Jay Fisher - World Class Knifemaker

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Full compliment counterterrorism combat knife:
"Uvhash" Tactical, Combat, Counterterrorism Knife, obverse side view in ATS-34 high molybdenum stainless steel blade, 304 stainless steel bolsters, Coyote/Black G10 composite handle, hybrid tension-locking sheath with full accessory package

Care of your fine handmade or custom knife

Modern knife care with renaissance wax, simichrome, and soft cotton for gemstone and hardwood handles and high chromium and high molybdenum stainless steel blades

"Altair" obverse side view: CPM154CM stainless steel blade, hand-engraved 304 stainless steel bolsters, Pietersite gemstone handle, Frog skin inlaid in hand-carved leather sheath
More about this Altair

Modern handmade knives and their care

This is actually a popular page on my site. You might be surprised how many knife makers, dealers, purveyors, or factory knife outlets on the internet do not include simple instructions on how to care for your custom knife, or any knife for that matter. Some people think that when the knife sale is over, the transaction is complete. I think about it differently. After the sale is when the knife goes into the field, into the hands of the user, and that it when it has to prove its worth and maintain its value.

A fine knife is like any investment in a tool; you have to do some simple things to care for it. Unlike silverware, which may sit in a drawer for years without the slightest care, a custom knife is a finely made tool with an organic component (the carbon in the steel), and can deteriorate if not cared for. The simplest comparison would be to a fine custom-made firearm of blued steel. You must keep it clean, dry, stored with access to dry air, avoid sudden changes in moisture, shock, corrosive environments, and residual contact left by handling.

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. Please read these instructions below for a clear, concise description of knife care.

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If you would like to include this information on your site, please email me here for permission.
"Xiphias" (the Swordfish) 440C high chromium stainless steel blade, 304 stainless steel bolsters, Brecciated Jasper gemstone handle, black rayskin inlaid in hand-carved leather sheath
More about this Xiphias

Knife Care Points

Your Jay Fisher knife has been constructed with the finest materials available. It is, however, a tool, and though some fine knives will never cut anything but gasps of admiration, all knives deserve proper care. My knives are built to last for several generations, with sheaths that should last at least one generation with moderate care. There’s no reason your knife can’t outlive you, unless you’re a relentless cutting maniac! Some important points:

  • 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.
  • Clean handles and sheaths with damp cloth and buff with soft dry cloth. A light coat of Renaissance Wax 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.
  • Never oil any knife! This is an old practice from the 19th century. Even if a sheath is wood, don't use oil. Oil attracts dust and clings to small abrasive particles. These particles will end up in the sheath, no matter what the sheath is made of, and scratch the blade. Wax will remain slick and resist dirt, sand, and abrasive particles. More about waxes vs. oil at this link.
  • 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 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!

It is interesting to note that if you have one of my knives that has a stainless steel mirror polished blade, with 304 stainless bolsters/fittings and a gemstone handle, the most ambitious care requires only an occasional dusting and waxing. Most gemstones will outlast the blades!

"It gives me great (if somewhat apprehensive) satisfaction that ninety percent of the pieces I make will still be admired centuries after my bones are dust."

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"Procyon" liner lock folding knife, obverse side view,in hand-engraved ATS-34 high molybdenum stainless steel blade, hand-engraved 304 stainless steel bolsters, anodized 6AL4V titanium liners and lockplate, Pounamu New Zealand Greenstone Nephrite Jade gemstone handle, case of Granite, Quartz Terrazzo composite
More about this Procyon

Special Polishes: Simichrome®, Flitz®, and other metal polishes

Polishes for metal are not protectants, though they often contain protective elements. Don't confuse polishes with waxes, they are starkly different! Polishes usually contain extremely fine abrasives such as aluminum oxide and iron oxide. These particles, though very small, actually abrade the surface of the metal, though lightly. These polishes also contain metal oxidizers and acids, which chemically break down the surface of the metal to accelerate the abrasive process by etching the metal chemically. Some steels, like blued steel, can be ruined by repeated uses of these harsh metal polishes. Some metals, like brass and nickel silver, will benefit greatly from the etching and abrasive action of these polishes, which can leave a bright, beautiful finish.

This is why it is very important that you know what you are using to protect your knife, components, and fittings. Waxes typically contain only non-abrasive mediums, and do not abrade, cut, etch, or chemically react with the surfaces of metals.

