Do knives get old too?

Discussion in 'General Knife Discussion' started by DangerZone98, Feb 18, 2020.

  1. DangerZone98


    Dec 7, 2019
    Tl;dr: Does knife steel weaken over time?

    Paper falls apart since the cellulose makeup breaks down into its glucose subunits. We have Father Time and entropy to thank for that. My question is, does something similar happen to high end steels? Let’s say a Paramilitary 2 in M390. If the knife is used rarely and oiled regularly, will it still have the same degree of toughness, edge retention, corrosion resistance, a thousand years from now? Ten thousand years from now?
  2. JParanee

    JParanee Gold Member Gold Member

    Dec 23, 2006
    I have swords over 400 years old that still cut
  3. Feca10ne

    Feca10ne Gold Member Gold Member

    Jan 29, 2020
    Is it a full moon?
    lex2006 and buckfynn like this.
  4. not2sharp

    not2sharp Gold Member Gold Member

    Jun 29, 1999
    No, if well care for knives can go on for many centuries.

    allenC and DangerZone98 like this.
  5. mqqn

    mqqn Gold Member Gold Member

    Nov 12, 2009
    As soon as you're born you start dying.

    Knives don't die, they wear out or are improperly cared for and deteriorate.

    A well kept knife will last indefinitely, but as we have seen, a well used knife, that is frequently sharpened will lose mass and become less useful.

    Age itself is not the enemy of a well maintained knife.


  6. comis

    comis Gold Member Gold Member

    May 17, 2013
    If someone look over the blade for a thousand years, yes, I bet it too will cut just fine. However, I doubt anyone will be interested in using that artifact, when everyone is chasing the latest model of light saber or self-reparing knife.
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  7. AntDog

    AntDog Gold Member Gold Member Basic Member

    Apr 3, 2001
    Quite frankly, who cares? None of us will be around to see it or worry about it. Did you stumble on some secret we should know about? o_O

    If I were some type of vampire, mummy, lich, whatever - seeking out a PM2 in M390 would not even be a blip on my radar.
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  8. DangerZone98


    Dec 7, 2019
    No secrets here, bud. Just a product of curiosity while jotting down notes for a university lecture.
  9. Feca10ne

    Feca10ne Gold Member Gold Member

    Jan 29, 2020
    Last edited: Feb 19, 2020
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  10. afishhunter


    Oct 21, 2014
    A couple of my knives are centurions. They are in excellent condition.
    Some of my 50-60 year old knives were not cared for and/or abused, by precious owners, and are worn out or broken.
    The steel and other metals used to make a knife do not break down to dust over the millennia(s). If it did, we would not have steel, brass, aluminim, whatever. It would have all become dust long before "humans" existed.
    Celluloid will break down, and some (but not all) "natural" handle materials might break down, depending on climate, and given enough time.*
    I believe the oldest folding knife ever found dates to the Roman Empire. Admittedly, lying in the dirt/mud for 4000 years or so did not help it. However, it still exists. You can tell what blades and tools it had (even though they will never open again) and portions of the bone or stag used for the handle is still intact.
    Obviously, we will never know the name of the Roman soldier (likely an officer) who dropped it during some march.

    * Consider: Mammoth Ivory and Teeth are used for knife handles. Mammoths have been extinct for no less than 10,000 years. I think a couple custom knives have small pieces of dinosaur bone or teeth used on the handle. Them critters have been extinct for millions of years.

    I have no idea how long it will take an acrylic, G10, and Micarta to break down. If a plastic soda bottle or 6 pack ring, and Styrofoam take no less than a thousand years to break down, my guess is the more advanced "plastics" will take considerably longer.
    Last edited: Feb 19, 2020
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  11. allenC


    Jun 18, 2000
    As Kansas once sang...

    "Nothing lasts forever but the Earth and sky..."

    But for your question: don't worry about and your kids, and your grand kids, and your great great grand kids will all be outlived by even a poorly maintained knife.
    DangerZone98 likes this.
  12. Kaizen1

    Kaizen1 Gold Member Gold Member

    Jan 4, 2006
    Pr3inar, DangerZone98, mqqn and 2 others like this.
  13. DrFrankenstein


    Feb 19, 2020
    Well, it's absolutely obvious that it depends on:
    1) Storage conditions.
    2) Metall knive made from.

    If both of it isn't good, then it will rust. That's all.
    DangerZone98 likes this.
  14. abcdef


    Oct 28, 2005
    Yes, they get old.
  15. Cvrobinson

    Cvrobinson Going to hell, I’ll be back, anyone need anything Platinum Member

    Dec 19, 2017
    Hibbard, Spencer, Bartlett bought in my youth for under $5.00
    60 years old, 3rd set of scales
    It will “live” as long as I do
    Hopefully longer
  16. skyhorse

    skyhorse Gold Member Gold Member

    Jan 30, 2010
    Here's one from the Stone Age
  17. Mikel_24


    Sep 19, 2007
    Metal, unless it is exposed to corrosive elements, could very well last forever. A properly oiled carbon steel blade, or better yet, a properly oiled stainless blade (just to be double sure) that it is not used, will last forever. Handle material, maybe not. Steel, for sure will.

    HOWEVER as others have stated, if you use a knife, sooner or later will need to sharpen it. If you use it a lot, you will sharpen it a lot. And will eventually wear out the whole blade.

    There is another thing that may kill metal pieces which is metal fatigue. But this is something that happens to metal pieces stressed over and over. Even whithin their elastic limit (before plastic deformation), the structure will weaken and cracks will appear. Eventually it will break.

    A knife is not something that will be stressed (bent) over and over in the same spot, so I think we can discard this cause of death.

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  18. jlauffer

    jlauffer Gold Member Gold Member

    Apr 11, 2016
    The blade steel is only one part of the knife, especially for a folder. The blade may last almost indefinitely, but other parts may degrade over time.
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  19. Chronovore

    Chronovore Basic Member Basic Member

    Aug 29, 2019
    If left to the environment, most steels will eventually rust. That's why we don't have a lot of ancient steel swords hanging around. Luckily, that's a chemical reaction between your knife and the environment. There are ways to prevent it. With proper care, your knives could last for generations.

    Assuming they get used, edges do fatigue and wear away. Sharpening removes material. So there is a limit there. It's pretty long though. How many people here have inherited a well-used EDC blade? Someone will probably decide to retire it before grinding it into oblivion.

    As far as physics go, entropy is a fact of the universe. Everything breaks down eventually. Even our sun will eventually burn out. Try not to worry about that. ;)
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  20. Ourorboros


    Jan 23, 2017
    Beat me to it.
    Metals are not held together by organic material. The structure will not deteriorate on it's own.
    For that matter, a lot of the traps in the Qin Emperors tomb would still be functional of not for their organic parts - wood, leather, bowstrings.
    DangerZone98 likes this.

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