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Some Essential Bushcraft Knife Maintenance


With all the chores complete for the day and my son working on his homework I had a brief period of time to myself to undertake some essential bushcraft knife maintenance.


I, like many other bushcrafters, have more than one knife. There are some that are used rarely whilst others get regular hard use. I don’t believe that I abuse my knives, after all any tool that is well looked after and maintained will give years of excellent service. I do, however, tend to neglect somewhat my daily user which is the “Bison Bushcraft Knife” made by Roger Harrington. I have owned this particular knife for some three and a half years and the knife was second-hand when I purchased at The Wilderness Gathering in a charity auction for Survival International. I was happy to buy the knife pre-owned as Roger has an exceptional reputation and a well deserved waiting list for his handcrafted blades.



Despite the Bison Bushcraft Knife taking a regular hammering it will be the first time that I have ever needed to sharpen in on a series of Japanese water stones since I have owned it. I had up until now only ever had to strop the blade to keep the edge at a shaving sharpness. This season has been manic and we have been working not just in the United Kingdom but also in France and there has been little time for some essential maintenance. My obvious lack of attention to regularly stropping the blade has resulted in this need for a more aggressive sharpening technique. As there is still snow on the ground and the workshop is, at this stage, unheated I will leave getting the water stones out until another, and perhaps warmer, day.


I am always mindful to keep leather goods in tiptop condition and I prefer to use a good quality Leather Food on the likes of knife sheathes. I have used Cole Craft Premium Leather Food for around seventeen years and find it is best applied by gently massaging the rich fluid into the grain of the leather by hand. I then tend to leave the excess to soak in for around an hour before gently buffing with a soft dry cloth


As for keeping the blade in good condition I have tried many different oils, waxes and cloths. We obviously need to be cautious with any knife we use for food and game preparation lest the active ingredients are poisonous or harmful if ingested. I have favoured for several years silicone gun oil as it sticks well to the metal components of the knife and is easily removed with soap and water if needed. Also the smell of the oil is reminiscent of my full bore pistol shooting days and brings back some fond memories.


Some of the knives I use less frequently include several designed by the eminent Ray Mears of Woodlore that are made by the prominent British knife maker Alan Wood. I also have a antler handled Alan Wood knife that is used only on “special occasions” as it is such a stunning piece of work.


The Alan Wood made Woodlore knife has a very considerable waiting list estimated at ten years plus and despite being a working tool I seldom use it as these knives are much sought after and now have a significant price tag when they are sold second hand.


All of my knives are Scandinavian / Scandi or Flat Ground except for one, which is a Full Flat with Secondary Bevel. This knife was made by Stuart Mitchell and given to me as a blank by a very good friend Richard H. I sent the blank off to Bernie Garland who did an amazing custom job of fitting black fibre liners with amboina burr scales.


Of all the knives I own, and these are but a few, I have to say that I find the Bison Bushcraft Knife suits my needs the best and the blade at some 90mm is very easy to control whilst holding an exceptional edge. Perhaps with such a fine quality tool I should make time to keep it in just as fine condition!



#1 Russ Lawrence 2014-07-28 02:11
To treat my blades, I make a paste out of Bees wax and mineral oil and use a soft cloth to rubb it on the blades, it's food grade so you don't have to wash it off. It also works wonders on your leather items.

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