Learn How to Oil a Knife – All You Need to Know

Buying a knife is the first part of a giant puzzle. You may be the kind of person who loves knives but doesn’t love all the ins and outs that come along with owning them. In the beginning, a knife is wonderful because it works like a charm but as time goes by, all sorts of problems start to occur. The blade doesn’t open smoothly anymore, there’s dirt caught in the grooves, or maybe the blade is so dull that it doesn’t cut properly.

These are all things you should be prepared for before you buy a knife because they will become an issue in due course. We’ll show you how to oil a knife and when the best time to do so is. As well as a couple of tips that may be useful when trying to oil different types of knives that you’re not familiar with.

Table of Contents

Here Are 3 Steps That Will Show Exactly How to Oil a Knife

1. Identify the Problem

When a knife comes from the factory it would already have been oiled, polished, and fine-tuned. This means that the first couple of months, maybe even years, depending on how it’s used, will not require knife oiling. Herein lies the problem because after long periods of time a knife becomes of less value to a person. Either due to it becoming old or maybe because they’ve bought another knife. This neglect will ruin a knife so we’ll say first up that you need to watch out for this.

Unfortunately for most knife users, a knife is used for more hardcore tasks which will degrade it faster. So oiling would become a more regular practice. Have you noticed if your knife is reluctant when opening or is it glitching/sticking halfway when you flick it? Does it tend to make noises or squeaking sounds when opening? These are the things that you should ask yourself or at least be able to notice. There might be other indicators that could lead to you needing to oil your knife but these are the most common.

Not all problems with knives are oil-related so identifying the problem and the solution correctly is very important. Issues with rust and dirt could also be jamming up the blade where the pivots connect to the tang. This is not an easy problem to fix and many times it would require a professional to deal with it. We would hope that such issues are dealt with long before this action is appropriate.

2. What Kind of Oil Do You Use on a Knife

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It would be nice if this was a simple question to answer but the bad news is that it’s not. The type of oil you use is pretty important and might be a cause for careful reading here. You shouldn’t be worried that you might not be able to find the right oil, you will. Oil is readily available and that’s the problem. You can find numerous different types of oils for all sorts of different things. And if you choose the wrong one you might not solve the issues at hand.

Some types of oil are very viscous or thick and are no good for small pocket knives or flip open knives. You might want to grab something thinner and lighter. This type of oil will help the blade to move effortlessly. And it will make any folding knives with switchblades a pleasure to use. Properly oiled knives last forever and if you remember how to oil a knife correctly then they’ll serve you well throughout your life. Another reason why it’s important to choose the correct type of oil is that some oils last longer than others. You might use a very expensive oil that lasts for huge periods at a time but is too thick and doesn’t work effectively.

Conversely, you could use a light oil that is brilliant while it lasts but quickly fades away leaving the knife needing constant attention. We recommend something like Tuf Glide or Epic. Because they are thin and very effective yet last for a decent amount of time. If you have two different types of knives then you can apply two different oils to those knives and see which one works better. At the end of the day, it’s better to oil your knife more regularly than to expect one oil to last forever.

3. Method to Use When Oiling

Oiling can be done in several different ways but the starting point is to clean thoroughly. When the knife has been used for long periods they tend to accumulate a lot of dirt and gunk in between the handles and blade. These are the points where the pivots are located and this is normally where the knife needs the most cleaning. The movement is primarily focused on the pivot points and this is why we focus our oiling here as well.

When cleaning the knife you can either take it apart or clean it as is. Taking it apart is what we recommend because you can get out all of the unwanted dirt much easier. You should use hot water and soap because this will remove any old oil that has become dirty. After this, you need to dry the knife fully either using a cloth or air drying but be careful when air drying because rust can form. When the knife is dry you’re going to apply the oil and to do this you’ll need a needlepoint applicator. This is an attachment to an oil bottle that allows precise application of the oil to the necessary components.

Once this is attached you can assemble the knife while at the same time applying oil to each of the pivot points. Don’t over-apply oil because the excess oil will spread out and make a mess attracting more dirt than before. Metal to metal areas are the most important place to oil. Once you have finished, test the knife to make sure that the blade opens smoothly. If it is still struggling then you need to add more oil but once again, apply sparingly. Repeat this process until you’re happy.


Oiling a knife is not a complicated process. You can even oil a knife when it is closed by simply applying the oil on top of the pivots and opening and closing the knife repetitively to let the oil sink in. This is a far inferior method but can still work. You should oil your knife once in a while or when you feel that the knife is not operating smoothly. The important thing is to not wait too long. If you start noticing problems there then the likelihood is that you have waited too long. It’s better to prevent problems in the first place than to fix them after they’ve already happened. Take care of your equipment and it’ll take care of you.

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