Skip to content

Care Instructions 

This page, in 3 sections, covers in home caring for a carbon steel kitchen knife & is divided into 3 parts.
The edge, the surface of the blade and the wood/brass handle.


Hone (not sharpen) a knife edge – made easy as pie

see info vid which may be useful – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zEfnldpL2MA

The carbon steel knives I make will need to be honed only, not sharpened. Honing means brightening the micro edge only. Sharpening means readjusting the angle of the bevel on each side and then honing the edge. Way more work.

Best advice: when you get your new knife, first thing to do is pluck different places along the edge with your thumb. Do not drag your finger across the edge (SLICED !). Simply move your finger after you pluck, a couple three times. This will give you a very valuable muscle memory feel of what the edge should feel like when your knife is razor sharp and ready to roll. If you have used your knife a bunch and you notice it is not performing well after plucking, well then it’s time to take 30 seconds and get out the ole Smith’s sharpener (should be called a honer) and take 3 swipes – to hone it. You are maintaining a fine tool. Dull edge tools are dangerous and do not work. One of the most empowering things a human can do is to be able to get a knife sharp. This is made way easy if you use the Smith’s. I have since 1986. I actually used to sell them, but do not anymore.
Your knives that I make will need to have the edge brightened/honed up every 4-6 times they are used (or more), depending on what you do with it. You should notice, after awhile, that the knife will hold a great edge for a long time. It will be noticeable. If not, let me know. This edge holding ability, equals satisfaction with the product which cannot be shown before hand, only experienced over time. The overwhelming feedback I get is that the edge holds great.
Smith’s is available in local hardware & sporting goods stores. I prefer the yellow unit on the left, shown below. There are cheaper Chinese knock offs around, but these should be avoided, as they use easily ‘crack-able’ ceramic, instead of real carbide. Also avoid the Smith’s smaller version. The one to buy is below/left.

↵38 second graphic Video ⇒HERE⇐ shows how to use Smith’s sharpener.
This method takes 5 seconds to hone, and edge is always wicked sharp. It does make the bevel a little steeper than it would be using stones, but it is fast and has worked for me for 25 years, perfectly. I always hold the knife with the back against something solid, exposing the edge. Hold and draw the sharpener square to the edge, back to front. I draw it only one way, from back to front, and do not bother with the fine ceramic side, which in my opinion does nothing. I find this method safe and reliable. Attach a float if you take it on a boat. They are sold on Amazon and most hardware stores. NOTE- always wipe off knife edge after honing.


How I finish wood handles and how you can refinish when needed

See this video here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RQ-FEtA0TKU which explains all about my wood finish. It is an excellent video with lot’s of well presented information regarding shellac finishes. I use Zinser Bull’s Eye and Howard’s Feed ‘n Wax. 
This is introductory, read more of this page below, for deeper specifics .

During handle sanding in my shop, I pay a lot of attention during sanding out the wood handles, to what is called the ‘raised wood grain’. Wood has a grain and when wet and then dried off, the grain will raise up and we can feel it if you rub your hand over it. So I purposely dip the wood handle in water between belt changes to get it wet and then let it dry to raise the grain. Then on the new finer belt, that raised grain gets sanded off. I do this twice depending on which wood it is. For example, I will do this only once for Cocobolo and twice for Maple.
So after completing sanding to 320 grit in the shop, I apply a protective finish to the wood handle on my finishing bench. The finish is first two coats of shellac and then carnuba/bees wax mix.

I start by putting masking tape on the brass bolsters. The brass has finish lines side to side, while the wood will be finished up and down. Best to isolate the brass to protect it from wool and finish. Yes, if you want to over time make the finish lines on the brass up and down, no problem – do it.
For steel wooling the wood, I use dry 3-OH to 5-OH raw steel wool, bought in any hardware store. I rub the wool up and down.
Then I can apply the first of two coats of a Zinser Bulls Eye shellac. I use the amber colored stuff and wipe off the wet finish in between coats. Initially, I allowed the shellac to dry on the wood before sanding, but sanding was insane, as well as the wait time.
So after much research and experimenting, I went from one coat to two, wiping off the excess on surface shellac after applying. Apply, wipe off. First coat seals the grain. First coat, 45 minutes later, gets wooled with 5-OH and then a second coat applied.

