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Kydex over Leather

Feb 9, 1999
So whats the deal with Kydex vrs traditonal leather sheaths? Have a friend(leathersmith) who says they are a waste of money..Uncomfortable, non- forgiving, generic looking plastic!! Wear out belts,heavier?... I told him I would ask the forumites
They will know!!Does Kydex win out over good old leather or is it the sheath of the "NEW MILLENIUM" ?
I have a fixed blade with a leather sheath and one with a kydex/nylon sheath. Personally, I like the leather sheath. It's more attractive and less noisy. Still, I think it is also a matter of function in a given environment. Leather will rot in a constant moist environment. I can see how someone in the jungle or the Pacific Northwest may not want a leather sheath. On the other hand, if I were to carry a fixed blade concealed in the big city and want a number of carry options, the kydex multicarry system would win over the aesthetics of the leather.

Take what I say with a grain of salt since I don't carry or use my fixed blades anywhere near what I do with folders.

Your friend is basically right, there is nothing wrong with leather but a well made kydex sheath can decrease the bulk of your system (Spydie Moran for example)and add different ways of carrying your knife. Some kydex is garbage as is leather. The kydex sheath for my Vaquero Grande is nothing more that a piece of plastic with a fancy name. Also a kydex sheath can scratch up your blade due to its tight configurations.

It depends on what you want to do. If you do go for kydex get a good system from a place like Edgeworks.

I like my kydex sheaths but I usually give my leather ones the nod. Call me old fashion.



Aesthetically, Kydex sucks.
But for multi carry options it is superior, as has been mentioned.
One other important Kydex advantage is that you can store your blade in it....leather absorbs moisture and has "acids" due to tanning....not good for long term blade storage
Kydex can allow a faster draw by retaining the blade (or gun) without anything to "manually unsnap first". It can also allow unconventional carries like upside-down or "out the side", and a wider array of tie-down options. The Outsider's sheath took this to a real radical level, see the thread "Kydex Concepts for Big Choppers" in Shop Talk.

I designed a horizontal-carry leather sheath for my AlMar megafolders that uses a single loop of bungee cord at the lip to give "Kydex-like" retention properties to a leather sheath. It's just a "straight pull draw" with no unsnaps but it's secure and held through two motorcycle wipeouts so far

That said, I'm a fan of "leather over kydex" mixed construction. If I ever get a really nice SA revolver built like I want to, I'd be inclined to do a Kydex crossdraw rig and then wrap that in hand-tooled "old west look" leather. It would *look* like an old west fastdraw rig but the Kydex retention should hold through more "tactical use" all the way up to crashing a friggin' bike. (Then wrap *that* in a "classic hippie type fanny pack lookin' thing" that can drop off with a yank.)

I wrapped a Mad Dog slip sheath in glove leather, added a tastefull concho and set it up open-carry horizontal. Came out pretty good.

Jim March
Great -- an opportunity! The last time this came up I said it was the last time I was going to write another post on the issue -- from now on I'm just reposting the last rant.

Arghhhhhhhhhhhh! This canard has come up once too often -- *this* time I'm saving this rant and in the future I'll post it at every opportunity and won't have to keep writing it over.


Leather naturally absorbs some of the oil you put on your knife or gun and helps prevent rust. Your knife is safer from rust in a leather sheath than anywhere else.

Some companies buy the cheapest leather they can get to make sheaths. A few years ago some imported leather appeared on the market that had not had all the tannic acid rinsed out of it at the end of the tanning process. *THAT* LEATHER CAUSES RUST. When manufacturers became aware of the problem, some of them stopped using the improperly tanned leather -- but others didn't want to pay for leather that had been properly tanned. They found a cheaper solution: use the shoddy leather and tell their customers "Leather causes rust."

If you suspect you may have a sheath made of that leather, rinse it in water for a couple of hours and then (after it's dry) apply whatever leather dressing you like.

I have a knife I bought in 1973 and kept in the leather sheath ever since. I stored it in the sheath for years at a time without even taking it out to use it. It's not stainless steel and it never rusted. If any manufacturer tells you leather causes rust don't believe ANYTHING that manufacturer tells you.
There should be a special place in hell reserved for those crooks -- where they have to wear clothes impregnated with acid, and if they complain the devil tells them, "Clothes burn skin."

-Cougar Allen :{)
I don't

I've had 3 knives rust while in leather. It should be pointed out that none were in the house (which is typically much less humid than ambient. One in the truck, 2 in the barn, and no the barn doesn't leak.
Also...There are some leather sheaths that show remarkable craftsmanship such as a Reeve sheath for the large Sebenza. Actually it's made by GFELLER Case makers. On of the best made sheaths I have ever seen. Also a Case Copperlock sheath is another thing of beauty, as is the Buck master series sheaths. Though I like the practical aspects of Kydex there is something about a well made leather sheath that makes me want to use it over kydex.


DC, it sounds like you might have some sheaths that never got all the tannic acid rinsed out of them. Do it, and then give them a good soak in mineral oil (or your toxin of choice).

BTW, I remembered a better example than that knife I bought in 1973 -- my father was given a knife when he was in Boy Scouts in the early 1940s. He didn't like it and seldom used it; it hung from a nail in his garage workshop for decades, seldom removed from the sheath and I doubt he ever oiled it ... maybe once every five or six years. It was still shiny the last time I saw it.

Of course that cheap acid leather wasn't available back then -- that's a recent phenomenon.

I just got a million-dollar idea! I've discovered a cheaper way to make auto paint and I'm going to make a fortune selling it to the car manufacturers! Of course the reason it's cheaper is it's full of acid, but that's no problem. If the suckers complain the car makers can just tell them, "Paint causes rust."

-Cougar Allen :{)

P.S. I just got a better computer and now I can really see the pic on Rob Simonich's website of that knife he made for you. WOW! Don't put that one in a sheath full of tannic acid!

-Cougar :{)
Funny, I was thinking about the same thing this weekend. My solution to the dilemna was to start making both types for my knives. This weekend I made a leather sheath for my 7" camper. So far I like it better than the kydex. I think the reason most makers now use kydex is cost, ease of construction, and durability. Here in desert Idaho leather works great but humidity, salt water, or chemicals all take their toll on leather. If my knife was the only one I had for survival or I was jumping out of planes with it strapped to my leg I would definately opt for kydex. The other question that begs to be asked in tune with this thread... Are wooden handles superior to composites? I would guess most people prefer the composites for heavy duty use and wooden for light use or display knives.
I prefer leather over kydex for most of the reasons that I read above, but then I may be biased as I have a penchant for making leather sheaths, not a full time job, but one that seems to be growing. The Kydex has greater memory than the leather but there trade offs as with most things. Each sheath I make I try to make special, not the same thing unless I'm asked, it's nice seeing others wear what you create and leather is a good medium for expressing yourself.

but then, like I said, I'm biased...
my .02....

When a fellow says, "it ain't the money but the principle of the thing,"
it's the money.
F. McKinney Hubbard


Composites are much superior in terms of durability and can have equal ergonomics. I would much rather have a strong synthetic like the MD handles than a wooden one.