How to clean up an old EDC traditional -- your personal preferences/routine

Discussion in 'Traditional Folders and Fixed Blades' started by clockworkgator, Jun 9, 2019.

  1. clockworkgator


    May 18, 2019

    I've already dug back through several threads on cleaning, rust removal, etc., but I'm curious how each of you would personally fix up a vintage traditional (nice but not super valuable) for edc? In other words, keep me from making mistakes you might've learned the hard way!

    cjtamu and meako like this.
  2. TheChunk91

    TheChunk91 Gold Member Gold Member

    Aug 15, 2013
    I usually do as little as possible other than sharpen. I will clean dirt, gunk and rust. Pipe cleaner and a toothbrush is the standard treatment. I generally prefer keeping an old used knife as original as possible. No buffing, makes the knife not look right.
    meako and Frailer like this.
  3. meako

    meako Gold Member Gold Member

    Sep 4, 2006
    Slow and Steady wins the race.
    joeradza likes this.
  4. W.M.B.


    Oct 11, 2013
    Remove anything stuck to it, sharpen it, and carry it. Just carrying it around and using it will do a pretty good job in my opinion. If im going to use it for food and it's not rusty soap and water will be in order
  5. Will Power

    Will Power

    Jan 18, 2007
    There are many factors here that govern what's to be done. If the knife is very rare, has particularly attractive scales and is pretty much unused but in 'tarnished' condition, then leave it alone as far as possible, particularly if you intend to keep it to collect rather than to use. However, the situation is more opaque if the knife is not rare or special and you want to use it, significantly so if the knife has been well used already. A school of thought also claims "leave it alone!" but I beg to differ here. If I intend to take a knife into active use I do not want something that has significant deep rust on the bolster(s) liners blade, I don't want something oozing oily rust in my pocket, it looks foul and it smells similar :eek:;) In this case, 'sympathetic restoration' demands the removal of rust, for it will eventually wreck the knife rendering it useless.

    Substantial red-rust will open up pitting, if an old knife has been used and well looked after its owner will have kept it clean and oiled, there's no mystique to me about a rust hulk:rolleyes: It's what it is, in advanced state of rot. If you find nice old tools- wrenches, saws, chisels etc you will want to clean them and get them into use, not leave them to be engulfed by corrosion.

    My 'sympathetic restoration' allows no power tools buffers etc, just fine grade paper, buffing by hand with a strop and careful resharpening as needed, the scales (omit Cell) need cleaning and waxing, some light oil may rehydrate them if in a dry environ. Then by carrying and using you get a wonderful lustre to the knife, I equate this to picture restoration. This is a highly skilled but effective and yes, controversial notion in the art-world. Don't try to make an old user look new, but let it live and not rust away and die. Rare knives that have been little used, leave alone.:cool:
  6. scrteened porch

    scrteened porch Basic Member Basic Member

    Feb 19, 2012
    Scouring powder, dish detergent, PB Blaster, gun oil. Wipe off the gun oil and rub with mineral oil before stirring coffee with it.
  7. r8shell

    r8shell Platinum Member Platinum Member

    Jan 16, 2010
    I make a paste of dish soap and baking soda, and use a wooden coffee stirrer or toothpicks to scrub inside the well. That gets the biggest chunks of rust and lint out. Then I use mineral oil to flush out the joints.
    Headwinds and JohnDF like this.
  8. Modoc ED

    Modoc ED Gold Member Gold Member

    Mar 28, 2010
    Non-scratching Comet Cleanser works great also.
  9. clockworkgator


    May 18, 2019
    Thanks guys. Lots of helpful advice.
  10. Misplaced Hillbilly

    Misplaced Hillbilly Gold Member Gold Member

    May 16, 2018
    Everyone else has covered the basics, but I'll add a bit on stainless blades. Sure they're stainless, so no worries about rust and pitting and such. However sometimes you get one that someone else has been negligent in sharpening and scuffed up the blade. Or it will have scuffing from someone's cutting something abrasive. Scuffs from use dont bother me much,but scuffs from poor sharpening does. I'll use 600-1500 grit emory paper for this. Depending on the original finish determines how fine and in what direction to go. I have a Queen stockman that has polished blades. All were near pristine except scuffing on one side the sheepfoot. I started with 900 grit dry and went up to 1500 wet. Now both sides of the blade match. If a blade is as ground finished then I'll try to match the texture. I'll use say 800 or 900 grit sometimes 600 depending on how the finish looks. I'll go with the striations on the blade,generally in straight lines from the edges to the spine. Resharpen and good to go. I hate how scuff marks look, this is a personal preference. Go lightly and slowly. I only work by hand, no buffers or dremel tools.
    scrteened porch and Will Power like this.
  11. fishinfs


    Nov 8, 2005
    Lots of good advice above. I would add:

    1. I have had good luck soaking the rusty parts overnight in WD40, or the entire knife in mineral oil, washing with hot water and dish soap afterwards.

