Refinishing an Antique Chef’s Knife

Refinishing an Antique Chef’s Knife

I’m pretty excited about this project since I use a chef’s knife every day for work. I’ve always heard the ones made back in the day are so much better. Much like woodworking tools, I imagine.

While visiting a friend, his mother had a couple chef knives in a drawer that she remembers her mother using in the kitchen when she was a child. I recognized the brand “F. Dick”, they sell them at culinary school. The knife was in pretty rough shape with rust and the handle scales had started to separate from the tang. She gave me the knife so that I could refinish it and bring it back to life.

Her father ran an import/export business back in the early 1900’s and she figures he would have imported the knife some time between 1915-1920. It is a carbon steel chef’s knife with the blade itself measuring 31.5cm. The manufacturer, Friedr. Dick, has been around since 1778. Their knives are very well known in Europe and even more so for their sharpening steels.

I started out by drilling the rivets and removing the knife scales. Moisture had gotten underneath them and started to rust the tang pretty bad. I did some research and discovered a method using food grade citric acid. Basically just submerge the knife in diluted citric acid and water., I used the sink. Then scrub with a scouring pad and repeat until all rust is gone.

On a hike in a wooded area near where we live I found a fallen branch from an indigenous tree called Arbutus. I sawed some planks from a section and hand planed them to thickness. I made a paper template from the knife tang and used that to rough cut out the knife scales. Epoxy and brass rivets were used to apply the knife scales. I am hoping this prevents moisture getting beneath them like it did originally.

I cut the handle following the contour of the tang using a coping saw then shaped the handle using a carving knife. After a final sanding to break any edges, I finished the handle using Boiled Linseed oil from a company called Tried and True. I gave the blade a quick hand sanding and filed back the finger guard because it had a hollow on the cutting edge like a lot of older knives. I then hand sharpened to 5000 grit on my Naniwa professional sharpening stones.

I am pleased with the result. The knife is now used daily to make quick work of prep tasks. A few quick licks with a knife steel and the edge comes back to life.