What is a Knife Sheath and Why Do You Need One?

Vahalla slicing knife with its knife sheath on a wooden chopping board laid on top of a blue wooden table.Slicing & Carving Knife 12" Valhalla Series | Dalstrong

A knife sheath, also known as a knife saya or a scabbard, is a protective cover for your knife. Below we’ll discuss why you should be looking for one, and give you some recommendations to keep an eye out for.

1. What is a Knife Sheath?

A knife sheath is used as a protective cover for knives. It is also known as a saya or a scabbard (though there are small differences in meaning between these terms). 

Whether you’re talking about a kitchen knife or a pocket knife, a knife sheath helps keep your knife protected as well as transportable. That’s right: knife sheaths are meant to carry your knife safely, not to protect your knife when it is not in use. For that, look into knife holders.

But why would a knife need protection? Well, regardless of how strong they are, knives are as susceptible to damage as just about anything. If you carry your knives openly, they might get chipped, dented, or warped. And carrying several knives in a bag together (if it’s not a specialized knife bag) is a recipe for disaster.

Helping carry your knife around isn’t just about protecting the knife, it’s also about protecting yourself. If you’re taking good care of your knives, they’re likely very sharp, so reaching for one and having your open palm meet the sharp end of the edge is not going to be fun. Safety must be the top priority, so a good knife sheath is a must.

Pitmaster knife with a sliced of meat at the tip, laid on top of a wooden table beside its knife sheathBBQ Pitmaster & Meat Knife 8" with Forked Tip & Bottle Opener Shogun Series

2. How to Choose the Perfect Knife Sheath

There are different types of knife sheaths made of different materials and in different styles some of which are leather belt sheath, fixed blade knife sheath, pouch sheath, leather pocket knife, and many more– we’ll outline the most common ones in the section below. Knife sheaths are must-have knife accessories. There are important characteristics you should look for in your sheath.

When you’re looking for a knife sheath for fixed blade knives or a pocket knife, it’s a good idea to look for one with a lower attachment so that it can easily be hooked to your backpack. This makes it easily accessible. Similarly, you could find one with a belt attachment.

And of course, making sure your knife sheath fits your knife is incredibly important. Pick a sheath that’s too big and you risk hurting your knife and possibly dulling its blade every time you insert the knife. This is why buying kitchen knives that come with their own premium knife sheaths is a good idea; you know that your sheath is beautifully fitted to your knife and ensures that the blade is protected.

Finally, there’s the matter of style. Yes, knife sheaths are intended to protect knives, but they should also be an expression of your personality. They should make your knife look good. This is why you want to avoid really cheap ones that wear down immediately or look like cheap plastic.

3. Knife Sheath Materials

There are different types of knife sheaths, made of a variety of materials. Let’s discuss some of the best knife sheath materials, talk about each one’s strengths and weaknesses, and have a look at some recommended products that come with certain knife sheath materials.

Leather sheaths

Leather knife sheaths are very traditional, as well as one of the best types of knife sheaths you can have. They are especially popular in the world of fixed blade pocket knives. The main advantage of a leather sheath is the aesthetic element; they just look very good, especially brown leather. There’s something about the material that evokes images of ruggedness, especially if they’re attached to belt loops (indeed, a belt sheath is perfect for a pocket knife).

The main problem with leather is that it isn’t exactly the most durable material. Since it’s a natural material, it is prone to a certain degree of degradation depending on the uses you give it. If your leather knife sheath happens to get wet or if it’s exposed to extreme heat, it runs the risk of drying out, cracking, or becoming otherwise damaged. 

Kydex sheaths

Kydex is a more modern alternative to leather sheaths. Kydex is a thermoplastic material often used to make holsters. Unlike leather, the main advantage for kydex is its durability. You can do many things with it – jumping into salty ocean water, for instance – and it’ll hold up pretty well. Why you’d want to jump into the sea with your kitchen knives is another question altogether, but we’re not here to judge anyone’s lifestyle choices.

The problem with kydex sheaths is that they’re not great for storing blades in the long term. It’s true that they’re more breathable than a standard leather sheath as well as less likely to trap moisture, but it also means they’re more likely to block moisture from escaping as well, forming condensation on the inside surface. Also, repeatedly taking your knife in and out of a kydex sheath will eventually dull its edge.

Polymer sheaths

Polymer sheaths are quickly catching on in the world of premium kitchen knives. They have the advantage of looking pretty good, keeping your knives safe for transporting, and being very durable. 

The knives in Dalstrong’s Shogun Series come with a premium-quality Dalstrong PerfectFit polymer sheath with an embossed Dalstrong logo to ensure the knife remains stylish while being carefully protected.

Here are some examples of knives from Dalstrong’s Shogun Series that come with polymer sheaths. 

