION version for that piece, no royalties to me. That would "pay you" for my use of the design elements you put into the Outsider rig as noted? The Cold Steel Trailmaster comes immediately to mind, you might have other ideas.

All comments welcome. I've been pondering how to start in sheathmaking for a while now, I'm working on setups for some friend's blades and I hope to have pics up of my handwork in a couple of weeks including a "slickshifter" for a Buck Nighthawk.

Jim March
That is a really impressive design. And I like that blade too! Thats an attention getter! Forgive my ignorance if it was posted before, but who made the knife for you?
Jim, I may have a beta test candidate for ya, but how long would the wait be??

The peice is a rather large custom bolo...

So the draw you designed would work rather well...

Email me if you are interested...

Hi Jim -- One of my custom Bauchop Alley Cats might make a good beta candidate. Here's a pic of one for your review:

I had been thinking about a tip-up shoulder harness with a swivel to facilitate blade withdrawal, but your break front design would make the swiveling harness unnecessary. Please let me know if you're interested.

Go for it as I certainly have no monopoly on Kydex work. I will be happy to throw in my .02 on any tech problems that you may encounter. That goes for any of our other friends on this forum. (Time permitting, that is, as I am still thoroughly buried in work … if I am slow to answer e-mail it is simply a matter of not having enough hours in the day)

As far as Edge-Works not accepting orders on hand made or custom items … that situation is temporary. ( see my announcement)

Laminations of materials is the next level in tactical gear development. I have been doing a good deal of R&D in this area. Your sheath was an opportunity to further test and evaluate the benefits of varying tensions due to layering of the material, on the lock-up of a large blade. The problems with the Outsider was; multi surface geometry (funky shape) and relatively heavy weight. Your requirements of high security (wear while riding your motor cycle), Quick draw capable, and multi faceted mounting made for an enjoyable project. Your basic design was very well thought out and effectively anticipated most of the problems and solutions ahead of time.
Combinations of different materials is also a good idea for many reasons. For instance a kydex sheath with a layer of leather (or other skin) can reduce noise or Kydex combined with a different synthetic that may be more ridged layered in the proper fashion can produce a better grip reflex then Kydex alone. The real trick in combining materials is in bonding them together. I can’t wait to see what you come up with.

Some points here:

When I'm ready to start the "Beta test" program I'll do one piece at a time, with a firm goal of keeping the "seperation of knife from owner" to one month or less. Once I'm finishing up one, I'll tell the next in line I'm ready versus letting 'em "stack up".

The Alley Cat would be representitive of several Mad Dog/Black Cloud types in general, and would be a fine test bed. My only "concern" would be the prominent upper guard...if I tried to "cover it up" things could get ugly fast, but leaving it exposed might make the final result scream "BIG KNIFE!" to sheeple moreso than the rig Scott and I did for The Outsider. My rig has the upper and lower guards "covered", so there's only a couple of inches of grip/pommel exposed. You can tell it's a knife sitting there, but it doesn't scream "huge combat monster".

Alan: how long is the Bolo overall, and are you considering shoulder-rig carry, or just a "variety of ride height belt carry modes"?

One mod I hope to include for safety is to reinforce the tip coverage area. See...I've got this bad mental image of falling off of, say, a ladder and on the way down feet-first, the pommel hooks up on a windowsill or other protrusion and the "upwards force" is severe enough to drive the tip up between the layers of Kydex and right through the brass rivets, driving the tip up into guts or armpit.

Not cool...and something I didn't think about. Such an admittedly bizarre series of events could also happen in a motorcycle crash.

To eliminate the possibility I could either "cap off" the tip area with an outer "wrap" of thick Kydex covering the whole tip, or better yet, take two of the brass rivets and exchange them for solid stainless male/female screw sets backed by washers, the point being to absolutely halt tip travel in such an event but normally the blade would never contact this metal any more than it would the rivets.

(This "reinforced tip idea" is hereby freely given to the whole community in the interest of general safety.)

The whole "tip up fixed blade carry" concept is only possible with modern materials and clearly needs MUCH thought.

