Jay Fisher - World Class Knifemaker

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"Achelous" in ATS-34 high molybdenum stainless steel blade, hand-engraved 304 stainless steel bolsters, Indian Green Moss Agate gemstone handle, hand-carved leather sheath inlaid with frog skin
"Achelous"

Tactical, Military, Combat Knife Care

"Mercury Magnum" obverse side view: 440c high chromium stainless steel blade, 304 stainless steel bolsters, blue/black G10 fiberglass epoxy laminate handle, locking kydex, aluminum, stainless steel combat tactical knife sheath

This Page is About

The first version of this page was short and sweet, with the standard list of do's and don'ts for the care of one of my typical tactical knives that I hand out with each knife purchase. When I did the website rebuild, I decided to go into much greater detail on this page, to provide a clear and concise reference for protection of your investment and tool. From the simple axiom of keep it clean, dry, and sharp, this page evolved into discussion of points of value between oils and proprietary waxes, among other topics. My hope is that this page is considered a worthwhile reference and service to my knife client and knife community, an important part of what I do as a professional knife maker.

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The "Creature" in bead blasted and hot blued O-1 high carbon tungsten-vanadium tool steel blade, 304 stainless steel bolsters, Redheart hardwood handle, kydex, aluminum, blued steel sheath

The Most Important Rule

The most important rule to remember is:

Do not store the knife long term in the sheath.

Long term storage in the knife sheath does not allow the metal to breathe, and condensed moisture can accumulate in the sheath body no matter the climate or environment. This will lead to rusting and pits on every type of knife steel. If the knife is to be stored, keep it near the sheath, but not in the sheath, in a stable, dry environment. I talk about this subject in great detail at this bookmark on my FAQ page.

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"Anzu" fine combat, tactical knife, obverse side view in CPMS30V high vanadium tool steel blade, 304 stainless steel bolsters, Tiger Stripe G10 fiberglass epoxy laminate composite handle, digi-camo desert kydex locking sheath with ultimate extender package and accessories

The expectations of life depend upon diligence; the mechanic that would perfect his work must first sharpen his tools.

--Confucius

Taking Care of Your Weapon and Tool

The only way to have a worthwhile combat, tactical, rescue, and service duty knife that is up to the task is to keep it ready. Ready means sharp, clean, maintained, and prepared for immediate action, perhaps in defending your own life.

Thankfully, modern tactical and combat knives are made with durable, tough, and reliable modern materials (or should be) that are fairly easy and simple to maintain. Below is a more detailed version of the standard list of details that I typically hand out with each tactical and combat knife I make, with some current bulleted and clear points to keep your investment, tool, and weapon in the best shape.