    2. A small steel implement like a scratch awl is real handy for cleaning rust out of the innards, it will get stuff that a wooden scraper won’t.

    3. Air - shop air, or the canned stuff you use to clean computers with - is your friend.

    Good luck!
    Misplaced Hillbilly likes this.
  12. Hickory n steel

    Hickory n steel Gold Member Gold Member Basic Member

    Feb 11, 2016
    This is just my personal method, so use some discretion as it may not be for everyone.

    # 1 Steel, brass, and nylon brushes and wheels for my dremel

    #2 mineral oil and WD-40

    #3 air compressor

    #4 Toothpicks and cotton swabs

    The wire wheels / brushes are fine and relatively soft compared to those for drills and grinders, they're great for targeting just the rust.
    I use the steel or brass on medium to remove the rust from the blades and insides and I'll use the nylon to clean the scales on lower speed.
    The nylon wheel often brings a bit of luster back to bone and delrin scales.
    I just make sure to put a couple layers of masking tape over the bolsters and scales when using the metal wheels.

    And I use the oil, toothpicks and cotton swabs to clean out the insides.
    Lastly I blow everything out with the air compressor, re- oil the joints , and sharpen it up.

    Here's one i just did last week.
    It didn't have a ton of rust, but there was rust none the less.

    Now a the rust is gone with all the patina remaining, and it doesn't look like people assume when any kind of motorized wire brush was used.
    It works great if you don't go crazy, and don't run the tool full speed either. You've gotta wear eye protection either way but the little rotary tool brushes spit wires like crazy on high speed.
  13. Old Hunter

    Old Hunter Gold Member Gold Member

    Jul 12, 2012
    This Buck 118 had suffered from an electric pen engraving a former owners name in the blade. I did use a Dremel on this one, using an abrasive brush (three actually). Slow and easy is the ticket; cleaned it up enough that I can give it to a kid when he cleans his first deer. OH

  14. joeradza

    joeradza Gold Member Gold Member

    Feb 6, 2014
    I'm not trying to make it look new.
    First a good wash with soap and water with a soft toothbrush.
    Then a good 15 minute bath in white vinegar.
    A lot of elbow grease with at most the rough scotch brite side of a sponge.
    And last, a mineral oil massage.
    From this: 20190524_121624-600x800.jpg To this: 20190524_130325-600x514.jpg
    Pinemoon, Frailer, Will Power and 3 others like this.
  15. scrteened porch

    scrteened porch Basic Member Basic Member

    Feb 19, 2012
    My sister just sent me instructions for removing rust by electrolysis. I don't see why it should work, but it looks like it does.
    A non-conductive bucket filled with 1 tbs baking soda per gallon of bath, a split-open steel coffee can for the sacrificial anode, and your knife attached to the cathode and dangling in the bath and inside the can.
    Don't try this at home! Always wear safety glasses!
  16. bikerector

    bikerector KnifeMaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Nov 16, 2016
    I tend to be lazy and do 3-in-1 and a scotch brite pad, maybe a brass bristle brush if things are rough but usually I just adding 3-in-1 and use the knife so it wears in. I do similar with some that are new and the springs aren't quite like I want them. Once things are settled in, it's usually dish soap and mineral oil but 3-in-1 still gets used if I know it won't touch food too much.

    I have used a strop to clean things up on a blade if needs that much love. I usually avoid things that are completely rusted over since there's usually too many nice options out there to choose from for a bargain than to put a lot of time into something that's really beat up. If I had more time, I do like working on things like that, but mostly on the fixed blade side or building things from wood. I'm not as great with pinned construction folders.

    The electrolysis thing mentioned above is a pretty nifty trick, but I've only seen it used on items that don't have moving parts, like axes and fixed blades. Not sure how it would work on a folder, though I don't see too much reason that it wouldn't as long as you don't let it stay wet after removing from the electrolyte solution. The actual chemistry is pretty simple, similar to lead acid batteries, and there are a few youtube videos on the process.
  17. Will Power

    Will Power

    Jan 18, 2007

    Exactly what I meant by sympathetic (skilled) restoration:cool:
  18. joeradza

    joeradza Gold Member Gold Member

    Feb 6, 2014
    A little soap and water. Even the best plastic surgeon won't make me look 25 anymore. hahaha!
    Peregrin likes this.
  19. 5K Qs

    5K Qs Gold Member Gold Member

    Jul 20, 2014
    This sounds familiar to me, Alan, except for the white vinegar bath. What's the purpose of that step? Thanks.

    - GT
  20. joeradza

    joeradza Gold Member Gold Member

    Feb 6, 2014
    The white vinegar reacts with the rust and makes it easier to remove with nothing more than elbow grease. Here's a before and after just using the rough side of a sponge. 46B528A5-D1A0-4136-9C08-3B564A65B61A_zpsxaw7unqd.jpg IMG_0094-1024x987.JPG

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