How to Care for Your Join or Die Knife

How to Care for Your Join or Die Knife


Whether it is an everyday carry blade, an oyster shucker, chef knife or historical reproduction, rest assured that love and care went into the making of our blades and we stand behind our products for life. You can always bring any of our knives into the shop for a tune up or sharpening as many times as you like but some at-home care instructions will help you keep your knife in the best condition for the longest time possible.

Many of our knives are made from stainless steel and will not patina or rust. These do not need oil but simply need to be kept clean. If you have a high carbon blade, the steel will oxidize over time, turning different shades of gray and can form orange or brown rust if neglected. If the knife is kept clean then there is little chance of rust but a light coat of oil will prevent that. If your knife is in use frequently then the action of cutting and wiping prevents oxides from forming too thickly. Once a nice patina has formed, it will act as a barrier to further oxidation much like gun blueing. Our Damascus blades are high carbon and have a forced patina to show off the pattern in the steel. The patina will continue to develop as it is used. Many of the high carbon blades that I sell have a forced patina of one type or another in order to set the expectation that the blade will not stay shiny like a stainless steel blade.

There are many different handle materials used in the knives but we always choose materials that will be durable and dimensionally stable. All of our manmade materials such as Micarta, G-10 or resins are impervious to moisture and do not swell or shrink. The woods we use are either naturally stable and resinous like many tropical woods or stabilized with a process that completely impregnates the wood with a hardening resin. This fills the wood grain with the resin and prevents the soaking in of moisture and keeps the wood dimensionally stable. Oiling your handle will never hurt although some of the more dense materials won’t soak any in at all. 

For both blade and handle there are many good oil options. We sell an all natural food grade oil but there are many options that work well that you probably already have. Mineral oil is a great choice because it has no organic ingredients that can spoil and is harmless to consume. Cooking oils like olive, canola, avocado or coconut oil are totally fine to use for day to day purposes. They only thing to avoid with food oils is long term storage. Since food oils can turn rancid, you will want to avoid them for long term storage. WD-40 is a great cleaning agent but a poor oil. Balistol and firearm oils are great but not necessarily food safe. Although they are good choices for protecting your blade, they are not good choices for the kitchen.  

There are not too many prohibitions but the main thing is to keep you knife out of the dishwasher and sink. It is just so easy to quickly wipe off and put away your knives and no good reason to throw them in a pile of dishes where they will be dinged up, dulled and create a hazard. Even with durable materials, long soaks in warm water or even worse - steam can create problems. The temperatures in a dishwasher can approach the low end of the heat treating temperatures of the blade steel and steam will swell all but the most durable plastics.

For sharpening, the best course is frequent maintenance. It is much easier to maintain a sharp edge than resharpen. A kitchen steel, ceramic hone or even a leather strop will keep the cutting burr aligned longer with frequent use. Once the microscopic burr is worn away, steel must be removed from the cutting edge to redefine the edge. A steel hone does not remove any steel, but simply burnishes the edge - pushing the burr back into place. Once a knife is dull, no amount of honing will sharpen it and some kind of abrasive action is required. Ceramic or diamond rods take a small amount of steel off and are good for edges that are still close to being sharp. A sharpening stone is necessary when the knife is very dull. Avoid electric sharpeners on your nice knives as they remove quite a bit of steel each time and will cut down on the life of your knife by wearing it away more quickly. A leather strop is good for taking a knife from fully sharp to razor sharp. The leather has polishing compound embedded to make a highly polished edge.

Ultimately if you keep your knife stored in a safe and dry place, give it attention that is proportionate with the amount of use it gets, and follow some common sense guidelines, your knife will last a lifetime.

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