Care, maintenance and sharpening

        These knives are made of high carbon steel and will rust if not cared for. Over time the blade will probably develop a light grey-brown patina. This is normal for carbon steel knives.

> After use wash in warm water with detergent and dry immediately. They are not dishwasher safe !

> Wipe the blade with a thin film of light machine oil or clear petroleum grease (e.g. Vaseline).

> Do not store in the sheath for long periods, especially wet. Chemicals used to tan leather can promote corrosion. If rust does form on the blade it can sometimes be removed with a green synthetic scouring pad. Alternatively use 320 grit or finer wet and dry paper.

> Occasionally apply beeswax-based polish, linseed oil or clear petroleum jelly (e.g. Vaseline) to timber handles.

> Touch up the edge on a fine stone after use or before going out hunting.

Use and misuse

        A knife is a cutting tool only. Please don't use it as a pry bar, screwdriver, or for attempting to cut through bones (use a bone saw instead!). It is not designed to be thrown. Poking it into the ground will dull the edge. Sharpen it only with an oil or water stone, never with a belt sander or bench grinder.


        My knives are intended to be sharpened using oil or water stones only. Please don't use a bench grinder or belt sander to sharpen them - if used carelessly such power tools can draw the temper of the steel ("burn the steel"), and at worst can introduce deep notches in the blade which can act as stress risers, leading to the possibility of blade failure.

        For sharpening I recommend a Norton IB8 aluminium oxide stone, 50mm x 200mm (2" x 8") in a suitable holder which is in turn fixed securely to a bench. This stone can be recognised by its grey and tan coloured sides. I have used quite a few different types of stone, and of them all the Norton IB8 has worked most consistently for me. I got the IB8 shown in the images below in 1979, although it should be mentioned I have re-flattened the surface a couple of times (BTW I own more than just one IB8).

        Use a cutting fluid. I have used CRC 5-56, WD40, inox, light machine oil, honing oil, kerosene and even turpentine.

Sharpening 1

        I sharpen with the blade at an angle of between 20 and 25 degrees to the face of the stone. To get an idea of the correct angle use a drop saw to cut a wedge at your chosen angle and use that so you can see what the angle looks like. In the image above the wedge is 22.5 degrees.

       Some people sharpen at an angle significantly shallower than 20 degrees. Such acute angles give a very fine edge, which is initially very sharp - like a scalpel. However there is not much steel support behind such a fine edge and it is likely to get blunt quickly.

Sharpening 2

        I use long slow strokes on the stone, alternating in each direction. Start the sharpening stroke at the handle end of the blade and work towards the tip. This process has been likened to trying to cut a thin slice off the top of the stone. Use quite a lot of pressure but work slowly to enable you to be in control at all times.

Sharpening 3

        As I come up to the curve or belly of the blade I raise the handle slightly to maintain the correct sharpening angle as I sharpen the curve. This is hard to explain, and really has to be seen in action (check for videos on youtube).

        It can take some time to get the knife sharp, I suspect many people think it should only take a pass or two on the stone. When I am first putting on an edge it can take up to 15 minutes.

Sharpening 4

        With proper technique the fine side of the Norton IB8 stone will often get an edge "shaving-sharp", but not always. Even if the knife is not quite shaving sharp it will have good "working sharpness". To get a shaving-sharp edge I use a fine hard Arkansas stone or a Spyderco fine ceramic stone. I use less pressure with the fine stones compared to when using the IB8. A Spyderco stone is shown above.

        After sharpening I run the edge over a piece of pine. This helps to break off any fine wire feather-edge that may have formed during sharpening.

        It has to be stressed that sharpening is a skill that takes time and practice to develop. To recap - I recommend using a securely held Norton IB8 aluminium oxide stone with suitable cutting fluid, with long slow alternate strokes at an edge angle of between 20 and 25 degrees, finishing with a fine grade stone.

To get proficient at sharpening practice, practice, practice!

Copyright © 2018 Darren Englebretsen