Jay Fisher - World Class Knifemaker,
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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.
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:
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!
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:
|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|
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Thanks for the advice....BTW you have a very good website...
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.
"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?
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.
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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