Please Sign In

Please enter a valid username and password
  • Log in with Facebook
» Not a member? Take a moment to register
» Forgot Username or Password

Why Register?
Signing up could earn you gear (click here to learn how)! It also keeps offensive content off our site.

Treestump Leather: Great Sheaths for Any Knife

Recent Comments

Categories

Recent Posts

Archives

Syndicate

Google Reader or Homepage
Add to My Yahoo!
Add to My AOL

The Gun Nuts
in your Inbox

Enter your email address to get our new post everyday.

July 09, 2013

Treestump Leather: Great Sheaths for Any Knife

By David E. Petzal

Chris Kravitt is the man behind Treestump Leather in Waltham, Maine. He turns out knife sheaths, holsters, belts, and damned near anything that can be made from the hides of dead cattle, birds, and reptiles. I met him in 1992, and over the years since I’ve ordered probably 50 sheaths. This is because many factory knifemakers look at the sheath as a good place to save money and little else, and because many custom smiths detest leatherwork and will throw something together just to get a knife out the door. So it follows as night follows day that I’ve owned a lot of very good knives with sheaths that have made the run from Wretched to Laughable with stops at Useless and Pathetic along the way.

A couple of years ago I decided to stop spending my adult-diaper and pablum money on sheaths and make my own. How difficult could it be to fashion something that simple?  I bought some 9-ounce leather that had once belonged to a bull, needles, punches, waxed thread, an edger, dye, and found a shoemaker who agreed to let me use his buffing wheel.

After a dozen sheaths or so, I had the answer to the difficulty question. If, like me, you have no skill with your hands you can still make a serviceable, simple sheath. I could produce one that would hold the knife securely, not let the blade punch through, and did not cause people who saw it to say, “Was the guy who made that drunk at the time?”

But my sheaths were far from professional. The straight lines were not quite straight. The curves went at odd and eccentric tangents. The stitching was never even. The stain was piebald. There were pockmarks in the welt. I was not happy.

So I went back to Chris Kravitt. Mr. Kravitt, formerly a 60s hippy  (VW Microbus and all), has been a sheath and holster maker since the early 1970s. He long ago figured out how to work leather and is very, very good with his hands. Chris can make you a dead-plain working sheath for $50 or so, or he can make you one so fancy that it will require insurance. He can do tooling, carving, contrasting dye work, and exotic-leather inlays. A number of custom cutlers who turn out art knives for thousands of dollars have him make their sheaths.

Recently, he was nice enough to let me watch over his shoulder as he made a sheath for a fighting knife I bought (for reasons that are still unclear) that “crude” does not begin to describe, but which takes a terrific edge and can’t be made to look any worse than it already does.

Watching Chris work (the entire job took about 3 ½ hours, including time to let the leather dry after dying), I saw that he was not doing anything that I hadn’t, but he did it with infinitely more skill and much faster. He cut everything freehand, but his straight lines were dead straight and his curves were symmetrical. The sheath parts, six of them altogether, looked like they had been stamped with a die. Everything matched. When he glued the pieces together prior to stitching there were no blobs of glue. The dye job was perfectly even. The welt (the edge of the sheath) looked like one piece of leather. And he did this while carrying on a conversation with me.

When I asked him how he was able to do this voodoo, he said “I’ve been at it for 40 years.” And he has had help along the way. For example, Chris learned how to hand-stitch leather (he uses two sewing machines for most of his work, though) from a Scots harness maker who showed him the way and gave him the tools.


This sheath was made for Paul Jarvis' award winning Persian short sword.

Although the ultra-fancy stuff is what he really enjoys, Chris will make a sheath for almost anything, including horrible old junker knives whose owners can’t bear to part with them. His favorite in this category is a hunting knife that was used to cut a newborn girl’s umbilical cord. Years later, the father involved got a new sheath, gave the knife to the daughter whose cord it had severed, and who now uses it when she hunts.

At the other end of the scale are knives that will never cut anything, but are works of art with sharp edges. They are engraved, inlaid, bejeweled, and can cost in the $100,000 range. Chris will make an appropriate sheath for one of them.

You may not have such a masterpiece of the cutler’s art, but if you have a knife whose sheath is crummy and/or worn out, go to Treestumpleather.com and see what Chris can do for you.

