The first and most important thing when maintaining a knife is to have the proper tools. This is not a sales pitch, buy them wherever you like or choose your own options, but the important thing is to have these nearby when disassembling a knife. This is not everything you will need with every type of knife, but should make you extremely prepared for anything you come across:
- Precision Driver: 1/4 or 4mm bit driver with some kind of ball or bearing at the end to help you easily rotate screws. Recommendations: CRKT Brass Scout Driver, IFixIt driver, Get Good Skrew drivers, Journey Tool Co Turas, many more from budget to premium.
- Torque Driver: 1/4 or 4mm bit driver that is small and thick, which allows a much higher range of torque for loctited screws or hard to tighten screws. The Wiha Stubby driver is the king of this category.
- GOOD BITS: I cannot stress this enough, good bits are the key to success with knife disassembly or really any job. Wiha is the industry standard here but other options exist. They are easily available on Amazon or direct from Wiha and worth every penny. Don’t be afraid to swap your bits out regularly. This will help prevent stripping screws. I recommend getting at least 5 of each, T6 & T8, and a couple T10, T15, and T20. If you need any others specifically for a knife just search “Wiha X” and you should find it.
- Threadlocker: I personally use SuperGlue for this but it requires you to be exact and quick, so I would recommend Vibratite blue 122 oil tolerant loctite. Use a small amount on the end of the screw when reassembling your knife. I personally only apply it to the pivot screw.
- Work Mat or Tray: It is always best to keep your parts and bits in a contained area so you do not lose a screw. A good work mat will ensure this and also can help you put the knife back together properly by separating your parts. I recommend Tinkerforce 3D printed trays as they are extremely affordable but very durable and you can choose from different accessories that suit your needs. Blue Creek also carries the Knafs Co. Tool Burrito.
- Good Cleaning Cloth & Qtips: It’s good to always have a cleaning cloth and some kind of Qtips around to help clean up parts and small areas of the knife you cannot otherwise reach. I recommend a microfiber cloth or towel (not the thin ones that come with a lot of knives) & regular QTips from the grocery store as well as KPL Microfiber qtips which are small and great for cleaning detent holes and applying lubricant when the knife is assembled. Blue Creek Knives sells a few different cloths.
- Isopropyl Alcohol: It’s always better to clean your knife completely with alcohol before starting reassembly. This ensures you have all the parts clean and dry so you know the only lubricant on the knife is from you. A lot of manufacturers (and people if bought secondary) put way too much oil on their knives. Cleaning it up is easy with alcohol. I recommend the spray bottle type, but any isopropyl should do fine at 91% or higher.
- Lubricants: Keeping your knife oiled is extremely important for longevity and for good action. It’s important to use the right viscosity (weight) oil for each part. I recommend using a medium or “normal” weight oil for the bearings & a heavier weight oil for the detent ball & track. Remember, less is more. Try not to pour a puddle of oil in as you will be constantly cleaning off parts of the knife, may cause lockstick, or gum up the action. Knife parts are small and they only require a small coating of lubricant. I recommend KPL products as well as Nano Oil, however there are many other popular options.
- A Magnet: I always keep a magnet nearby in case I need to remove a part from the knife that is not easily pinchable, or if I drop a screw on the floor (yes, even with the mat I tend to drop screws). I recommend any slimmer size magnet but will use an Olight sometimes as the back is magnetic. Amazon sells magnet pens that are very inexpensive but you can use anything around the house.
- A Plastic Prybar: Sometimes getting a scale off or lifting a part can be difficult by hand. Using a prybar can be extremely helpful and make your life easier. However, you do not want to use metal because you can easily scratch your knife. You can use any piece of plastic. I recommend dash pry tools for cars available at auto parts stores or Amazon, etc.
- A Heat Source: This one can sound scary, but sometimes is necessary. If you cannot get enough leverage to rotate a screw with the stubby driver, it’s probably because the screw has been heavily loctited or loctited using high strength threadlocker. In these cases your options are to just put the tools away and not disassemble or apply some heat to the screw to melt the loctite. You can use anything from a hair dryer (on heat/high for 30 seconds to 1 minute), a torch lighter like a zippo butane insert with the torch option (5-10 seconds), heat gun, a soldering iron, or even dip in boiling water. The point is to heat the screw enough to melt the loctite and be able to rotate it out. Safety is a key factor here, be cautious and also be mindful of what type of finish your knife has. If its something you don’t want to leave any heat marks on, try to go for the less messy options.
- Knipex Vice Grips: This is the only tool I will directly recommend one and only one product. Vice grips are important to help you remove and tighten screws from barrels and scales. These come in handy for me occasionally, but the most important thing is for them NOT to have teeth. The teeth will scratch up your hardware very quickly. Knipex pliers offer extremely good pressure, but have no teeth. This can be an expensive tool ($40-60) so it can be something you pass on for now, but keep it in mind.
There we go! Those are all of the tools that I recommend for making your life easier during a knife disassembly and reasons why. I hope this helps you along your knife journey, and please reach out with any questions or suggestions. This is just my recommendation based on my experience, so I am sure there are other tools that would come in handy. Thank you!