Kit: Scabbards

Types of Scabbard

Scabbards were generally made in three layers. A pair of wooden laths were shaped and placed together to make a solid housing for the sword, which was lined with sheepskin and the outside covered with leather or linen. You can also make a scabbard using only the sheepskin lining and a leather outer, as this is not only easier but will also not bruise your leg if it gets thwacked by your opponent's sword. The photos below show three types of scabbard (click on the thumbnails to enlarge). On the left is Felix's Paul Binns scabbard (sheepskin + wood + linen). It is decorated with tooled leather and metal crosses. The close-up second from left shows the leather topmount and strapping arrangement. The central picture shows Cai's scabbard in construction, with the laths and stitchwork visible. The two photos on the right show Freya's scabbard, which doesn't have laths but does have a cast bronze chape. Note the different strapping arrangement from Felix's scabbard - this is simply a way of making the scabbard detachable from the sword belt.


Making a scabbard with no wooden laths

These instructions are for making a sheepskin-lined leather scabbard with no wooden laths. They assume you know the things covered in Leather work.


What you need

  • Curved awl (sharpened)
  • Stitch marker
  • Craft knife
  • Linen thread (4-5 times the length of your sword blade)
  • Two leather needles
  • Sheepskin
  • Leather (approx. 3mm is tough but workable).
  • Metal scabbard fittings if you want them.
  • 2 or 3 thongs or lengths of string
  • Beeswax


1) The schematic above shows the piece of leather that you need: a long, thin trapezium. You will need three measurements to cut the piece: the length of the scabbard (L), the circumference of the scabbard at the top end (W1) and the circumference at the bottom (W2). L is simply the length of your blade from the lower guard to the tip, plus 3-4 cm. W1 and W2 can be obtained by either a) looping a measuring tape around your blade at either end, leaving it loose to allow for a 1cm distance from the tape to the blade all around, or b) wrapping a piece of trimmed-down sheepskin (see below) around the blade and measuring the total top and bottom circumference with a tape measure. The resulting piece of leather should wrap around your sword with the edges of the leather butting together up the centre of the blade.

2) The above instructions are for a scabbard to fit a sword with a straight lower guard, but the shape is easily modified to account for a curved guard.

3) Cut a piece of sheepskin to match the leather. Trim the fluff down to approx. 5mm in length and glue the skin side of the fleece to the flesh side of your leather.

4) Now check again that your leather is the correct size and shape by using two or three thongs to wrap it around your blade. Trim any excesss leather, ensuring that you maintain a straight centre join down the length of the blade and that the tip is covered. n.b. Make sure your scabbard isn't so tight that it prevents you drawing the sword easily! If you have a curved lower guard, check the fit and trim if necessary. These directions assume that you will not be cutting the leather again from this point.

5) Mark stitches approx. 4 mm from the long edges of the leather, on the grain side, making sure that both sides match up squarely when the edges meet. If you are confident that your stitches will match and your edges are straight, use the awl to make grain-edge holes. Otherwise, make the first 8-12 holes, starting at the top end of the scabbard and do the rest as you go along, in groups of 8-12.

6) Using the thongs to keep the leather rolled into a tube, join the edges into a butted seam using a two-needle saddle stitch through the grain-edge holes. (See diagram of a butted seam using this stitch at the bottom of this table, courtesy of Marc Carlson). Wax each length of thread and the needles before starting to sew.

7) You will end up with a rather tubular scabbard. To flatten it, dampen the outside of the leather with cold water using a cloth (don't soak it through) and use clamps to fix it between two lengths of wood.

8) Once it's dry and flat, you can add your scabbard fittings (or just sew up the bottom end).

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