More Thoughts on Knives and Collecting -from the guys at iKnife.

I'm doing the social-networking thing that is supposed to be so important to web-sites and all. Can't say I understand it -too old I guess- but I have had a lot of fun with/ the good old boys, (and let us not mince words -knife co lectors are men) at iKnife

I asked then all about how they display & protect their collections and got some great advice and in-put. Then I asked them to weigh in on this controversial b'ness of knife as useful tool or a rare item to never be used.  (The 'purpose' of any collection is rather a fascination of mine. Check out my article on Collecting for Profit for some thoughts in this direction.)

Let me begin with the second issue first. In general, it strikes me that a good many collectors you think t'other guy's knives, (or any other collectable you could name), ought to be used, but as for their collection, well, this is quite another matter.  Comes to mind the old boy from down Virginia way who had George Washington's ax.  Mind you, the handle had been replaced twice't and the steal once, but it was still -by gum- George Washington's ax. 


Anyway, here's what GOB's ay iKnife have to say.


Knives as Tools

Knives as Cherished Virgins

Jan Carter

A knife is a tool first and foremost.  But alas, I also have a safe full just too nice to use.  They certainly get taken out and played with.

Robert Burris:

Yes James, knives in collections are best in mint condition.
... a knife that is used and taken good care of is very valuable to a knife user.

Shlomo ben Maved has cut thru the controversy with his excellent insight and (voluminous) writing.  I put him on this side of the argument as much out'a a sense of balance as from what he sez.

The only way that you can use every one of your knives is by having damn few of them and then you're not really a collector but an user...Once you've exceeded the one or two blades per task some have to be left behind, whether for combat, hunting, fishing, camping etc. as the weight factor alone is prohibitive and then you've just joined our ranks and became a collector...

James Ivy:

I feel exactly the same way about some user knives. But there are some knives that are better left in pristine condition with original box and paper work. Just depends on the knife in my opinion sir!

Tobais Gibson sez it well.  (He also does a very creditable job of straddling the fence.)
I'm going to claim "unconditional pecksniffery" as my defense.
 I firmly believe that knives should be bought to be used. That said, when I spend a ton on a knife, I'm loathe to use it for fear of reducing its value.   At least I always take everything out the packaging!  I also try to buy knives in patterns that I do use or will use if the need for that type of knife comes about.  But I have to be honest and say, I've bought a number of knives that will probably never be used for their intended purpose.
As for the proper role of a collection... that is to provide enjoyment for the one doing the collector. With luck, the collector will be able to share that joy with others.    If you are collecting, it only make sense to take care of the collection.   As I said, I know some knives may never get used, but my general philosophy is the knife should at least be able to fulfill its intended purpose, otherwise it is just a prop.

Tobais brings up another -perhaps uncomfortable-motion -but one worth considering....
Mint is always better, if you' plan to sell them.  If you think the person who will inherit them is going to appreciate them as much as you.

Bill Harvey (only fair that I weigh in too, but I completely dodge the subject.)
A knife is a tool, first last and always.  But it must be said that I collect books, wood-working tools (that I use) and muzzle-loading black-powder pistols that I made from kits, but this is another story.  I carry a utility knife in my shop-apron when I'm working and probably use it 5 - 10 times a day.  Sharpening pencils, cutting veneer, and lots of cutting cardboard to make shipping boxes.  When the blade gets dull, I unsentimentally toss it, and put in a new nickel blade from a box of 100. 


I do have a single -perhaps useful- insight to the issue.   An insight that came to me when I was selling my casework at a model rail-road show. (Back about a lifetime ago -pre-internet even.) 

At these shows we find two distinct species of model rail-road guys.  One crowd builds rail-road layouts.  Anything from some track glued to a scrap of plywood, to entire tiny communities with trees, water, mountains tunnels and no end of electronics.  Admirable and impressive efforts -for people with just the least little bit too much time on their hands.

The other crowd collects what I think they call running stock.  Cars &/or engines.  They may be quite specialized as to the scale, manufacturer, etc of what they collect.  One guy I made a display for collected only brass locomotives.  Heard of another guy who had an entire room in his basement full of Lionel O-scale running stock -ever' damn one Loinel made in a given year and for a lot of years.  He didn't even take 'em out'a the box.

Nice people both and they occasionally talk to one-another -all polite and all.  I'm not sure they understood one-another though.  But -like I say- entirely different animals.  


Your thoughts on How to Display & Protect a Knife Collection:     

This is a less controversial subject, and I got a lot on useful and interesting advice from you'se guys.  To a large degree, it seems that it comes down to using what you got.  Improvising even.  Two of you brought up important "Ya' buts..."

First, Shlomo ben Maved  points out that in a household w/ little kids who have little fingers, things need to be done differently than otherwise.

Second, James Ivy mentions going to knife shows and so the need for portability is added to the imperative for showmanship and security.  (Security being different from protecting little fingers, but being resolved in much the same way.)  (Showmanship is also imperative -IMHO.)