So how do you know what to use, when to use it, and where to use it? The table below should give you a good idea. Notes on the table:

  • Stainless Steels: Blades: 440C, ATS-34, CPMS30V, CPMS90V, CPM154CM, D2. In fittings: 304, 302 stainless steel.
  • Non-Stainless Steels: Blades: O-1, A2, damascus carbon steel. In fittings: mild steel, low carbon steel, damascus carbon steel
  • Other fitting metals: Brass, Nickel Silver, Mokume Gane (diffusion welded similar metals), Copper, Titanium.
  • Finishes: I've only listed the finishes I typically provide: mirror, satin, or media (bead) blasted.
  • Treated: Etching, Plating, Bluing: this column refers to the surface of the metal, whether etched with text or designs, electroplated, electroformed, or patinaed with a surface treatment. This includes passive oxidation (bluing) in either the sodium based process (black bluing) or the nitrate based process (peacock in cobalt, vermillion, or straw colors). The surface may also be electroplated or electroformed with gold, nickel, copper or other metals.
  • Condition: Excellent to good means completely blemish free to light clouding, fingerprints, or scuffing. Fair to poor includes heavy scuffing, scratches or signs of discoloration or rust.
  • Care: Cleaning: You'll see the word clean in the Care column. This is done only to remove dirt and debris, as well as used polishing compound. This means washing with a mild detergent and water, lightly scrubbing with an old, soft toothbrush, then rinsing clean and drying. This will remove dirt and debris before waxing to protect the metal. You'll see it listed after polishing; this is done to remove the acids and compounds left behind by the polish
  • Care: Wax and Polish: In the Care column, wax only means only Renaissance Wax® or BriWax®. Polish means only Simichrome® or Flitz®. Other waxes and polishes are not listed, because I don't use them, and since they vary greatly in their composition, abrasive potential, and chemical make-up, you shouldn't use them either. Other polishes may have the abrasiveness of rubbing compound (abrasive iron oxide) or even lapping compound (abrasive and scouring silicon carbide). Don't use them, they can scratch and ruin your knife and fittings!
Material Finish Etching, Plating, Bluing Condition Care
Stainless Steel Mirror or Satin None Excellent to Good Clean, then Wax only
Stainless Steel Mirror or Satin None Fair to Poor Clean, then Simichrome®, clean, then Wax
Stainless Steel Mirror or Satin Treated Any Clean, then Wax only
Stainless Steel Media (Bead) Blasted None Excellent to Good Clean, then Wax only
Stainless Steel Media (Bead) Blasted None Fair to Poor Clean, then Simichrome®, clean, then Wax
Stainless Steel Media (Bead) Blasted Treated Excellent to Good Clean, then Wax only
Stainless Steel Media (Bead) Blasted Treated Fair to Poor Clean, then Wax only
Non-Stainless Steel Mirror, Satin, or Media (Bead) Blasted None Excellent to Good Clean, then Wax only
Non-Stainless Steel Mirror, Satin, or Media (Bead) Blasted None Fair to Poor Clean, then Simichrome®, clean, then Wax
Non-Stainless Steel Mirror, Satin, or Media (Bead) Blasted Treated Any Clean, then Wax only
Other Fitting Metals Mirror or Satin None Any Clean, then Simichrome®, clean, then Wax
Other Fitting Metals Media (Bead) Blasted None Any Clean, then Wax only
Other Fitting Metals Any Treated Any Clean, then Wax only

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"Flamesteed" obverse side view in mirror finished, hot blued O1 high carbon tungsten-vanadium tool steel blade, hand-engraved 304 stainless steel bolsters, Bird's Eye Rhyolite gemstone handle, hand-carved, hand-dyed leather sheath
More about this Flamesteed

The number one complaint

My number one complaint is that the client has stored his knife in the sheath, or forgotten that he's left it in the sheath (sometimes for months or years) and that there are little spots of rust starting to form. I can't say this enough: don't store knives in sheaths! Incidentally, what do you think would happen if you stored a blued firearm in its leather holster for years, and never looked at it? Sure, you want to keep it with the sheath, and carry it in the sheath, but long term storage in the knife sheath is probably the most destructive thing you can do to your fine custom knife.

Please remember that stainless tool steels can corrode. These are not low carbon steels or completely rust-free austenitic steels used in mass-produced kitchen knives; these are fine, high carbon, martensitic stainless tool steels, and as such, are more resistant to corrosion than non-stainless, but can still corrode because of the high carbon content. I have posted this on my care sheet that I give out with every knife (and has been available on this website since the beginning in standard and military form).

