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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 [easyazon_link identifier=”B000Q9C4AE” locale=”US” tag=”brdfkdfk-20″]Spyderco Sharpmaker[/easyazon_link]. 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.
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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 [easyazon_link identifier=”B000B8FW0E” locale=”US” tag=”brdfkdfk-20″]Lansky Crock Sticks[/easyazon_link]. 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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
Mike Madore says
After sliding my nice, new Benchmade 585 mini-barrage in my pocket I realized I could not remove it and open it in one move. The clip is attached for “righty’s” and I am a “lefty”. I did not have a Torx head small enough. Home Depot sure did. For only $4.88 I bought the Husky set you describe. What a great price compared to the $20 Benchmade wants for its’ set. I also found individual Torx drivers at Sears for just under $3.00 each but they are very well made and only one size is needed for my 585.
I do need to get some Loctite Blue and Tuf Glide.
I currently use the Smith’s Arkansas tri-stone system and while it is very nice I can see faceting on some of my knife blades. What are your thoughts regarding the Lansky type systems?
Thanks for your site and reviews.
I also listen to the Personal Armament podcast and enjoy it.
Thanks man! It is always nice to meet a fellow lefty, and I am glad this little article was helpful. I totally agree, that Husky set is a steal. I use mine constantly. For under $5 you really can’t beat it.
Honestly, I find the Lansky systems to be a little awkward. I have a DMT setup that works just like a Lansky (with the rods and guides and stuff) and it’s just too much to deal with. I actually just free-hand sharpen with the stones that the system came with. Some people get great results from them – but personally, I just don’t have the patience for it.
Thanks for stopping by Mike, it’s totally my pleasure having you here. Also I am glad you enjoyed the Podcast, I’ll be doing a few more with Rob and would like to launch my own someday soon.
I use and can vouch for the Lansky Crock Sticks. They’re a lot less expensive than the nicer Spyderco Sharpmaker and they work well for my Benchmades. I’ve had bad luck with really long blades and the steel the CRKT SPEW is constructed of. Everything else has sharpened up well and fast.
RK, You vouching for them is all I really need to hear. I’ll update the article to provide these as an alternative. Thanks for stopping by and offering your thoughts.
I recommend the Benchmade Folding Tool Kit 985995F
Hey Jeru! That is a neat little kit! Thanks for sharing. 🙂
You are really busting out the articles recently – clearly you didn’t have to take the MPRE this morning.
Anyway, this was yet another great article and, as it turns out, rather fortuitous, just last night I was thinking about acquiring some sort of dry lubricant for my waived delica. I think I will pick up some Tuf-Glide and give it a go.
Cheers and happy St. Patrick’s Day.
This was an easy article to throw together. Only one picture, no video – piece of cake. 😉
And yup, thankfully I have already passed the MPRE. That’s great because I really don’t have time to take it now! If you had to take it today I hope it went well.
Tuf-Glide is excellent stuff, it should work well for your Delica. If you get a chance please let me know what you think after you have tried it out!
Thanks man, same to you!
I personally like using Ballistol as a lubricant, as all of my knives can and often have been used in food prep/eating, and I like knowing that specifically Ballistol is food safe.
You know, I have heard good things about Ballistol, but oddly enough I haven’t checked it out myself yet. Thanks for the recommendation Darp, I will make a point to try some out.
I will say that Tuf-Glide is not food safe so you will want to clean off the blade if you happen to get any on it and want to use the knife for food prep or eating. I have just received confirmation from Latham, the owner of Rusty’s Rags, that his oil is 100% food safe. Food safe is potentially a very important issue for people so thanks for bringing it up!
ballistol says harmful or fatal if swallowed
Another thing that’s pretty useful is WD 40 (even though EVERYBODY has it)
It helps reduce drag, prevents rust, and it combined with river rock you can give your knife a stonewash finish yourself 😀
Thanks for the great article.
Peter, you are absolutely right. I kind of wanted to limit my little write up to 5 things (because then I’d need to move up to 10 things, lol!), but WD-40 certainly deserves a spot on the list. Great for storing fixed blades, and it is a cheap and easy cleaner as well. I will say, it tends to attract dust a little more than other oils, but it’s the kind of thing where you probably already have some on hand so the convenience factor is a big plus. Thanks for stopping by and commenting man, glad you enjoyed the write up.