  • Blade Steels: The main long-term concern with blade steels is corrosion. It is important to understand that there is no absolute corrosion-proof tool steel. These blade steels have varying amounts of alloys, which dictate their hardness-toughness range, wear-resistance, and corrosion resistance. Knife blade steels are discussed in greater detail on my Blades page. There you will find resources, instructions, and links about sharpening.
    • O-1 High Carbon Tool Steel: I use a high tungsten-vanadium alloy oil-hardening version of this tool steel available in several finishes: bead blasted, satin, mirror, and hot blued. This steel has very little corrosion resistance and will easily and readily rust if not cared for. I frequently hot-blue my O-1 blades for increased corrosion inhibition but this does not absolutely eliminate the potential for rust. O-1 blades require the use of a coating to protect the steel from corrosion. I recommend a silicone resin-based car wax, as it is the most durable and serviceable and is readily available. An alternative (that is a little harder to find) is Briwax®, which is a heavy, durable, natural, and long-lasting wax created for fine furniture. Always clean the blade with gentle detergent, rise in clear tap water and dry before applying. Follow the directions on the container. Microcrystalline waxes work too, but the coating is not as thick as with the silicone car wax or the Briwax®. Some light fogging is typical on hot blued and bead blasted blades if wax is applied; this is the wax accumulating in the low points of the surface.
    • D-2 Extremely High Carbon Die Steel: Though it has 12% Chromium, this is not a true stainless and is only stain-resistant. D2 is a very tough, extremely wear resistant tool steel that can be tempered very hard, but requires some care. I recommend the same care as O-1 above, though it is much harder for D-2 to oxidize and corrode. Prolonged exposure to acidic fluids such as orange juice or blood will corrode the blade. It is normal for mirror polished D-2 to have a noticeable "orange peel" granularity due to the chromium carbide crystal structure.
    • 440C High Chromium Stainless Steel: This is the most corrosion resistant of knife steels, and with 17% chromium, requires little care. Suitable for temporary saltwater use and lightly corrosive environments, it is recommended to rinse in clear water after use so salt and contaminants do not accumulate between bolsters, guards, and around mechanisms. If corrosive fluids: soda, fruit juices, salt water, sweat or blood are left on 440C to dry, corrosion and rust will appear. For ultimate protection, use a silicone based car wax or Briwax®.
    • ATS-34 High Molybdenum Stainless Steel: This is the same as 440C, but three to four percentage points of chromium have been replaced with molybdenum for extra toughness at high hardness. This lends itself to allow a smaller cross sectional blade geometry, and a thinner serviceable grind. Care for as 440C, but do not leave acidic fluids on the blade. It is not as corrosion resistant as 440C but is a true stainless steel. For ultimate protection, use a silicone based car wax or Briwax®.
    • CPM154CM High Molybdenum Crucible Particle Metallurgy Stainless Steel: This is very similar in alloy components to ATS-34 above, but is formed by the crucible particle metallurgy process. The process leads to a finer, more even distribution of alloy components in the billet. I believe that is what makes this stainless tool steel more corrosion resistant than ATS-34, perhaps as much as 440C. For ultimate protection, use a silicone based car wax or Briwax®.
    • CPMS30V, CPMS90V High Vanadium Crucible Particle Metallurgy Stainless Steels: These are high vanadium stainless tool steels formed by the crucible metallurgy process. Though their specifications claim that they are more corrosion resistant than 440C high chromium stainless steel, that spec assumes the same surface finish. CPMS30V and CPMS90V (and the discontinued CPMS60V) can not be effectively mirror polished, so bead blasting, satin finishing, and etching are more commonly used for a surface finish. This leaves a roughness in the blade surface, which makes the blade surface more susceptible to corrosion than mirror polished 440C. For ultimate protection, use a silicone based car wax or Briwax®.
  • Bolsters, Guards, and Fittings: In my combat, tactical, law enforcement, and military service duty knives, I opt for tougher materials than many other types of knives, but since this is a custom affair, a variety is offered. Bolsters, guards, and fittings are discussed in greater detail on a dedicated page.
    • Brass: Most of the brass I use on tactical knives these days is Naval brass, a zinc-copper alloy that has a high tin content (type 464). This makes it very strong with a high resistance to corrosion in sea water and marine environments. But all brass can darken and corrode, and the patina that is formed can be removed by buffing and polishing with any brass polishing compound or Simichrome® metal polish. An application of silicone based car wax or Briwax® helps preserve the finish.
    • Nickel Silver: This is actually called a "white" brass, in that it contains copper, nickel, and sometimes zinc, but no silver. Nickel silver is highly corrosion resistant, much more than brass, but may have a hint of patina and cloudiness over time. The surface and finish can be restored with any brass polishing compound or Simichrome® metal polish. An application of silicone based car wax or Briwax® helps preserve the finish.
    • Carbon Steel: I sometimes use plain carbon steels (low carbon steels) by request, usually for knives that have black blades and cold-blued bolsters. Though cold-bluing can inhibit corrosion slightly, it is by no means a rust preventative and must be reapplied throughout the life of the knife (just like a wear area on a blued steel firearm). Follow the instructions with the cold blue solution, and an application of silicone based car wax or Briwax® helps preserve the finish. Like the blades, do not oil, as oil attracts dust and can accumulate in sheaths, weakening adhesive bonds.
