We've teamed up with one of Utah's most skilled leatherworkers to create limited-edition sheaths for our Haswell Survival Knife. "Diamond Jim" Davis makes these sheaths entirely by hand, using the same tools and techniques from the days of yore, just like the cowboys did. That means no electricity and no BS—just old fashioned, tried-and-true tools. Read our interview to learn more about Diamond Jim.
What inspired you to become a leather worker?
My first taste of leather working came in the Scout program and Jr. High School, however I really didn’t pursue it until my early twenties.
I had this crazy thought of becoming a world famous magician, I know crazy huh?!? I needed a prop made for a trick I was developing, leather cups. I went to a local saddle maker in the area that I lived and he looked perplexed was said he could do it. After 11 months of waiting, I decided to put my old skills to a trail. The cups weren’t perfect, but they accomplished the task and I even won a few magic competitions with them. This started a new business for me, making magic props for other magicians. From there I started making holsters, knife sheaths, bags, cases and even motorcycle accoutrements. It was a nice little second income, mostly paid for my tools and the occasional dinner out with my wife.
Fast forward about 15 years and I received an offer I couldn’t refuse. Leave my current job, and work for This Is The Place Heritage Park, the historic village that I still work for today. I took a major pay cut, but never looked back as I found serious enjoyment in working with history, people and leather. This is my wheelhouse! Nowhere else could I spend the time that I do honing my skills, teaching about leather and showing it’s proper uses. The leather industry is in turmoil today and there is no better way to save it than to have those that are most passionate about it, show you its true potential and historic uses.
What can I say, except I love what I do!
What is your favorite item you have ever made out of leather?
That is a loaded question, haha! There are so many different things that I have made, that it’s hard to pick just one. I made a violin case that was incredibly intricate. A lot of work and super rewarding. I love making movie props. It’s fun to see them in commercials, movies, shorts, etc. and know that I had a part in the telling of a story.
What’s the most creative project you have ever worked on?
A reproduction of a plaque doctors mask. It was by far the one that made me use every single brain cell, probably killed a few. I took a 1656 woodcut and tried my best to make the artist’s sketch become real life. It wasn’t easy, but sure made for a lot of conversation and still does.
What inspires you in your artwork?
People. Seriously, their reactions to a hand made products still catch me off guard. To watch someone closely inspect their new purchase and then grin from ear to ear is the best inspiration that one could ever have. Everyone has ideas of something they would like, then helping them come to life is a reward. When someone commissions you to make something, you are giving them a part of yourself. It’s amazing to see how many people recognize that and in the end its not really the project that matters as much as the relationship between you and them.
What does the partnership between you and Coalatree mean to you?
I had never heard of Coalatree until this half-crazy, super gregarious, long-haired and amazing young man stepped into my shop and introduced himself and Jacob Charles Bessey. Honestly, I was caught a bit of guard by him, but I knew I would find him interesting and doing a job would be fun. I went home and looked up Coalatree and saw how much they give back to the community. I noticed how many of them were things I had helped and cared about. The Adopt A Native Elder, The Christmas Box House, Save Our Canyons for just a few. When I saw all of those, I knew this was something that I HAD to be part of. Immediately, I felt a kindred spirit from Coalatree and “Charlie.” One thing that I have learned in all the years of making things is that the project doesn’t matter as much as the relationship between you and your customer. This is just natural for Coalatree and that is what makes partnership this mean so much. It’s mutual care for each other and ultimately for the people and planet.