Knives require maintenance. If you’ve spent any time with a knife you will quickly find that thru use, blades become dull. In addition to sharpening, knives used in the field or in dirtier situations also require cleaning and lubrication. How often you use your knife, what you cut with your knife and the type of steel all influence the regularity with which you will need to do so and the type of knife oil you would want to use.
You’ll want to make sure your knife oil works for the intended use of your knife. The biggest considerations are natural or synthetic as well as food-grade or non-food grade.
Natural Oil vs. Synthetic Oil
For an everyday carry folding knife we want an option that is going to lubricate and protect, repel dust and prevent rust. Both synthetic oil and natural oil will accomplish these desires, however, there are a few things to consider when choosing.
Natural oils such as olive oil, vegetable oil, and canola oil would be examples of what not to use. These oils are counter-intuitive to what we are trying to accomplish with our tool knives and even our kitchen knives. The above mentioned oils actually attract dust which can make things worse and more difficult to clean. These oils also have the potential for going rancid.
Camellia oil from the camellia flower is an example of a natural oil that can be used for the purpose of knife maintenance. This oil which we will reference again later is designed for Japanese cooking knives but it has properties that make it useful in other applications too. This oil is non-greasy and unlike it’s natural oil counterparts it does not attract dust. It also lubricates and protects against rust.
Synthetic oils, which are usually petroleum based will usually also include camellia or mineral oil as well. These oils are typically designed for lubrication, however, they also work as a protective oil for the blade. These oils are dust repellent, create protective barriers against rust and corrosion and reduce wear and tear. Again, if you’re cutting your food, pay attention to it’s food-grade rating or not.
Rusting is a form of corrosion. It occurs naturally when you add oxygen and water to the metal. Since we live on a wet, oxygen-rich world, rust could be an issue you contend with on your blade. The first line of defense against rust is to keep your blades dry. The second line of defense would be to add a thin layer of oil to the blade. High carbon steel blades can rust easily so these will require proper, frequent care. If you’re cutting acidic fruits you’ll want to rinse and dry your blade right away, before it reacts with the carbon steel. Otherwise just use a stainless steel blade.
Below are a few suggestions for the different types of oil you can use to maintain your knife. Though we didn’t discuss it throughout the article, mineral oil is one that many people swear by so we’ve included an option for that as well.
Kurobara 100% Pure Tsubaki Japanese Camellia Oil ~ $15
KPL Knife Pivot Lube Knife Oil ~ $15
Thirteen Chefs Mineral Oil – Food Grade ~ $13
Do you prefer to use a different oil than what we’ve suggested? Let me know in the comments what your thoughts are. Until next time!