Birch Bark Knife Sheath

Learn how you can make a slick, quick, and traditional Scandinavian sheath for anything, knife, scissors, or chisel, crafted from white birch.

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Illustration by Luke Boushee

The bark of white birch is the traditional sheath material of Scandinavia. The method described in this chapter is a slick way to make a quickie sheath for anything: knife, scissors, chisel, or what-have-you. These creations are a little addictive; once you make one, you’ll find yourself looking for other things that could use a sheath. The pieces of bark needed are relatively small; just keep your eyes open for downed white birch trees, pieces of bark on the ground, or bark on wood in firewood piles. Alternatively, you could use thin cardboard (cereal boxes work well).

Stuff You’ll Need

  • A piece of birch bark four times the length of your knife blade and 3/8 inch wider
  • A 1/4-inch-thick strip of the longest piece of birch bark you have (a 1-1/4 by 4-inch sheath takes about 26 inches of weaver strip), or two shorter pieces
  • Vegetable oil (optional)
  • A board or a piece of cardboard to use as a cutting surface A knife to be sheathed and used
  • Scissors (optional but handy)
  • A screwdriver or a stick with a flattened end (optional)

How to Do It

  1. Make sure your birch bark is flexible enough to bend without cracking. You can take off a few layers to make it thinner if need be. Conditioning the bark strips by rubbing a little vegetable oil into them with a rag can make them more flexible and leather-like. Fold the wider strip in half and crease it on the fold. Then open up the strip and fold each end in to the creased middle line. Crease the folds.
  2. Open it all back up, and with your knife, carefully make a slit down the middle of the middle two sections, keeping 1/8 inch back from the end creases. Alternatively, flip out the inner folded pieces and keep the long piece folded in half, then, using scissors, cut both layers from the middle fold down to 1/8 inch before the next crease.
  3. Fold the ends back into the middle and then fold the whole thing in half.
  4. Slip the end of the 1/4-inch weaver strip under the slit at the end of the sheath that is by the center fold.
  5. Fold the weaver strip around to the back and over the top of the first side of the folded piece, then put it through the slit and under the second side of the folded piece, bringing it back around to the front.
  6. As the weaver strip comes around to the front on a slight downward angle, it goes over the right side of the folded piece, through the slit, then under the left side of the folded piece and around to the back again, slipping under the first side through the slit and over the second side.
  7. Continue in this manner, keeping to the under-over pattern on the front and back. Sometimes you’ll be going over and over again or under and under again as you go from the front of the sheath to the back, but the under-over pattern as you are looking at the front and back is what matters (see the illustration).
  8. Stop once in a while to tighten up the weave by pushing up on the cross pieces, making them as tight against each other as possible. If you run out of weaver strip, tuck the end under the slit and overlap a couple inches with a new piece of weaver before continuing on.
  9. At the end, push everything up tight, fold it around the edge, and trim off the weaver, leaving just enough to slip it in the last slot on the side. If everything is super tight, a screwdriver or a stick with the end flattened can help open the space to stick the end of the weaver into.
  10. Slide the sheath over your blade and make another, because now you’re hooked!

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From The Young Adventurer’s Guide to (Almost) Everything by Ben and Penny Hewitt © 2019 by Ben Hewitt. Illustrations © 2019 by Luke Boushee. Reprinted in arrangement with Roost Books, an imprint of Shambhala Publications, Inc.