I recently received an excellent question from a reader. He was new to collecting knives, and had his eye on a very nice Benchmade as his first “real” pocket knife. He had some concerns though. He didn’t know what extra “stuff” he needed to maintain his knives, and he wasn’t sure if he would need a sharpener of some sort. This is an excellent question, and I am sure other people are wondering the same thing. So I decided to write this post to cover the topic.
With that said, I really don’t think the average person needs a whole a lot of stuff to maintain their knives. In fact, I’m sure many knife owners have lived long and happy lives without any of the products I am about to mention. But if you are getting into modern knives, and are investing in a high quality blade (or ten 😉 ), then I do suggest picking up few basic tools and supplies. This will help you get the most out of your purchase, and ensure that your knives are always in pristine working condition.
So here are 5 things that I both recommend and use myself. The entire list can be had for around $75, and that is with $50 going to a knife sharpener – and yes, I definitely think you need a knife sharpener!!
1. A sharpening system.
If I could only recommend one thing to someone new to knives, it would have to be a sharpener. The other stuff on the list is nice to have, but really, you could probably survive a little while without them. However, knives tend to get dull fast, and depending on the steel (and what you do with it), that factory edge will probably need it’s first touch up anywhere from 1-4 weeks from purchase. So my point is, don’t put off buying a sharpener. It’s like buying a car and never changing the oil – bad stuff will happen!
Now, there are a lot of options out there, but for the beginner I really just recommend starting with a Spyderco Sharpmaker. It costs $50, but you will be able to get paper slicing, hair shaving edges with very little time or practice. It is an amazing sharpening system and a great starting point. It feels great to be able to get a nice sharp edge on any knife, and the Sharpmaker delivers that feeling fast. If you want you can read my Spyderco Sharpmaker review.
There are other cheaper systems in the $20-30 range, but really – I recommend spending the extra $20 or whatever and just getting the Sharpmaker. And whatever you do, please don’t subject your knives to one of those cheap $5 pull-style sharpeners! Those are terrible for your edges!
Update – if you are looking for an option that is less expensive than the Sharpmaker, then my good friend RoadKill recommends the $16 Lansky Crock Sticks. His word is good enough for me, although I will try and get my hands on a set for a future review. These are actually very similar to the Sharpmaker in theory. I don’t doubt that they are quite effective.
2. A Torx Driver Set.
The next thing I recommend is some sort of a torx driver set to to adjust all the little screws on a knife. This is critical for swapping pocket clips, adjusting your pivots, and taking apart knives for deep cleaning.
I used to recommend the cheap little sets you can buy at the big box hardware stores for under $10. But these feature soft bits, that can damage the screws on your expensive knives, so I’ve since upgraded to WiHa drivers. They are expensive, but will last a lifetime.
I happen to own their Wiha 75992 set, but they make a wide variety of styles and kits.
A small bottle of blue Loctite is another nice to have item, especially if you are removing screws and adjusting your pivots with a torx driver set. With some knives I find that the pivots easily work loose and blade play starts to develop. A small dab of blue (“removable”) Locktite on your pivot will fix that problem. This stuff is also handy for those pesky pocket clip screws that like to work loose.
The nice thing is, you probably already have some Loctite in your garage. Just make sure it’s the removable kind so if you happen to get some on a moving part, you can still work it free.
If you are like me, and are constantly flicking your pocket knives open, you are going to want a little lubricant to keep everything silky smooth. Although there are a wide variety of lubricants out there, I recommend Tuf-Glide. I like Tuf-Glide because it is a high quality dry lubricant that doesn’t attract dust or dirt.
Sure, WD-40 and other lubricants will work, but they tend to attract dust, dirt, gunk, and grime. Also, they don’t tend to last as long. For those reasons I feel that Tuf-Glide is a superior lubricant and is well worth purchasing. A bottle of Tuf-Glide will set you back around $10 shipped if you buy it online, but it should last you a long time. I’ve used the same bottle for almost a decade.
5. Rusty’s Rags.
Rusty’s Rags is the name of a nice little cleaning kit for knives (and guns). I wouldn’t call Tuf-Glide or Rusty’s rags to be absolutely critical (you could certainly survive with out them), but this kind of stuff sure is nice to have.
Again, you could use something else to clean your blades – like WD-40 and a cloth, but I really like the way Rusty’s Rags work. I also like how the oil used in the kits is 100% food safe. I actually wrote a full review on Rusty’s Rags a while back so if you want more information you can read my Rusty’s Rags review here.
With these 5 basic items you should be able to maintain your knives on a day to day basis. Odds are, you probably already have some of this stuff, and the sharpener will be your biggest investment. By the way, I do see this kind of stuff as an investment. Spending the money now to take care of your knives will ensure that you get the most out of all your knives for many many years.
If you have any questions or suggestions, feel free to let me know in the comments section below. Thanks for reading and stay sharp.