How To Remove Rust, Clean, Polish Old Knives

rust removal old knife

SHARPEN LAST!!!!!!! (I’ve broken this rule too many times – lol)


NEVER….EVER……EVER…….us hand-held power tools to grind…….if a slip occurs you’ll possibly hurt yourself but more importantly (because you’ll heal – lol) you can put a brutal grind scratch/mark in the blade, and there is no resurrecting that knife then!  







What you’ll need:

how to remove rust from knife


Fine Steel Wool

Flitz Metal Polish

Varying grits of sandpaper from 100 to 2500

Quick Release Oil

Magic Eraser ( kinda like a mild sandpaper in a block form – most of the time I forgot to use it).



Assess the discoloration…..Try and avoid using sandpaper if at all possible to make an old knife shiny again.




The knife originally had light rust appearing.  I rubbed with fine steel wool. Touched certain areas with #2 pencil lead, then hit with steel wool, then finished with a Flitz Metal Polish rub down on the knife’s blades and bolsters.


Restore old pocket knife restore shine old pocketknife


This process leaves the patina (stained steel) pretty much intact and helps the knife maintain its “aged” look.  Took me all of 15 minutes to accomplish this 3-step polishing/cleaning process.


In addition I force a rag between the liners to clean the inner parts of the knife, then add a drop of Quick Release Oil to each blade tang.


DONE.  Not shiny, but restored to solid working condition. (Most knife collectors who use their knives prefer patina.)


SHINY SELLS!! (If you resell, shiny always drives a better price) Kutmaster Utica NY 3 Blade Knife




If the knife cleaning/polishing/restoring is ok with what’s above, then read no more……if not however, you’ll need some sandpaper (wet or dry) and Hulk loads of elbow grease to bring your vintage knife to an epic shine!


Couple things to remember before you get too deep in the restoring process….


1).  Sand tang areas first.  Why?  Because, if you’ve finished polishing the blade then still have to polish the tang, you’ll end up with scratch marks on the blade you just finished.


2). Work on a flat surface (That way you can see the imperfections in the blade as you sand – I was amazed how many knife blades are not perfectly even).


how to polish knife  polish antique knife



Clean inner with cloth and Dawn soap.  If rust and stains remain use light grit (200 or 300) to clean the liners and springs.  I take a pair of tweezers and manipulate the sandpaper back and forth till all rust is removed.



Start at heavy grit 100 and work your way up to 2500.  Each time you move to another sandpaper grit try and obtain a reflection in the blade so you can see yourself…..kind of hard to do with 100 grit.




Using the sandpaper remember-  Up, down. Left, Right. Mostly I go left, right strokes a few dozen times, then up/down strokes a few dozen times. What you want to try and avoid is making deep groves by stroking the knife blade ONLY left and right vigorously on the sand paper.  Mix it up.  Left right……up, down.  Do each way 20 times, then repeat until you're beginning to see a shine! 🙂


After you begin to see a reflection, move to the next grit. From 100 grit to 200, then to 300, 400, 600, 1000, 1500, 2000, 2500.  Repeat the above sanding steps until you can see what color your eyeballs are!



Same process as polishing the blades, but usually (not always) the bolsters are not as bad, but if they are……just repeat above.


Same process as above.



When polishing/restoring shine to your old vintage knife, polish with Flitz Metal Polish and a polishing cloth.  Then oil your blades with mineral oil, and drop a drop of Quick Release Oil into each blade at the joint (tang/bolser area).  


polish shine knife old  pitting rust remove knife blade


Keep in mind, this is not thee “:WORD” on obtaining a perfect mirror finish.  Practice on a crap knife….and get a feel for what you’re into.  Experiment.  


I’m just sharing what I’ve done.  

Kutmaster Utica NY 3 Blade Knife.JPG


P.S. – I am trying rouge as a polishing step at the end and it seems to work well on the bolsters especially.  (I have a green rouge and a burgundy).


NOW, Sharpen your knife.  Trust me, I’ve sharpened too many blades early only to cut myself while polishing!!


Steel Sahlute!!
Scott Rauber