For those interested in shoulder rig carry, I suggest taking the following measurement: while seated and arms fully relaxed, measure from the top edge of your belt to a point 1/2" below your underarm pit. That'll determine the max length knife you can shoulder-rig carry, plus add .5" for the area of the sheath past the knife tip. You could mount it with the grip overlapping the belt but that sacrafices concealability.

Interestingly, with this rig in full shoulder-rig carry above the belt, it works better strong side versus cross-draw shoulder as with a conventional gun rig. With the grip low, it's actually positioned about the same as where a strong-side high-ride belt gun holster would put a gun grip. The initial draw is the same, sweep the jacket away, grab grip, start going "forward and up" but with the knife you do that "rolling into a forward grip" thing.

And that means it could be laced to a regular shoulder holster gun rig and counterbalance the weight of a gun on the weak side...AND it's possible to cross-draw the knife with the weak hand if necessary.

The Outsider *knife* shown is my own design, built by Harald Moeller. Harald helped fine-tune some "heft and balance" issues but the short grip, guard sizes/layout and tip design are all my ideas. It balances RIGHT at the hooked area in front of the lower guard. Oh, and Ernie Mayer's heat-treat and cryo recipe was used by Harald on the ATS-34 steel. One HELL of a good blade, IMHO...Harald will roll you one for $475, he still has the final "plexiglas and epoxy putty" mockup he started and I finished. It won't say "Serial # 001" like mine but other than that...he has my blessing to crank out more. Eventually I'd like to license the design to a good production maker, REKAT being my first choice, without question. Yo Bob?

Jim March
Jim -- It's your call of course but, for my purposes, the Alley Cat would only be carried fully concealed. As such, I wouldn't be concerned if the guard were left exposed.

Brian: I see. Exposing the upper guard tip would be better then, I think. It would keep the overall mass near that guard tip down, increasing concealability by a hair.

If your primary interest is tip-up underarm, I could perhaps mold the back-plate piece so it "curves a bit" around the side of your ribcage. Might help concealment some? I'd want some idea of your torso dimensions...in my case, I'm so huge that the flat backplate Scott did for me works just as well in "strong side" versus back behind my right kidney, which is my preferred full-concealment mode.

But for someone with a smaller diameter torso "hugging their contours" a bit might help comfort and concealment.

Jim March
As Jim said, I've seen him and the Outsider in action. More impressive than John Wayne pulling his six shooter!

I don't know how much training it took, but Jim managed to get that big piece out in one fluid and fast motion. As he mentioned, he is wearing the sheath half hidden under his untucked shirt. The part you actually see is not too offensive to 'sheeples' eye. It doesn't shout "Big Knife Carrier". (On the other hand with Jim's well developed body I would say he could probably wear an M-16 concealed with a good sheath of his own design).

That's what makes it so impressive: this big knife seems to come lightning fast out of nowhere. Jim also demonstrated how comfortable the sheath rides. The way he carries it, it swings out of the way when bending the body or sitting.

I don't know how helpfull the specific design of the Outsider is when it comes to turning the knife in the hand after drawing, but I think you could manage that with each knife if you practice enough.

In short that sheath is very good for a big knife.
Ralf, I am *not* "well developed". I'm just plain big, but that's genes and a bit of flab.

It didn't take much training for those draws. The key was twofold: stiffen the material over the snap for a quick positive unsnap, and I shortened the sheath from the pics you see here. In the "blueprint" the pommel protrudes just a hair past the "backplate"; Scott's final design had the "backplate" lower than the pommel tip.

That wasn't optimal. No biggie, I trimmed it - the backplate is now just barely lower than the snap, and about 1.5" of grip is lower than the backplate. From the photo above, picture the lowermost pair of laceholes out past the snap straps gone. That's *critical* - to start the draw you throw your "trigger finger" around the pommel and start the forward motion. Once that's done, the rest is easy.

And the ride height below the belt is about equal to that of a 3" fixed blade slung completely below the belt, and that's the comfort level.

I mean...I'm not normally big on horn-tooting but...this sucker works.

Jim March
I'm a big guy myself, Jim, so a flat backplate should work just fine for me as well. I've had a few ideas on this but want to think them through a bit more before sharing. I'll get something up here later today.

