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Rust and pits on ancient cleaver vs food safety

post #1 of 6
Thread Starter 

I'm pretty sure the answer is clear but wanted thoughts from chefs.


I find old big carbon steel meat cleavers at the swap meet that are heavily rusted and often pass on them. I did get one to experiment with that was so rusted it felt like 200-400 grit sandpaper from the red rust layer.


Once removed it has moderate pitting on one side and more severe on the other. The pitting has to be remedied for it to be food safe doesn't it? So that it eliminates places for tiny particles and bacteria to survive washing.


Reading some of the posts online from the knife collectors, removing the metal to remedy the pits ruins any collectible aspect. However if the pits and rust prevent it from being food safe it is useless.




The cleaver has stamped on the left side," Old File Hand Made" which per Bernard Levine was a company in Indiana from 1902 to the 1960's.


The shadowing in the lower pic near the lower right corner is the worst of the pitting area but that side it is widespread.






post #2 of 6

Did you buy it to use it or collect it? Bernard Levine is all about collectible knives.   Because of the rust, it's already past the issue of aged patina and all. So Condition issues largely render this knife of low or uncollectable status I would think. Seems to me, you should polish out what concerns you for use, and preserve the blade stamp as best you can and use it.



Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
post #3 of 6
Thread Starter 

Thanks Phatch.


I got it mainly to test a rust removing product, a conversation piece, and my wife wants one. Granted Bernard is all about collectibles but I do like to know the approximate age of things.


The world of collectible stuff can be pretty strange anyhow I know. A guitar player won't replace a bad jack that renders the instrument unusable in order to keep it original.


I just wanted confirmation that from a food safety standpoint, pits and rust are not acceptable on a kitchen knife.




post #4 of 6

From a sharpening point of view, rust and pitting on the surface will give you a lousy, very weak edge. 

If you want to collect it, leave it alone, if you want to use it, file/remove the pitting. 


You can't have your cake AND eat it.bounce.gif

...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
post #5 of 6

Actually, unless it is just to keep in the case, periodically admire, and hopefully appreciate in value, the guitar player replaces the bad jack, but keeps it in the case so that all the "correct" parts are there when the guitar is sold.  Of course GAS (Guitar Acquisition Syndrome) is another entirely different affliction than Knife Acquisition Syndrome.  I believe that 12 step programs are available for both however.

post #6 of 6

Knives should be kept sharp and cleaned periodically.  Rust is not a patina.  It's a cancer and should be removed completely and immediately.  It only takes a couple of days at most to force an "age patina" on a knife.  Without having the knife in front of me it's impossible to say for sure, but the black stains remaining on your knife appear to be just that; staining -- and neither rust nor patina. From a use standpoint, staining is neither here nor there.  I'm not a collector and know very little about it, but my understanding is that a little bit of staining doesn't hurt the value of an old kitchen knife


In terms of use and food safety, pitting isn't a problem. Just make sure you wash the knife with soap and hot water after cutting meat and you'll be fine.

You don't need to file the edge.  Ordinary sharpening of the sort which reveals fresh steel will clean it completely (by definition).  You'll probably have to go through at least a couple of use/sharpening cycles before the knife gets close to achieving it's true sharpness and durability characteristics.  


The knife will wedge no matter what you do. Since that's pretty much [ahem] the point of a cleaver, there's no need to go acute.  You can sharpen to a durable 25* - 30*.  A double bevel is more durable, but if you're not going to use the knife every now and then it might not be worth the trouble.  The best level of finish is fairly coarse; anywhere between a Norton Fine India (the equivalent of ~750 JIS) up to no more than 3K (JIS) is good.  I follow my Fine India with a Soft Arkansas (~1K JIS) because the natural stone's edge seems to last longer and be more tolerant to steeling.  


FWIW, the right way to use a heavy cleaver for making difficult cuts is to place it where you want to go and lean on it. Don't use it to vigorously "whack" at stuff or you'll bust your board and possibly your counters as well. 


Ideally, you'll use the knife enough so that you have to steel and clean and oil it now and then, and that should keep the metal healthy.    If you're not going to use the cleave enough to store it open, oil it, wrap it in newspaper, and try to remember to check on it at least every six months or so.  Even if you don't use it you should sharpen and oil it (including the handle) at least once a year. 


All of this reminds me that that I probably haven't used mine for a couple of years. blushing.gif  Some example, eh? 



Edited by boar_d_laze - 3/2/12 at 8:32am
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