Great article. I have a little kit just for my blades.
Thank you Bruce! I think it’s a great idea to have a little spot for your knife stuff separate from all your other tools. That’s what I do at least!
Very useful article here Dan. I’ve been weighing buying a sharpening tool versus buying a couple Arkansas stones. What are your thoughts on buying either/or? Do you find that the Spyderco tool for someone who just wants an edge fast? Or a stone for someone who wants to spend the extra time using a stone to get a “possibly” nicer edge?
I say “possibly” because I find that there are two camps that exist, some that say you’ll get a finer edge with a stone – granted you know what you’re doing, and some that say you can’t tell the difference. There is a definite learning curve with using a stone properly, one that I still have yet to fully overcome.
The only advantage I could see with a stone is for sharpening other edged tools, such as axes, chisels, wood working tools, etc.
Thoughts? Thanks in advance!
There’s another thing with a stone – you can choose your own angle. Trying to sharpen a scandi (zero) grind on a sharpmaker is….shall we say “iffy”?
I agree, and I wouldn’t recommend the Sharpmaker if you primarily sharpen scandi grinds or want a lot of control over the angle of your edges in general.
However, you can use the Sharpmaker as a benchstone. It’s not as good as a real benchstone imo, but it will work in a pinch.
Hey Sahil, excellent question and sorry it has taken me a couple days to get back to you – I missed your comment somehow.
Personally, I free-hand sharpen most of my knives these days. I have some DMT stones and some Japanese water stones and between the 2 I can put a decent edge on most knives. I think it is a good skill to have, because lets face it, you aren’t going to bring your Sharpmaker into the field (although you could bring it on a camping trip). However, I still use my Sharpmaker and definitely see the value with this kind of system.
I think the Sharpmaker is for people who don’t want to dive into free hand sharpening just yet, or want something that is fast, convenient and effective. With a Sharpmaker you are pretty much guaranteed not to screw up your knives. Freehand sharpening isn’t impossible (if I can do it, anyone can), but there is a learning curve and some potential to screw up your edges if you aren’t careful. So I wouldn’t recommend learning how to sharpen on a benchstone with your brand new $100+ knife.
As far as the quality of sharpening, I can easily get my blades hair shaving sharp with a Sharpmaker, which is about as sharp as I require. If you buy the ultra fine stones, you can get your knives extremely sharp with them. Also, you can sharpen other tools with the Sharpmaker (including axes, chisels, scissors, fishing hooks, serrated edges, etc) and you can use it as a benchstone if you want (the plastic base allows for it at least).
Ultimately, there is a place for both stones and a system like the Sharpmaker so there is no blanket right or wrong answer. It comes down to what your comfort level is, and what you want your sharpener to do. I hope this makes sense.
I will do a full Sharpmaker review in the future, and I’ll try to organize my thoughts and demonstrate the capabilities of the system a little better. Thanks for the great question.
These systems are quick and dirty ways for us to get a good edges with minimal skills or investment. Free hand sharpening is getting rarer. There are fewer cutting devices that aren’t disposable. A long time ago, people kept their cutting edges good and sharp. They had lots of things to keep sharp and thus plenty of practice. There will always be a place for both.
Couldn’t agree more, RK – well said as usual.
Another nice piece of kit on one thing people don’t realize wiill take your edge to the next level is an old leather belt… like a real deal leather belt that is rough on the inside. this can be used for strapping and after you get done with your finest grade stone give you knife about 20 passes 10 for each side on the rough part of the leather belt like you see barbers do in old movies this will clean off any microscopic burrs or edge wire that may occur during sharpening and take your blade from sharp to hair splitting
You are absolutely right. I know a lot of people have had great success with strops. I have honestly had mixed results with them, but it might have more to do with my sharpening technique than anything else.
You should probably glue the leather to a piece of wood first – the old barbers razors are laid flat against the leather with the back of the blade against the leather as well as the edge. This kind of straightens out the leather. An unbacked leather will curve around the edge of a larger knife blade when it is held at an angle to the leather surface. This is not ideal as it may end up polishing off the sharp edge rather than smoothing it out.
