Making a Laminated Saya for a Kitchen Knife
Some kitchen knives go well with a wooden sheath or scabbard. This protects the blade from abuse in the cutlery drawer and it protects hands and fingers from what can be a very sharp blade. For a Japanese style knife, I like to call these wooden sheaths saya. Saya are commonly seen covering swords, but you can also find smaller versions protecting modern-day kitchen knives. The knife is inserted into the saya and held in place with a small pin.
The traditional method of saya making is to use two pieces of wood where a place for the blade is hollowed out with chisels and gouges. The laminate method I use involves three different layers that are glued together to form a single piece with a pocket for the knife blade to fit into.
Kitchen knife saya are made of a variety of different woods, namely magnolia and cypress, but I am inclined to use more native woods to where I like such as maple and oak. As I am a fan of re-using things, I go looking for suitable pieces of interesting wood used in old pallets, broken furniture and so on. One interesting result of using the laminated method is that the centre lamination can be a contrasting wood, for example walnut sandwiched between two pieces of maple. Once you have a piece of wood about 1" thick and about 1" larger than your blade, we can begin.
Now I have three pieces. I pencil on them with A, B and C.
Now we want to trace the blade on to the middle section we marked as B.
Here I have used a good old Sharpie to trace around the pocket. Leave enough room for gluing another piece and some finish sanding. 1/4" should be fine.
At this stage you can add the pin hole. The pin hole can also be drilled near the end of the process. Either way works okay.
I use 3/16" dowel for the pin, so the hole is made slightly smaller at 5/32" or 11/64". See below for making the pin.
Now cut just outside the line.
This is what it looks like after pieces B and C are cut out.
Now glue B+C to piece A and clamp.
Making the Pin
Food safe oils such as white mineral oil will help to protect the wood. I like to apply two coats of mineral oil 12 hours apart, then several coats of tung oil. After the tung oil hardens, buff with a clean cotton rag.
Thanks for looking. If you have any questions, please let me know.