Carbon Steel Knives - Polish ?

kenzoFebruary 28, 2008


I have recently acquired several vintage carbon steel knives. 2 Chef knives, a huge butchers knife and a long thin slicer.

I am wondering if it is recommended to try polish off the tarnish or just rock the patina. I have read instructions for polishing them I have also been led to believe that the patina is actully good for the knife and stabilizes it.

Will polishing hurt the integrity of the knife?

They are intended for general kitchen use and will be displayed on a wall magnet with my older Chicago Cutlery and some newer Whustof (my kitchen is sort of an eclectic yard sale mix of domestic technology pyrex/corningware-griswold cast iron-le cruset-ironstone-alessi gadgets- are among the things I collect for use. Nothing is for display only nothing is mint. So my interest is in employing the best treatment for the knife in a practical sense.

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I'd leave the patina alone. It helps protect the carbon steel from rust. You still have to be careful about drying the knife after use but you're better off with the patina than without it.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2008 at 8:21PM
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They are probably great knives. Get them professionally sharpened (if you are not good at sharpening yourself) and learn to use a steel to keep them sharp.

As to the patina, unless you wipe them clean after every single cut (like high-end sushi chef's do) they will develop a patina again anyway. So scrub a little to get off any rust, wash quickly after each use, dry immediately with a towel, and enjoy!

    Bookmark   March 2, 2008 at 10:05AM
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The patina is mostly iron oxide (rust). It's not protecting the steel. I've had good luck cleaning up rusted carbon steel knives with Bar Keeper's Friend and then maintaining them as cpovey describes.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2008 at 5:47PM
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thanks for the tips

yeah they are really nice one is a sabatier one is herder and the others are unmarked but very heavy and thick. I will give them a quick clean up and take them in for sharpening (I know better than to do that myself) I am excited to try them out.

I dont really know anything about knives but I couldn't resist them. The sabatier in particular. I saw at a flea market and didn't buy and found myself thinking about it all week it felt so correct in hand. I was happy to find it there the next weekend.

    Bookmark   March 3, 2008 at 9:25AM
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Actually, a dark brown or black patina on high carbon steel does provide some protection.

Not a lot.

Bluing on firearms is also a form of controlled rusting and is done to protect the surface.

If you really want to take the patina off, I would suggest polishing on a wheel with jeweler's rouge. It's fast and you'll get a nice even luster.

To protect the finish you can coat the blade with a food grade wax.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2008 at 12:06PM
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For the definitive website on knife sharpening, check out the link. I bought a paper wheel system from him a few years ago and it's virtually foolproof; you can put a razor edge on a knife in a very short time. The only drawback is that you do need a dedicated bench grinder to attach the paper wheels to.

As far as machines go, he recommends the ChefChoice 130.

I just acquired some old carbon steel knives myself and look forward to getting them in really good shape on this thing.

Here is a link that might be useful: steve's sharpening site

    Bookmark   March 18, 2008 at 1:03PM
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You can clean the knives up to get rid of the "big chunks" of discoloration using a Scotchbrite pad or even steel wool (using a powdered cleanser if necessary, with both methods), but understand the nature of the beast.

As soon as the blade gets "clean" it'll begin to oxidize and return to it's dark coloration.

They'll always be ugly compared to today's stainless blades. However, these blades can be a joy to work with. They will easily take a keen, ultra-sharp edge, often using nothing more than a good butcher's steel. But, they won't hold an edge for long. Just be prepared to continually use your steel, which soon becomes second nature.

When I first began cooking, these carbon steel knives were the professional's choice. High carbon stainless was just starting to make inroads. Some food
inspectors thought shiny meant more sanitary, which helped propel the migration to stainless.

I own and still use a scimitar shaped German Solingen carbon steel butcher's knife, that I absolutely love to pick up. Six strokes on the steel every time I begin, and an occasional stroke or four during use, this knife is as good as any I own.

Take care of your knives, don't bang them around, 'cause the edge will chip easily, and your grandkids will use them.

    Bookmark   April 3, 2008 at 4:26AM
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