 

Comments (20)

Top Rated
All Comments
from Ontario Honker ... wrote 40 weeks 2 days ago

Thanks for this info, David. My dad's old Ka-bar hunting knife was stolen out of the pickup when I was elk hunting on his 60th birthday many years ago. That was a lovely knife and I always wanted another. A few years back I found one on e-Bay and though slightly older than Dad's (no finger grooves)I bought it. No sheath though. I made the sheath for my Old Timer work but it's almost as crappy as the knife made for it. Your descriptions of factory junk made me think you must have seen that POC. I'm going to give Treestump some business.

Too bad I didn't read this story a few months ago. I was my daughter's birthing partner when my grandson was born and they asked me if I wanted to cut the umbilical cord and I declined, not because I was squeamish, but I just didn't feel anything symbolic and was happier being the first to hold my grandson (daughter had some post-birthing issues) which was plenty enough symbolism I guess. If I'd thought about it before hand I would have brought that old Ka-bar knife along for the occasion. I guess when Parker is old enough I can tell him about how dumb old granddad wasn't swift enough to think ahead before driving to hospital and then give him the knife anyway.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from derik wrote 40 weeks 2 days ago

Chris is a very interesting fellow and a nice guy, met him a time or two at shows and club meetings.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from RPeterson wrote 40 weeks 2 days ago

On Mr Petzal's recommendation from an earlier article, I gave Chris from Treestump Leather a shot for a replacement sheath on my Helle Futura knife (Helle makes a great knife but I never liked their sheaths). The sheath Chris made for my knife is one of the most beautiful things I own. I am expecting my new Traditional Hunter knife from Diamondblade any day now and as soon as it arrives it will be going straight now to Chris for another sheath.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Tim Platt wrote 40 weeks 2 days ago

Dave I want the best Damascus blade in the world, and you are probably the only person with whom I can communicate that could point me in the right direction. $500 limit for the blade but I could throw in half that much for the handle.

Hook me up and I will buy your sheath Chris Kravitt. Didn't you live next to Samantha Stevens on "Bewitched"?? If so we need to have a long talk.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Jim in Mo wrote 40 weeks 2 days ago

Dave some time ago you wrote about Kellam knives. I bought one and love it. I may get a sheath made for it since the one it came with was.., ok.
By chance do you know the price of that sheath pictured first with a gorgeous knife with an approx. 3in. blade?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from buckhunter wrote 40 weeks 2 days ago

Would love to send him a deer hide from a deer I have shot and have him fashion a back quiver.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from chuckles wrote 40 weeks 2 days ago

I recently bought two rifle slings from Murray Custom Leather based on your recommendation and they are everything you said they would be. Perhaps a sheath or two is in my future as well. Thank you for bringing quality products to us!
I was not able to post on your article about Fanaticism. I must have angered the Cyber-lord somehow but that was a fantastically written piece. Many thanks for that as well.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Old Stinky wrote 40 weeks 2 days ago

Very pretty.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from John Buck 41 wrote 40 weeks 2 days ago

I too have met Chris at gun shows in Bangor and Augusta. He does very nice work.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Carl Huber wrote 40 weeks 2 days ago

Very nice work. All I would change is the choice of leather. I have made several knife,belts and tool sheaths over the years. If horse hide is used the product is impervious to weather and will not loose shape or stretch over decades.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Carl Huber wrote 40 weeks 2 days ago

PS; My children bought me an elephant skin wallet for Fathers day from www.bullhidebelts.com The are completely legal to own and come with a 3 year warranty. I owned one in the 70's. It lasted 15 years of hard use.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from davidpetzal wrote 40 weeks 1 day ago

To Tim Platt: First, a question. Do you want a Damascus blade for looks or for using? If it's for using, be aware that Damascus works no better than homogeneous steel. It is, however, much prettier. Let me know.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from SMC1986 wrote 40 weeks 1 day ago

Mr. Petzal,
Those are some excellent looking sheaths but it appears my newest addition will come with one. I recently got my sketches from Mr. Coombs who you wrote about previously. They look like just the ticket and I will hopefully have my knife this fall. I'll let you know how it turns out.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from davidpetzal wrote 40 weeks 1 day ago

