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Basic Knife Care

I've decided to use this page to blog about some of my hunting experience and common knowledge. Today it's about oiling your hunting knives. This is a most important thing to do to keep the blade from rust and if it's a folding knife to also keep the parts in good working order. Let's start with the blade.. Hunting knives are used for field dressing and skinning. Keep in mind that you are in most cases going to eat the animal you kill. So, NEVER use a petroleum based oil on your knife. It's poison, even in trace amounts. Not even Vaseline, it rhymes with gasoline and it's petroleum based. Now, you may ask, what's left. Well I use vegetable oil. Other alternatives are oils made for cooking knives. There a a few that were developed for knives and guns that are non-toxic also. I use canola oil. Now some still think this oil is bad for you. I don't think so. I use it because it works well and it is more penetrating then other cooking oils. Other good choices are cotton seed, mineral, olive, corn, peanut, soybean, you get the idea. Use an oil that won't kill you if you eat it. Now I will say this, these oils break down quick so clean and re-oil your knives often. I do it about once a month. Even if they are not in use. This helps keep the knives free from rust and dirt build up. I have also struggled with the notion of whether or not to keep my knife in it's leather sheath. Some say no, others say it's OK. I have talked to many people about this. It all depends on the climate. Humidity is the enemy. I keep my knives in their sheaths and they are fine. However keep in mind I also keep them in a cool dry place. You can store them separately. If you do. Keep the knife wrapped in a soft cotton cloth so the blade is not exposed when picking it up. Well that's it for now. If you have a comment you would like to add please feel free to do so.
Happy Hunting smile

Don Fischer's picture
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Re: Basic Knife Care

Welcome to BGH!

Nice post. I guess that many of us don't really give a lot of though to knife care. I have mostly stainless anymore. I sharpen them and put them away. But in the past I have had some nice carbon knives. Boy will they rust! But I usually found that keeping them dry worked well. If the sheath get's wet with a carbon knife, you have a problem. I'm thinking a nylon sheath, chincy as they look, is really a better sheath for a carbon knife. My pocket knives have been mostly carbon, tarnish a lot. To fix that I get out some 400 grit wet/dry paper and clean them up. Mostly have folder's anymore so I put a drop of oil on the hinge now and then, sharpening oil.

What do you do about sharpening? Use regular sharpening oil or does cooking oil work there too?

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Re: Basic Knife Care

Use regular sharpening oil or does cooking oil work there too?

me curious 2? Think

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Re: Basic Knife Care

I use a diamond stone so I use water when sharping my blades. They can also be used dry. Diamond stones work fast, you can grind down your knife too much if you're not careful. But I get razor sharp edges on all my blades. All my hunting knives are Buck and use 420HC steel. My SOG knives work better with a very fine belt sander. The drawback is you can mess up the temper of the blade if you get it too hot. Also a good old barber leather strap will keep a good edge on some knives. If you use a honing oil make sure to wash the knife with a mild soap and water solution to rinse it all off .Some honing oils are non-toxic. I then use a hair dryer on very low heat to dry the knife. Then I oils it with vegetable oil. I only use 3 in one oil on tools I know will never come in contact with food. It's a great oil for garden tools. WD-40 works well too. Again never use these on food knives, even hunting knives. I hope this helps. There's more to hunting safety then just the guns. I will post some of my gun safety tips later. I could go on and on ... So for now, Happy Hunting... smile

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Re: Basic Knife Care

I have used carbon steel in the past for my cooking knives at home. They will discolor, but this is not the same as rust. It will help protect the knife from rust. Carbon steel is a whole different animal. Just keep the knife as clean as you can and oiled with olive oil. It will start to turn a blotchy black color. This is OK, it's not rust. I sharpen these knives with a diamond rod. Stainless steel on the other hand must me completely clean and shinny. Any sign of discolor is a sign of rust waiting to happen. If you see this, clean it up ASAP. Triple zero steel wool will do the trick in most case so long as you catch it soon.

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Re: Basic Knife Care

I'm an old duffer. I remember when arkansas stones first got going. I never cared for them much but have tried them and still have a couple laying around. I had a set of sharpeners that used that diamond hone, never made it work well but my son does. I had a sharpening tool I got from Track Knives in Whitefish, Mont years ago, early 70's. It was a block of wood glued inside a leather holder that 400 grit wet dry sand paper was fixed on. Worked very well in the field. The leather strap it was fixed to was used to strop the blade to finish it off. With that system the blade was drug across the paper, the owner's of Track claimed it helped keep the angle of the edge better than cutting into a stone. I don't know but it did work.

My grandfather taught me to sharpen a knife. He used an oil stone and drug the edge the way Track said to do. He got very sharp blades like that and so did I. I never worried much about trace oil deposit's on the blade but never drank the oil either. I suppose that trace's of the oil could in time do some kind of harm but how much time would it take? I just wipe the blade dry and forget about it. I suspect that cooking oil might be a better idea, I just never found the need. Back to my grandfather a moment, he taught me to roll the knife over it's back when sharping to avoid hitting the edge on the stone acidently.

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Re: Basic Knife Care
wolfspider wrote:
I have used carbon steel in the past for my cooking knives at home. They will discolor, but this is not the same as rust. It will help protect the knife from rust. Carbon steel is a whole different animal. Just keep the knife as clean as you can and oiled with olive oil. It will start to turn a blotchy black color. This is OK, it's not rust. I sharpen these knives with a diamond rod. Stainless steel on the other hand must me completely clean and shinny. Any sign of discolor is a sign of rust waiting to happen. If you see this, clean it up ASAP. Triple zero steel wool will do the trick in most case so long as you catch it soon.

You make a good point about carbon steel and discoloration. It's nothing to worry about though some people get freaked about it. It's a perfectly normal characteristic of high carbon steel.

