A fixed blade knife is meant to last a lifetime with proper care. As an essential survival tool, keeping your fixed blade knife in working order requires diligent maintenance and attention to detail.
Slacking on care and cleaning leads to dull blades, rust, and damage that limit functionality and aesthetic appeal. With regular attention, your fixed blade knives will serve you well for years in the wild or at home. Follow these tips to get the most from your investment in this robust companion.
Tip 1: Clean Your Knife After Every Use
Wiping down your fixed blade knife after each use removes gunk and debris building up on the blade and handle. For stuck-on messes, wash the knife gently by hand using warm water and dish soap.
Rinse and dry your knife immediately to prevent rust and stains. For tough materials, a plastic scraper or scrubber helps break things down.
Tip 2: Don't Let Your Knife Sit in Water
While cleaning a knife, never let it soak for an extended period. Excess moisture causes corrosion and damage to natural handle materials.
Even stainless steel will rust if left wet for too long. Drain or blow excess water off hollow grinds and clean the inside of sheaths if submerged. Get in the habit of drying your fixed blade knife immediately after washing to prevent issues.
Tip 3: Dry Your Knife Thoroughly After Cleaning
Use a soft cloth to blot your fixed blade knife dry after cleaning or hunting and fishing in rainy weather. Pay attention to any area where water can pool, including the scales, blade, bolsters, and inside your sheath or carry system. For stubborn water spots, you may need to disassemble the handle to dry all parts. Natural materials may require conditioning after getting wet to prevent warping or cracking. Lubricate the blade once fully dry to protect from moisture damage in humid weather.
Tip 4: Oil Your Knife to Prevent Rust
Even stainless steel needs lubrication to prevent rust and corrosion. Wipe down your fixed blade knife with gun, knife or cutting board oil, paying attention to pivot points like locks or blade channels. For high carbon steel blades, oil is essential after each use and when storing long term. Natural handle materials also benefit from oil, which helps repel moisture and prevents drying out. Reapply oil periodically to moving parts and before storing your knife.
Tip 5: Store Your Knife in a Dry Place
Keeping your fixed blade knife in a dry environment prevents damage from humidity and moisture. Avoid attics, basements, garages or sheds where temperature and humidity fluctuate. The ideal storage spot stays at room temperature. If needed, use a moisture-absorbing desiccant packet to control humidity. For natural handle materials, storing in a dry place helps prevent warping. Keep knives out of direct sunlight which can fade some handle and sheath materials.
Tip 6: Sharpen Your Knife Regularly
A dull knife is dangerous to use and requires excessive force to cut. Keep the blade on your fixed knife razor sharp with a whetstone or sharpening system. How often you sharpen depends on use, but as a general rule at a minimum sharpen once a month or if you notice decreased cutting performance. Establish a sharpening angle between 15 to 20° per side for most fixed blade designs.
Tip 7: Use the Correct Sharpening Angle
The blade grind determines the sharpening angle. A hollow grind uses a wider angle, closer to 20°, while a flat grind typically uses 15-17°. Check your knife specifications or do some research to find the optimal angle. Matching the original blade angle with each sharpening helps you achieve the finest edge with minimal metal removal. Guided systems can help you maintain a consistent angle through the process. Sharpen one side, then flip and do the same number of strokes on the other side.
Tip 8: Test Your Blade's Sharpness
Run your finger along the blade edge carefully. A sharp knife will have a smooth, thin edge that tapers to a point. Dull spots or "serrations" indicate it needs sharpening. For very sharp knives, test by slicing into a piece of paper. Multiple, clean cuts mean the blade is razor keen and ready to go.
Tip 9: Don't Use Your Knife as a Screwdriver or Pry Bar
Fixed blade knives are meant for cutting, not prying or unscrewing things. Using your knife for purposes it's not intended leads to broken blades, damaged edges and messed up tips. Carry basic tools like a multi-tool or screwdrivers to avoid abusing your knife.
Tip 10: Avoid Cutting Hard Materials if Possible
While a fixed blade knife is durable, cutting hard materials like bone, wood or stubborn plastics can damage the blade. The impact and friction from these tough materials wear down the edge much faster. For wood, use a saw or hatchet instead whenever possible to preserve your knife's edge. Clean and lubricate the blade after cutting hard materials to prevent rust or corrosion from sap and residue.
