Jay Fisher - World Class Knifemaker
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Please Note: I make these sheaths only for my own knives. I can't make one for a factory knife or other makers' knife.
...the locking sheath is brilliant, and I can't imagine a blade without one!
Years ago (1995), some of my military clients (USAF Pararescue, our nation's top military rescue service) asked me if I could make a true combat grade locking sheath, one that would hold up to the rigors of real combat, something that they could trust to have their knife ready at the instant, yet secure the knife and protect the wearer during the high energy activity of combat, tactical, and rescue operations. They requested that the sheath be bulletproof, that is, as tough as I could make it without extra weight.
The knife sheath has always been the most neglected part of this modern tradecraft and art, yet in the fully functional combat knife is, in many ways, the most important. No matter how the knife is designed, crafted, and suited to tactical or combat use, if it can't be reliably carried in a functional, dependable, and durable knife sheath, it is useless. I've always believed that a tactical knife sheath is not merely something that looks stylishly tactical, in camo print nylon, or kydex secured with weak eyelets, but this is mostly all that is available from factories, manufacturers, and sadly, modern knife makers. Simply put, there is a critical, modern need for a good knife sheath commensurate with the quality and intended purpose of the knife.
So I worked and experimented, tried various options, tuned, and created, and came up with what clearly is the most durable, reliable, and best tactical combat knife sheath made, suitable for combat and rescue operations in the desert, on the open ocean, and anywhere the need arises. You can see more of these sheaths on the various tactical knife pages of my site available through Military and Tactical Knives Portal Page.
Just got the knife today. WOW!!! The pics you sent me did NO justice to the knife at all. This is BY FAR the nicest knife I have ever owned! I was also pleasantly surprised by how nice the sheath came out. For the last few months I have been second guessing my decision for the locking sheath. Now I am glad I went in that direction. The pics I have seen of that sheath do not show how sturdy and well built that thing really is. I think you may need to show a side profile of that in one of the pics. That large slab of aluminum will show people its more than just kydex bolted together. I think your description says how it is built – but I didn’t understand till I actually saw it in person!
Anyways, thank you for a GREAT knife! I will look forward to enjoying it for many years! Also, I'm already planning my next one. You can be sure that I will be showing it off to all my friends and letting them know about you and the quality of your work! (most already know as I've been talking about these knives for quite a while – but I think they will be astonished when they see they experience your work first hand).
My military grade combat locking sheath is made of more than 40 components, all hand-fitted to the individual custom combat, tactical, or rescue knife. The sheath is matched to the knife and no other knives can be used in the sheath. The sides of the sheath are made of two layers of .060" or a single layer of .125" thick Kydex® thermoforming plastic (methylacrilate and polyvinylchloride), which is hot-formed and molded to the knife bolsters and handle. The welts (or frame members) of the sheath are made of two layers of .125" thick milled and dressed 5052H32 corrosion resistant high strength aluminum alloy bolted together with blued steel, nickel plated steel, or stainless steel Chicago screws with a .250" shank. There may be one wide or several narrow belt loops, a reversible horizontal-vertical belt loop plate, or tension fit flat straps of bead blasted and die-formed 5052H32 corrosion resistant high strength aluminum, secured with Chicago screws. The belt loops can be made variable, reversible from front to back or even adjustable for horizontal or vertical carry. See the thumbnail photos on this page. The locking mechanism is all stainless steel, the parts are 304, 316, and 302 stainless steel, even the spring is stainless steel and the fasteners are 18-8 (304) stainless steel. This is a very durable and highly corrosion resistant sheath!
Every now and then, I get a letter that moves me. It is one of the reasons I'm so hard on factories and other knife makers about their work. It disturbs me greatly to know that our men and women are not carrying the best knives into battle that this country is capable of producing. Here's one of those letters and my response.
I'm currently deployed to Iraq and found that a back up is a must have. I work in closely with the local population and my weapon at time's cannot be used due to distance or situation. I have a Fainbrain-Applegate full size fighting knife now. I read your web page and you seem to know what's going on with knives and sheaths. The problem I have is I don’t have the proper sheath. I need a combat locking sheath like in your pictures, so I can access my knife in a split second. The best and most concealed place while in IBA is the small of my back. Mounting the knife horizontal on my belt seems the best. If you have any ideas on what to do or a different path to take please let me know.