I know another thing guys like to do with an unsupported strop is tie it off to something (a towel rack, bedpost, etc). Personally I use a wood backed strop myself and think it’s well worth the investment. I’ll be getting an article on stropping up sometime soon. Thanks for reading and commenting CD!
the technique is key…also for the beginner a good metal polish will help…just squirt a littel onto the strop and go to town but you want to use almost a scrapping motion not a sharpening motion so the angle needs to be more or less drastic depending on your view i guess….what i mean is the knife should be almost perpendicular to the strop or belt or whatever you are using
I think I need to play around with other compounds. Honestly, after my blade comes off a 6k grit water stone it’s about as sharp as I need it. Would be interesting to take it to another level however, as I know some people have had great results with strops.
Yeah a heavy grit polishing compound and some patience will give you a great shine and a sharp knife…. Most of the time my knives are self defense oriented so I like to get the blade to a point were when it touches it cuts…with little or no motion just the pressure from pressing it against the target but for general everyday use knives to or three grades of wet stone and a ceramic rod will get you all the edge you need…also adding some fine metal files to your tool kit is a grate idea in case you chip blade…which usaully happens with softer carbon steel blades
Thanks man. I definitely need to spend some more time with different compounds and give em a better shake down. I totally agree, a metal file can be great for working out chips. Sharpening out chips is one thing I do not recommend ceramic rods for – they just aren’t aggressive enough.
Thanks again for the great points.
Great suggestions… i’ve been looking for a solution for making my AK 47 slide better without putting on the WD40 which gets everywhere….looks like ill pick up some tuff-glide now! (: thanks for putting this up. i was wondering, does the Smith “Pocket Pal” Multi-Functional Knife Sharpener ruin your blades? i cant decide if ill get one…. budget wise it looks great but im a little hesitant… i dont know maybe i should just grow a set and fork up the money for the spyderco sharpener… what do you think? will the smith cut it?
Yes I am not a fan of the “Pocket Pal” – those pull style sharpeners are terrible for your edges. I’d check out Lansky’s Croc sticks if the Sharpmaker is a little too much money. Both systems are substantial upgrades over the Pocket Pal. Thanks for reading and asking the great question.
I was wondering if you have had any experience with mineral lubricants. Something that is edible so that when applied there will be no issue with using it to cut food. Let me know. I appreciate this article and you taking your time to give everyone feedback. Thanks.
While I personally do not use mineral oil, I have heard that it is a very inexpensive, safe, and a totally effective knife lubricant. It’s good for both pivots and general blade cleaning / oiling. And like you said, it is also totally food safe. I think I need to pick some up myself to try out.
Thanks so much for stopping by and offering the great question, I hope this helps.
Hieu Nguyen says
Sincerely thanks to Dan BladeReviews.com for the all the posts are very practical and objective instruction is valuable for everyone, I Pray God bless given Dan BladeReviews.com so much good luck happy peace
Thank you very much, Hieu! You are too kind.
I have a suggestion for you, you should evaluate more fully DELUXE DMT Aligner Kit, DMT DMG 4 Lansky Diamond Deluxe Sharpening System May God bless you
Thanks for the suggestion, Hieu. I actually own a DMT aligner. I am not sure if I will be able to really review it as I have yet to actually use it as designed – I just freehand with the stones. Certainly, if I can provide a decent review on it and have the time to do so I will. Thanks again.
Just wanted to say you have put together a “grade A” site here. You cover each knife so well it makes pulling the trigger on knife purchases easy. My knife collection runs the gamet. Fallkniven, Benchmade, Microtech, Protech, CRKT, Cold Steel, Lone Wolf(before benchmade), Piranha, Fox, Gerber, Zero Tolerance, Buck, Sog and others in auto, assisted, folding and fixed. Recently purchased a strop from stropman(website name)
I am truly impressed with the results. All my edges are now dangerously wicked sharp. I would recommend any of his products, especially the Billy strop, which is the one I purchased. Hope you check them out in the future. Thanks for your work on this site.
