Sword Grip Project
Part II

The Leather Grip

Part II of this project shows how I wrap my grips with leather. There are several ways to re-do a grip, but what I am showing here is the "cord wrapped" method. I didn't invent this method and there are several places on the web which show how do this. This is just how I did it, and hopefully my pictures and notes will asisst you.

I really like the looks of a cord wrapped grip, particularly when they include some sort of riser. They also provide for a firm grip. Keep in mind that this (for the most part), is a non destructive project. If your the wrap doesn't turn out the way you were hoping you can always remove the leather and redo it. Do keep in mind that the leather, after it is glued on, is a bear to remove though!

Working with Leather

Before we get started I would like to talk a little about working with leather. First of all leather comes in different types and thickness's. The type leather you wish to use with this project is called vegetable tanned leather. There is also a type of leather called "chrome-tanned" which I don't use since only veg tanned leather will will absorb water, tool correctly and be able to be carved. Leather comes in different thickness's and Tandy Leathers website offers this information:

Thickness or Weight - Leather is usually measured in terms of ounces. One ounce equals 1/64th of an inch thickness. Thus, a weight of 7 to 8 oz. means the leather is 7/64th to 8/64th of an inch thickness. In an effort to make leather a uniform thickness, wet hides are run through a splitting machine. However, each animal is different and there is always a slight thickness variation throughout the hide. This is why leathers are usually shown with a range of thickness, such as, 4 to 5 oz., 6 to 7 oz., etc.

On the grip wraps we need to use very lightweight leather. In the two grips below, one uses pigskin (about 1.5 oz) and for the other grip I used 2 - 2.5 oz leather. I have also seen folks used chamois which is easily purchased in small quantities.

One last note in working with leather. Wet leather is very touchy! You can easily mark it up, even with your fingernail lightly resting against it. So be careful when handling it.

The picture above shows most of what we will need to complete our grip wrapping project. A sharp knife, some leather, super glue, craft/leather glue (white glue), a ruler, and something to cut the leather on. There is also a spool of leather lace that I will be using for the risers. The black tool on the right is calle a skiver, more on that later. What I am not showing is the twine that I will use to wrap the leather around the grip.

The shot above shows the wood grip on a Windlass Classic Medieval (with modified guard). I have removed the old leather and glue, and sanded it a bit to clean it up.

This paticular sword is sharpened so I decided to keep it in the scabbard during this project. Now keep in mind that I will be making a new scabbard for this sword, but even so I didn't damage the scabbard with the clamps. It makes it easier if the sword is clamped down, so as you can see in the picture above I used a couple of clamps to hold the sword to my workbench. I clamped them just enough to hold the sword in place.

Next you need to figure out how you want to set up the risers, or if you even want them. I decided on 4 risers. One at the top, one at the bottom, and two central risers. There are lots of items you can use for risers, just make sure that they are solid, and can't be pinched or they might collapse down when you tighten everything up. I am using leather strips here, but on the other grip I used nylon rope, and some heaver rope I picked up in the crafts area to make the central riser a bit larger. The size of the grip will also figure in to how you setup your risers. You may wish to study other folks grips to find one you wish to use.

I have already glued one riser to the front of the handle. (This is the side of the sword that I determined will be shown, in the scabbard, and when hung on the wall). I used super glue and have just glued it to the front and a little down each side.

In the picture above I have continued to glue some more risers on. At this point I am just eyeballing them to make sure that they are on straight. You may notice a little mark near the center of the grip, this just marks the center of the grip. Use as many pencil marks as you feel you may need to keep everything even and straight. I think it is important to have the same spacing on the top and bottom risers to look good. I wanted the two middle risers to be centered, but that is just how I wanted it. Some folks actually line the risers up to match up with their fingers.

The picture above shows me gluing on the last riser. Using superglue I have to hold them for about a minute.

I have now finished gluing the risers to the front of the sword and I have now flipped the sword over, and will finish gluing them to the back of the grip. I have already glued the top and bottom riser.

When gluing the ends of the risers together, it is best to cut them at an angle (around 45 degree), which gives them a neater apperance and hides the splice better. See graphic above.

The picture above shows the grip with all four risers glued on. It is now ready to have the leather wrap applied.

Now it is time to cut our piece of leather for the grip. I wish I had some magic formula here for you but I don't. This is a bit of trial and error, to do your best to get a good fitting piece. If the handle was a perfect cylinder then it would be easy to just cut a square piece of leather and glue it on. Of course most handles will not be this way, but are angled and tapered in width and depth. What I normally do is to cut a piece of leather that I know is plenty big, and then slowly trim it to fit. Keep in mind that this leather will shrink when dried, plus the risers will use some of the leather up, so always make it a bit larger then then you think it will need to be.