Here is how I am going to do it.  The contributor's name is in blue (like above), and my comments / additions / addenda are in red.

Scott King:
Mine are in those fold over with glass front display box type. I have several sizes and are all solidly made with glass tops/fronts. I keep them slide up against the wall and not out "on display" due to room size. They are heavy when loaded up, but the knives don't slide or "fall down" because under the velvet is thick foam and when the glass top closes down it squeezes the knife into the foam so they stay put.

My JUMBO Swellcenters- now that's another matter- I keep them in an old W R Case store display someone modified with a glass shelves and a mirrored back. I set each one on one of those little clear plastic thingy's to hold the knife up. I've run out of room cause I don't like putting one behind another, so have them crammed in best I can so I can see each one. 

Scott obviously does his share of shows too.  Looks like he has nailed showmanship and security.  Probably portability too.

Trent Rock:
For folding/pocket knives I use the "fold over with glass"  For fixed blades I use old/vintage "cutlery set" boxes, you know the ones with the red felt and slots for spoons and forks.  Like grandma had...


Shlomo ben Maved:
I had a number of uncles who were engineers or architects and when they were remodelling their offices I got hold of all the old wooden blueprint drawer stacks and keep my knives in them...Three are teak, three are mahogany and five are quarter sawn oak...Took the drawers out of the frames and lined them with billiard cloth that I scrounged from a few pool halls that each were recovering a few tables, replaced them and laid the knives on the bottom.

The knives just lay on the felt so you have to open the drawers slowly but that's really the only drawback...Also, any really thick Bowie knives won't allow the drawers to close so they are displayed elsewhere.

When a couple of local hardware stores went under I was able to get their product display cases that the knife makers sent out to put their knives into at point of sale--as pictured above...One four sided Schrade case has just three knives in it by that maker and the rest, thirty five or so, are Camillus, Boker and some Case folding knives.

I just got a metal blueprint seven drawer stack and got some of that non slip, perforated, rubber matting and cut and fit them to the drawers...worked out Okay just not as pretty as deep green felt.

I also have knives laying atop their sheaths in the original boxes they came in.

This is what I say about Slomo's solution: Slomo is one lucky GOB -'teak, walnut & quarter sawn oak? 


Billy Oneale:

I have several different ways of keeping my knives. I have some in hardwood  glass front displays, some in knife rolls, some in the vinyl snap cases with the straps and some in the box in little totes.I went and looked after looking at your link and I have 1 riker case. I have boxes of packaging in storage cases.

Given that Billy brought it up, I feel justified in jumping all over the Riker Mount issue.  Great little product that I don't make.  (Kind'a wish I did.)  If you don't know about this product, check out...

...and if you do know, but haven't beenthere lately, do so again. They have some new sizes, including some about 1 ¾" deep that would hold bigger knives.
For lots of How-To, check out some of my writing at...

Riker Mounts:  How to use them to easily high-light a collection:


Riker Mounts Mk II

...for advice on mounting thicker things -like knives.


More from Shlomo re. the issue of thigns sliding around in drawers.
I had tried the thin cardboard and even cork sheets under the felt, hoping on securing the blades with push pins but the added thickness wouldn't allow me to shut the drawers on about half my collection.

 Some of the pieces I've secured with double sided cloth carpet tape and some others with stick on Velcro strips...Neither mar the handles--other then a bit sticky but easily cleaned off with warm water and soap...I gave up on using them.
(Use paint thinner to get adhesive schmutz off things like knives.)

 It isn't a big deal--not like opening the drawer and finding them all piled atop each other into a corner scratching and getting scratched...I don't really have to go searching for them as I've got them catalogued by maker located where and a list of what's in each drawer with a bank of drawers so they're easy to find.

I had gotten four paper holder shelves from a commercial darkroom that went under and each one has twelve slots and I store the catalogues of the brands, models or styles that I collect in them...They hold about 100 sheets so you can get a couple, three years worth of catalogues in a slot.

(I'm not sure what these are.  Any chance they are something like this?

Regardless, it sounds like a great idea.)


Tobais Gibson:
Most of my knifes are stored in two chest of drawers.   I have several Rigging knives which are actually displayed on a board, hanging by their bails.  Most of SAKs also hang from their key rings from brass hooks.   My fixed blades are also displayed, hanging in their sheaths.  A few other knives are just lying about.

(I do get a little excited by Tobias' mention of rigging knives.  When I was young, (and stupid), I had this old wooden gaff rig-cutter. 

The boat is long gone, but I still have a rigging knife w/ splicing fid in a drawer.  Maybe I am just a little bit of a knife collector too.

The room where the knives are kept is kept around 50% to keep leather from cracking but also to inhibit rust.  Temperature is also kept around 65-70 degrees Fahrenheit.  

For more than you would care to know about humidity and curatorial matters, check out my article on...

