Caring for your new Japanese Knife-Part 2

Caring for your new Japanese Knife-Part 2

In Part 1 of our "Care and Handling" blog series, we discussed washing your handmade knife. Your knife is a precision instrument designed for slicing and cutting. It has been forged by a master Japanese bladesmith using the very finest steels available anywhere.

They are built to last, but must also be treated with care.

Giving your knife the proper care will reward you by increasing your enjoyment of these beautiful works of functional art.

Even if you don't own an expensive handmade knife, any knife will give you longer service if you care for it properly.

Whether you have purchased a traditional carbon or stain-resistant steel for your knife, both should be individually hand-washed with warm soapy water, rinsed, and hand-dried. None should be thrown into the sink to sit in standing water, or tossed into a full sink together with other pots and pans, dishes, etc. The handles should simply be rinsed in warm water, but it is ok to wipe them or wash lightly with soapy water and a mild (normal) hand dish detergent as well. No NOT scrub your handles with a metal scrub-brush or use any harsh cleaners on your knives at all!

Tossing your knives into a sink full of pots and pans can even damage your blades if they crash against harder metals. It is no different than throwing your new knife onto the floor tip first, and you wouldn't want to do that either!

The handles, unless you have requested a plasticized material, will be made from wood, most normally from Hawaiian curly koa wood and/or Mozambique ebony. Both are hardwoods and both have been thoroughly dried, then sealed several times, including with several coats of water-resistant hardwood floor sealers, each having cured for 24 hours between coats.

Still, as with any wood, excess exposure to water can and will wear away at your finish. Exposure to harsh or powdered cleansers will exacerbate this process.

Most normal dishwashing liquids will not harm your handle as long as you don't allow them to 'soak' in the soapy water. A couple examples of products than can and should not be used are shown in the photo below.

(Note: the photos are not meant to be an endorsement or critical of any particular brand of product as all are excellent for their intended uses, but examples only for 'type' of product)

Although the wood has been thoroughly sealed to last for many years, the phrase "water is woods worst enemy", certainly applies, whether that is around the home with standing water on a floor or window sill, or whether it is a knife handle makes no difference. At the very least, it will prematurely dull and destroy the final finish. 

The knives in the photo below are some of my own kitchen knives. Some are "stainless", some carbon steel. All have been used for several years: a couple get used daily. (We all have our favorites!) All are in excellent condition because they have enjoyed proper handling.

We will continue in Part 3 of our series, coming soon. Thanks for reading. I welcome your comments.

Samples of products that can and should NOT be used when washing your custom handmade knife

Leave a comment: