How to Repair an Old Pocket Knife

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Most old pocket knives can be restored by replacing the scales and sharpening the blade.
Most old pocket knives can be restored by replacing the scales and sharpening the blade. (Image: pocket knife image by Albert Lozano from Fotolia.com)

Whether it's a treasured family heirloom or something you randomly picked up at a neighbor's garage sale, old pocket knives are usually dull and damaged if they haven't been properly cared for over the years. Nevertheless, with a little wood, some spare time and the proper tools, you can repair almost any pocket knife so that it's as good as the day it was made, if not better.

Things You'll Need

  • Screwdriver
  • Sandpaper
  • Small backsaw
  • Hardwood
  • Block plane
  • Cardboard
  • Drill
  • Small rasp or coarse file
  • Two-part epoxy
  • Lubricating oil
  • Steel wool
  • Sharpening stones

Remove the old scales from the knife. Scales are another name for the knife's handle, which is often made from plastic, resin or wood. Take out any screws first and then pry the scales off using the thin flat edge of a screwdriver or knife.

Clean the metal beneath the scales by rubbing it thoroughly with sandpaper.

Cut two slightly over-sized blanks out of wood using a small backsaw. A blank is an unfinished piece of material that has been stamped out of another material. It's a good idea to use a strong hardwood like ebony or boxwood to make the blanks. The blanks will be used to fashion new scales for the knife.

Smooth out one side of each blank using a block plane. If you don't have access to a block plane, you can use sandpaper glued to a piece of glass or ceramic tile. The other side of each blank can be left rough.

Cut a template for each scale out of cardboard. Try to cut the templates so they match the dimensions of the original scales.

Place the cardboard templates on top of the wood blanks and use them as a guide to trim the blanks to the correct length. You don't need to cut the blanks to the exact shape yet, just make sure they are a good length so they will fit tightly on the knife.

Mark and drill holes in the blanks for any studs or screws that need to be inserted.

Trace the shape of the cardboard templates on the wooden blanks, and carefully saw out the shape. Keep as close to the traced lines as possible without going over.

Shape the new scales from the blanks using a small rasp or a coarse file.

Attach the newly fashioned scales to the knife using a two-part epoxy. After the epoxy has had time to dry, insert any studs or screws and continue shaping the scales until they look good and conform to the grip of your hand.

Clean dirt and grime from the blade of the knife by soaking it for a few hours in a lightweight lubricating oil.

Scrub the blade with steel wool and some oil to remove any visible rust or oxidation.

Sharpen the blade using sharpening stones. Start with a heavy grit stone and work your way to finer grit stones. Hold the knife at a 30-degree angle to the stone and move the blade back and forth to sharpen the edge.

Rub some lubricating oil along the blade after sharpening it to help prevent rust from forming in the future.

Tips & Warnings

  • When cutting out the shape of the new scales from the blanks, it's a good idea to use a a saw that is thin and narrow, such as a framed turning saw or jeweler's fret saw.
  • If repairing a folding knife, avoid getting any excess epoxy in the blade slot because it will be difficult to clean out.

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