How to Care for Your Knife

The Blade

Unless otherwise specified, your knife was made with a ‘High Carbon Steel’ (1095, 1084, 1075, D2-Tool Steel or 440C). Because it is NOT ‘Stainless Steel’ you will need to take care of your knife or it will rust (stainless also will rust under the right circumstances).  Also it will obtain a ‘Patina’ with use. This (and any rust) can be easily removed with a green scrub pad and some powder cleanser or you can use a 1000/1200 grit sandpaper, used very lightly. Apply an oil to the surface from time to time, any oil will work but I use A.G. Russell’s ‘Rust Stop’ (Food Safe). I’ve had the bottle several years now and it still almost full. So a very tiny dab is applied and spread VERY CAREFULLY with your finger or use a cotton swab.  Start at the spine and rub down towards the edge. Do NOT store the knife in it’s sheath for extended periods of time as the chemicals used on the leather will eventually cause corrosion (even on stainless).

How often should you sharpen your knife? I use a ‘High Carbon Steel’ because it will produce and hold a wicked edge, and is easy to sharpen – EXCEPT – the D2. Although this steel will hold an edge the longest, it is B-itch to put an edge on it, so keep it sharp.  There is a picture on the website of my friend Bill holding up his “Kenai Moose Skinner’ in front of a moose he just skinned all the way through without having to sharpen the blade. Just make sure you sharpen it at home before going out into the bush.

The other steels can be ‘Touch-up’ sharpened in the field if necessary. Let me say here that it is MUCH easier to “Maintain” an edge than to put a new edge back on the knife. I ‘Touch-up’ sharpen my knives after every day of hard use and give it (and all our kitchen knives) full sharpening once a month.  Get yourself a small ‘Diamond Sharpener’ in either med or fine (not expensive). Give the blade a few light strokes and that will keep it sharp. The black sand paper for metal also works very well.  I use 220 grit to start and go to 400 or 500 grit to finish. I use ‘Birthwood Casey Gun Oil’ as a lubricant.

Now – different companies use different angles of degrees to put on their edge. My knives – place the edge perpendicular to the stone surface. That is 90 deg. Split that in half and you get 45 deg. Half of that is roughly 23 deg. That’s the angle of the blades edge. For kitchen knives or Filleting knives, tilt that down just a couple more deg to roughly 17 deg. I find that if I highlight the edge with a black marker, I can see if all of the edge is getting hit and that it’s at the right angle.

The Handle

With use the handle of your knife will become worn. To keep it looking new, use a 320 or 400 grit sandpaper for wood and sand it very lightly. I use ‘Birchwood Casey’ gun stock care products on all my wood handles. Apply a light coat of ‘Tru-Oil’ let it dry, hit it with steel wool, wipe it off. Repeat as often as necessary. You can then apply several coats of ‘Filler Sealer’ or not as Tru-oil works just fine. Almost all of the wood I use is “Stabilized” in a ‘Vacuum Chamber’ while submerged in resin. This hardens and help prevent the wood from splinting and helps prevent wear.

The knives with horn, antler, or bone should not need anything. I stabilize these using multiple coats of thin ‘CA Glue’. Be warned – this glue is very toxic. Use a respirator and have lots of air circulation if you use it. I occasionally use synthetic products (i.e. Macarta) that do not really require any care beyond keeping it clean.

The Sheath

I use only top quality leather for my sheaths from Tandy. I use waxed thread or ‘Faux Sinew’ for the stitching. The sheath is treated with ‘Mink Oil’, ‘Neatsfoot Oil’ and ‘Renaissance Wax’ for the polish and conditioning of the leather. It’s what museums use to restore and preserve old leather.