Kydex or Boltaron?

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Dec 8, 2006
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For those who have worked with both Kydex and Boltaron, do you prefer one over the other for knife sheaths? If so, why? I do the occasional home made sheath and have worked with Kydex, but have considered giving Boltaron a try. It would be great to know what others think of the two materials.
 
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Feb 5, 2010
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I use both materials but mostly boltaron now. Boltaron is a little harder to work with in my opinion but looks a little better to me. It want to roll up on you as it heats up and the thicker stuff takes a bit more heat to get a great form out of it. I also have done a little testing and decided that boltaron is a little bit tougher. Boltaron will also retain it's form in higher heat than kydex will. Say you were in Iraq and left your holster sitting on the dash it could easily get hot enough to loosen up the form a bit but boltaron will withstand much greater temps befor loosening. Boltaron will also hold up better in below freezing temps as it doesn't get brittle like kydex will if the temps are to cold for an extended period of time. Once frozen kydex will often become brittle enough to break when droped onto hard surfaces or rocks.
 

Mike Sastre

Custom Crafted Concealex Sheaths
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Mar 23, 1999
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I've ben using Concealex (Boltaron) since it first came out simply because it makes a better overall sheath than kydex. It is a little harder to work with until you understand it, but the results are worth any extra effort.
 
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Any tricks you guys use when heating up the Boltaron so it doesnt curl up on you? Just used it for first time and had the curling up issues which I dont like.
 
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Feb 5, 2010
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Usually this happens if it is too close to the heat source or it is heated to fast. Try to heat it slower. Are you doing pancake or taco style sheath. If I'm doing a taco I heat it enough to fold it and then staple the edges together then finish heating it. If pancake then I heat it a minute and then lay the two pieces together and staple as close to the edges as possible then finish heating heating it. Makes a nice pouch to put the knife into for molding.
 
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I have been messing around with black boltaron 0.080 material. I love the stuff I don't understand this "roll up" thing I hear it does... I just finished an ontario 12" machete fold over sheath with a molded belt loop. I pretty much treat it as if was kydex. In fact I am almost thinking about switching to boltaron with black sheaths.

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Nice resurrection lol...

Anyways, I've made the switch to Boltaron and have the curling issue too, It's from uneven heating (I use a griddle not a toaster oven), or as DTRAP says, rapid heating or too close to the heat source (again with the griddle).

To get even heat on one side I place a 2x4 on top of the piece I'm working on... not the best way, but hey it works.

Critics come criticize I may change my ways!

EDIT:
Note: I do try to get the hotter side of my working piece as close to the manufacturers recommended max temp for molding.
 
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May 12, 2012
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Boltaron does curl a bit but if you are careful heating it it usually isn't too bad. The higher working temperature should be noted, if you try and work this at Kydex temps you are not going to get good definition. I take mine to ~365 degrees. The manufacturer suggests 340-375.
 
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I usually just use what's on the dial and keep it there. 6 minute count down at 280 degrees. I don't check to see what temp it really is. I just keep checking it and when it seems to be playable on one side I spin it around to heat up evenly.
 
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Feb 5, 2010
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I also heat mine to 365. If you let the oven preheat all the way before putting the material in it also helps a bit. I usually don't get the curl unless it gets to hot. But the closer you get to that point the better your mold will be. I have also always preheated my mold foam and knife or pistol as well.
 
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I also heat mine to 365. If you let the oven preheat all the way before putting the material in it also helps a bit. I usually don't get the curl unless it gets to hot. But the closer you get to that point the better your mold will be. I have also always preheated my mold foam and knife or pistol as well.

I've heard both, to heat the oven to temp, and to go incrementally, I've found that (for me) if I start at temp, the Boltaron does a shrinky dink kind of thing. If I go up in steps the material just curls on me. I can only assume that it's because the bottom and top are heating at different rates. I measure the temp of the griddle surface with a non-contact thermometer, how are you guys measuring temps?

When I do my "bending" I leave my foam out in the sun, surface temps usually reach between 120 and 150... Yeah I shoot that non-contact at that too... Heck I shoot everything with it lol...

