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Care of your High Carbon Steel Tools

by Mark Hordon

Care against rusting

There are a considerable quantity of knives, axes, machetes, chisels, saws and other tools in the world that are made from the highly corrosive metal called high carbon steel. Since rust is the number one killer of these high carbon steel tools, it is imperative that you remain constantly vigilant against its destructive force. Preventing the build up of rust on any high carbon steeltool should enable them to last a lifetime, and even longer, and it only takes thesmall amount of care to ensure that this does not happen.

Even when great care is taken to prevent it the inevitable small rust spots, or even staining from high tannin woods such as Sweet Chestnut, will appear. Rusting and staining, however, can usually be easily removed by applying a little high quality Honing Paste to your finger, or a cloth, and then gently rubbing the area until the rust spot, or stain, has been removed. Heavier rusting, or tarnishing, may require the use of a heavier abrasive, such as one of our rubberised abrasive blocks that is specially designed to remove rust and clean up metal surfaces to a mirror finish.

To help ensure that your high carbon steel tools will not form rust, when storing them for any length of time or when using them out in the field where conditions are not always favourable, you should make sure that they are never stowed when damp or wet, especially in wet leather or an airtight sealed container. To protect your tools from the ravages of rust, they should be carefully dried, and then coated in a thin layer of a specialist rust prevention oil, such as Camellia Oil as supplied in our Tool Care Kit, at the end of each day or session.


We would also advise that you should always keep your high carbon steel tools, or any sharp tools for that matter, as sharp as it is possible to get them, this is because a very sharp cutting tool will:

  1. Require you to exert a lot less pressure to cut or chop any given item, which will drastically reduce the chances of the knife slipping and cutting you.
  2. Cause you to have greater respect for the cutting tool, due to its sharpness, which will reduce the risk of personal injury.
  3. Allow the cutting edge to bite into the material to be cut, thus reducing the chances of the cutting edge slipping, which will result in the material being cut and not you.
  4. Give a cleaner cut edge, which is more aesthetically pleasing.
  5. A razor sharp cutting edge requires a lot less effort to use and will therefore make you less tired if used for prolonged periods of time. Tired muscles have less control of the cutting edge, which will result in a greater chance of an accident occurring to you or someone else.
  6. Make you feel confident that your cutting tool is in tiptop condition and is ready to do what it was made for.

If you would like more information about how to sharpen a knife and our full range of sharpening tools such as Japanese Water Stones, Diamond Whetstones, Honing Paste or Strops etc., you can go to Articles & Tips page.

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