Making a Saya for Japanese kitchen knives

I made the Kengata Santoku Chefs Knife for my mother this year and later a Petty Knife for her birthday too. She loves the knives because they are handy and extremely sharp. She handles them with much care and oils them after every use. But she had no good place to store them.

So my father made her a primitive knife sheath out of some scrap leather he had lying around. He just folded it around the spine of the blade and roughly sewed it shut with a thick nylon thread below the edge. I just finished my third knife sheath but sorry dad, this thing looked like crap 😉

My first impulse was to make two more leather sheaths but hey, these are Japanese style kitchen knives and did I do a Saya yet? No? So it was about time!

A Saya (the Japanese word for Scabbard) is a wooden knife (or better sword) sheath that I had seen made for kitchen knives too. So my chance to try out making one (or two) had come.

I wanted to start from real basic and cut the wood out of some piece of firewood I keep in my garage for our oven. I also decided to do Sayas for both knives, the Kengata Santoku, and the Furutsu. So I cut two thick boards.

Each Board I cut in three layers with the outer of equal thickness and the inner as thin as possible, about 0,5 cm. On the inner board, I drew the outline of the blade and cut this out. So I had a wooden frame that fits exactly around the blade of the knife. This frame I glued to one side of the other boards again. Before I used the frame as a stencil to draw the shape of the blade on top of the board that would be a side element. The outline would be needed later.

After the glue had dried I put a strong neodymium magnet in at the tip of where the blade would end and then I cut away some millimeters of the thickness of the frame on the band saw before I used the belt grinder to thin down the frame close to the 2 millimeters of the blade thickness. I drilled a 5-millimeter hole through one side. After I evened out the frame side and the remaining board I glued them together as well.

As I had the outline of the frame on one side of the glued up sandwich I added about a cm to the outline and cut that out on the bandsaw. The rest was grinding everything in shape on the belt grinder.

Just when grinding the Sayas to a finer grain I noticed that I accidentally used two different types of wood.