View Full Version : Need Advice Restoring a Knife and Leather

Jamie Young
February 17, 2002, 10:30 PM
I Re-discoved one of My Uncles Boy Scout knives, and man is this thing covered in Rust:eek: The Leather "Sheeth" (Spelling?) it came in is a little dryed out. Its still flexible but I think its time to try and restore it. I started working on the blade with a Sharpening stone and Boy does this thing have a blade on it :D How can I remove all the rust on this thing? It was 100% covered in Rust when I found it in My Basement. What can I use to restore the Leather Sheeth? I assume some kind of Oil?

February 18, 2002, 06:55 AM
Soda Pop.
You could try and glass bead the blade, just tape the handle up with duct tape so it doesnt get hit. The beads will remove the rust completely and leave a nice finish on the blade, although it wont be polished, more a matt finish. Just re-sharpen it after you blast it. I did this to a old Gerber boot knife of mine, worked great, I parkerized it afterwards and used Brownells Alumahide paint on the handle. Came out great. Check with a local body shop, they usually have a glass bead machine, or maybe your local gunsmith or machine shop. Something that small would only take a couple of minutes to do. As for the leather, you could try "neatsfoot" oil, but dont go to heavy, it will really soften it. I usually put a couple of coats of "Snow Seal" on my leather stuff, its a boot sealer for hiking boots etc. but i dont think it will help soften your sheath up, but it does protect it. Good Luck.

February 23, 2002, 04:00 AM
Hi Sodapop. If you haven't started on the sheath yet, you might try cleaning it first with some saddle soap. If you can find a glycerine based saddle soap, that might be better than the standard stuff you can get at the shoe polish rack. The saddle soap will clean off the surface, wipe it off with a damp cloth and let the leather dry.

AK is absolutely right in cautioning you on the neatsfoot oil, it can soften the leather if you use too much, and can soak into clothing. Once the sheath is cleaned and oiled to restore its flexibility, there's a product called Tan-kote which can be wiped on to leave a soft shine. You can also rub the edges of the sheath with heavy canvas while the edges are wet to smooth them before you add the surface finish. If the sheath is made of soft leather, forget the tan-kote. There are also acrylic finishes, but they can actually leave a "skin" on the surface of the leather. Good luck!

February 26, 2002, 03:42 PM
I recommend soaking the blade for awhile in some WD 40 or another cheap light oil. It will soften up the rust and remove alot of it. The next step would be sandpaper. Start out with a medium grit ( depending on just how much rust and if you want to take out any pitting) maybe 80 or 100 grit. Using straight passes, start sanding of the rust. If you only sand in one direction you will get a better finish(use a sanding block so you don't round everything off). Trying to move back and forth like you would normally do can leave very small circular scratches at each spot where you change directions(makes for a cloudy finish), its not that big a deal until finer grits. Once it starts to look good, all the rust is removed,and however much of the pitting you think you can take out, move to a finer grit, 120 is good. When all the 80 or 100 scratches are gone, move up to 150, then 220 and so on. Go however fine you want. You can stop with a satin finish or go all the way to mirror finish.

And never store the knife in the sheath for long periods of time. The salts and chemicals used to tan the leather are corrosive. There isn't a high enough concentration, to do harm in normal use. But for long term storage it will get you every time. Thats with chrome tanned leather. Some sheaths are made with vegetable oil tanned leather, its not as bad, but I still would take the knife out of the sheath to store it.

February 26, 2002, 04:18 PM
I like the saddle soap. And the Sno-Seal. It will darken the leather, but any oil will.

I am firmly against silicone based leather treatments. Stick to vegetable based oils, mink oil (hard to find without silicone added) or Sno Seal.

Bead blasting is good. But DON'T SANDBLAST! It is too easy to take too much metal off of the thin cutting edge. Have to be careful with bead blasting, for that matter. Take off too much metal and you'll have to remove a bunch more to get an edge.

I don't like the sandpaper idea. Again, it's too easy to take off too much metal. If you don't have the option of bead blasting, I'd soak in WD-40 as recommended, then go at it with steel wool, starting with coarse and getting progressively finer. Finish up on a buffing wheel with very fine buffing compound. Again, you have to be careful so you don't round off that cutting edge too much.

Jamie Young
February 26, 2002, 09:44 PM
Thanks for the Replies!!!! I did soak it in oil and sand it with a very fine paper but its still very discolored. I'm taking it up to work tonight to one of the tool guys to see if he can buff it up for me. I have go to a Shoe store I guess for the Oil for the Leather. Thanks again!!

February 26, 2002, 10:29 PM
Not to cause an argument, but you won't take too much steel off hand sanding a blade. If you ever make a knife or a knife kit, you'll find out that alot of elbow grease is involved with getting a good finish. Once steel is hard enough to take an edge, sandpaper just doesn't cut it very fast ( unless its a belt on a grinder running a couple thousand ft/min)
If you haven't taken out the major flaws, you'll have trouble getting good results on a buffer, and you'll be more likely to round things off and mess up the edge, since the buffer doesn't remove materials evenly. Using sand paper on a sanding block you can keep the bevels flat(its a little different if the knife is hollow ground, you have to go lengthwise without the sanding block. A stiff sponge can serve as a good backing then), and sand out any minor flaws, small pits. Its about the same as using a coarse sharpening stone to thin the edge down in terms of what it will do to the edge geometry and how much work you'll have to do sharpening.

February 26, 2002, 11:40 PM
redneck, I can't disagree with that - if you know what you are doing. I just worry about sandpaper in hands that don't know steel. But you are right, especially about the buffing wheel. My first .45 had been the victim of an amatuer with a wheel.

Come to think of it, go ahead and use that wheel, Sodapop. Then sell the 'ruined' knife to me, CHEEEP.


February 27, 2002, 01:18 AM
I guess the big thing is what you are going to do with the knife. If you are going to keep it you can do all of the above. I like to keep them as close to origonial as I can. The leather is easy, there is a product called BLACKROOT. I find it at gun shows, works better than anything I have ever used. If you find it buy two it can be hard to find. For the blade I start with a antirust oil, let it set for afew days. Then take something softer than the blade and scrape the rust off, this does not scratch the blade. After that Semicrome can put the luster back on blade. These are the basics and wont work on everything, but I have had some very good results. Good luck.;)

Jamie Young
February 27, 2002, 09:29 AM
I did some work on the blade last night. It seems the thing IS pitted. I do have to take a grinding stone or something rought to this thing. I got it pretty shined up but the pits are holding the rust in.

February 27, 2002, 10:01 AM
Sodapop, that knife may be too far gone. How deep are the pits? If you take off enough metal to get down to the level of the deepest pit, how much blade will you have left?

It might be better to just give it a few rounds of Naval Jelly to take the rust out of the pits, clean it up good and put it on display.

February 28, 2002, 03:30 PM
I agree about the pits. If they're deep, your better off to clean things up as much as possible and live with whats left. They won't hurt the performance of the knife any, and they add character to it. Definitely get the rust out if its possible as it will hold moisture and corode faster if the heavy rust is left in there. Minor discoloring isn't a problem though.
I've seen a few hand forged knives that were made from old saw blades and other tools that had a good deal of minor pitting in them. They're pretty neat. Its not a look everyones into, but if you like tools and appreciate old fashioned tools that are still around and useable you can understand it.

I've made my share of mistakes with a buffing wheel also :D I find that its something I like to avoid with knives. Not only am I not very good at using it, but its a very dangerous tool to begin with and even more so with a knife. If you don't keep the blade below the center line of the wheel it can grab it and throw it at you with enough force to stick you real deep.