A swiss army knife is useful in almost every type of situation the owner may find themselves in, but they become absolutely useless if not properly cared for. Swiss army knifes are often subjected to frequent use and that wear and tear does add up over time, and without intervention they will become rusty and dull. With proper care these tools can last for generations, but professional knife maintenance is costly and hard to find. However, with the proper knowledge anyone can easily service their own knife quickly and cheaply. This guide will provide you with that knowledge, and enable you to use your knife for years to come.
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Step 1: CAUTION: What You Should Avoid.
It is important to point out before we get started that if you incorrectly service your knife you can easily damage it beyond repair. Here are a few things you should avoid at all cost.
When cleaning any knife there are few products that you should avoid at all costs. If you use any of these items you will damage your knife.
- Sand paper
- Rust remover* ( it depends on the product but most will damage the knife)
If you do any of the following you will probable not be able to fix your knife afterwards.
- Remove the pins
- Using a dish washer
Step 2: Determining What Work Your Knife Needs.
The first step in servicing your knife is to determine what you plan on doing. Depending on the condition of your knife you might not need to do anything, or you might need to totally overhaul it. You might want to clean your knife, or oil it, or sharpen it, and maybe you want to replace some lost or broken parts. Here are some symptoms that something is wrong.
You will want to clean you knife if:
- It looks dirty
- It smells funny
- Before oiling the knife
- Before sharpening the knife
- It is sticky
- Any sign of rust
You will want to sharpen the knife if:
- It is dull
You will want to the oil the knife
- To prevent rust
- If it is difficult to open
- If it makes any noise when opening
- You spilled any type of chemical on it
Basically it is always a good idea to clean and oil the knife, but sharpening is optional.
This guide will explain how to totally overhaul the knife, but know that this is not always necessary. For your first time allow about 2 hours for the complete overhaul, but it will be quicker in the future.
Step 3: Selecting and Gathering the Materials Need.
You will need the following:
CAUTION: Oil is absolutely necessary! Do not clean your knife unless you plan on oiling it after. Without oil the knife can be impossible to open and will rust quickly.
Take time and pick out a good oil. The oil should be:
- Food safe
- Water resistant
- Neutral odor
- Long lasting
- Neutral taste
The wrong oil will at best lead to rust or at worst ruin the knife. I used blue lube, but it is certainly not the only oil that I could have used.
WARNING: Using a thin rag or paper towels can result injury if the blade slips though the rag while in use.
Rags will be used to clean, dry, and oil the knife. You can use any cloth that you don't care too much about as the oil will ruin it. I recommend old socks, t-shirts, or any other old peace of cloth near the end of its life.
- A cleaning solvent
You need something to remove the old oil and tough stains. You can use a soap, but it does not work too well. I recommend isopropyl alcohol also known as rubbing alcohol as it is cheap, effective, and safe to use on skin. You can use acetone or ethanol too.
WARNING: Isopropyl alcohol is flammable and volatile. Remove all possible ignition sources prior to use and work in a well ventilated area.
- Something to sharpen the knife
If you plan on sharpening your knife you will need ether a whetstone or some other type of sharping tool. There are a lot products on the market that advertise quick and easy sharpening, but these frequently dull the knife. I will be using a whetstone.
- A container just large enough to hold your knife and cover it with liquid
Try to find the smallest container you can as it will minimize the amount of cleaning solvent used. I recommend a measuring cup.
Any replacement parts
If you lost any parts like the toothpick, pen, tweezers, or pin then buy a replacement. Amazon has replacements at a decent price.
Step 4: Removing Excess Dust and Grim.
The first step to any process when working on you knife is to remove all easy to removed dirt. This is basically all dust and lint from your pocket. Simply take the toothpick and scrape off the dirt.
Next you might also use a rag to get sticky residue off of any of the tools. This step is not always necessary, but I frequently open amazon boxes with my knife so tape residue builds up on mine.
- Tip: Don't try too hard to remove the random junk, the next step will take care of the hard to remove stuff.
After you got most of the grime off just run it under a hot tap to remove stuff too little to bother with.
Step 5: Soaking Your Knife.
Next take out all removable tools and place them is a safe place.
Now place your knife in the containment that you gathered earlier and cover it with the cleaning solvent.
Let the knife soak in the solvent for at least a half hour.
CAUTION: The cleaning solvent will rust the knife faster than water so don't leave in soaking for more than twelve hours.
After soaking the knife remove it from the solvent and dry it with the rags.
- Tip: Keep the rubbing alcohol around it will help you get the oil off your hands later on.
Step 6: (optional) Sharpening Your Knife.
After taking your knife out of the cleaning solvent you might want to sharpen you knife. If you are happy with how sharp your knife is, or could not get your hands on a whetstone just skip this step.
If you don't have a whetstone, but do have some other sharpening device go ahead and use it at your own risk. Make sure to follow the direction for your particular sharpening tool every tool is different.
The whetstone that I will be using is a magnetized dry whetstone, so all I need is the stone and the knife.
WARNING: Sharpening a knife can be dangerous, go slow and always be aware of where your fingers are.
- First take out the dry stone and place it on a clear working surface.
- Next close all the tools on the knife except the simple long blade.
- Now place your blade down on the stone flat.
- Then raise the dull side of the blade up off the stone slightly, the blade should make a 15 to 20 degree angle with the stone.
- Now press down slightly on the knife and move the blade around in small circles.
- Now flip the knife over and repeat steps 3 through 5 on the other side. Depending on how dull the blade is you make have to repeat this multiple times on each side.
- After the knife is sharped take a rag and brush off the metal flakes.
If you like repeat this process with the short blade too.
Step 7: Oiling Your Knife.
Oiling a knife is messy so before starting get a few rags handy and place one down where you are working to keep it clean.
If your knife is open close it.
To oil the knife put several small drops of oil at the top of the knife where each tool connects to the device.
Now open each tool and put oil on the inside of the knife where each tool connects to the device.
Warning: The knife will be slick and should be sharp so be careful when handling the knife. Take your time and go slow to avoid injury.
- Tip: If a any given tool is hard to open or close wrap it with a rag and carefully open it that way.
Now open and close each tool one at a time repeatedly. If it feels sort of hard to open add more oil to that tools hing.
Once finished every tool should be easy to open. Go though and open and every tool again to make sure you did not miss one.
Now the knife should have oil on a lot of the knife and in every tight crevasse. There should also be excess oil in certain areas. Take a rag and rub oil onto every tool individually, make sure to get it everywhere.
- Tip: Their is no such thing as too much oil.
Once finished rubbing oil all over the knife let is sit with excess oil on it for a half hour.
After the oil has sat of the knife for a half hour go ahead and remove excess oil with a clean rag.
Step 8: Inspecting Your Knife and Put the Removable Tools Back.
You should now be done servicing your knife, but don't for get to put the removable tools back in the knife at this point.
Now look over your knife and make sure that it is oiled, clean, and sharpened. The knife should shine and be free of smudges or stains.
You have now properly serviced your knife, and learned how to maintain it in the future. I have carried my knife I am currently using with me everyday for the last 16 years and because of the care I give it I plan on never replacing it. With the proper care you can now provide, you too can keep your pocket knife as a loyal and useful companion indefinitely.