It makes no difference whether the sheath is leather or kydex and aluminum, whether the air is as humid as Florida or as dry as Nevada. The knife blade needs to breathe and stay dry. When humidity and temperature changes in the normal course of the day or seasons, condensation can form on any steel. If the steel is allowed access to free air, it can stay relatively dry, and corrosion can not gain a foothold. But if the knife is stored in the sheath, and even atmospheric moisture is allowed to stay against the blade, the blade will start to rust.

On a mirror polished blade, this can be ruinous, and if the knife has been custom etched, the only recourse is to grind off all the etching and corrosion, regrind and refinish the blade (including polish) and re-etch, which is very expensive and time consuming and may not even be possible. Even if the knife is coated heavily with wax, long-term storage in the sheath will encourage corrosion. Please don't do it! Please read the related topic on my FAQ page.

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"Trifid" reverse side view in 440C high chromium stainless steel blade, hand-engraved 304 stainless steel bolsters, Brecciated Jasper gemstone handle, Ostrich leg skin inlaid in hand-carved leather sheath
More about this Trifid

What about military, tactical, and combat knife care?

Though military combat and tactical knives are often tougher, and made with more corrosion resistant materials, they also have specialized care needs that may not apply to collectors, investment, hunting, or daily working knives. I've created a special page for Tactical, Military, and Combat Knife Care.

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"Magdalena Magnum" obverse side view in D2 extremely high carbon die steel blade, hand-engraved 304 stainless steel bolsters, Pilbara Picasso Jasper gemstone handle, hand-carved, hand-tooled leather sheat
More about this Magdalena Magnum

Some emails about knife care

Here are a couple interesting emails about common knife care. Some of these are posted on my Funny Emails pages.  Though I've answered some, others I have not been able to respond to. I do hope you find them interesting.

Hi Jay,
I wonder if you can give me some advice.; I have a set of beautiful antique bone/sterling tipped handle knives.; The bone is suddenly looking really dull with small cracks. Is there a way to bring back at least some of the bone's beauty and increase the longevity?
Thank you, J.

My response:

Hello, J. Thanks for writing.
Unfortunately, there is not much that can be done to preserve bone, as it is porous and changes dramatically with moisture and temperature. A light microcrystalline wax and keeping them out of the sun is best. If the knives are valuable antiques, the less you do to them, the better.
Good luck,

J.'s response:

Thanks for the advice....BTW you have a very good website...

Hi Jay:
My wife put an antique horn handle carving knife into the dishwasher and completely ruined it. Is there anything that I can do to bring it back? It is all dried up like an old bone. Thanks in advance for any advice.
B. L.

"Bring it back?"

I inadvertantly put my housemates bone handled knives through the dishwasher, the dishwasher is broken and ran for 9 hours straight! Is there anything I can do to care for the knives now to stop them drying out?

Lots and lots of lotion, Linda. (I'm kidding!)

I have a custom knife that I left in the sheath too long and the sheath is a bit stained from the brass hilt. Is there any way to clean the sheath stain?
Thanks. Weldon

Cleaning out my dad's closet I came upon a knife made by the Sidney R. Baxter & Co. of Boston. Carbon steel, rusty and corroded. How can I best clean and get in good condition. I see you want me to use silicone car wax, but what will first stop the rusting? Thanks for your time and expert advice.

It is easy to see that once certain damage is done to blades and handles of knives, there simply is no realistic, economical, and reasonable way to eliminate the problem and return the knife to its original form, finish, and value. The best thing you can do with knives is to not neglect them in the first place.

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"Izanagi" fine handmade knife, reverse side view: 440C high chromium stainless steel blade, hand-engraved 304 stainless steel bolsters, Noreena Jasper Gemstone  handle, Rayskin inlaid in hand-carved leather sheath
More about this Izanagi

Much more detailed information about knife care

This page is simply a light overview of the knife care process. For a much greater detailed examination of different steel types, discussion and information on preservatives and protectants, recommended care procedures, compounds, and treatments, chemistry and cleaning, as well as care of the sheath, stand, components, and accessories, please visit my Tactical, Combat, and Military Knife Care page. Most of the detailed information on that page also applies to collector's handmade and custom knives.

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"Kochel" custom art knife, reverse side view in hot blued, mirror polished O1 high carbon tungsten-vanadium tool steel blade, 304 stainless steel fittings, Polvadera Jasper gemstone handle, stand of American Black Walnut, Wenge, Cocobolo hardwood and Polvadera Jasper
More about this Kochel

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  Copyright and Knives
        440C: A Love/Hate Affair  
        ATS-34: Chrome/Moly Tough  
        D2: Wear Resistance King  
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Knife Blade Testing
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