Carbon Steel Knife Care & Maintenance

Knife by West Coast Bladecraft. Delphine Lippens Photography. 

Knife by West Coast Bladecraft. Delphine Lippens Photography. 

Carbon steel is arguably the current industry standard for quality speciality knives from bushcraft to culinary. The modern technology that goes into the steel and crafting of the blade have advanced to give exceptional qualities. Carbon steel is mostly noted for its ability to hold a hair-splitting edge for a prolonged period. Alternatively however, the drawback of this steel is its susceptibility to oxidation. If taking the proper steps to ensure there is no rust forming, then a protective patina will develop over time giving each blade it's own identity - much in the same way copper greens over time or leather becomes more complex as it ages. This patina that develops is black iron oxide, a rust that does not eat away at the metal as red iron oxide does (red rust). It also creates a barrier which makes it more difficult for the red oxide to form. That's why people force patinas on carbon steel knives, it will ensure that the knife doesn't corrode further. If rust does begin to form, take a soft scrub and use warm water with soap to remove the corroded area. Make sure not to use steel or copper scrubs as this will ruin the patina.

Breaking it in:

1. If using for food preparation you can expect a distinct smell of the carbon depending on the steel. This is normal and not harmful. To minimize this put whatever you are chopping in a water bath. 

2. Keep a wet and dry towel by your cutting station and wipe the blade with the wet and then dry towel every minute or so as you are using it. (The patina will take a few weeks depending on how often you are using your knife.)

3. Keep your blade clean and dry! Whether in the woods or the kitchen a dry, clean blade is a rust-free blade. The blade can get wet, but after use ensure to dry it completely. 

4. A light coat of oil is an efficient method of protecting your knife - Use good gun oil or mineral oil.