Carbon steel blades are prone to oxidization and rust. The usual culprits are greasy finger marks that are left after touching the blades. If the blades are not protected with a layer of oil or polish/wax, oxidization will take place quite quickly. If the rusting is light, it is relatively easy to clean. Despite what you may hear, WD40 is efficient at cleaning blades. Used in conjunction with a synthetic scouring pad, WD40 should lift any surface rust with relative ease.
If the rust is a little more embedded, we would recommend the use of a fine grade sanding sponge – available from most hardware stores, sanding sponges are great for removing rust patches. If the fine grade doesn’t work, we would recommend using a medium grade until the rust is gone, then go over the same area with a fine grade.
Manufacturers want their carbon steel blades to reach you in pristine condition. As such they tend to apply a lot more grease than is required to ensure that they don’t rust in transit and whilst in storage. This grease is easy to clean off with a soft, lint-free cloth and some rubbing alcohol. Once you have removed the grease from the blade it will be unprotected (albeit a lot less greasy!) so you will have to apply another coat. We suggest applying either a less liberal coating of oil or wax.
ABRASIONS & MINOR SCRATCHES
These are more likely to occur if you are using your sword for cutting practice or sparring. If the marks are fairly light, they can be removed with some metal polishing paste such as Peek or Auto Sol.
PROTECTING YOUR BLADE
Carbon steel blades need a protective coating to form a barrier that prevents tarnishing and rust. Applying a light layer of oil or wax is an ideal way to protect your blade. Specially formulated oil such as Hanwei Sword Oil is a natural choice for oiling your blade but in truth, any machine oil (3 in 1, sewing machine oil etc) or light mineral oil (liquid paraffin) will do the job. Some people swear by WD40 but we don’t recommend it as it evaporates over time.
Another choice is waxing the blade with a product such as Renaissance Wax. This wax was developed by the British Museum for protecting their artifacts and is a great choice for sword blades. Apply it with a lint-free cloth and it will set hard to form a protective barrier against rust. We would recommend that you oil your blade around once a month or after every use. If the blade is kept in a humid climate it will need oiling more often.
HILT FITTINGS & SCABBARDS
In general, swords with carbon steel blades tend to have hilt fittings made of steel or brass. Steel hilts can be cleaned and oiled/waxed using the same method that is used for the blades. Brass hilts can be cleaned with a brass cleaner such as Brasso and then protected with a layer of Renaissance Wax. Be careful not to get oil on your leather grip as it will cause the leather to rot very quickly.
Leather grips and scabbards can be treated with Renaissance Wax or a good quality leather paste wax. Scabbards can also be treated with Neatsfoot oil to waterproof them (although this will darken the leather). Don’t use this oil on your grip as it will make it slippery. Wooden grips can be treated with a good quality wood oil to prevent cracking. Lemon Oil or Tung Oil are recommended but there are other suitable oils available.
Scabbards are designed as a way to carry your sword and not get injured in the process. They are not ideal for
long-term storage. Wooden scabbards can be okay if the sword is only very lightly oiled. Excess oil will cause the wood to swell. Leather scabbards trap moisture and will cause rust spots on the blade.
WEAR AND TEAR
A battle-ready sword is naturally an item that is subject to wear and tear. Even the best and most expensive battle-ready sword becomes jagged after heavy use, the quillons can become wobbly and the grip can become loose. This is normal because there are strong forces acting on the material. There is even the unlikely event that these blades will break if they are already weakened by a number of deep nicks. As a rule, these are therefore not justified reasons for complaint, but rather normal signs of wear and tear.
A battle-ready sword, as good as it may be, will no longer look like new after use.