A quality knife should last several lifetimes, given proper maintenance, but it’s just as easy to wreck one, too.
Since steel is a major component of most blades, rust represents public enemy No. 1. Corrosion begins with moisture, which often plagues an outdoorsman exposed to the elements.
The following are a few tips to maintain a keen edge:
- Sheaths — especially the leather variety — invite moisture. They’re ideal for storing fixed-blade knives during short-term use, such as during a hunting or fishing trip. For long-term storage, however, store the knife outside the sheath.
- Blood can accelerate the rusting process, and since knives get used for gutting, skinning, boning, and filleting, be sure to rinse the blade/tang afterward. Then, dry the blade with an absorbent cloth and apply a light coat of food-grade oil to the steel.
- Vinegar and 0000 steel wool can help remove surface rust from a neglected blade.
- Ceramic plates offer a poor cutting surface. Instead, opt for wood or synthetic cutting boards.
- My grandpa, wise as he was, sharpened his knives on an electric grinding wheel. A bench grinder removes far too much steel, and the heat can remove the temper from a blade. Instead, use a sharpening stone or rod.
- The steeper a blade’s angle, the more fragile it becomes. Conversely,a wedge-shaped angle is more durable, though less precise. It’s a little like comparing a scalpel or a fillet knife to an ax. Each blade-angle has a purpose, but they aren’t interchangeable. For all-around use, 22 degrees offers a happy medium.
- Pocket lint and debris can gum-up the hinge on a folding knife. A blast of compressed air and a few drops of oil will keep folders in tip-top condition.