Jim, I've given it some thought and the first suggestion would be to make the sheath ambidextrous by using the same front & back plates. As I hope the following picture illustrates, the Alley Cat is fairly symmetrical. In addition, if sufficient room is left at the tip of the sheath, rather than following the blade contours exactly, the blade would be capable of being placed in the sheath with either primary or back edge facing the "break".


What I did here was to copy the Alley Cat pic, flip it, and overlay it on the original pic to illustrate its symmetry. I could not rotate/nudge the pic into place exactly but I think it gets the idea across. The red outline represents the lines of the sheath while the blue line represents the break.

I have some thoughts on blade retention & belt attachment that I'll try to get up here later today. Meanwhile, please let me know what you think so far.

Continuing my thoughts…

This next picture takes a minimalist approach with a symmetrical sheath, i.e. same front & back plates. Retention is via molding of the material around the guard/handle plus a pin from the back plate through the first hole in the handle. The green section represents the back plate. The molded material is offset in this way to allow the thumb to press against the back plate, lifting the handle off the pin, during draw.

Alternative/additional retention could be provided via a strap & snap from the back plate as illustrated by the yellow line in the next picture.

With the addition of a multi-positional clip, such as REKAT provides with their neck knives, a variety of open-carry high-ride belt positions could be accommodated. However, since concealed tip-up underarm carry is definitely something that I would want, I think we need some means of extending the back plate so that it could be secured to the belt, perhaps in conjunction with a shoulder strap. A longer extension would also be useful for drop-down leg carry.

I'm looking forward to everyone's feedback.


[This message has been edited by bcaffrey (edited 18 April 1999).]
I think you have a good start to a first rate sheath design. You list several good components. However, from looking at the photos of your knife I don’t se any particular advantage in a side break opening for your “Alley Cat”. The shape of your blade will allow for a beautiful snag free draw out the top. The Side break was an advantage for the Outsider because it not only had a curved blade but a tip that was larger then the base. Kurkis, bololos, tomahawks, some machetes and other such blade shapes benefit from a side break sheath but I don’t think your A/C will. Of course I could be missing the reason you have for wanting this.

I like the ambidextrous feature you’ve listed. I also like the idea of a locking flap over the guard area. But … I would suggest making the flap symmetrical so that it can be manipulated with either the right or left hand. (after all it is an ambidextrous sheath). The snap I would move further up the handle and mount it in such a way that it can swivel so it also can be truly right or left handed. Now if you go with a signal position sheath (only right or only left-handed) the flap strap arrangement you show looks great … very innovative. I’m sure Jim will have some good input as he has a mind for such things.

Another note: Ambidextrous sheaths can sometimes present an extra challenge to the maker as a mold will need to be constructed whereas a single position sheath can simply use the knife as the mold.
Thanks for your input, Scott. The length of the blade, @ a bit over 8", is what got me thinking about incorporating a side break opening. A straight out the top draw would work fine for traditional belt carry, tip-down with the top of the handle at belt level, or for drop-down leg carry. However, a straight out the top draw from a strong side high-ride belt carry could be awkward unless the belt clip/loop is wide enough to allow the sheath to swivel somewhat during the draw.

I think concealed tip-up underarm carry could present similar problems in smoothly clearing the sheath. For cross-draw, simply allowing the sheath to swivel from a shoulder harness should solve the problem. However, for strong side underarm carry I thought the side break would work better.

You make a good point about the locking flap. Although I was using the term "ambidextrous", I wasn't really thinking about left-handed release but rather the ability to place the knife with either main edge or back edge toward the side break. Following your suggestion, we could make the flaps symmetrical and perhaps flare their sides a bit to allow for a thumb pressure to help spread the flaps. Also, on further consideration, I think I'd drop the idea of the pin through the handle since we would already have two retention features. I wouldn't want to slow down draw too much.

Maybe I am adding unnecessary complications by attempting to make it ambidextrous. In moving the retaining strap further up the handle, are you suggesting that it wrap around the handle itself rather than across the guard?


[This message has been edited by bcaffrey (edited 18 April 1999).]