Wednesday, February 8, 2012

How to Care For Your Martell Knives

Blade Finish - Carbon

We purposely apply a near mirror level of finish on our carbon Martell knives for a few reasons....

1. A higher polish means less re-activeness which we hope helps the new owner develop a patina while not destroying their food in the process. Too often carbon knives can kill a dish (or three) as the patina is forming and we want our customers to be able to get past this hurdle.

2. If the correct polish is applied to the carbon blade the surface texture becomes slick which helps food to release. Quite often we hear people complain that food sticks to their knives after they bring them to a mirror polish (and we agree this happens) but if you use specific compounds to bring the mirror level just below perfect (sort of a near perfect or light haze) you can get the exact opposite effect where food releases better than normal. This is what we aim for.

3. Nothing is prettier than a mirror polished carbon knife that forms a patina. Take any carbon knife and polish it up and you'll see what I mean between the before and after. In this case we did the polish work so that our customers never have to.

Now you'll notice that I didn't mention out of the box appearance - that's just a nice side effect of the mirror finishing process. The reasons we do this is for what this level of finish provides specifically for function and aesthetics becoming a secondary compliment.


As for cleaning or maintaining the mirror polish of a carbon Martell knife - I wouldn't do this. I would instead use the knife and let it develop it's patina as it comes and enjoy it's beauty as it develops.

If you use the knife often you need to do nothing special - just wash with warm/hot water, immediately dry, and store. If you have something like 40 gyutos in your rotation and only use it every few months then I suggest coating it with camellia oil between uses, this will keep the rust at bay.

*A nice tip I can give regarding the forming of a base patina is to sacrifice an onion which will turn the knife brown/golden mottled - wash/dry - then cut some cooked beef and give the warm juices a minute to do their thing before rinsing off. The beef will turn the blade blue/purple which is very beautiful. Raw beef and chicken can also add some level of blue to the blade as well. You'll see a basic pattern form that will pretty much stay put unless you do something nutty like cut 40lbs of tomatoes or something like that as that'll wipe away some of the formed patina.


In most cases we are using exotic hardwoods that have been stabilized. These woods should remain somewhat stable through normal use but can use some TLC to help keep them pretty and in tact. I suggest using a combination of mineral oil/beeswax as you see fit. The more the handle is washed the more you may want to apply some protection.

For our carbon western full tang knives you will note that the exposed tang will patina with use and this is normal but the tang should be cared for the same as the blade is or it may rust.

For nickel silver & copper pins you can chose to allow the pins to patina or to wipe them clean to keep them shiny - this is up to you based on your tastes.

Sharpening & Honing

Martell knives have very thin edges sharpened (new) somewhere in the neighborhood of 8-10 deg (per side). Our knives have the bevels set using waterstones and then finish sharpened using belts so that our customers can easily find the bevel with no extra grinding work required. Martell knives are not knives that come with built in sharpening problems - they are ready to go to the stones when the time comes.

For in between sharpening sessions we suggest the use of a strop, be it felt pad or leather pad charged with a fine diamond compound. See our line of strops & compounds for what we recommend for use on our knives.

*If sharpening knives isn't your thing then that's OK since Martell knives come with FREE Lifetime Sharpening. Just send them in to us and we'll get them back to like new edges. 


This is something that you'll have to decide for yourself - maybe a magnetic knife rack, a counter storage block, or even the supplied padded case will be fine but please don't throw one of our knives in a draw with other items and expect it not to be damaged as this won't be the case. Fine knives and junk drawers don't mix well.

If cared for properly your Martell knife should last you for a lifetime. If you have any questions on the care or storage of our knives please feel free to ask.

Thanks for your business! 

Dave Martell