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Rust on Simple Carbon Steel


Gold Member
Oct 4, 1998
I can make a good deal on neck knife made out of 5160 steel and am curious as to what means I would have to go to keep it from rusting. It would primarily be carried in my pocket, so skin contact wouldn't be constant, but it is bare handled so there would be some skin contact. Would Tuf-Cloth be sufficient protection, or am I going to have to resort to something else?
Cheaper options would be a baked-on laquer or enamel coating. You might be able to find a shop in your area that does electroplating or hard chroming. There are always ads for plating or metal coating businesses in the gun mags if there are no shops in your area.
Or, call Smoky Mountain Knife Works (www.smkwknife.com) and get one of their $2.99 rust erasers. They are amazing.
Carbon steels do not instantly turn to a lump of rust. Oil it and wash and dry it before you put it up for the night and you'll do fine. Even if you take it into salt water for a reasonably long swim, it'll be fine if you clean it up right away.

Remember, there are swrods found in the rivers and bogs of England, and likely elsewhere, that have been underwater for centuries. Sure, they're rusty, and they wouldn't be my first choice in a fight, but they're more there than rusted. And they were as simple a carbon steel as it gets. A few actualy DO get dredged up in servicable condition, provided you repair the hilt. Don't forget all the carbon steel gun barrels the Army uses that hold up just fine under field conditions with minimal maintainance.

Stainless steel is great, you know I love it, but the prejudice against carbon steel is unwarranted. 1095 is still one of my favorites. I think these prejudices are the outgrowth of the "tactical" mindset. Too many people who will never put there knives through hard use latch on to whatever the new wondersteel is and say the rest is trash. Which is fine. Collectors and enthusiasts have as much right to life as I, but it's to the point where it's just a trend thing. I equate it to the Spice Girl phenomenon.
I did not mean to come across as prejudiced agaist simple carbon steels; I happen to like their qualities such as toughness, edge holding, and ease of sharpening. These are qualities that are difficult to get together in the same stainless steel.

My main concern was what would be necessary to keep a bare handled neck knife relatively corrosion free.

I have never owned a knife made from 5160, though I hear that it is a great steel. Maybe someone could tell me how corrosion prone it is compared to 1095, which I do have experience with.
I agree with the4th.....maybe you could coat the blade with some sort of semi-permanent protective substance.


theres this stuff called boelube...i think.. i have some out in my shop...made by boeing, it is a thin oily substance when sprayed on but evaporates off leaving a waxy corrorsion proof film.....dont know where to get it though...i bought a case of it about 12 years ago.....sorry....
Archie, wasn't trying to say you're prejudiced. You ARE considering carbon steel. I was speaking in the broader, more impersonal sense.

How does 5160 stack up against 1095 in ragards to rust? Well, there may be a difference, but you'll never notice it. Blade coatings help, but they aren't panacea. I would still reccomend reasonable maintainence. Heck, I like coatings just for asthetics. Stainless steels are perfectly workable, and in a knife as small as a neckknife, there won't be much difference between stainless or carbon except for the rust, which needn't be a big problem anyway.

Another dirty secret of the tactical knife industry is that most good cutlery steels aren't too dissimilar in their performance, at least in ways you'll notice. Yeah, there are some wild alloys that are the exception to the rule, or the obvious difference between stainless and carbon.

But the fact is, most cutlery grade steels are perfectly suitable, hence their status as cutlery grade. The deciding factors should be wether or not the thing is the shape you want, wether the price is right, and if you really want the piece. This assumes decent construction/temper, of course.

[This message has been edited by Snickersnee (edited 28 May 1999).]
I too, got caught up in the wondersteel of the month craze for a while. Gotta get this one, no wait, now this one and so on...

The fact of the matter is that there is no perfect steel. Oh I like 440 V and BG 42 and such but let's face it they aren't perfect.

Snickersnee made some excellent points so I won't ramble on, but to say, I love my Carbon V Recon Scout, and thought it is a bit higher maintenance, I will keep and use it.

Happy hunting y'all.....

God bless!

Romans 10:9-10

"Military" Fans Unite!!

Best advice i have to give is to coat the blade with a light coat of oil then wipe it off. Before you put it away inspect the blade quickly for rust spots. If your like me i just polish the blade real quick with flitz every once in a while and give it a light coat of break free. this should keep that knife from rusting in most circumstances. Just make sure that if you use oil as a protectant that you wipe it off. it will leave a thin film and it wont stain your cloths or be too oily for use.

That tuf cloth should provide adequate protection. ive never used one but now i think ill get one next time i get the chance. I still think that occasionally polishing the blade with flitz or a similar polish then protecting the blade is the best way to go.

[This message has been edited by yoda4561 (edited 29 May 1999).]