It is worth noting that a person does not have to be a Boy Scout to understand the importance of being prepared. People who enjoy going out to the woods, the forest, the timber or anywhere else that you might end up a few miles from the closest known human needs to have the tools that will assist them if things go wrong.
An important part of that preparation includes a survival knife. If things go bad, a survival knife can serve as a shovel to move dirt or debris. It can facilitate the removal of splinters or other debris under the skin. It can help in the harvest and preparation of potential food sources. A knife can also help pry and leverage things that otherwise a human could not move.
The value of a knife should indicate that if there is one tool, other than your body, that you need to take care of prior to and after you return from the woods, it is your survival knife. You need to protect it from rust or anything else that can weaken it or dull it, and you need to do what you can to ensure your knife will last a good long while.
Perhaps the most important survival knife rule: Clean your knife after you use it. Your knife can have dirt, blood, hair, and who knows what left on it after a use. Hold the knife under running water and use some soap to clean the knife. There are some important things to remember when cleaning your knife this way.
- Don’t forget that no matter what; don’t soak the knife to get the debris out. Soaking will get water into cracks you cannot even see, then rust starts and that is the beginning of the end.
- Be extremely careful. Even a well-used dirty knife that needs cleaned and sharpened can slice you. If your knife slices you while dirty or bloody, you’re adding to the risk of an infection. Treat the knife like it was just sharpened at all times and avoid the tip and edge as you clean it.
- If your knife is stainless steel, don’t touch the blade if you can avoid it. Whether it is acid or oil, something form your skin can transfer to stainless steel and stain the blade—forever. If the blade is carbon steel, you can touch it—carefully—and use baking soda with the water.
- Once you believe your knife is free from blood, dirt, or any other debris, dry it as well as you can. A small terry cloth towel can do a great job of getting water off the handle, off the blade, and everywhere else. If you’re confident your knife is dry, you can move on to oil and sharpening it. If you have any doubt, lay it out for a few hours, then look it over carefully to see if water has pooled on the knife. If it has, let it dry longer. If it has not, now you’re ready to sharpen and oil.
Take Care of the Sheath
If you have a leather sheath, it also needs to be protected. One of the first steps is to look inside and make certain no debris from the field has fallen into the sheath. Then, if the sheath is in otherwise good repair, get a cloth and rub it with neat’s-foot oil. If untreated, the sheath can dry out, crack, and fall apart. If the sheath is not natural leather colored and if the color is fading, give it a coat of leather dye. Don’t use shoe polish unless you want to run the risk that the color will end up on everything the sheath touches. Dye will dry and not be transferable to your clothes. Once the dye is dry, you can cover the sheath with neat’s-foot oil or saddle soap to keep it from drying out. Saddle soap or mink oil can be used in the place of neat’s-foot oil from the beginning of the cleaning process as it works in much the same way and extends the life of leather.
Take Care of the Handle
Just like the sheath, don’t forget to ensure the handle is well maintained. If there is one place a rivet can get loose and cause rust, the handle is the most likely culprit. When you clean the blade under running water, also ensure the handle is clean. You may need to get a soft bristled tooth brush and rub along where the handle and the metal converge to get dirt out of the handle crevices on the knife. A good drying is very important before moving on to sharpening and oiling you r blade.
Some advocate putting a thin sheen of oil over the handle of the knife. That can stain some wooden handles if they were not properly sealed, however there are advantages to putting some oil on the handle as well as the blade. Oil will repel water, so if you’re out during a snow or rain and your knife is exposed, oil will help repel precipitation. If you do this, dry the knife as though you’re trying to get all of the oil off the handle. Some will be left and help protect it.
Once you have completed sharpening your knife, leave a thin coat of oil on the blade. Even when not in use, condensation from humidity can get between the knife and the sheath and cause rust. A thin coat of oil helps protect it.
If you don’t take care of your knife, it may not take care of you. Get to know your knife by taking care of it and by ensuring it is ready if you ever need it.