I should stop with the questions, I feel like we're threadjacking lol
 
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Feb 2, 2012
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i never "cook" the Boltaron or kydex as high as you guys the most i`ll go is 320 with either one...
 
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Feb 5, 2010
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I just set my digital oven to 365. Put my Boltaron on a cookie sheet and pop it in. Give it 6 mins and mold it. I will only use my small toaster oven for small pieces of Boltaron even then it's the same process just have to watch the material more carefully and if it feels ready sooner then I take it out and mold.
 
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Aug 18, 2015
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I just handled a Bolotron Sheath and I'm impressed. The Benchmade Arvensis has a Bolotron Sheath. It feels tougher and seems more substantial when inserting or removing the knife. Looks good and seems to perform great.
 

David Mary

pass the mustard - after you cut it
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Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider
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Boltaron is even easier to work with than Kydex, at least according to my process. Here is how I make Kydex sheaths.

1. preheat pancake griddle to 330ish, which goes faster when it is covered with a lid (I use a flat piece of rectangular scrap wood slightly larger in area than the griddle). I also use a baking sheet so that I never have to spend any time cleaning the griddle, though I do not use the griddle for food, ever.
2. place two pieces of Kydex on the baking sheet, and cover the griddle so the heat is trapped inside and the pieces come up to temp faster than if they were exposed to the outside air (my shop is outdoors and I do this in Canadian winters, so this is kind of helpful in times like that)
3. remove lid, place piece number one on the press, position knife, place piece number two, and press. That's it. After that is drilling and shaping time.

Here's the kicker: Before I decided to try Boltaron, I read this very thread seeking the wisdom of the knife and sheath sages, whether it be a worthy cause. Forearmed with the knowledge that Boltaron requires a higher temp, I took the plunge, and followed my exact process outlined above, with the exception of temperature, which I raised to 365.

I did two sheaths in the same session, and here is what I noticed: The first two pieces, for sheath number one, looked like black lasagna noodles when I lifted my lid. Oh no! Well, it's still floppy, so I better just get this over with and see what happens. I have a four foot piece of the stuff now after all, so mistakes are planned for. After the pieces were pressed and allowed to cool, I noticed no evidence of the curling, and instead was pleasantly surprised by some of the best definition I had ever produced on a sheath. Oh boy! So far, the process is identical in terms of time (the few seconds to raise the griddle from 330 to 365 are negligible, and I use that time to cover the blades for molding), and outcome, if not better for outcome.

Okay, but how is Boltaron to shape? Here is where it blows Kydex out of the water. My supposition is the higher tolerance to heat is the reason for this. Boltaron, when I grind it on my worn coarse zirconia belts, leaves a fine dust in its wake, whereas Kydex wants to melt and create burrs, if that's what you'd call them. So while I am shaping Kydex, before I switch to the fine belt, I have to take the two halves apart and use my trusty modified Spyderco Resilience wharncliffe to deburr the holes, and a large portion of the outer edge of the sheath. Sometimes there is so much melted and rehardened Kydex gunk that I have to cut for a good couple minutes before it is all gone. Only once all this debris is removed will I put the two halves back together with temporary eyelets and refine the edges with the fine belt. With Boltaron, this doesn't happen. Fine dust, no gunk. If I had to make an analogy of sheath material to blade material, in terms of how it feels to work it, I would say Kydex is like annealed steel, and Boltaron is like hardened steel.

So I am firmly in the Boltaron camp now, after only having made two sheaths out of it, and experiencing fantastic results. I still have Kydex in stock, though, and also Boltaron doesn't seem to be available in as many colors, so for the time being at least, Boltaron is going to be reserved for custom orders, and the ones I make and offer are going to get Kydex. In general. But I'll be investing more into Boltaron as time and cash flow allow.

I hope this thread continues to help anyone who may be thinking about taking the plunge to Boltaron, as it did for me.

ETA: Almost two years later (January 2022), and Boltaron has proven itself to be every bit as good as I was hoping for, and is now my primary sheath material, with the only exceptions being when a different color or pattern is needed aside from black.
 
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