How to care for your knives

Every responsible and caring knife owner needs to know the basics regarding the proper care of their edged tools.

A well-maintained knife will serve as one’s companion indefinitely. The term “knife care” encompasses more than just knowing how to put a razor sharp edge on your blades. You do however need to give them just a little extra care to keep them in top shape.

Here are a few tips to help you get lasting service from your knife:

Usage:

The use of a knife is also an important factor.

  • A knife is not a pry bar, not a screwdriver, not a shovel, or an axe.
  • The weakest part of any knife is usually the tip, which happens to be the most abused part! Take care of the tip, and the rest of the blade will follow.
  • Never throw knives, unless the knife was specifically designed for that use.

Rust:

Perhaps the worst enemy of any knife is rust. Given the correct conditions, even stainless steel can rust.

If rust spots do appear, rub the blade with a metal polish like Brasso or a very fine (0000) steel wool, then oil or wax the blade.

Patina

Don’t confuse rust with a patina or stain that may appear on your knife after cutting something acidic.

Patinas are a kind of corrosion that can contain many chemical compounds such as oxides, carbonates, sulfides, and sulfates. Because the chemical composition of each patina is unique to the alloy and the exposure/use of that alloy many different hues, shades, and colors can form in a natural patina.

A naturally formed well-seasoned patina a beautiful thing on a blade and it will provide decent rust prevention if kept oiled and well maintained.

To promote a good patina on your blade, simply use it!

Bluing

Some carbon steel knife blades are blued. Bluing is a very thin patina that can eventually wear away, leaving a grey metal finish. These are used to lightly protect or cosmetically enhance the blades.

  • Nitrate bluing is a very thin patina that can eventually wear away, leaving a gray metal finish.
  • Sodium (gun) bluing is black, more penetrating, but can also eventually wear away.

These are hot blues; used to temper, lightly protect, or cosmetically enhance the blades. They are rust inhibitors, not rust preventatives.

Keep clean and dry, wax as above.

 

General Care / Maintenance

  • Use the sheath only when you are using or wearing the knife.
  • Wipe off the oil or wax before using.
  • Do not wash your hand-made knife in a dishwasher or leave it soaking on a sink.
  • Wash by hand in warm soapy water; do not let it soak in the water. Dry immediately, don’t leave it to drain in the drying rack.

Handles

  • Wood handles (wether stabilised or natural) usually benefit from a light coating of furniture wax, technical oil or Renaissance® wax and a good hand rubbing.
  • Brass can be polished with household brass polish.

Shealths

  • Heat bakes the protective oils out of most hardwoods and weakens adhesive bonds.
  • Prolonged exposure to the sun and heat can also destroy knife sheaths.
  • Do not use any kind of oil on the sheaths; this will cause them to soften, weakening their protective function, softening glues, sealants, and dyes.

Storage:

Do not store your knife in its leather sheath, especially for long term storage. Rather store your knife with / next to the sheath, not in it as the chemicals used in the tanning of leather sometimes react with moisture in the air, leading to corrosion!

It makes no difference whether the sheath is leather or kydex and aluminum. Should the knife be stored in the sheath, and even atmospheric moisture is allowed to stay against the blade, the blade will start to rust.

Oil the knife with technical oil if it is used regularly in the kitchen or with a gun oil or Museum / Renaissance wax and wrap it in a soft cloth for storage.