I got this one piece hatchet at a garage sale for a few dollars. It was rough, pitted, poorly ground with a lot of tool marks, and the rubber handle was in terrible shape. But I wanted to have some fun with it and see if I could make it into a neat little tool worth keeping around for camping, etc., so I started work. The first thing I did was cut off the old rubber handle and bought some parachute cord to wrap the handle with. Once I got that done I really started to hate the "pleather" sheath it came with, especially since the whole handle had to be inserted through a hole in the sheath before it could be closed up. I didn't necessarily want it to mount to a belt or anything like that, just wanted to cover the blade. So I decided to try my hand at leather work and bought a scrap of leather and experimented. This is the result.
Buy a Piece of Leather Sized for Your Hatchet, Start on Tracing and Shaping/cutting
I bought a piece of leather about 3 times the size I needed from a scrap bin. I didn't want to have to go back if I made a mistake, and I didn't know how much I'd be cutting away since I had no pattern to go by and this was my first time working with leather.
I decided I wanted the sheath to wrap the top of the hatchet with no cuts or separate pieces, and clasp beneath the back side around the handle. I used a sharpie marker on the inside to mark where I would cut with a good rigid pair of titanium scissors.
First I just started getting the general shape of the axe down, allowing about 5/8" extra on the front and bottom to leave plenty of room to stitch. By this time I had decided I wanted to stitch with gutted paracord left over from wrapping the handle, so I knew I'd need a bit more room than if I was using thread. After cutting one side, I wrapped the leather over the axe head, held it tight, and placed it with the other side down so I knew where it would line up. I then marked and cut the second side.
As I got to cutting more away and getting closer to the final shape, I decided I wanted it to clasp with a strap wrapping around the back and bottom. However, I left the entire portion behind the handle because I thought I could make it look a little better with crossing straps than with a single strap. I didn't know how I would have it latch at this point, I was still working out the pattern. It was pretty fun to visualize something I made up as I went along.
Add Snap, Reinforcement
I thought it looked better if I left two straps attached that wrapped around the bottom of the axe head, so I decided I would try to put a hole through the front one and see if a heavy duty snap would close through it. If it didn't work I planned on cutting that part of the leather off and just having the back strap, but I really wanted to have them cross. I didn't take a pic of the punch I used, but I borrowed some kind of belt hole punch that made about a 1/8" hole. This worked for every hole I made except for the through hole in the front strap. For that I just made 3–4 holes and then cut the area between them with scissors. I have a much better pic showing that hole in a later step. As I went on this portion of the project I was still trimming as I felt it needed to look and fit better.
I decided the blade I had could potentially wear through the leather on the top if repeatedly removed and inserted, so I wanted to reinforce it with something a bit stiffer that would protect it and give it shape. I looked at ordering some Kydex such as is used for molding gun holsters, but there is no local source and I didn't want to wait several days for something to ship from an online purchase. So I ended up seeing if a flexible chopping/cutting board would work. It worked really well, but was not at all formable around the axe head when heating, either with a heat gun or by putting it in boiling water. You can see it in the last pic here folded in half. I just ended up having to bend it repeatedly to get it to stay the shape I wanted. Whatever it's made of, it doesn't soften with heat well enough to press it into any shape.
Mark for Stitching, Punch Holes
For this step, I unfolded the sheath and took my makeshift cutting board liner out. I traced along the adge of the blade so I'd have something to measure off of. Since the edge of the leather was 9/16" — 5/8" from the front of the blade, I marked the locations I wanted the holes about 1/4" from where the blade would stop. That way it would always insert easily where the blade tapers down. Since I was using cord to weave/sew the halves together, this would also look decent with the size of the cord.
I punched one half first, then clamped both halves together where they lined up perfectly, and punched through the existing hole to the other half. I then inserted my protector that I had made, and clamped it together again and punched holes through that as well so all layers lined up for assembly.
First I ran the paracord through a few of the holes and pulled it tight as a test so I could insert the hatchet and make sure everything lined up, and that it wouldn't be too tight to insert and remove easily.
Then I decided on a pattern and kept it simple. Since I gutted the paracord so it would fit through the relatively small holes from the punch I had, I just laid them flat over each other, alternating similarly to how you'd tie a shoe. I stopped when I got to the bottom, where if I had gone any further stitching both sides together, it would prevent the axe from fitting. I hadn't decided how to finish it out until the last minute. I was thinking I'd glue the leather to the cutting board material, until I thought why do that when I can just finish out the pattern with cord and separate the two sides?
I loosened the last few loops before the corner so I could separate the sides enough to get the punch in for a few more holes. Then I just looped the cords through the remaining holes and tied them off. With two thicknesses of the gutted cord through a 1/8" hole, the tension of that alone is probably enough to keep it from working out, but I tied it at the leather anyway. I left a bit hanging where I cut it off with heat, just in case I ever wanted to unwind it.
Enjoy Your New Hatchet Sheath!
To be honest there is no way in the world this was worth the time and money, but I had fun doing something I had never done before. The hatchet itself cost me about $3. I have $3.25 into a scrap of leather, about $5 into the paracord.
I have had to use an oscillating sander with 40 grit paper in order to work most of the grinder marks out of it in hopes of polishing it up. I've got it to 120 grit now and it still has marks I'd like to get out.