Then 45 minutes later, I 5-OH again and apply a thick coat of Howard’s Feed-n-Wax finish. When I wipe/buff off the Howard’s with cotton cloth hours later, what is left is the finish I always wanted. It fit all my check marks for a kitchen knife wood handle finish. Water resistant, long lasting and non-toxic. Yes, if you run it through a dish washer it will remove the finish and water log/warp the wood handle. It will also super dull the edge of the blade. I recommend after using my knives for years to; if used lightly – go over wood with a green scrubby, which will remove a lot of the surface grime to allow the Howard’s to soak in. More on this further down this page. Clean bolsters side to side and then the surface of the blade. Why not – yes ? This is your fine tool and upkeep keeps it in top shape and once you try it, it will always be easy.
Then let the cleaned handle sit for a while to dry wood out, and apply a thick coat of Howard’s. Howard’s is $10 and lasts for years. Let it sit for an hour, and then wipe off. This is very satisfying and I recommend it to anyone looking to feel empowered. Swipe the edge with a Smith’s and hit the gas.
⇓High polished kitchen knife with wood handle. ⇓
⇓ Click photo to enlarge
Sometimes a handle wood will allow me to give the brass and wood a ‘high polish’, which is jewelry like. This means most scratches are removed ‘to the eye’. Most woods do not allow this type of polish. The grain must be very very tight, like Cocobolo wood {see photo to the left} or Manzanita. A high polish means, that after sanding to 400 grit, I use a high speed wheels to mirror it up. 
At home or in your restaurant, to clean these high polished handles, just use a clean {moist or dry} a scrubbie sponge abrasive side, a piece of 320 grit sand paper/block or dry 4 or 5-OH steel wool. Steel wool is sold 1-0h to five -oh. One Oh being the coarsest. I recommend 4 or 5 oh. If you use steel wool, only clean a wood handle DRY. If you wet the steel wood, it will rust. You can use mineral though versus just dry cleaning.
Any of the above will clean the handle {wood/brass} surface but scratch only a tiny bit. It should take less than a minute to take a thin skin off the surface of the wood. This is very light work. You can see what comes of by looking at the pad or steel wool. I like to work on a clean towel, unless your doing just one knife. See my ancient poor video, below, to help clarify. It is well worth the effort to clean off a well used handle as it is easy to do and transforms the look.
Immediately after cleaning handle with an abrasive, wipe off with dry cloth.
I then recommend a wax be applied. I use Feed ‘n Wax, or try to find Museum Wax.
Lastly – if you want to clean brass or copper only, ketchup works great. Leave on for around 20 minutes, then wipe off. See ketchup use on brass video  HERE
with warning to TURN OFF VOLUME – loud !


Cleaning the surface on a blade
see You Tube video – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4cFveMiTT9s

In this ancient poor quality video below, I’m using a scouring pad w/o a sponge attached and I also show a scrubbie sponge (sponge and pad together). Use whatever you like to get the very top layer of finish and kek off the surface. One does not need a heavy abrasive at all. This same technique works great for the wood handle.
Use a cloth towel to lay the knife on. You can tape the sharp edge with masking tape for extra safety if your extra cautious and new to this but it is not necessary. Do not be afraid to do this. You really cannot hurt anything. It’s really empowering to have a knife handle after that is fresh and ready to go. Now get busy on your dusty wood furniture.

45Far left: 180 grit sanding block. Keep in kitchen and use on ovens, pot washing, etc. Very useful tool. Also comes in 240 and 400 grit.

⇐ Left :  Scrub sponge w/ green scouring pad on one side. Scotch-brite is twice as durable as all other brands and I highly recommend it, although it also costs more. Use for the first 50% of it’s life, then open a new sponge. Green side after use will wear out and not do a good fast job.
As far as the blade/surface portion of the knife is concerned, I generally rinse and wipe it off with a clean dry cotton kitchen towel after I use it. That is all I do, and the blade stays silvery gray. Then I leave it to air dry in the dish drain. I am not overly concerned as I know how easy it is to polish up the surface with my sponge if any marks form.
Paper towels really dry off all the moisture completely, as opposed to a dish towel which almost always leaves a film of moisture behind. While cooking, you can wipe off pretty consistently between food types throughout the process with a dish towel, and do a rinse wipe when finished with a paper towel. I generally hang a towel over my shoulder when working, but many pull a towel through their belt or apron string, ala “Chef Pepin”

If I cut something that sticks to the surface like cheese, or if I cut raw meat, I use hot water and the green side of a scrub sponge to abrade clean surface of the blade and then “wipe it off” dry.
You can also use salt (Kosher is the best) to clean off the wet surface using a rag or wash cloth. This will allow the built up surface patina to stay put while removing all else. Soap will clean as well, but if you wash with soap, thoroughly dry with cotton or paper towel and let air dry. You can also (optional) warm blade up and oil surface, but I never do this as there is no need. I am not using the surface to cook on and the oil will not stay on over time. In the ‘old days’, people used sand where available to scout dishes and knife surfaces or brick dust as well.

Other ways of cleaning a really abused knife surface is using sand paper grits of 120, 180, 240 and then 320. This is very heavy duty, to be used only for the worst kek and rust on a knife.  Rinse when done and as always, dry off surface completely.  Any knife you have, no matter how funky and crusty, can be renewed back to the surface with a bit of work. Tip for deep cleaning a wood cutting board. Spray or soak surface with bleach and let soak in. Then use your sharp kitchen knife to scrape the surface, moving only in one direction. Kitchen knives make excellent scrapers.

You cannot copy content of this page