A knife patina is a process of controlled oxidation and chemical produced weathering. The main purpose of a forced patina is to protect the metal from rusting by doing a controlled oxidation via chemicals. This oxidation layer or “Patina” layer protects the knife from rust. There are many ways to force a patina on metal. My favorite for knives is to use vinegar. All you have to do is soak a paper towel in vinegar and then wrap it around the bare metal knife and let it sit for an hour or 2. The patina will last for about a couple months of normal use then you can apply it again. The beauty of it is the patina doesn’t last forever but is very easy to do and redo. The protection provided by the patina is very good and rust never forms.
When to do a patina? Anytime you want to! For me I like Carbon knives. most carbon knives come coated with powder coating or other protective coating. It does not take long with normal use for this coating to get beat up, wore off, and looking like crap. Once this happens I strip the knife with zip strip or other chemical paint stripper. then I do a patina on the bare metal knife. Another great thing about a vinegar patina is if you don’t like it or what to change it all you have to do is scrub it off with some light steel wool and you are ready to do it again. Or just do it right over top of the old one.
As I said, I prefer to use vinegar for a patina. I like the way vinegar doesnt etch to deep and is easy to replace. Any acidic food can make a patina. Mustard, Ketchup, Lemon, steak juices, etc. All of them will work. But of the ones I have experimented with vinegar is my favorite. Mustard is also good but etches deep fast.
My favorite way to do a patina is to add a little design to it. I take a piece of string and soak it in vinegar. Then wrap the string around the knife in a pattern i want. Then cover the string wrapped knife with a paper towel soaked in vinegar and let it sit for 2-3 hours.
If you don’t want the lines just wrap the knife if a paper towel soaked in vinegar and it will have a nice textured look.
If you want just pure, dark grey patina you can heat up a vinegar bath and put the knife in it. just put a pot on the stove, add enough vinegar to cover the knife and then slowly heat it up and let it get a hot bath for a while until the color is to your liking.
Here are a couple of pictures of different patina and stripped options I have done all to the same knife over the course of the last 4 years I have carried the knife. This knife is on me every single day everywhere I go. It gets used every single day. It has been thru hell and back and will make the trip several more times. Did I mention I love carbon knives, especially my Izula?
Here is how i first half stripped it by putting a piece of tape around the handle where i didn’t want the zip strip to remove paint. Then I put a vinegar patina on the blade with string and wrapped in vinegar soaked paper towel. The bigger knife in the picture is my Esee #4 and its patina is just vinegar soaked paper towel, no string.
This is the same Izula as above but all paint stripped off and them sanded and polished on my bench grinder/polish wheel. This look is nice but it was too slippery to hold onto comfortably.
This is the same Izula after a full patina with vinegar soaked string wrap and then wrapped in paper towel soaked in vinegar. This is how I have been carrying the knife for the last few months. I like this way the best. I actually think when I need to replace this Izula (if ever) I will immediately strip it completely and do this same patina on it. I like it that much!
A patina not only adds protection to a knife if adds a little unique style to it. Its durable, semi long-lasting, and easy to redo. I have been putting a patina on knives for many years and thought I would share this simple process.