1. Chef Knife 8" | Grey ABS Handle | Shogun Series X | Dalstrong

Chef Knife 8" | Grey ABS Handle | Shogun Series X | Dalstrong

This awesome 8” chef’s knife is the everyday use tool you need to take care of different kitchen tasks. If you’re want to get one knife, it should be one of these. As part of Dalstrong’s widely acclaimed Shogun series, this 8” chef’s knife comes with a polymer sheath that safely secures onto the blade itself, making sure your knife is kept protected when you’re transporting it anywhere.


  • The blade is made of an AUS-10V Japanese super steel core and 67-layer Damascus cladding, sharpened under the ancient 3-step Honbazuke method.
  • Features a durable, comfortable, and attractive ABS handle, so you can use it for a long time without feeling fatigued.
  • Incredible edge retention, with a Rockwell score of 62+.
  • Absolutely gorgeous Tsunami Rose blade pattern and a hammered finish, making this one of the most visually attractive knives you’ll ever find.


  • The Shogun series has a very distinctive look to it, and not everyone will be a fan of it. 
  • This particular model has a grey ABS handle, though there are other options like red, orange, or traditional black.

2. BBQ Pitmaster & Meat Knife 8" with Forked Tip & Bottle Opener | Shogun Series | Dalstrong

BBQ Pitmaster & Meat Knife 8" with Forked Tip & Bottle Opener | Shogun Series | Dalstrong

If you’re a fan of BBQ (who isn’t?) you need a tool like this one. Owning a tool like the BBQ Pitmaster & meat knife is what separates a BBQ expert from an amateur. This amazing tool, with its forked tip for easy meat piercing, will aid you as you man the grill at your next backyard cookout; and with its built-in bottle opener, you can make sure you stay hydrated as you work.


  • Awesome and utterly unique shape, with a forked tip for piercing through meats and moving them off and on the BBQ pit, as well as a bottle opener.
  • Comes with a polymer sheath to protect every part of its edges.
  • Sharpened to a staggering 8-12 degree angle on each side.
  • Military grade G10 handle for easy and comfortable use, all the while remaining heat and moisture resistant.


  • If you’re not much of a BBQ enthusiast, you’d be better off getting a regular chef’s knife.
  • This knife’s distinctive look might clash with the rest of your kitchen tools.

3. Bird's Beak Peeling & Paring Knife 3" | Shogun Series ELITE | Dalstrong

Bird's Beak Peeling & Paring Knife 3" | Shogun Series ELITE | Dalstrong

From fluting mushrooms to making extremely precise cuts on fruits and vegetables, a paring knife is something every chef who takes their craft seriously should own. This 3” bird’s beak paring knife is one of the best choices you can go with. Not only is it a top kitchen performer, it also comes with its own bird’s beak-shaped polymer sheath for safe and easy storage!


  • This paring knife is extremely sharp, with an incredible 8-12 degree angle per side.
  • Features a tapered bolster for a zero-balance grip and finger protection.
  • AUS10V Japanese super steel cutting core, with 67 layers of Damascus cladding.
  • Extremely easy to clean and look after.


  • If you want a wider array of paring knives for several different purposes, check out this 3 piece paring knife set.
  • Paring knives have very specific uses; if you’re not someone who will be doing a lot of precise mini cuts, maybe look into getting a more general, all-purpose knife like the chef’s knife above.

Wooden sheath

You will also find knives that come with wooden sheaths (sayas). Often, these wooden sheaths come with magnets in the interior to ensure the knife stays properly in place. These wooden sheaths have the advantage of looking awesome (wood being a naturally attractive material, just like the leather sheaths mentioned above) and being highly durable.

The knives in Dalstrong’s Crusader series, for example, all come with a beautifully designed, hand-crafted wooden blade sheath (the Dalstrong Scabbard) with a magnetic interior. This goes beautifully with the series’ emphasis on minimalist beauty. Here are a few examples of knives from the Crusader series that come with wooden sheaths:

1. Kiritsuke Chef's Knife 8.5" | Crusader Series | NSF Certified | Dalstrong

Kiritsuke Chef's Knife 8.5" | Crusader Series | NSF Certified | Dalstrong

The knives in Dalstrong’s Crusader series are awesome for a number of reasons. One, they’re just high-performing premium-quality kitchen knives made of great materials. But also, they feature a clean and minimalistic design that looks absolutely awesome. This 8.5” double bevel kiritsuke chef’s knife is awesome as a multi-purpose chef’s knife, bringing together the design of Japanese yanagiba and usubas.


  • Precision forged, ultra-sharp, wear resistant high carbon ThyssenKrupp german stainless steel.
  • Hand sharpened to 16-18 degrees per side, making them the perfect balance between extremely thin slicing and blade resilience.
  • Since the blade is made of a single piece of steel with seamless transitions, they are very easy to clean and look after.
  • High chromium stainless steel handle.


  • Because of their all-steel construction, these knives may be a little lighter to the touch than you might be used to.
  • Some people might not be into the minimalistic look of the Crusader series.

