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Forumites! Oxidize your blades!

Howard Wallace

Feb 23, 1999
I note a continuing concern on these forums for keeping carbon steel blades shiny. I think that this is not necessary and in fact detracts from the character of the knife. A well used carbon steel blade looks well used, and this look in no way detracts from its function. I maintain that the optimal care for a carbon steel knife is to rinse it off with fresh water and wipe it with a damp cloth after use.

Some examples.

An old Herter’s knife, bought before I was born, that has seen continual use in the kitchen. This knife is somewhere between 40 and 60 years old, with a thin carbon steel blade. It is close to a filet knife in thickness. The sheath is long gone. The original walnut handle was burned off and replaced many years ago. The blade is almost black. The blade is in good condition and continues to serve us well. There is no appreciable thinning of the blade due to oxidation.

Two Cold Steel Carbon V knives, bought at the same time a couple of years ago, on sale. These are the “Red River” elk skinner pattern. One of these knives has never been used, and looks the same as when it was purchased. The other has been in use for two years as a kitchen and household utility knife. The used knife has never seen even an oily cloth. The blade is discolored, greyish with spots, and the etch on the blade is no longer visible. However the blade on the used knife has no apparent degradation in strength or function when compared to the unused one. When I look at the two knives side by side, and ask myself which one I would rather pick up and use, the used one is my choice without question. Its value has been enhanced by use, and the color of the blade is evidence of this fact.

My Randall #1 and Blackjack Trail Guide have suffered the same (mis) treatment. They are now grey old friends also. I can’t help but wonder when I see a bright shiny knife, “don’t you ever get used, you poor thing?”

I recently acquired a Spyderco Moran. Although it is a supremely functional knife, I know it can never be a grey old friend. I wonder if Sal would consider making a special edition with the VG10 sandwiched between exterior layers of Carbon V, so it could age gracefully?

Finally, it seems a little odd that there should be so much concern about non-reflective coatings and finishes, when cutting an onion will give the desired effect.
I feel the same way about trucks. I'd much rather see a 1999 Ford F-350, Super Duty, Power Stroke, Super Cab, Full bed, Off-Road, Tow Package, all muddy and gross than to see it (NIB) hahaha on the show room floor. -AR

- Intelligent men, unfortunately, learn from fools, more often than fools learn from intelligent men.

I agree with you on the look of the carbon steel blades. I have a Green River camp knife I carry in my saddle bags and it looks wonderful and used. I like it that way.
tomatoes will darken it also.

Don Juvet, Somerset CA

I actualy prefer the apearance of an oxidized carbon-steel blade. It makes it look like a knife, not a show piece. I hear it helps reduce further rusting like bluing does too.

I have been looking for someone who can coat my Project 1 with titanium oxide/nitride, whichever is black, for some time. I know this is a completely different type of oxidation though. I know this subject comes up once in a while, but does anybody know if there`s a general concensus as to how much this costs? I just got it re-conditioned by Mr. Reeves(he uses whatever kalgard is), and it cost me all of twenty bucks.