Often overlooked by even very skilled Knifemakers, is the influence that a poorly designed knife sheath can have, a factor that often renders a good knife useless. This is why I consider the knife sheath a critical element of the combative knife, as important as the ergonomics or even the blade design.
The Knife Sheath has to perform one of the most important functions of the knife – namely make it safe to carry for the user. It protects the blade itself from unnecessary damage, but also protects the user from the edge and point. Therefore the material which the knife sheath is constructed from has to be durable enough to prevent the knife from cutting or piercing through.
But when it comes to a combative knife, the sheath plays some other important roles too. It needs to be comfortable to wear daily, and not become a hinderance to the user. This is even more important if the knife is to be worn concealed beneath clothing. This is ideally how any knife should be carried, but it is not legal in certain parts of the world. Even so, you want your knife sheath to be able to sit comfortably on your body, whether standing or sitting, and not print too much through your clothing.
Another consideration to keep in mind is the accessing. Because these are combative knives accessing them quickly and efficiently becomes a critical factor that can make or break the design. If you can’t get to the knife when you need it, it doesn’t matter how great it is. The design of the sheath can influence this in two ways, being efficient enough that it doesn’t snag or hook clothing during accessing from concealment, and its retention.
Retention is a two way street when it comes to a Combative Knife. You need enough retention that your knife doesn’t fall out, even during a serious scuffle. If you move with a fear that your blade is going to take a trip across the floor, then its a problem. At the same time, the retention should be lax enough that you can easily access the blade with one hand and without any struggle. Your draw should not be affected and should still be silky smooth. The retention can be influenced by the design of the knife itself – sharp corners and edges can make this difficult – especially when the sheath is still new and hasn’t bedded in yet.
So with all this in mind, for me personally there is only one choice when it comes to materials. While leather has been used for centuries, it takes both a lot of time and skill to produce a quality leather sheath, and even then it could have undesirable attributes. Kydex is the modern and probably the best way forward when it comes to a combative EDC knife. It’s quick and easy to use, and offers a multitude of mounting options – while its not the prettiest material in the world, it makes up for that in durability and versatility.
I consider myself first and foremost a Knifemaker. Sheath making to me is an art all of its own which is why I have taken the decision to outsource the sheath making process to a person I consider a master and an expert in the field of holsters and sheaths. I can’t recommend the work of Geoff Carter of Carter Kustom Carry Solutions enough – those who own an Ironside Edge Works knife almost always comment on the quality of the sheath. This is what I want – a blade that inspires confidence, and a sheath that carries it.