TO SMC1986: Lamar Coombs' sheaths are the bees' knees. He's making a knife for me as well. We can swap photos.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from wallofsam wrote 40 weeks 1 day ago

Wow the quality and craftsmanship both look incredible. I too often wondered why when you buy a quality blade, it often comes with some cheap@ss leather sheath. Nice article Mr. Petzal

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Treestand wrote 40 weeks 20 hours ago

Their all very nice...I have a PUMA PAL from 1960 in the same case that sets on my belt and in my back pocket. I'm not one that shows off my knife/case its a tool. Buy good one time it last for a life time.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from MReeder wrote 40 weeks 9 hours ago

DEP,
Thanks for the tip. I've been saving up my nickles to buy a western holster or holster rig for a Heritage .22 SA revolver I bought last Christmas at a ridiculous discount. I had been eyeing the Ruger rig, but now I'm thinking about buying from Chris. Price isn't all that different considering what you get. I like the shotshell slide on his website, too. Wonder if he also makes one for rifle cartridges?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Tim Platt wrote 40 weeks 9 hours ago

I want the knife mainly for looks, but I would like to be able to field dress three to five deer a year. It would not see much use at all, just enough to gut a deer so I can drag it to the truck.

I just love the looks of Damascus steel, so it will find a place on my mantle close to my sorry assortment of antlers most of the year.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from davidpetzal wrote 39 weeks 6 days ago

To Tim Platt: Fair enough. I'll give you three smiths whose work I have seen in person and can vouch for. First is Lamont Coombs, who does not forge his own damascus, but buys from people whose work he respects.

Second is Jim Siska in Westfield, MA, who makes knives as a sideline. He has a very distinctive, conservative style, good, practical designs, and the finest eye for line of anyone since Bo Randall. Exquisite work. siskaknives@comcast.net.

Third is Herb Derr in St. Albans WV. His knives tend to be on the showy side, although I've seen some conservative work from him recently. Excellent, practical designs, terrific sheaths, and fine work all around. As near as I can tell he does not have an e-mail address or a website, but his telephone number is 304-727-3866.

You can't go wrong with any of them.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Tim Platt wrote 36 weeks 4 days ago

Placed my order today! Thanks Dave...

0 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment

from Ontario Honker ... wrote 40 weeks 2 days ago

Thanks for this info, David. My dad's old Ka-bar hunting knife was stolen out of the pickup when I was elk hunting on his 60th birthday many years ago. That was a lovely knife and I always wanted another. A few years back I found one on e-Bay and though slightly older than Dad's (no finger grooves)I bought it. No sheath though. I made the sheath for my Old Timer work but it's almost as crappy as the knife made for it. Your descriptions of factory junk made me think you must have seen that POC. I'm going to give Treestump some business.

Too bad I didn't read this story a few months ago. I was my daughter's birthing partner when my grandson was born and they asked me if I wanted to cut the umbilical cord and I declined, not because I was squeamish, but I just didn't feel anything symbolic and was happier being the first to hold my grandson (daughter had some post-birthing issues) which was plenty enough symbolism I guess. If I'd thought about it before hand I would have brought that old Ka-bar knife along for the occasion. I guess when Parker is old enough I can tell him about how dumb old granddad wasn't swift enough to think ahead before driving to hospital and then give him the knife anyway.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from derik wrote 40 weeks 2 days ago

Chris is a very interesting fellow and a nice guy, met him a time or two at shows and club meetings.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from RPeterson wrote 40 weeks 2 days ago

On Mr Petzal's recommendation from an earlier article, I gave Chris from Treestump Leather a shot for a replacement sheath on my Helle Futura knife (Helle makes a great knife but I never liked their sheaths). The sheath Chris made for my knife is one of the most beautiful things I own. I am expecting my new Traditional Hunter knife from Diamondblade any day now and as soon as it arrives it will be going straight now to Chris for another sheath.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Tim Platt wrote 40 weeks 2 days ago

Dave I want the best Damascus blade in the world, and you are probably the only person with whom I can communicate that could point me in the right direction. $500 limit for the blade but I could throw in half that much for the handle.

