HOW TO MAINTAIN A POCKET KNIFE
Written by Blade HQ Staff Writer Andrew Hamilton on 4/24/2019
Carrying knives is just the best–don’t you agree? There’s no better feeling that whipping your EDC knife out of your pocket when it’s time to get to slicing! It doesn’t matter if you’re new to the hobby or you’ve been a daily EDC guru for years now; everyone should be able to maintain their knives.
This guide will walk you thorough all the basic things you need to keep your knife in good order from sharpening, disassembly, oiling, and beyond.
I’ll be demonstrating all of these techniques on my Bestech Shinkansen. The Shinkansen is a ridiculous value for the money. At only $199, you get high-class materials, a lightning-fast action, and some pretty nice aesthetics if I do say so myself. Without further ado, let’s just jump straight into the meat of it!
Most knives these days feature Torx bit hardware throughout. Carefully remove the screws and take a second to organize them as you go. Screws may look very similar but there can be minute differences in thread size, length, or bit size that can give you big problems during reassembly. Almost every knife has a full tutorial video for disassembly on YouTube (I personally look to Nick Shabazz before any other channel).
The most important advice I can give you is to never force screws! If it won’t turn, STOP! Some knives ship with red Loctite holding the screws in place. Get your heat gun out of the garage or go find your significant other’s hair dryer. A little dose of heat should loosen up that Loctite and you’ll have your knife disassembled in no time.
If you disregarded the previous information and stripped the screws on your knife, don’t worry about it. Most manufacturers will supply replacement hardware for free or a small handling fee. Worst case scenario, break out the calipers and order some replacements online.
Cleaning! Honestly, all our knives could probably use a good cleaning. Compressed air is a great thing to have on hand when you’re not willing to fully disassemble your knife. Break out the isopropyl alcohol, cotton swabs, and paper towels (I love those blue ones you see in mechanic shops). Apply alcohol to the paper towel and rub the flat parts directly against the paper towel. Use the swabs to get into hard to reach areas. Use caution when cleaning the blade. Don’t forget to get any Loctite off the screws and hardware.
If there is any discoloration or unwanted patina on your blade, rub the areas with an eraser. A dab of mineral oil rubbed into a blade with a regular old eraser seems to remove even the most stubborn staining and spotting. If your blade has rust or deep pitting, make sure to remove any active corrosion before moving on.
When it comes to lubrication, I prefer viscous products rather than something runny and thin or thick and goopy. Around the office, we primarily recommend Benchmade Blue Lube, Tuf-Glide, or KPL. The less is more philosophy certainly rings true here. A-dab’ll-do-ya on the pivot, any bearings or washers, and along the knife’s detent path. Excessive lubrication can actually make your knife run more poorly and who wants a pocket full of grease anyway?
While the knife is still fully disassembled, I like to apply some rust inhibitor to the blade. Aegis Solutions EDCi is a wonderful choice, but I also frequently use food-safe mineral oil.
Reassembly should be a breeze, right? You just saw how the thing comes apart. Unfortunately, it’s not always so simple. AXIS-lock knives can take some know-how to get back together. You might need to go back to YouTube and get some tips from people that have done it all before. It’s okay though as this process is important. By the end of this guide, you’ll know your knife better than you ever did before. Perseverance is a good quality to have in a knife enthusiast.
When it comes time to put screws in holes, a dot of blue Loctite will make sure your blade stays centered and that your action is always consistent. Make micro adjustments to your blade pivot tightness. Ideally, a knife will be easy to open and close, perfectly centered straight down the middle, and will have zero play in any direction while locked in the open position.
Sharpening (or Reprofiling)
Sharpening is its own rabbit hole, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do it yourself. We’re planning to release a full piece on sharpening down the line, but the basics are simple enough to discuss here. Decide if you’re going to match the factory edge bevel on the knife or if you’d like to reprofile the knife to a new angle. Most EDC pocket knives ship with an angle approximately 20 degrees per side (40 degrees inclusive). This is ideal for most utilitarian EDC tasks. If you want to read more about reprofiling and bevel angle, check out our Edge Angle Guide.
If you don’t yet own a sharpening system, I would recommend the Spyderco Sharpmaker. It’s affordable, super easy to use, and portable. Check out our in-depth Sharpmaker Review for more info. If you’re looking to take sharpening to the next level, look to the Edge Pro Apex. This system can sharpen just about any knife you throw at it, and the results are nothing if not professional.
Start by using lower grits (150 to 200) and work your way up to the highest grit you have in your system. The more experience you have with sharpening, the more your knives will feel like a piece of you. A 400-grit edge will feel ‘toothier’ than a 3,000-grit edge. I leave my kitchen cutlery at a 600-grit edge as they seem more able to bite into tough skinned produce like tomatoes and bell peppers. I take my EDC knives all the way up to 3,000-grit and beyond for peak edge retention and amazing hair-popping sharpness.
So, what do you say? Are you ready to take your knife maintenance into your own hands? I believe in you! Blade HQ has got all the tools you need to keep your gear in top shape. Once you mod your knife, tag us on Instagram. We’d love to see your handiwork.
Check out our video below with the man, the myth, the legend, Lucas Burnley if you're thirsty for more knife maintenance tips, such as how to center a blade!