2. Fillet Knife 6.5" | Crusader Series | NSF Certified | Dalstrong

Fillet Knife 6.5" | Crusader Series | NSF Certified | Dalstrong

Here is an awesome 6.5” fileting knife (also known as fillet knives), an awesome choice for anyone who wants to fillet fish. It’s part of the same family as boning knives, used mostly to filet and prepare fish. If you’re a seafood enthusiast, this tool is a must-have for your kitchen. 


  • Made of ultra-sharp, wear-resistant single piece high carbon steel.
  • Stain resistant and designed for a smooth, comfortable grip.
  • Hand polished to a gorgeous satin finish, with a tapered design that aids in hardness and flexibility.
  • With its all-steel construction, there is no place for debris to hide, making this an extremely hygienic choice.


  • As a fillet knife, this blade is a little more flexible than some home cooks might be used to.
  • If need a tool for a variety of tasks, maybe look into getting into chefs knives like the one listed above.

3. Nakiri Knife 7" | Crusader Series | NSF Certified | Dalstrong

Nakiri Knife 7" | Crusader Series | NSF Certified | Dalstrong

Nakiri knives are extremely useful to anyone who finds themselves prepping vegetables in bulk. Combining elements of a chef’s knife and a vegetable cleaver, this tool allows you to quickly and easily cleave through tough melons, perform quick push cuts, and transfer foods easily with its broad square-tipped blade. 


  • Great for vegetable prep.
  • The fuller groove near the spine reduces stuck on food and improves overall knife balance.
  • Ergonomic handle shape makes this a very comfortable knife to hold.
  • This Nakiri comes with a gorgeous wooden magnetic sheath for easy and stylish protection.


  • This Nakiri is an awesome tool for preparing vegetables in bulk, but if you’re not going to be doing that very often maybe you should look into an all-purpose kitchen knife like the chef’s knife listed above.

4. How to Care For Your Knife Sheaths

Of course, since you’re using your knife sheath to take care of your precious knife, it makes sense to take care of your knife sheath in turn. Every knife sheath material has its own unique properties that make upkeep a little different, but they also have a lot in common. Here are things to consider when taking care of your knife sheaths.

  1. Always be on the lookout for flaws. Especially for natural materials like wood and leather, which exhibit flaws that complement the sheath visually, it’s easy to assume that your sheath is free of any actual problems that will affect its overall performance.
  2. Double check for tears, cracks, or any type of foreign substance that appears on your sheath before and after each use. You might also notice pulls in tears or missing rivets. If you want to make sure you’re on top of your sheath’s wellbeing, you need to be vigilant.
  3. Thread repair. If your knife sheath is made of stitching, it’s likely that at some point you’ll have some pulled threads. In the case of nylon sheaths, they may fray, and this will continue to worsen unless you take some action. 
  4. An easy solution for this is to use a lighter to melt the threading and prevent it from pulling through. They will melt easily, so be extra careful and make sure you only apply the lighter to the piece of thread that you’re trying to fix. Otherwise, you might ruin the rest of your knife sheath.
  5. Clean your sheath. Whatever type of sheath you go with, whether it’s natural or synthetic, your sheath should always be free of debris. Fibers tend to get dirty very easily and degrade over time. 
  6. The worst part is, dirt will also have a detrimental effect on your knife, creating scratches when you insert it into the dirty sheath. And, of course, we don’t have to explain the health issues of using a dirty knife when cooking your food.
  7. Water-resistant finish. If you have a leather sheath, a good idea is to treat it with a water resistant finish so that it doesn’t succumb to leather’s natural propensity for decay when applying water to it. Do keep in mind that this will have an effect on the feel of the sheath, so a good idea is to test it on the back of a leather belt loop to see whether it hardens or softens.
  8. Depending on the material of your sheath, it might already have a water-resistant finish. In that case, it probably won’t absorb an additional aftermarket treatment. To treat your sheath, warm it in the oven at the lowest setting first (until it’s warm to the touch). Then apply the finish until it stops soaking in.
  9. Don’t store your knife in the sheath for a long time. It will collect moisture and result in a damaged blade.
  10. Oil your sheath regularly to reduce friction. You want your knife to slide effortlessly into the sheath, ensuring that it doesn’t dent or chip the knife blade. After all, that would defeat the purpose!

5. Frequently Asked Questions

What is a knife sheath called?

A knife sheath is also sometimes known as a scabbard, though there are differences in how the terms are used. Sheath usually refers to smaller blade knives, whereas scabbard is more commonly used for longer knives or swords. A knife sheath is also sometimes known as a saya.

Do I need a knife sheath?

Knife sheaths have many benefits, including being able to easily protect your knives when you’re transporting them from place to place. It’s recommended that you have a knife sheath for at least your more expensive knives.

What is a knife scabbard?

The term knife scabbard is sometimes used synonymously with knife sheath, though it often refers to covering for larger blades (such as a large knife or a sword).

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 Written by Jorge Farah
Born on the coast of Colombia and based in Buenos Aires, Jorge is a cooking enthusiast and kitchenware obsessive with a tremendous amount of opinions.

What is a Knife Sheath and Why Do You Need One?

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