If you are trying this for the first time you could try fitting a piece of leather, wrap it and such, but don't glue it. Then dry it with a hair dryer, and then remove the twine and see how it all turned out. This should give a good warm up for the real thing.

The above graphic shows what a piece of leather cut for a grip would look like. Notice the red cuts in the four corners. These are trimed out near the end when I am getting close. These cuts will make more sense when you actully wrap the leather around the handle. REMEMBER.. go slow and cut a bit at time.

Where the seam meets you want to try and keep it straight, this may require a little work also. You want to keep the seam overlap small, about 1/4" or so.

Some wraps actually cover some of pommel and the guard. If yours will be doing this, you will need more length, and again remember that this leather will shrink, AND when you start wrapping the twine around the risers it will also shorten the leather.

Since we can not just butt up the seams of leather we will need to overlap them a bit at the seam. Now leather is pretty thin and if you don't skive them I doubt you would notice much, but to do a nice job, and try and make the seam as inconspicuous as possible we will need to skive the seams.

The graphic above shows the difference.

The above picture shows the leather wrap being skived using a skiving tool. Try to shape the leather shape down to almost nothing. When you are finished you will probably need to trim a bit of the end off with a knife as the edge will get a bit "fuzzy" from skiving.

Next you will want to soak the leather in some warm water for about 15-20 minutes. Remove the leather from the water and place it on a towel for a couple of minutes to soak up excess water.

I have now test fitted the leather one last time before gluing. I want my grip to fit inside the pommel and guard, but if you notice in the picture above, my leather at this point is actually hanging over the grip and and pommel, due to shrinkage it should just fit inside the pommel and guard (at least that is the plan).

Now we are ready to apply some glue and actually get the leather wrap applied to the wood handle. I didn't get a real picture taken with the glue but the above picture shows what I do. You don't need a lot of glue, you don't want it running out when you wrap the twine around the leather. Do make sure you get glue around the risers so the leather shows nice definitions around the risers when dry.

Be sure to add a little glue to the seam, but again not so much that it squeezes out.

And don't worry, even though the leather is wet, once it is all dry the glue holds very well.


Most folks and manufacturars seem to always apply the seam to the side of the grip. This takes some careful work and you really want the seam to be carefully done. I have a few that I have done that I put the seam on the back, which is a little easier while you are learning.

Next I wrap the leather grip with twine. I am not sure where I got this as I have had it for many years, but it reminds me of the type that was used when you used to tie it around packages to mail. It is small, but I can't break it, which is important because you want to be able to wrap tightly. This is just one size of twine that could be used. A different size would make the cord wraps either smaller or larger.

I actually wrap each section separately so I don't have to bring the twine over any of the risers. If you wish to make it all one wrap then at least bring it over the risers on the "back" of the grip. So by looking at the picture above I actually have 5 separate wraps.

Wrap the twine tightly and evenly, particularly where the risers are.

Ok, now take break.. the grip will probably need to sit at least overnight to dry.

After all has dried (I sometimes use a hair dryer to make sure), you can remove the twine. Hopefully you will find a well-done cord wrapped grip underneath! The above is a picture of mine after I unwrapped it. I am happy with it!

Here is a shot of the final grip after it has been dyed. I also apply 2 or 3 coats of paste wax to protect it.

It was finished using Fiebing's Leather dye, color #12 Medium Brown. I pretty much get all of my leather supplies from Tandy Leather

Additonal Projects

The above picture is a grip I completed on a Windlass Type XIV. This is the sword that is being worked on in Part 1. I used a small nylon cord, and a larger cord for the center riser.

This picture shows the leather wrapped in twine. You can easily see the 5 risers. On this grip I only used one length of the twine and crossed over the risers in the back.

Here is the dryed leather with the twine removed. This leather is pigskin in the picture above, it is very thin, but you might notice it is not as smooth as the "cow" leather I used on the main project. But I do like the way it looks. The small holes are from the pig's hair, which is quite corse. They don't really show up when the grip is dyed and finished.

Here is the Windlass Type XIV with the new grip. I finished it with Fiebing's Black leather dye, and a couple coats of paste wax.

Here is a shot of my Hanewi Practical Knight Sword. This grip consists of three risers. The leather used was also pigskin. It is dyed with Fiebing's Black leather dye and a couple coats of paste wax.

One thing I would like you to notice here are the risers. I used the same riser material but notice how different they look compared to the Windlass Classic. The ones on the Classic (brown grip) are thicker looking and more round. This is because the leather is thicker, and it can't bend as crisp as the lighter pigskin. There is nothing wrong with that but I wanted you to be aware that just changing the type of leather can change the whole look of the grip.

The picture below is a side shot of the above sword.

The above are just shots of the entire completed swords.

I hope these project instructions encourage and assist you in creating your own grips and wraps. I have a lot of fun doing these. If you have any questions please feel to contact me.


Return to Part I

Part I


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