    • 304 Stainless Steel: This is my most commonly used and most preferred method of bolstering, guarding, and pinning or screwing the fixtures, handles, and fittings on my knives. 304 stainless steel is a high nickel, high chromium austenitic stainless steel and is very similar to 18-8, the stainless material used to make stainless steel nuts, bolts, and fasteners. It is extremely tough, fairly hard, and extremely corrosion resistant. In fact, it is the most corrosion resistant fitting material I've found. Care is... wash and dry and that's it!
  • Handles: For tactical combat, service duty, professional and law enforcement knives, a surprising variety of handle materials are used, with one thing in common: they are all mostly care free:
    • Woods: I use many different types of exotic and domestic hardwoods for my tactical knife handle materials. Most are very durable, and only need physical protection from metals and abrasives that can cut and scar. Do not soak wood handles for extended periods in water, as this can lead to swelling in most woods, which will loosen pins and weaken bonds. Wet only the surface of the wood if necessary while cleaning. A mild soap and water solution should remove any dirt and debris, followed by a rinse, dry, and good waxing and hand buffing to restore luster and offer some protection. Though the same silicone based car wax can be used to protect the wood, there are very fine and durable wood waxes like Briwax®, that offer heavy duty protection while sealing pores of most hardwoods. More details on my Wood knife handles page.
    • Stabilized Woods: Stabilized woods and laminates like Dymondwood are plastic-impregnated woods that are fairly impervious to moisture penetration and most contaminants and are much more durable than most plain woods. Though they are more moisture and exposure resistant than hardwoods, I would not recommend immersion for long periods of time, as the wood fibers could swell. Care for as woods above.
    • Micarta Phenolic: Micarta phenolics are tough, durable, waterproof, and long-lived. Whether bead blasted, satin finished, or highly polished, there is little care needed for micarta. Micarta can be physically abraded by metals and abrasives. To restore the visual contrast and appearance, the micarta handle can be lightly oiled with WD-40® water displacing oil or silicone spray. Wipe off any excess. More details on my Manmade knife handle materials page.
    • G-10 Fiberglass-Epoxy Laminates: These are manmade materials that are tough, durable, and waterproof. G-10 is slightly more brittle than micarta but slightly harder. Care is the same as for micarta phenolics above. More details on my Manmade knife handle materials page.
    • Gemstone: Some of my tactical knife clients have gemstone-handled knives. Gemstone is waterproof, tough, durable, and hard, resisting most chemical exposures and mechanical encounters, even with metals and abrasives. Care is the simplest of all the materials: wash and dry. Wax them if it makes you feel better, but they don't need it! More details on my Gemstone Knife handles page.
  • Sheaths: Most of my tactical knife sheaths are kydex, but some are leather, such as law enforcement basket weaved styles. Details about all types of sheaths on my Knife Sheaths page.
    • Leather: Care of the leather sheath is necessary for long term protection. Leather is permeable so should not be exposed to water or liquids. Keep clean and dry, and lightly wax with Briwax® or Renaissance® wax or other hard wax. Avoid water based waxes like the silicone-based car wax recommended for the knife blades above. Do not use oils like Neat's-foot oil, creams, or balms like Mink Oil or shoe waterproofing as these can soften the leather, allowing it to flex, and the knife to poke through! These compounds can also degrade and soften the adhesive bonds of the sheath, welts, stitches, and belt loops. Use the hard waxes only on the cow shoulder surface which is the main leather body, the welts (sides) and not on inlays, if equipped. Wax around the stitches, fittings, and fixtures well to protect these mechanical parts. Hand-buff to a high sheen.
    • Kydex (Tension fit): My tension fit kydex sheaths are typically constructed over a frame of 5052H32 corrosion resistant high-strength aluminum alloy and are bolted together with steel Chicago screws, which are blued, nickel plated, or stainless steel. Very little care is needed as this sheath is essentially waterproof. Clean with light soap solution, rinse, and dry. To restore some visual contrast and appearance of the kydex surface, wet a paper towel with WD-40® water displacing oil or silicone spray, and wipe the kydex. Do not spray, soak, or immerse the sheath in these penetrating oils or silicone liquids and do not spray the inside as they will degrade and soften the waterproof cement between the welts and kydex. Wipe off any excess as oils can attract dust.
    • Kydex (Locking): The care of my locking kydex sheaths is the same as the tension fit sheaths above. The only addition is the locking mechanism which is all stainless steel. Corrosion protection is not a worry, but the mechanism should be kept clean and as free of dirt, mud, and debris as possible, as this may prevent it from working. Always keep the mechanism clean, and make sure it operates. My locking sheaths have their own page with more detailed information.
    • Patterned or Color- dyed Kydex: This applies to camouflage, Digi-camo, or any kydex where the surface is a different color than the underlying substrate. These colors and patterns are dye printed into the surface. While they are fairly colorfast, solvents can dissolve them so they should only be cleaned with soapy water and rinsed in clear water. The surface will show scratches after a while, and the colors can be touched up with appropriately colored permanent marker, like Bic® Mark-it. You may have to buy the large assortment of colors (like Bic's Color Collection) to find a closely matching color. The markers are durable and long-lived, and the ink is acid-free.

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MARPAT pattern-dyed digi-camouflage kydex in locking knife sheath with stainless steel components and fittings on "Arcturus"

Cleaning the Knife and Sheath

Though specific care is listed above, I think it's important to offer some suggestions in cleaning the knife and sheath that will make it easier to maintain the value, finish, and longevity of the knife as a weapon and tool.

  • Mild Soap and Water: make sure that this is the strongest cleaner you use on your knife and sheath. A half of a teaspoon of dishwashing detergent in a quart of warm (not hot) water is as strong as is necessary. You can dedicate a worn toothbrush to your knife care kit, and after thoroughly wetting the dirt and soil, the toothbrush can scrub away any debris. The toothbrush does not scratch the steel, but the soil and dirt may, so be carful here and rinse away as much as you can without scrubbing. This doesn't usually matter with satin finished or bead blasted knives, but mirror finished knives can be scratched with the quartz that is in sand. Never use a wire brush.
  • Do not use any solvents: Though it may be tempting to use brake cleaner, mineral spirits, denatured alcohol, gun solvents, or other chemical solvents, do not use them. They can attack the bonding and bedding agents of the knife handle, and pull resins, oils, and waxes from hardwoods, causing them to shrink. Don't use them on the sheaths either; if your kydex is standard camouflage or Digi-camo patterned, these solvents will dissolve the color right out of them! Of particular interest to my military and law enforcement clients who use firearms: never use any chemical cleaners used for firearms on your knife! Military grade solvents like Mil-Spec CLP cleaner have chemicals that dissolve carbon to remove crud from gun barrels, and this will attack the carbon in the steel blade, actually dulling the cutting edge and etching the surface of the steel blade!
  • Never use any compounds to clean the knife or sheath: It may be tempting to use rubbing compound, polishing compound, or restorative compounds, but if it has the word "compound" in the name it definitely has abrasive particles in suspension, either silicon carbide, aluminum oxide, garnet, quartz, or iron oxide. These will abrade the surface of the knife, possibly ruining the finish. Don't use them.
  • Never use Steel Wool or Scotch-Brite® or any abrasive pads, papers, wheels, or any surface conditioning abrasives or pads of any kind on the knife. Though they may be fine for a glass baking dish or your tailpipe, you certainly wouldn't use them on your chrome plated bumper because they will fog and scratch the surface. Same for your knife; don't use them.

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"Minuteman" in blued and bead blasted O-1 high carbon tungsten-vanadium tool steel blade, 304 stainless steel bolsters, Verdite (Budstone) gemstone handle, locking kydex, aluminum, stainless steel, blued steel sheath

Wax vs. Oil

I think it's important to understand the difference between oiling and waxing the knife blades, handles, sheaths, components, and accessories. We all have the image of the warrior oiling his blade in the firelight, keeping in clean and slick for the upcoming battle. Of course, we also have the image of him sharpening it on a rock-

Neither of these practices are recommended. In my upcoming book, I go into where this practice and image comes from, but for this tactical knife care page, I just want to cover the basics. The clearest way is a comparison table:

Oil Wax
Oil is wet. Wax is dry.
Oil is short lived, and distillate oils like WD-40 actually evaporate over time Wax is-long lived and lasts a very long time.
Oils can be easily removed by ordinary soaps and even salty water. Waxes can not be removed by ordinary soaps and salty water.
Oils transfer to anything they touch: skin, objects, and other components. Waxes do not transfer, and stay where they are applied.
Oil contains petroleum distillates which chemically react with plastics, epoxies, and adhesives. Wax contains lipids and typically long-chain stable molecules that have little reaction potential.
Oils are sticky and thus tend to hold dirt, dust, and debris. Waxes are slick and smooth, and do not hold or grip dirt, dust, and debris.
Oils will dry out, making them more sticky. Waxes are already dry, so do not change.
Oils can easily be rubbed off by normal physical actions. Waxes can not easily be rubbed off, and are actually smoothed and polished by normal physical actions.
Oils are easily removed by other chemicals and solvents Waxes are not easily removed by chemicals and solvents.
Oils are distillates, chemically and industrially produced. Waxes tend to be natural, produced by plants and animals.
Fine, museum grade collections are never oiled. Fine, museum grade collections are typically waxed for long term preservation.
Oils are easy to apply. Waxes are more difficult to apply, and must be rubbed out and polished.
Oils are common and inexpensive Waxes are more expensive, but a little goes a very long way.

It's easy to see why I prefer waxing knife blades, sheaths, and components. Please make the effort to acquire a good wax for your care kit, and apply it at least once a year. Work the wax into the crevices around the blade to bolster or blade to guard junction, and keep a light coating on the blade. It will add tremendously to the long term protection of the knife.

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"PJLT" Tactical Combat Search and Rescue Pararescue knife ready for action in locking kydex, aluminum, and stainless steel knife sheath.

Temperature and Exposure Extremes

My military, combat, tactical, and service duty professional knives are made the best that I can make them, but where you take your knife and how you treat it may have an effect on its ability to work for you when you need it. Extremely high heat can affect the temper of any blade, so, obviously, don't stick your knife in a fire or heat source. Knife temper starts to change over 300° Fahrenheit (150° C), and epoxies, bedding agents, and manmade handle materials start to break down at 325°F (160° C). In short, anything above boiling is detrimental to a knife.

Sheaths are even more sensitive. Leather stiffens, dries, and shrinks above 150°F (65°C), so you can see that leaving the leather sheath in the bright sunshine of a car window will definitely have a negative affect. After overheating, leather can not be "brought back" to its previous condition. Kydex is more forgiving, but any high temperature exposure above 200°F (90°C) can cause this thermoforming material to soften. On the other end of the scale, kydex can become brittle below 0°F (18°C), so avoid shattering blows when the sheath is this cold.

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"PJLT" CSAR combat, tactical knife, high chromium stainless tool steel blade, 304 stainless steel bolsters, stabilized laminate phenolic impregnated hardwood handle, kydex, aluminum, steel sheath

What To Watch Out For

Unlike a knife collector who has stored his blade for years in a closet without looking at it and then discovers to his horror that the blade has rusty pits deep into the mirrored finish, the tactical combat knife is more often used, carried, and exposed to the elements. It is in the visual field of the soldier, rescueman, or law enforcement professional fairly often (or should be) and so he can keep an eye out for indicators of future problems.

  • Corrosion: if corrosion starts to appear, this will show up in several places. Hands are usually acidic, and corrosion can start to show on the tang of a full tang knife. Any discoloration of the tang indicates the knife should be cleaned, dried, and waxed at the first opportunity. Darkening at the cutting edge may appear more frequently, as the knife blade cuts corrosive materials, tissues, or objects, and has the cutting edge surface and relief more abraded. This is usually nothing to worry about and will disappear with the next sharpening.
  • Sheath Rubbing: if you notice an area on the sheath that has rubbing, be sure and check your rig, mounts, and equipment. Though kydex is durable, it is a thermoforming plastic, and can be abraded and worn, weakening it. Make sure your mounting method keeps the sheath as close as possible to your body.
  • Sheath Fasteners: If you've changed the orientation of the kydex tension fit aluminum belt loops, straps, or plate, be sure and check the Chicago screws for tightness.

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"Seabee" Obverse view. ATS-34 high molybdenum stainless steel blade, 304 stainless steel bolsters, canvas micarta phenolic handle, locking kydex, aluminum stainless steel, nickel plated steel sheath

Sharpening

You can sharpen your knife. Sharpening the knife is one of the most critical operations a knife owner is expected to perform. There are some important things to understand in the world of fine and custom handmade knives that can help tremendously with sharpening the blade.

  • First, it may help to know that every knife dulls. There is no such thing as a blade that does not dull, unless it's a blade that is never used. No matter how hard the steel is, no matter what the alloy, no matter how it is used, eventually it will dull. Humanity makes no knife that never, ever dulls.  All knives dull because they have thin cutting edges, and force and abrasion are applied directly to that edge in many hundreds or perhaps thousands of pounds per square inch. Even the hardest material we know of, diamond, will wear down at an edge. Knowing this, it's clear that if you use your knife, you will have to sharpen it. Clearly, you can dismiss any claims by any maker or manufacturer of knives that they never need sharpening.
  • High alloy, stainless, hypereutectoid steels hold better edges at a high hardness than most other steels commonly used for knife blades. If you have one of mine, you've got a very good start on holding the edge for a longer time than any medium, low carbon, hypoeutectoid, or lower alloy steel. If your knife made by me is cryogenically hardened and treated, it is in the best condition the steel can possibly be, holding an edge for as long as possible. Even though the hardest and most wear resistant steels will wear, it's an extremely good start to have one of my knives.
  • Sharpening is not complicated! While the constant drive to sell sharpening products, devices, equipment, and methods can be confusing, please know that sharpening a simple hand knife is, well, simple. All you have to understand is the idea of an acute angle. What these angles are and how to apply them to a cutting edge is not complicated; it's extremely simple. Understand that companies selling equipment to sharpen knives are making money by complicating the process, suggesting that you purchase their product to make sharpening simpler and somehow better. This is not the case; they are simply selling their product.
  • There is a classic, clear, and simple method to sharpen knives available in print, and it takes about a half of an hour to understand. Once you read it, you'll know exactly how to sharpen every knife you may have, and you'll probably be eager to do it. While you may read or see that the method is "dated," "old," "folksy," or described by other terms, know that the guy who wrote this simple text was a sharpening consultant to industry, including the meat packing and textile industry for 40 years. I know of no current professional who has had such experience in the field, and many years ago, he wrote a clear and simple text. You need to get this book and read it. It's The Razor Edge Book of Sharpening by John Juranitch (ISBN-10: 096660590X), (ISBN-13: 978-0966605907). You can find it on Amazon and many other online sources; just plug the title or numbers into any search engine. It's about $20.00 and it will be worth every penny. Once you have it, you'll have a simple, clear understanding of how to sharpen your knife. If I thought I could improve on this method, I would, but even in the most modern technology cutting edges, there is nothing that is as clear and simple as John Juranitch's method for the knife owner and user.
  • You need a good stone. I use the word stone, but know that I'm talking about a whetstone, a sharpener, bench stone, and a hone. If you have one of my knives, I will suggest the investment of a diamond abrasive stone. These are steel or plastic-bodied blocks, with nickel plating adhering industrially grown diamond particles on the surface. The best of these are made by DMT (Diamond Machining Technology). The diamond stone is expensive, but it will probably be the last stone in any particular grit that you will ever buy. It will not cup, wear down, or clog. It does not require water, oil or any liquid. It's durable, solid, and wide enough to assure that your blade will not become wavy, which happens with point contact sharpeners like rods, steels, tubes, shafts, or cutters. Sharpening by hand will make sure the blade is never microscopically heated at the cutting edge, something all motor-driven edge grinders do, no matter how much water is used, and no matter what the company selling these sharpeners claim.
  • Two grits are necessary for complete sharpening, and only one grit is required for simply sharpening an existing edge without relieving. A very coarse grit is used to establish the relief, and a fine grit to apply the cutting edge. I usually recommend DMT's "Extra-Extra Coarse" (120 micron or 120 mesh) for the relief, and DMT's "Fine" (25 micron, 600 mesh) for the cutting edge. You'll understand more once you read Juranitch's book, and may wish to purchase other grits for your specific desires. The only difference and change to Juranitch's method is the development of diamond abrasive technology, which was not widely available at the time he wrote the book.

Knife makers, distributors, hobbyist makers, and enthusiasts can get very complicated about cutting edges. They suggest ridiculous complexity, paper wheel abrasives, motor-driven polishers, complicated angle-establishing jigs, holders, and guides. You don't need any of these. As a knife client, you deserve to know the clearest, simplest, most reliable and proven method to sharpen your knife, and it's been established many, many years ago. Do you honestly think that we have improved on a method that industry uses to dispatch thousands of miles of cloth, material, and textiles? Do you think that packing plants have some complicated and lengthy process to separate billions of pounds of meat from bones? Meet the clearest method and the guy who advised them in a classic, reasonable process that anyone can understand. Get the book, read it, practice on some of your older, cheaper knives, and be amazed by what you can do!

I have no relationship whatever to Juranitch's book, his family, or endorsement of any kind, just like I have nothing to gain by recommending DMT for diamond sharpening stones. These are the methods I use, they work, and I simply suggest them because my clients deserve a reasonable, reliable, and simple method to sharpen and maintain their knife's cutting edge.

Note on serrations: If you have to sharpen serrations on your blade, I've included a simple system to sharpen the serrations I make on my knives on a special section about sharpening serrations on my "Serrations" page.

Need Details? More about knife owner sharpening on my 'Knife Care" page at this bookmark. For more advanced details about sharpening, please read my "Sharpening and cutting edge types; Refinement of sharpening by the knife owner" on my Knife Care page.

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"Ari B' Lilah" Custom Counterterrorism Tactical Combat Knife, blade view in ATS-34 high molybdenum-chromium martensitic stainless steel blade, 304 stainless steel bolsters, black G10 composite handle, hybrid tension-locking sheath in kydex, anodized black aluminum alloy, titanium, blackened stainless steel fasteners, anodized hardware and mounts, HULA with MagTac flashlight, LIMA with Maglite LED Solitaire, Ultimate belt loop extender with diamond pad sharpener
More about this Ari B'Lilah

Knife and Sheath Embellishment

Knives may be commemorative models, that is, embellished with either machine or hand- engraving, etched, and electroplated or electroformed with other metals.

  • Machine engraving, hand-Engraving, or etching on blade: There is no specific care required for machine engraving on the knife blade, but debris may be removed by a wetting in mild soap and water, and scrubbing with an old toothbrush. Apply wax to preserve.
  • Electroplating or electroform on blade: I electroform (heavy, thick, multi-component electroplating) dissimilar metals on some knife blades. The harder metals like nickel are very tough and durable, but gold, copper, green gold, rose gold are softer metals and can be rubbed off after years of polishing. Clean lightly and never use any compound or abrasive cleaners, keep waxed.
  • Sheath flashplates: Some of my commemorative or service duty tactical and combat knives have machine engraved or etched flashplates on the sheaths. The flashplates are easily removable, and are typically removed and set aside for the knife's retirement display. This also allows the sheath to have a more subdued appearance. The flashplates are either acid etched nickel silver or brass, or machine engraved lacquered brass or aluminum. All types of flashplates are easily scratched, so please be careful. A wetting with mild soap and water and and cleaning with a soft cloth is advised, not a brush. Wax as with the knife blade.

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"Azophi" tactical combat knife, obverse side view in ATS-34 high molybdenum stainless steel blade, 304 stainless steel bolsters, Lignum Vitae hardwood handle, locking kydex, aluminum, stainless steel sheath

The Basic Rules

The basic rules for any knife care are posted on my Knife Care page, and here's a quick review:

  • The weakest part of any knife is usually the tip, which happens to be the most abused part! Take care of the point, and the rest of the blade will follow.
  • Never throw knives, unless specifically designed for that use. I don't make throwing knives.
  • Never use knives to pry, dig, or chop. Get a pry bar, shovel, or axe instead.
  • Do not leave knives and sheaths in direct sun or high heat. Ultraviolet light oxidizes woods and bleaches the color out of some gemstone. 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.
  • To clean, hand wash blades when necessary with non-abrasive gentle detergent, rinse well and dry, then polish blades and fittings with good quality polish like Simichrome®. Avoid abrasive cleansers or textiles.
  • Clean handles and sheaths with damp cloth and buff with soft dry cloth. A light coat of Renaissance Wax or Briwax can bring back luster. Do not over-wax. A very small amount goes a long way.
  • 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.
  • Protect carbon steel and stainless steel knives with a light coating of hand-buffed wax, not oil. Oil attracts dust as well as weakens the sheath. Renaissance® wax is the best!
  • Some carbon steel knife blades are blued (related topic). 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.
  • Chemical etching is used in the maker’s mark on my mirror finished blades and for cosmetic enhancement. If you live long enough to polish away the etching without the help of power equipment, you won’t have any fingertips left!
  • Wood handles usually benefit from a light coating of furniture wax or Renaissance® wax or Briwax® and a good hand rubbing.
  • Brass and Nickel Silver fittings can be hand-polished with Simichrome® and lightly waxed for protection. It is normal for some scuffing to show on the front bolster or guard, this is where the sheath holds the knife (related topic). Polish brass often, coat with wax.
  • For very long term storage, store your knife with the sheath, not in it! The chemicals used in tanning of leather sometimes react with moisture in the air, leading to corroding of even stainless steels! Condensation even within military grade kydex sheaths can invite corrosion. If you can't keep the knife in the open, dry air, store with photographic quality desiccant in a plastic bag apart from sheath.
  • Keep knives sharp. Most accidents occur when dull knives are pushed too hard. For sharpening: The Razor Edge Book of Sharpening, by John Juranitch (Warner books 38-002) or go to Knife Sharpening (related topic).

Thanks for caring for your knife!

Page Topics

"Sirara" tactical combat knife, obverse side view in 440C high chromium stainless steel blade, 304 sculpted stainless steel bolsters, Tiger Stripe G10 fiberglass reinforced epoxy synthetic handle, locking kydex, aluminum, stainless steel sheath

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