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How to Care for Your Sword
Demystifying sword care is a difficult thing on the internet, but sword blade care it is a basic and straight forward task if you know how.
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Firstly carbon steel swords are subject to corrosion. This can happen because of finger oils on the blade, humidity in the air and time, but with a little effort you can forestall this corrosion (rusting) with ease.
This is a simple task so I will make this article brief. There is no magic formula.
A Few Basics:
Don’t touch the blade, or if you do remove your fingerprints with denatured alcohol (methylated spirits) and then apply a thin even coating of mineral oil (baby oil).
Use mineral oil, not organically derived oils (olive oil, canola etc.) There is good reason for this, organic oils tend to be acidic (acid eats at reactive substances like carbon steel) and organic oils attract microbial life. See this article for more information on mineral oil: Mineral Oil for Sword Scabbards & Organic Elements
Methylated spirits / denatured alcohol will strip away any residual oils or substances and leave the blade ready to be oiled. Don’t get alcohol on any paint work or dyed wood because it may affect the colour. It is fine to get on brass and works as a good cleaner. Use a clean cotton rag or tissue to do this process, and a separate one for the oil (if you put them both on using the same applicator the oil will separate and not coat evenly).
Provided your scabbard is well oiled using mineral oil, and does not have moisture in it, your blade can be stored in the scabbard almost indefinitely. Ewart Oakeshott frequently attests to this phenomena in his Records of the Medieval Sword. Don’t listen to anyone who tells you not to store your sword in its scabbard as they are wrong.
Oil the interior of your scabbard by pouring a liberal amount of mineral into it and then inverting, using a finger or your palm to seal the mouth / throat of the scabbard closed. Invert and repeat until you are sure the mineral oil has evenly coated the scabbard.
That’s all there is to it! Follow these procedures and your sword will be trouble free! For the sake of thoroughness oil and or clean it as necessary, or every six months. The idea of a scabbard is to keep air off your sword and protect the edges from causing injury when sheathed. I have been caring for a sword and only oiled it every eighteen months and it has been completely corrosion free – the scabbard has been doing its job and I have been thorough in cleaning and oiling it. Ensure for long term storage that you do saturate the lining of your scabbard with mineral oil.
Be careful with the sharp edges when you are oiling or cleaning. It only takes a small miscalculation to end up with a cut finger. As a rule lay you fingers flat when cleaning so as the completely avoid the sharp edge, and press very softly on the edges when necessary. A cotton rag will provide more protection to your fingers than a tissue, but both are fine if you go slowly and carefully.
Remember with swords – safety always first. A sword can kill quickly and even accidentally. Never unsheath a sword near anyone. Never swing a sword anywhere near any one at all, even if you think a person is a safe distance they can still end up in the morgue if a sword comes loose from your hand when swinging. An accidental stroke can kill someone you didn’t know was behind you. BE CAREFUL.
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