However I think a food grade honing stone oil is best for lubricating the locks and pivot points on knives that will be used for edible meat. What I mean by that is to use a highly refined mineral oil. I would not use vegitable oil at all. Trust me, vegitable oil will go rancid and gum up over time. I've seen more mechanisms ruined from the use of vegitable oil that anything. Personally I use a very small drop of RemOil on the pivot points of my folding lock-backs or liner-lock knives, and only whenever I notice things not working as slick as they should. It evaporates dry leaving an invisible teflon film, keeps things moving buttery smooth. Is it safe? Well mineral oil would be much safer, but we're talking the inner workings of the knife here, not the blade. Personally I've never had a need to oil my blades, either high carbon, or stainless. I want my carbon steel blades to patina and oxidize over time so I do nothing at all to prevent it. I don't worry about stainless, it just stains less. The knives I use get looked after pretty well anyway and get used well. Never had a problem with rust or corrosion, even in wet weather. Slight surface oxidation and discoloration is harmless on high carbon. Just take care to completely clean and sanitize your blades after use on game meat, or any meat.

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Re: Basic Knife Care

Yes about the vegetable oil having a downside. That's why I made the point that it breaks down fast and requires cleaning and re-oiling often. I did list mineral oil as one of the choices. It's used in bakeries and is nontoxic. I will give it some thought. There is also an oil developed by the Germans way back in WW I. It is nontoxic and is a great oils for knives and guns. This oil is call Ballistol and is a great gun oil. The downside of this oil is it will break down trace metals like lead and even copper, so if you have a knife with a brass handle I would keep this oil off of it. There's another oil made in Japan called tsubaki oil or camellia oil. I have considered trying this oil. I have heard great things about it. The main point I'm making is, "I don't use petroleum based oils on my hunting knives". Petroleum is a hydrocarbon, and your body can't break it down, so it's toxic, even in trace amounts. Try smelling 3 in one oil, you'll get the idea.

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Re: Basic Knife Care

Here's something I found on the Web. http://www.inchem.org/documents/jecfa/jecmono/v10je08.htm It' concerns the use of food grade mineral oils.

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Re: Basic Knife Care

OK. there might be some confusion about the reason I use a vegetable oil on my hunting knives. So, I'm going to break the knife up into the different parts. The handle (I have wood and brass handle knives for hunting)(I use a Buck 110 and 119BR) Moving parts (this is for the folding 110 knife) and The Blade. I oil the blade with vegetable oil, (I use canola oil) it's non toxic. I oil the moving parts of my folding knife with the same. Keep in mind this is a food oil and will go bad, you need to clean your knife often and re-oil the knife. I do it about once a month. Lastly the handle. I use tung oil. It's non toxic and it has been use for years for cutting boards. If needed I will use a bit of bees wax also. Any brass or other metals on the handle are cleaned with a gentle metal palish. I do this at the end of a field use before storing the knives. OK, let's go back in time. It's time to go hunting. I get out my clean and shinny hunting knives. I wash them with mild soap and water and dry them with a hair dryer on low heat. I re-oil the blades and the moving parts. I wipe them down and sheath them. Now I'm on my way. Now the hunt is over and I'm back home. I wash the knives again with soap and water. I dry them off. I clean and treat the wooden and brass handle with the appropriate items. I oil the moving parts of my folder and the blades with canola oil. I wipe off the extra residue and store them away. Now, what is the oil for on the blade? It's an oxygen barrier to help keep rust away. Oxygen (O2) Dioxide) is the enemy. What is it for on the moving parts. To prevent ware-out and rust. I will say, if you're going hunting in -10 (minus ten) degree Fahrenheit temperatures you might see some thickening of the oil. I might consider a food grade mineral oil for very cold weather, or as an alternative in general. It does have the advantage of not going bad, so less cleaning would be needed too. I hope this clears things up a bit. Now remember, this is what I do and it's just a suggestion. I have had good results using this way. I hope you will too. But the fact is. You're going to do what you think is best for you, and so you should. So, Happy hunting and stay safe.

NOTE: If the knife I am using IS NOT for food, I will use 3 in one oil or WD-40. Great stuff for tools. Other stuff that is good for knives is Tuf-Glide and Tuf-Cloth. OK, I'm burned out. I hope this will spark others to continue to comment so we can all benefit from the combined experience and knowledge of the Hunters of the World.

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Re: Basic Knife Care

You use the Buck 110? You must be an okay guy then Thumbs up Owned one since about 1985. Through out most of the decade of the 1990's it was the Buck 110 and my Leatherman SuperTool that I always brought with me on every trip, outdoor or not. About ten to twelve years ago I began trying out newer and lighter weight folding knives kinda intermittently. Around the same time the SuperTool went MIA so I replaced it with a Leatherman Wave. The Buck 110 still sees some use, but I've been mostly using a Gerber Magnum LST lock-back for hunting and sometimes a Buck Vanguard fixed-blade. More recently I've been reaching more and more for my Buck Vantage Select for a lot of outdoor use as well, great little knife.

As far as rust and oxidation and oiling of blades goes. I just don't oil my blades with anything, ever, just never seen the need to, but that's just me. I've been to some pretty hot and humid places on this Earth and to some cool and wet places in the pacific northwest too and had only ever noticed a few slight specks of rust appear on a Leatherman occasonally, but that is a tool of mine that tends to see more extened use in wet conditions for long periods of time, fishing. Also been to some pretty dry and dusty places as well and can see where any oil would quickly collect dust and grit. I think oiling the pivot points on a folding knife and any contact points with a very minimal amount of RemOil has been plenty enough for my needs. But if hydrocarbons are of concern then I think mineral oil would be good.

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