Hook me up and I will buy your sheath Chris Kravitt. Didn't you live next to Samantha Stevens on "Bewitched"?? If so we need to have a long talk.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Jim in Mo wrote 40 weeks 2 days ago

Dave some time ago you wrote about Kellam knives. I bought one and love it. I may get a sheath made for it since the one it came with was.., ok.
By chance do you know the price of that sheath pictured first with a gorgeous knife with an approx. 3in. blade?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from buckhunter wrote 40 weeks 2 days ago

Would love to send him a deer hide from a deer I have shot and have him fashion a back quiver.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from chuckles wrote 40 weeks 2 days ago

I recently bought two rifle slings from Murray Custom Leather based on your recommendation and they are everything you said they would be. Perhaps a sheath or two is in my future as well. Thank you for bringing quality products to us!
I was not able to post on your article about Fanaticism. I must have angered the Cyber-lord somehow but that was a fantastically written piece. Many thanks for that as well.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Old Stinky wrote 40 weeks 2 days ago

Very pretty.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from John Buck 41 wrote 40 weeks 2 days ago

I too have met Chris at gun shows in Bangor and Augusta. He does very nice work.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Carl Huber wrote 40 weeks 2 days ago

Very nice work. All I would change is the choice of leather. I have made several knife,belts and tool sheaths over the years. If horse hide is used the product is impervious to weather and will not loose shape or stretch over decades.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Carl Huber wrote 40 weeks 2 days ago

PS; My children bought me an elephant skin wallet for Fathers day from www.bullhidebelts.com The are completely legal to own and come with a 3 year warranty. I owned one in the 70's. It lasted 15 years of hard use.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from davidpetzal wrote 40 weeks 1 day ago

To Tim Platt: First, a question. Do you want a Damascus blade for looks or for using? If it's for using, be aware that Damascus works no better than homogeneous steel. It is, however, much prettier. Let me know.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from SMC1986 wrote 40 weeks 1 day ago

Mr. Petzal,
Those are some excellent looking sheaths but it appears my newest addition will come with one. I recently got my sketches from Mr. Coombs who you wrote about previously. They look like just the ticket and I will hopefully have my knife this fall. I'll let you know how it turns out.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from davidpetzal wrote 40 weeks 1 day ago

TO SMC1986: Lamar Coombs' sheaths are the bees' knees. He's making a knife for me as well. We can swap photos.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from wallofsam wrote 40 weeks 1 day ago

Wow the quality and craftsmanship both look incredible. I too often wondered why when you buy a quality blade, it often comes with some cheap@ss leather sheath. Nice article Mr. Petzal

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Treestand wrote 40 weeks 20 hours ago

Their all very nice...I have a PUMA PAL from 1960 in the same case that sets on my belt and in my back pocket. I'm not one that shows off my knife/case its a tool. Buy good one time it last for a life time.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from MReeder wrote 40 weeks 9 hours ago

DEP,
Thanks for the tip. I've been saving up my nickles to buy a western holster or holster rig for a Heritage .22 SA revolver I bought last Christmas at a ridiculous discount. I had been eyeing the Ruger rig, but now I'm thinking about buying from Chris. Price isn't all that different considering what you get. I like the shotshell slide on his website, too. Wonder if he also makes one for rifle cartridges?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Tim Platt wrote 40 weeks 9 hours ago

I want the knife mainly for looks, but I would like to be able to field dress three to five deer a year. It would not see much use at all, just enough to gut a deer so I can drag it to the truck.

I just love the looks of Damascus steel, so it will find a place on my mantle close to my sorry assortment of antlers most of the year.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from davidpetzal wrote 39 weeks 6 days ago

To Tim Platt: Fair enough. I'll give you three smiths whose work I have seen in person and can vouch for. First is Lamont Coombs, who does not forge his own damascus, but buys from people whose work he respects.

Second is Jim Siska in Westfield, MA, who makes knives as a sideline. He has a very distinctive, conservative style, good, practical designs, and the finest eye for line of anyone since Bo Randall. Exquisite work. siskaknives@comcast.net.

Third is Herb Derr in St. Albans WV. His knives tend to be on the showy side, although I've seen some conservative work from him recently. Excellent, practical designs, terrific sheaths, and fine work all around. As near as I can tell he does not have an e-mail address or a website, but his telephone number is 304-727-3866.

You can't go wrong with any of them.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Tim Platt wrote 36 weeks 4 days ago

Placed my order today! Thanks Dave...

0 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment