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How to Look After Your Bushcraft Knife and Axe

A Bushcraft Guide

“You are only as sharp as your knife”

“Keeping a favourite bushcraft axe in top condition or maintaining a large amount of teaching knives for the next course; there are a few things we do here at Ember Survival to make sure our kit is performing well.”

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Some of the substances we use to keep our tools in top order. Linseed oil, gun oil, hestra leather balm and root stain.

Maintenance Kit For Looking After Bushcraft Gear

Boiled Linseed Oil is great for applying to any wooden handles you may have on knives or axes. There are some differing opinions out there but what we do is apply a thin coat, taking care not to get any on the blade itself, and then leave it to soak in. We also make sure to carefully apply some between the contacts of the metal and wood, this helps seal it all up. Now depending on how dry the wood is we may need to apply another coat but if the wood is not absorbing any more we rub off any excess with a kitchen towel which is promptly disposed of in the fire and not binned.

Gun Oil is what we use for our metal parts. Be that carbon steel, stainless or even cpm s30v! Apply over the metal and let it dry in a safe place.  Gun oil is great for removing any light stains on the blade and drives away moisture to prevent rusting; just try not to get any on the wooden parts. Essential for looking after bushcraft gear.

Root Stain is something a bit more exotic. We use this product to darken our wood, particularly on our bushcraft axes. Stain is absorbed by the grain and reveals the beauty of the wood a little better than normal. Apply a liberal coat and let it be absorbed, repeat as desired. This process is done before linseed oiling.

Hestra Leather Balm smells amazing, it’s probably all the bees wax in it! A great natural product, we apply on all our leather items from belts to knife sheaths. This helps the leather stay supple and weatherproof as well as giving it a lovely shine. Makes the leather parts of your bushcraft kit really shine.

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Gränsfors Bruk Small Forest Axe and Outdoor Axe next to a stropping board with honing paste.

Stropping Kit consists of a square piece of flat leather, a flat bit of wood and some honing paste. The leather is glued to the wood and once dried honing paste is applied, this is basically a mild abrasive polish.

Storage Guidelines for Bushcraft Gear

Stropping the Blade helps preserve the sharp edge for as long as possible without the need to resort to sharpening the knife or axe. Stropping simply realigns the atoms on the edge without removing any metal from the knife; as a result it increases the lifespan of the cutting tool. The stropping action also removes any mild rusting which may have occurred on your carbon steel tools.

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Displaying your favourite knives is important, not only are they kept in a safe place but they are to hand whenever you need them.

Storing the Knife is easier said than done. If your knife comes with a hard plastic sheath it can simply be stored in that no problem. If however it came with a leather or fabric sheath it is best stored out of the sheath. The reason is, the knife will slowly distort the shape of the sheath and you may the run the risk of the knife falling out next time you are using it. What is recommended is store all the leather sheaths separately and use a specialist cabinet to store your good knives.

Storing the Axe is a lot simpler. Just make sure it’s not close to a heat source which could potentially dry out the wood. We store our axes with the sheaths on as the Gränsfors Bruk axes all come with good sheaths which have clips.

-Sunny