Ali AB, Iraq
Hello, TSgt L. Thanks for writing. And thank
you for your service to our country.
Your letter hit me hard. It is truly sad that manufacturers and makers of knives do not carefully consider the sheath when making and selling their knives, and do not consider the lives that may be at stake because they do not supply an adequate or useful sheath. All I can do is not make that mistake on my own knives.
I’m sorry that I can not make a sheath for your knife. My locking and combat grade sheaths are constructed with the knife, in concert, so that components like thumb rises, ricasso ramps, edge clearances, and mounting variations must happen in the construction of the knife, so that a workable locking sheath can be designed around the knife, with the knife. Each individual sheath can only fit a specific knife. Unfortunately, I cannot build a sheath around a factory knife or other maker’s knife, as they don’t build the knife with the components and geometry that can allow a locking sheath to work. Beyond that, I get so many requests to correct inadequate sheath work that I would be out of the knife making business, and into the sheath making business only. Even if I did take on that type of work, it would require the knife in my hands while you would be left in the field unarmed.
I do make an extremely good combat knife, and can make it to your specifications, to fit a specifically designed locking combat sheath of my own construction. I know my work is not cheap, but I’ve got one of the best track records of useful and durable combat and tactical knives and sheaths in the business.
I know this does not help you at the moment. In the chance that they might be of help, I would contact the company or maker who made the knife and ask them to outfit their knife with a proper sheath. Please be brutally honest in their shortcomings of the sheath they supply for their knife, because it is your life and other lives at stake.
Barring that, you may have to do what I’ve heard of other soldiers doing in the field: using found parts, moleskin, leather bindings, bent metal, screws and other parts to make their sheaths work. I’m terribly sorry I could be of no further help.
Most of my kydex military combat sheaths are black, with satin finished aluminum welts at the edges. Occasionally, I'll get requests for a different look. By custom order, I also use gray kydex, forest (traditional) camo, desert camo (traditional) and even modern forest, desert, and polar digital camo kydex are available on special request. An additional charge may be required.
My locking knife sheaths have a physically smaller footprint (profile) than my tension fit kydex sheaths, though they start with similar materials (kydex, aluminum, steel Chicago screws. The smaller footprint is due to the fact that only the blade and the front of the handle are covered by the locking sheath, not the full or deep coverage of the tension fit sheath which has the knife blade and most of the handle inside the kydex. The exposed handle of the locking sheath allows quicker, easier access, and in some cases, a lighter weight than the tension fit kydex sheath, even though it has all the stainless steel mechanism and fasteners.
Why choose a tension fit sheath or locking sheath? The comparisons and reasons are below:
The knife with my locking sheath may be worn in any position, even upside down. The security is provided by the belt loops secured to a tactical belt (usually a 1.75" military grade nylon utility belt) which is secured to the body, and the tang lock bar that engages on the spine of the knife. To release the knife from the locking sheath, a simple combination movement of the hand is all that is required. To sheath the knife, make sure that the blade is aligned correctly and slide knife into sheath until it "clicks" into locked position.
Important: the wearer must visually check or tug on knife handle to make sure that the knife is locked into the sheath, every time it is used. Unlike a tension fit sheath where the knife is squeezed as it is inserted and has a wide range of depth that can secure the knife, my locking knife sheaths have an exact and specific point at which the mechanism clicks into locked position. Once locked, the knife cannot be removed until unlocked. So, while locking the knife in the sheath takes a momentary glimpse, once you know it's locked, you can forget about it. This prevents concern, worry, or "touch-checking" to make sure your knife is where it's supposed to be. If you've carried a knife (or other necessary implement or weapon) this way, you will appreciate the elimination of that nagging need to make sure things are where they are supposed to be.
Details about the mechanism: I've removed the close-up pictures of the mechanism and the description, after I noticed that several foreign web sites were posting my pictures of how it worked. These guys can't come up with an original idea, so they're trying to steal mine. This also brings up an addition and curious benefit of my locking combat sheath. When I first hand a knife in lock-sheath combo to someone who is new to this device, they fumble, tug, press on the wrong area, and are confused by the mechanism and how it works. Because the mechanism is unique and original, the knife owner must familiarize himself with it. This takes about five minutes to understand just how it works. Several of my military clients reminded me that the moment of confusion in a combat situation may be exactly what prevents an enemy or attacker from grabbing your knife from your sheath, and using it against you! So I think its doubly responsible to remove the particulars of the mechanism and how it works in great detail from the public part of my web site. If you purchase one of my knives with this mechanism, you'll get complete instructions and details of its operation.
Often, a client will ask for additional options for the locking combat sheath, most often in the way that the sheath is worn or how it attaches to the gear, belt, or body. I’ve done several different things with the sheath mounting methods, but I have stayed away from too many devices, because they create stand-offs. Stand-off devices make the knife sheath stick out from the body even more, and that can allow the knife and sheath to hang up, snag on objects, interfere with movement in close areas (like onboard aircraft, ship, or within structures during sweeps) and be an extra source of concern the wearer doesn’t need at a critical time.
My locking combat tactical sheaths are absolutely the best made in the world today. Even my tension fit kydex sheaths shown through the military and tactical knives portal of this site are superior to all other knife sheaths made. Many of the points listed here apply to both types of my knife sheaths, tension or locking. Here are a list of critical and specific points and counterpoints comparing other maker's and factory knife sheaths to my locking and tactical knife sheaths to consider. Remember, other sheath makers, knife makers, and manufacturers will not illustrate these points for you, and as you read, you can understand why you deserve to know what you are depending on (or not!):
Some minor care can allow my tactical combat locking knife sheaths to last as long as the knife.
When you first acquire the locking sheath and matched knife, you may notice a few white or black flakes on the blade and in the mouth of the sheath. This is normal; it is the epoxy-based bedding along the edge run on the inside of the edge welt that is being cut away while the knife edge is seating in the new sheath. This is a normal. After a few dozen insertions and removals, it will seat and you won't see any more flakes. The coating beds the cutting edge, and protects the edge from the aluminum welt. You can see it when you look down the throat of the sheath. Some cutting and light chipping of this material is normal, particularly if you have serrations on the blade.
When first acquired, the new knife owner is often too gentle with the insertion of the knife in the sheath. Once the blade is lined up, it's fine to shove the knife in solidly in order to bed the mechanism and positively lock the tang. You're not going to hurt the knife by shoving it hard in these sheaths; they are very stout. Just be sure that you have the correct orientation, as shoving it in backwards will cause the stainless locking mechanism to ride on the cutting edge, and that won't help the edge... and it also won't work! Learn to use the sheath, get comfortable with it, and know that you are using what is probably the best locking combat and tactical knife sheath made!
Most of my locking combat tactical sheaths are reversible. This means that the belt loops can be mounted on either side of the knife. To move the belt loops, unscrew the associated Chicago screws, and remove the entire screw post. You must reverse the posts too; the belt loops are not designed to accommodate the the posts pushed through the holes in the belt loops or straps. Made sure that when you screw the belt loop Chicago screws, the male screw goes through the loop holes, not the female post.
If you have a problem with the locking mechanism of the sheath, please do not attempt a field repair. The mechanism is assembled under tension and once removed, the machine screws can not be reinserted in correct alignment. Just send the sheath (with knife) back to me, and I’ll tune it up for you for free! Incidentally, since I've started making these sheaths (1995) I have had not a single one returned with a single problem. Wow.
Please Note: I make these sheaths only for my own knives. I can't make one for a factory knife or other makers' knife.
My military grade tactical locking combat sheath is difficult to make. Other knifemakers soon find this out in their own attempts, and usually just discard the whole idea. I've seen posts on knife forums where other makers are looking for the "locking mechanism that Jay Fisher uses on his combat sheaths". There is no place you can buy the components, each are hand-made, and each sheath fits only one individual knife. This is probably why you don't see these kind of sheaths more often.
The sheath adds usually $350 or more to the base cost of the knife. Why? Click on these thumbnail pictures, they are my typical bench set up for some of the construction, set up, and assembly of one locking sheath. Not shown: Bridgeport Knee Milling machine, mini-milling machine, two belt grinders with six set-up arrangements, disc grinder, three drill press set-ups, metal cutting band saws with 4 set-ups, and a dozen other jigs and machines necessary to create just one of these sheaths!
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