Care and Feeding of Carbon Steel Kitchen Knives

11.22.2019 / Tutorials

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Our knives all have a food-safe carnauba wax coating for long term storage. This coating may introduce off flavors into your food so washing with dish soap and warm water before use is recommended.

Your knife will develop a patina over time due to the salts and acids in foods causing various oxides to form. This patina will protect the steel over time. If you find it unsightly it may be removed with a product called Noxon 7 available at most hardware stores.

Part I: Rules to Remember

Taking good care of a high carbon steel knife is rather easy.  Just keep the idea in mind that rust is the enemy.  To that end, there are a few simple rules to follow:

1) Acids are Bad

The acids in the foods we eat react with the steel and if left on the blade will etch the surface and cause rusting. This is very true of the cutting edge. After cutting acidic foods like onions or citrus, the blade should be rinsed and dried to extend the life of the cutting edge.

2) Moisture Equals Rust

Even the smallest amount of moisture in the air is enough to cause rust to form on the blade.  To prevent this, oil or wax should be applied to the blade and any fittings every two to three weeks of use, and the knife should be cleaned and dried after each use.

3)  Dishwashers are NOT for Knives

The high heat and steam in a dishwasher will ruin wooden handles very quickly. The high heat can also destroy the heat treat of the blade ruining it also.

4) Drastic Changes in Temperature and Humidity Can Lead to Problems

This can cause a host of problems.  For instance, if your knife is stored over dry air and elevated temperature the wooden handles can shrink and crack. At the other extreme of too much moisture such as storing a knife in the sink you will deal with condensation. This can lead to rust and in extreme cases will cause mildew or rotting of the organic portions of the handle.

Part II: Feeding

Your knife should be fed a steady diet of oil or wax. Just about any oil will work – from clove oil to olive oil, and there are even some oils on the market specifically designed for knives. We recommend canola or corn oil over olive oil as olive oil can go rancid over time, but any food safe oil or wax will work. Oil or wax the blade and handle whenever the knife will not be used for more than a day or two.

Part III: Care

To apply oils or wax to the knife, wipe the blade with a soft cloth being sure it is totally dry. Next, apply the product to the blade and use a corner of the cloth to spread an even coat over the whole blade adding more product as needed. Once the blade is coated, all metal fittings and wood should also be coated. The whole blade should then be wiped with a clean, soft dry cloth to remove the excess oil or wax.

Part IV: So You Messed Up… What Now?

Oh No! You’ve discovered a rust spot!!!

Keep calm, all is not lost. For light surface rust, scrub with fine steel or plastic wool and oil the blade. This should remove the rust. For the best appearance, scrub length wise with the grain of the metal. For larger rust spots you can use a product called Noxon 7. This product will eat the rust or patina away and leave a silver or gray surface. Just reapply the wax or oil and all is well. If, however, the rust has caused pitting, the blade will need a bit more work and should be 1) lived with, or 2) returned for re-polishing. If the blade is pattern welded the Noxon 7 may strip the black from the lows. This can be restored by returning the blade for re-polishing, or the whole surface can be stripped to match.