Looking Sharp: Your Guide to Collecting Knives

Knives are some of the tools known to mankind. Ever since we figured out how to bang stones together, we’ve realized that blades make daily life so much easier. Through millennia, we’ve developed better and better ways to make these tools more effective, from better materials, designs, and construction. As such, there are a lot out here you might want to own, both to use, and to keep. Both are valid reasons, and the rich world of blade collecting has a lot to get into. So strap in and let’s get started.

What to grab
There are many different reasons to collect knives. First is to cover different use scenarios. Knives for camping, daily carry, food preparation, and fighting, are all going to be different. While they are all meant to cut, different knives are of course, suited to different tasks. If you disagree, try to prepare a meal with a karambit, and get back to me.

What are you buying?
Collecting knives is a peculiar hobby, since the knife is a tool that is made to be used, so the one thing you might want to consider as you go down this path is a knife you can use, since the first kind of cool is the kind where you get to use your stuff. Consider the tasks you go through in a day, and what kind of blade suits that. This first choice is likely going to set you down a path that will build a collection based on that style of blade. These blades are most likely to see use, but when cared for properly, should outlast the owner.

Chances are, once you’ve gotten a blade or two for daily use, your eyes are going to start to wander, and the price of your acquisitions will start to increase. They’ll likely still be blades you’ll carry and use, but with better materials—perhaps a little carbon fiber, some titanium, possibly a ceramic blade, or that tanto you’ve been looking at and can just barely justify as a fighting knife which you swear you’ll learn to use as soon as you can find a class to enroll in.

This brings us to the second kind of cool: collecting for the sake of it. Limited edition runs from low-volume knifemakers, or exotic blade shapes, steels, materials, or construction, to basically all the knives you would rather hold and look at than take out and use on something that might scar or mar the blade. There’s nothing wrong with purchasing a blade for the purpose of just having it. Many are examples of fine craftsmanship, and are as much a pleasure to behold, as they are functional cutting tools.

A word has to be said about keeping these types of knives as an investment. Theoretically, yes, limited runs will increase in value, and may be sold later on for more than they were purchased. However, because of the very particular nature of this kind of collecting, and the sheer number of blades available, it may be difficult to find a buyer that will be interested in your particular limited edition. They aren’t like historical blades that have provenance, or a rich story behind them which have more value apart from just the knife. I’m not trying to dissuade you from purchasing limited runs, or small-batch knives—they are fantastic showcases of the craft, but perhaps buying one under the guise of investing might not be the best idea.

Storage
Ok. You now have two dozen knives of various makes, shapes, and sizes. Now what? Well, you’ll have to store them somewhere. Generally, you’re going to want to keep knives in a place that allows them to stay dry, and for fixed blades, in sheathes that don’t keep moisture, so no leather.

Daily knives will likely go on rotation, will see the most wear, and require the most maintenance. A drawer with plastic dividers for each knife makes a lot of sense, so you can see all your options and decide which goes well with whatever you’ll be doing or wearing for a particular day. This will also keep them from banging against each other, scratching the finish, or possible even chipping the spine. This method works particularly well with folding knives, as they have a smaller footprint.

For kitchen knives, a wall-mounted magnetic block works great, as long as they are dried well before being put away. It keeps the edge from getting blunted, prevents accidents, and doesn’t trap or attract moisture like traditional slotted knife blocks.

Collectible knives, particularly fixed blades, will go well mounted on a wooden or acrylic display stand to show them off. A display cabinet, if you have the space, will not only keep them safe from damage and dust, it’ll also keep everyone else safe from accidents. If you have kids, pets, or irresponsible adults, keeping them out of reach behind glass should be a priority.

Maintenance
Blades that don’t see much use just need to be inspected frequently for developing rust. Occasionally wiping them down with something like mineral oil will protect them further, though be careful, as that may stain wood and leather parts. Use an appropriate protectant that won’t damage your knife’s finish.

Kitchen knives, particularly quality ones, will benefit a lot from a daily touch-up on a leather stropping block with decent stropping compound. This also holds true for other daily use blades. Frequent stropping seems to have great results, based on my own use, and frequent stropping beats having to re-sharpen knives any day. I’ve recently taken to the habit of resharpening only when there are some bad dings on the edge that need to be seen to, and that seems to be working quite well, without sacrificing cutting ability. Both the strop and compound can be found at online retailers or brick-and-mortar specialty shops all over the city. The basement of Makati Cinema Square is a great place to start looking.

Knives are that perfect balance of beauty, utility, and collectibility. That’s a rare thing these days, and something anyone can appreciate.

 

Words by Ren Alcantara
Art by Theresa Eloriaga

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