When you’re investing money into a knife that is meant to last a lifetime preserving it is one of the first things you plan for. Oil, cleaning, and sharpening all come into the mix. If it is a well-used knife, the sheath is bound to break down. Companies don’t spend as much time or quality manufacturing on their sheathes as they do the knives themselves. That ‘arts and crafts’ style sheath will need to be replaced eventually and that is where Hedgehog Leatherworks comes in.
Started by Paul Scheiter, the sole purpose was to produce some of the highest quality sheathes possible. They take nature to heart and use only the best natural materials to build beautiful, museum quality pieces. While focused on sheathes they also produce a range of small fire pouches or ‘utility pouches’ which can house quite a few different possibilities.
Our Test Sheath and Accessories
We received Hedgehog Leatherworks ESEE4 sheath with a fire upgrade and a utility pouch sans fire kit loop. This hip carry sheath was made with a leather loop for a fire steel which was included. Wrapped in beautiful linen and string the presentation in just the shipment is a precursor of the quality to be expected.
Immediately we were overtaken by the craftsmanship. Sure, the design of the sheath itself is simple enough but the quality is outstanding. The brown, vegetable tanned leather was free from any flaws. There were no markings from scars and even grained throughout. What really set the sheath apart was the latching system. A triple latch system (left side, right side, and top) that was attached to a ‘bungee’ which would pull the retention straps away from the knife for quick access. The has been patented by Hedgehog Leatherworks which they call the ‘rapid release retention system.’
This sheath had retention grommets on the bottom allowing a user to mount the sheath in an alternative fashion or tie it down to the user’s leg. And speaking of mounting, the sheath also has a unique system that attaches to the belt. There are 3 layers to the belt attachment; the outer leather layer, middle man-made material layer, and inside leather layer. This system protects the actual leather pieces and adds another element of security when attaching it to a belt. There is no possible way the sheath can be torn or removed from the belt without undoing two separate layers of pressure grommets.
Even the black Utility Pouch was made of superior quality. While I may prefer to have a fire steel loop on the utility pouch having it on both the pouch and sheath was a needless redundancy. The pouch is fitted with an ‘Ejection Strap’ that can be pulled to easily remove the contents, an Altoids sized tin. It’s the perfect size for a small fire kit or Pine Fire kit.
What we failed to mention and measure was the difference between the ESEE4 and ESEE4HM. The 4HM has a straighter, longer, and significantly thicker handle than the standard ESEE4. Hedgehog Leatherworks, thought out miscommunication, has sent us a beautiful sheath for the ESEE4. Fitting the 4HM to the sheath was a struggle.
After a few minutes of fighting with the leather we knew that trying to force the sheath in was not advisable. Not because the sheath would give out but because we were going to bend the high carbon steel just to get it to fit the sheath! An executive decision was made and we soaked the sheath.
This was nerve racking. The beautiful finish of the sheath started to darken and move as the water penetrated the surface. Slowly, the knife set itself all the way into the sheath and attempting to close the latch system over the handle was next. To be perfectly honest, the retention system was the most difficult. IT was so well made that we wanted to make sure it operated properly with the 4HM. 10 minutes of struggle and 12 hours of drying and the sheath was a perfect fit.
If it wasn’t made to the quality of Hedgehog Leatherworks there would have been no way the 4HM would have fit without breaking either the sheath or the knife.
The test actually took several months. We wanted to make sure a few things were consistent.
As we carried the sheath in snow, rain, and sun the leather never dried out, flexed, or became discolored. The shine continued to look as if it did when we first removed it from the shipment. No matter who would see the sheath they would always mention it and ask about it. ESEE isn’t known to have flashy knives, but the sheath makes up for that. 6 months of use and the finish still looks brand new. Even now it seems unnecessary to put leather conditioner on it.
As far as the sheath goes the function of the retention system is top notch. Being able to unlatch the straps and have the sheath pop open prevents accidents from happening. The knife never got caught on the retention straps and there was less fumbling around. It actually saved time as we got comfortable with the sheath. We no longer needed to glance down and use two hands to draw or replace the knife. Now all that was needed was a little feeling of the blade against the leather.
The utility pouch is an outstanding design. I would say it is fool proof but we used it and proved that fools do make mistakes. On more than one occasion we put the tin back into the pouch without looking to see where the ejection strap was placed. When the tin is placed without the strap below it it’s extremely difficult to pull the tin back out. The fit and design of the utility pouch seems to be down to the millimeter. One point on design for Hedgehog, zero point for the fools.
Months have passed since we last received the sheath and pouch. They still look as good as they do from day one. Because of the belt retention system there is little to no warping where the belt makes contact with the sheath. It doesn’t fit loose or bounce against a user legs. It is as rigid and taut as brand new.
The inside of the sheath shows a little wear from removing and replacing the knife, especially with a wider handle. The HM handle created a small divot that is only noticeable when the knife is removed. There also is a little pull on the ‘spring loaded’ handle retention system. This is also because of the larger HM handle. What is incredible is with the significantly large handle the sheath looks essentially the same as after we fit it to the knife. For most users, this is not going to be a problem since the fit will be perfect.
We haven’t conditioned the leather like we probably should have. The sheath shows no deterioration, degradation, or damage because of this. It should constantly be conditioned after having been exposed to moisture or other leather damaging elements. Hedgehog Leatherworks also provides and sells a Leather Conditioner specifically for their sheaths, pouches, and leather finished.
The initial impressions are that the pouch and sheath is made to some of the highest quality out there. After having used them for months on end they have more than proven themselves to be expertly made. I doubt there are many manufacturers out there who are producing sheaths and pouches to this kind of quality and durability.
The sheath looks a little bland without the fire attachment and the utility pouch out be better used with a fire attachment as well. Since most of Hedgehog Leatherworks sheathes are now scout carry the need for a fire attachment to make it look less bland is unnecessary. It is still awful convenient.
There is not one thing I would change about Hedgehog Leatherworks products. The design, construction, and usefulness and spot on. These are overdesigned sheathes which are also overbuilt in a good way.
What sets this company apart from other competitors is their warranty. Here is a snippet from their website:
“If anything goes wrong with your Hedgehog Leatherworks product, we will fix or replace it for a period of 25 years after the date it was delivered to your doorstep. Just let us know what happened and we will make it right. The only way to void your warranty is to intentionally abuse the product or modify it. Otherwise, we stand behind it no matter what. We are known for our obsessive commitment to quality… so if we are fortunate enough to earn your business, you can bet we will work to keep it.”
We probably broke that warranty by modifying the sheath to fit the ESEE 4HM. 25 years is longer than most people can hold onto a single knife. It seems that Hedgehog Leatherworks is only making sheathes for the knife manufacturers that have warranties and quality to match.
If you can buy one, do it. Spending $400 on a knife is an investment and protecting that investment is paramount. With a 25 year warranty the sheath may very well outlast your knife. This kind of quality does come at a price. The sheaths range from $190-$350 depending on optional equipment. That’s more than some of the knives they are actually made for. The utility pouch ranges from $90-$140. Again, this is a steep price but something that is well worth the cost. Rarely would we ever say an accessory is worth more than the product it accessorizes, but this is one of the rare exceptions.
The Future for Hedgehog Leatherworks
During our last conversation with Paul he stated that they were going to do a new sheath line made from more ‘rugged’ leather. This new line would come at a lower price and would sacrifice some of the ‘perfect’ and produce sheathes and pouches with high quality leather which may have slight imperfections. We hope to see Hedgehog Leatherworks move in a direction that their sheathes will be available to every individual.