Tip 11: Use a Leather Strop to Keep Your Blade Sharp
A leather strop helps realign and polish the edge without removing metal. After sharpening your fixed blade knife, finish with a leather strop to get a razor edge. Pull the blade along the strop using even pressure on both sides at the same angle you used to sharpen. 10-15 strokes on each side smooth down any remaining "burr" and refine the edge. Repeat periodically to keep your knife keen without needing frequent sharpening.
Tip 12: Don't Over-Lubricate Your Knife
Apply oil and other lubricants sparingly. Excess oil attracts dirt and grit which damages edges. After application, wipe down your fixed blade knife with a soft, dry cloth removing any excess oil. Pay attention around pivot points where excess lubricant can build up. Oil natural handles carefully making sure oil is absorbing in and not pooling. For sheaths, apply protectant or lubricant externally only and wipe away any excess.
Tip 13: Use a Protectant on Your Sheath
A protective treatment helps waterproof and strengthen sheaths, especially natural materials like leather. Beeswax, wax polish, or a commercial protectant seal the surface from moisture without changing appearance. Apply the protectant with a cloth or brush, then wipe away any excess once dry. Reapply periodically, especially after cleaning. Protecting sheaths prevents warping, cracking and mold growth to keep your sheath durable and functional for carrying your fixed blade knife.
Tip 14: Take Care When Disassembling Your Knife
If needed for thorough cleaning or part replacement, disassembling your fixed blade knife requires care. Scratches, dents and lost screws or washers easily happen. Work over a towel to catch dropped pieces. For pinned scales or handles, punching out the pins may require a hammer and punch. Remove one pin at a time to slowly pry the handle apart.
Tight screws can be freezed with a product like Liquid Wrench before attempting removal. Note the positions and number of any washers, bushings or rings which must be replaced in the same order. Clean each part before reassembly. Press pins back into place one at a time using a vise or clamp to hold parts together, then screw all parts back onto the tang or handle frame. Check that everything is snug without overtightening.
Tip 15: Have Your Knife Serviced by a Professional if Needed
For needed handle repairs, broken blades or other substantial issues, consider having a professional knife maker or sharpener service your fixed blade knife. An experienced craftsman has the skills, tools and expertise to properly restore your knife saving you frustration and missed parts. They can also reshape, reprofile or regrind blades and create custom handles or sheaths.
Research shops thoroughly and check reviews to find a reputable service with experience working on knives similar to your own. Discuss desired repairs or changes to get an accurate quote for estimated costs before authorizing work. Be prepared for a 2 to 4 week or longer turnaround time for major restorations. Ask about warranties on labor or parts to ensure quality work that lets you get back outside enjoying your companion for the next adventure.
Tip 16: Perform Regular Inspections of Your Knife
Every few months, thoroughly inspect your fixed blade knife for any signs of wear or damage needing addressing. Check that the blade remains properly centered without wobbles. Tighten any loose screws or bolts around the handle or sheath and check natural handle scales for cracks needing sealant. Ensure all safety mechanisms like sheath straps, retention clips or lanyards remain fully functional. Lubricate and sharpen as needed. Performing routine inspections keeps your knife ready for use and prevents minor issues from becoming major repair problems left unattended.
Conclusion: Maintaining Your Fixed Blade Knife for a Lifetime of Use
With ongoing care and routine maintenance, a quality fixed blade knife will serve you faithfully for years whether used for outdoor adventure, work, or display. Keep your knife clean, sharp, and well-lubricated. Check sheaths and handles regularly and repair or replace as needed. Avoid damage by using the proper tools for the job and not prying or cutting hard materials. Store your knife in a secure spot away from extreme heat or humidity. Have a professional service your knife periodically to ensure everything remains in working order.
Your fixed blade knife is a long-term investment in a tool you can stake your life on, so don't skimp in caring for it properly. While sturdily built to take rugged use, even the highest quality knife needs your partnership to reach its full lifetime potential. With dedication to maintenance, together you'll make memories in the great outdoors that last long after the adventures have passed. Keep your blade keen and at your side. The wild awaits!