Thank you very much for the kind comment! I actually own a Stropman Strop myself along with 3 of his compounds and I love all of his stuff. It would be awesome to buy a few more of his products and then do a little review/overview as I was very impressed not only with the strops and compounds, but his very professional service. Thanks for stopping by and commenting and I am very happy (and humbled, as it appears you are a very serious collector) to hear you have been enjoying my website.
I WAS WONDERING IF YOU HAVE ANY INTEREST IN ALL THOSE NEW TOMAHAWK/BATTLE HATCHETS THAT HAVE BECOME ALL THE RAGE THE LAST FEW YRS. I THINK A FEW REVIEWS WOULD BE COOL IF THEY PEAK YOUR INTEREST OF COURSE. I RECENTLY PURCHASED A ROSELLI AXE(smaller size 14 ” handle I believe)ITS MORE OF A CAMP AXE THAN BATTLE TYPE. HOWEVER THIS THING IS AWESOME. JUST THE ERGOS ALONE ARE GREAT. ESPECIALLY LIKE HOW YOU CAN CHOKE UP UNDER THE BEARD AND USE ULU STYLE. ROSELLI MAKES SOME WONDERFUL SCANDINAVIAN STYLE KNIVES TOO. I GOT MINE FROM RAGWEED FORGE(website name). GREAT SITE FOR ALL SORTS OF VIKING ERA STUFF. HAVE ALWAYS LOVED VIKINGS AND THEIR LIFESTYLE. LOVED HISTORY CHANNEL’S VIKINGS SERIES THIS PAST MARCH N APRIL TOO. SORRY LITTLE LONG WINDED. JUST FIGURED I’D PASS ON THE AXE/TOMAHAWK REVIEW IDEA. THANKS JAMES!!
I am curious and my dad actually owns a couple axes and hatchets that I’d like to check out. That said, they are pretty damn dangerous so I want to be careful I don’t totally jack myself up with one. If I have the time and funds I wouldn’t be opposed to getting my hands on one…
Btw guys…any worksharp sharpening system takes research, YouTube helps, and practice to master. DON’T SKREW UP A GOOD KNIFE IN THE LEARNING PROCESS!!
Get something you don’t care about and practice, before you take your Benchmade to the party, GO SLOW…read a lot…you’ll love it!!
For those who want a convex edge try the worksharp knife and tool sharpener ken onion edition. It’s pricey, but the darn thing will put a shaving sharp edge on a knife that’s convex if that’s what you want. There’s a blade grinding attachment for western angles too!
I use the Spyderco TSM and DMT for most applications though. The serrated ice pick style DMTs can sharpen almost ANYTHING…is must have IMHO.
I’ve been hand honing and sharpening blades for 42 years, and I’m 50.
Good article mon ami!
Andrew McCormick says
Hey Dan, I would be curious in seeing how you would do this list differently if you made it today, seeing how your collection, tastes, and range of knives has certainly changed since 2012!
Where can I get some of the small screws that hold the knife together? The little micro screws with the threaded barrel inserts. What kind are they and what size? I have the razed lite edge 3.5”
Dan Jackson says
B-Rad, Typically replacement screws need to be ordered from the manufacturer, or if you know the size maybe you can get them from a knife supply company. Not familiar with the Razed Lite Edge 3.5″ and who makes that knife.
I know it wasn’t mention ONLY because it hadn’t been created when this article was written, but KPL- Knife Pivot Lube (normal formula for bearings and washer pivots, heavy formula for detents and where heavier oil needed) ITS HANDS DOWN THE BEST AND ONLY LUBE YOU’LL NEED….. Having said that, I ONLY USE HARDENED BITS & TOOLS on any hardware because the last thing you want ruining your knife is a cheap tool! BOKER & CRKT both have a great stubby driver with 6 WIHA torq bits stored in top for about $20, the BOKER is plastic and CRKT is metal, I have the CRKT one and love it. CRKT ALSO has a 1/4” Driver with 13 WIHA bits and leather roll up you can find for about $30-$35 online. If not needing stubby I would recommend this kit over 6 bit..
Also after reading this I checked out Rusty’s Rags and LOVE THEM NOW!!
I know STROPS have been mentioned so I’ll just say, GREAT accessory not necessity!