Care and Feeding of Folding Knives

20130124-185132.jpgWe depend on our equipment – our knives, guns, flashlights and other tools – to help us stay safe. Our brains and our awareness are our true weapons, of course, but we humans are a tool-using species and there’s no question our tools are important aids. That’s why it’s so important to keep them in tip-top working order.

Some of us throw these tools into our pockets, toss them on our shelves and headboards at the end of the day, and don’t give them a second thought. But is this really how we should treat the tools upon which we may have to depend our lives?

Here are some tips for keeping your folding knives in working order so they’ll be there when you need them:

  • Treat your knife as a knife. In a pinch we sometimes press our knives into service doing all sorts of tasks for which it wasn’t designed: as a screwdriver, a hammer, a pry bar. I’m not going to tell you not to use your knife for other purposes, but be aware of the risk of damage. If you find yourself in a situation where you have to use your knife for a purpose it wasn’t designed for, you should probably inspect it afterward for cracks or breaks.
  • Keep your blade clean and dry. Knife blades are steel, and steel is vulnerable to rust. Enough said. If you have to use your knife in a wet environment, wipe the blade dry as soon afterward as you can.
  • Keep your knife well oiled – but not too well oiled. Wiping the blade down with oil will help protect it from rust or corrosion. You should also add a little oil to moving parts – the blade pivot and locking mechanisms, for instance – to keep everything moving smoothly. Gun oil works well for this purpose, as does 3-in-1 oil (available at most hardware stores). But be careful not to use to use too much oil – an excess of oil can mix with dust, dirt, pocket lint and the like to produce a grimy, gritty paste that jams bearings and abrades steel.
  • Inspect your knife periodically. Once a week or so, I like to unfold all my blades and inspect them. I run a toothpick inside the handles to pick out bits of lint and dust, check that the blades open and close freely, make sure locking devices function correctly. Even though I routinely carry more than one knife, this process takes only a few minutes. But it helps me remain confident that my tools will be there when I need them.

Proper care of your tools takes a little effort. But when the chips are down and you need to depend on those tools, they’ll be there for you.


  1. Just some thoughts… from my experience.

    I carry a big, serious folding knife. It’s made for EMTs and other emergency responders. I also carry a small multi-tool, so I never have to use my knife for a screwdriver. Never needed to use a knife as a pry bar, but there might be a first time down the line. Unfortunately, I don’t think even this heavy blade would do that job well. With a little thought and effort, I suspect that most of the time we can have pretty much the right tool for the job if we care about it.

    Oil is not really your friend here, any more than it is on your gun. No matter how little you use, it WILL attract dust, lint and other crud. I gave up using oil of any kind a long time ago and use a dry synthetic product called Eezox ( ) for both lubrication and rust prevention. I have a gun with old fashioned “blue” finish, and it has never shown any hint of rust since being protected this way. It was a mess when I got it.

    Inspecting your tools from time to time is always wise. I can’t say I look at my knives as often as the guns, but they all get a “once over” and a wipe down at least once a month. If you go through that once a week, I’ve got to think you don’t have quite as many tools as I do! LOL

    • I hadn’t heard of Eezox but I’ll definitely have to check it out. I agree with you about the utility of multi-tools and about the importance of the right tool for the right job.

      The tools I carry get a once over weekly when I’m removing them from my body. The stuff I don’t carry gets a look-over a bit less often.

      Thanks for your thoughts, and your product suggestion!

  2. Anthony says:

    I’m terrible about this sort of maintenance. Thanks for the reminder, hopefully it’ll mean some discipline for me at home!

    • For a while, I set an alarm on my iPhone to remind me to do this maintenance. Now it’s become a habit. Maybe that’s a strategy that would help?

      Thanks for reading and commenting!

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