Knife Guards 101 – Everything You Need To Know

Good quality knives require good quality storage. There are lots of storage options for knives; knife blocks, knife bags, and magnetic strips are the most common. You've heard that knives shouldn't be stored unprotected in drawers. But what if that's your only option? Never fear.

The knife guard, saya in Japanese, is here to rescue you! A knife guard or sheath is simply a scabbard made for a specific blade to protect it from damage.

Why Have a Knife Guard?

  • They look good.
  • To protect knives during transport.
  • To prevent the knife from becoming dull due to rubbing against other items in a shared storage space such as a drawer.
  • To prevent you from cutting yourself while reaching for the knife.
  • To protect other items in the drawer from getting scratched by the sharp edge of the knife.
  • To prevent knives from poking through a knife bag during transit.

How to Choose a Good Knife Guard

A number of knives come with their own sheaths when you buy them. These are not what we have in mind. A knife guard is usually of a higher, more durable quality and is bought separately. Here are some of the factors you have to consider when buying a knife guard.

The Type of Knife

When it comes to knife guard, one size doesn't fit all. A knife guard must match the type of knife. So you can't buy a knife guard for a Santoku knife and expect a Nakiri knife to fit into it.

Wusthof Blade Guard Magnetic 26x5.5cm

Wusthof Blade Guard Magnetic 26x5.5cm

Size of the Knife

So you've got the type of knife. Great. You also need to get the size right. For example, the Tojiro Magnolia Wooden Sheath for Santoku Knife 18cm wouldn't be suitable for a 24cm Santoku knife of the same brand. You don't want your knife to look ridiculous sticking halfway out of the knife guard because it's too long!

Tojiro Magnolia Wooden Sheath for Santoku Knife 18cm

Knife Guard Material 

Knife guards come in different materials, which have different qualities that can affect the knife. Here are some of them:

  • Wooden Knife Guards –

Traditionally, knife guards were made from very light wood. Some knife manufacturing companies still produce wooden knife sheaths such as the Tojiro Magnolia Wooden Sheath for Chef Knife 18-21cm. Although it's a hardwood, magnolia is light in weight. Hardwood is more desirable than softwood because it's durable and doesn't easily absorb water. 

For a safety measure, this sheath has a pin that is removed so as to insert the knife. Once the knife is inside, the pin is replaced to secure the knife and prevent it from slipping out. 

Tojiro Magnolia Wooden Sheath for Chef Knife 18-21cm

  • Leather Knife Guards –

Leather is one of the most popular knife guard materials. It is lightweight yet durable. It is stiff when new, but with time it adjusts and fits perfectly with the knife. This is important because a knife guard made of very tough material will scratch the knife blade - exactly what you're trying to avoid.

Leather can be fixed if torn, unlike wood which, once broken or warped cannot be repaired. It also makes less noise when drawing out the knife.

Leather has some downsides, however. Here are some of them:

    • Leather cracks when exposed to the elements for a long time, so it needs constant oiling.

    • Leather retains moisture, so storing your knives in leather guards for long periods of time could lead to corrosion of the blade.

    • A very sharp knife could slice through a flimsy leather guard, so you have to invest in quality leather to avoid accidents.

leather knife guard
    • Kydex Knife Guard –

    Kydex is a kind of plastic that can be heated, molded according to the material it is supposed to enclose, and then cooled. As a result of this process, it fits the knife very well. It can also be re-shaped by heating it again.

    Unlike leather, it is not affected by sunlight, heat, cold, or water. You can also keep your knife in Kydex for a long time because it doesn't absorb or retain moisture.

    Kydex has two downsides:
      • It can scratch and dull the blade.

      • It tends to be pricey.

    • Plastic –

    Plastic knife guards are considered more tactical and modern than leather or Kydex ones. They're also more affordable. They're light, durable, and easy to clean.

    However, some disadvantages of plastic include:
      • Very hard plastic guards can crack in the long run.

      • A hard plastic knife guard is also more likely to scratch and dull the blade.

      • If you like to be discreet, plastic knife guards are not for you. The knife blade tends to rattle inside it.

    F DICK Blade Guard for Max Blade Length 26cm

    F DICK Blade Guard for Max Blade Length 26cm

    • Nylon Knife Guards –

    Like plastic, nylon is popular and affordable. It is also easy to clean and will keep your knife dry as it doesn't retain moisture. Nylon, however, also has its downsides:

      • It's not strong enough and can bend the blade.

      • It also tends to dull the blade, like Kydex.

    The Price

    Before purchasing a knife guard, consider how much you're willing to spend. Of course, this will also affect what type of knife guard you buy. The type of material, craftsmanship, and size of the guard determines how expensive it will be. Synthetic fiber knife guards are generally more affordable than Kydex, nylon, and leather guards.


    If you're going to use the knife guard to store your knives, avoid using leather, as it retains water, which would corrode the blade. Plastic or Kydex is more suited for knife storage.


    A knife guard should be safe for both you and the knife, so it should have some security features. Some knife guards have a pin at the opening that locks the knife in and prevents it from slipping out. The guard should also be strong enough to withstand constant contact with the sharp knife edge. A weak leather guard will get ripped by a sharp knife and that wouldn't be good for you.

    Final Words

    If your knives are so few that they don't warrant a whole knife block or magnetic strip, get a knife guard for each knife. It's the best gift you can get for your knives. Check out available knife guards from House of Knives now!

    Also Read: How to Pick the Best Knife Sharpener for Serrated Knives


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