As it is never really a good idea to store fixed blades in their sheaths, I tend to check them weekly.  Wiping them down and oiling as necessary. I check the leather sheaths for dryness at the same time.

 I also need to check my other knives not kept in the drawers weekly as they are exposed to more dust.  I know they would all last longer if I stored them in other fashions, but I didn't buy the knives just to hide them away.  If they don't hold up as well by displaying them, so be it.

I don't won't to turn into Gollum, hugging "my precious." in a cave.  LOL.

This set us off on tangents re. desiccants. wax, and preserving oil


More from Tobais

It is interesting you mentioned wax, Bill.  I was just reading the other day about using wax for steel preservation; specifically the use of Ren-Wax and TufGlide. 
 Seems, some  people use Ren-Wax for blade surfaces and use TufGlide for the joints.  Ren-Wax is said to be less likely to cause blade spotting and is also less likely to pick up fingerprints. I  know the horrors of oil and its ability to attract dust.   I'll need to look more closely into the wax and see if it is better than " Coon P"

I don't know w thing about TuffGlide, but it sounds cool!
Ren Wax, (Reniasacne Micro-crystalline wax -all museum quality and EXPENSIVE !)
If you are cheap, get a toilet flange from Home Depot, melt down the bee's wax like stuff and pour it in a mason jar. 

Or use just Handi-Tack from the office supply aisle.

As for leather, I've been partial to using mink oil and/or neatsfoot oil on my leather sheaths and handles.  I've been using for over 30 years and it seems to do the trick.  I've read so much about it that it just about drove me crazy, I finally gave up reading and decided to stay the course.

 As for UV lighting.  None.  All incandescent bulbs  and indirect lighting -- That brings to mind the need to flip knives occasionally to expose both sides.  Otherwise the handles will fade or yellow unevenly, if only one side is constantly exposed to light.  (Shield side up one month, shield side down the next). 

I also toss those silica pouches in my storage drawers to help with the humidity.   But you need to be careful.   You don't want to suck all the moisture out of the room.  Too little humidity is bad on wood and other organics such as stag and  bone.  It can also cause problems with some older composite handles.


I keep all of my collection in large gun safes with closet dehumidifiers in them. These need to be changed out every 60 days to protect  your knives from trying to rust from the humidity. I learned this from my father and it always works with knives and guns both! Also if my place catches on fire I will not loose my collection with the 2 hour fire rating safes I have. In my personal opinion this is the best way to keep your collection like new and safe from the elements.



Craig Henry:
Nowadays I just use knife packs. I used to have glass front cabinets that I hung on the wall. I made them myself. The front was hinged so I could get to the knives.
 For knife blades like straight carbon, I have been using a basic car wax such as Turtle Wax. It has worked for years without a bit of rust and resists fingerprints. Once in a blue moon I give them a new coat. Works for me.
Have to say I admire Craig's simple Turtle Wax solution   BTW -did'ju know museum curators, (the real pros w/ lots of letters behind their names), use shoe-polish?  Comes in lots of colors, is cheap & easy to find, and WORKS -on lots of stuff besides shoes.


Shlomo ben Maved:
There is a soft, rubbery drawer liner available from woodworking shops that prevent tools from slipping--like the tool box liners that Craftsman has but they make them in small sizes and to line a 40" x 54" to 64" wide drawer gets to be expensive...I've been trying to find a manufacturer here in Canada where I may buy rolls of the stuff but, alas, no luck.

You are trying too hard Shlomo.  Look in the kitchen do-dad aisle of any Walmart and buy yourself some non-slip shelf liner. Not quite as tough as the toolbox stuff, but pretty good.

There are a couple of products out there that work well, one called ZERUST® No Rust Non-Slip Drawer Liner that works amazingly well and another that I've tried supplied by inaDRAWER also worked well.


Last little bit from Shlomo ben Maved:

Those cases you built for the NRA are exactly like the quarter sawn drawers I got from my uncle--mine stand 68" tall and have just smaller cupboards beneath.

The metal set I got, like your Bikers Drawers, I put atop some horizontal two drawer filing cabinets that I've scrounged up over the years where I kept the sheaths and scabbards stored...The whole thing hasn't cost me a cent except for the drawer lining.

The picture of that multi-slotted storage cabinet is nearly exactly what I picked up from the photo stores that went under to store the print catalogues of the knife companies I collect...Mine are just with sixteen slots (4 x 4) for twelve inch paper or twelve slots (4 x 3) for twenty four inch paper...I used the one for eight inch paper to hold pamphlets and brochures and it's twenty four drawers (8 x 3)...Remember these held pre-cut photo print paper, for developing not letter sized paper...They're colourful in a bright yellow porcelain finish with Kodak on some and brown with Ilford or green with Fujifilm on the others.


Herb Hoover:

Mrs Santa gave me this Cocobola & black leather knife chest this Christmas. It came with a 1970 Ka-bar stag trapper. Mrs Clause is a sweet ole lady.