Thursday, January 11, 2007

Things to Talk About at a Fashion Party: How to Take Care of Your Antique Knives

As everyone knows, if you drive through back roads while on vacation, your car will inevitably break down and you WILL be surrounded and captured by rednecks. As they mock your well-manicured, soft hands and kick in your tail-lights, you will notice that not only are their knives functional, but well cared for. I say this is the perfect opportunity to create a common bond, a "sharing bridge" between you and the locals by discussing the fine tradition of knife maintenance.

Here are some helpful hints (note: applies to modern knives too!):

- Touch the blade as little as possible. Whether you know it or not, we all have oils on our fingers that wreak havoc with steel. When we touch the blade those oils are left behind. Over time the blade will start to corrode, even stainless steel. Use the handle for torque and leverage as much as possible. This is impractical in many situations such as whittling, skinning, or being an idiot at the campfire, so don't stress over it; just be aware that it happens.

- Keep it sharp: A sharper knife is actually less dangerous than a dull one which requires more pressure.

- After use, clean the blade as soon as possible. Honing oil works, as does many gun-kit oils and basic household oils. If you want to get traditional, use Japanese oil of cloves or camellia oil, but you have to wear a full samurai outfit. For stainless steel, just wash and dry.

- Even in disuse, oil your blade once every few months. Your blade will thank you.

- Keep it away from intense heat. Remember in Rambo II when they heated his knife to red-hot during the interrogation? Ruined the temper and edge-hardness. Luckily it was reheat-treated when they plunged it into his cheek. Also when fighting Visigoths don't dip the blade in flames for cooler effect. You will be laughed at, and probably killed.

- To remove rust spots, try rubbing with kerosene and a cotton cloth, clean off with acetone, then apply oil. Don't use sand-paper or other harsh grit unless you don't care if the blade surface is ruined.

- When wanting to hold someone's knife, it is proper protocol to ask permission first. Receive and hold by the handle - do NOT touch the blade. It is impolite to run your fingers up and down the blade (unless you borrowed the knife for use and have to). When handing back, hold by the top of the handle and present handle-first. This can be tricky with smaller knifes, but quit being so modern and do it.

Of utmost importance in the care of a sword or knife is respect. Remember always that any blade is capable of inflicting injury, especially if disregarded. Knifes are one of our earliest human tools, part of the basic canon of human technology - 100,000 years of human progression has given you this birthright. Take care of them...after all, Goggamook of the sweating-toad Cave Tribe would have wanted it that way.

Now you know how to take care of a knife. Make sure to bring crying tissues with you when bonding with the Rednecks!

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