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I recently inherited a small box full of Cattaraugus Cutlery folders that were not very well taken care of over the years. Some have heavy rusting on the top edges with pitting and other discoloration of the steel. While I feel that some can at the least be resurrected for daily carry use as a tool. I really hesitate to do anything to the blades because of the historical value. What is the general consensus of opinion?

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While this is not a good picture of one of these knives is a good example of condition in question. 

Absolutely I would spend some time reworking these. I have a box of them, I work on as time allows of thses vintage knives. Some are better than other, and in truth there may be some that are too far gone. You just never know. To me that is part of the fun of the hobby. I don't make new ones, so I work on the old ones.

I am with Steve of this, I have cleaned up a lot of vintage knives and have not removed any of the character. The trick is not to make them look new. Removing as much of the rust as possible without taking from the knife's character, is as simple as using Flitz on the blades. Then a warm Mineral oil soak will break up any gunk inside the knife. Afterwards it is drying it off and buffing the outside. 

Steve Hanner said:

Absolutely I would spend some time reworking these. I have a box of them, I work on as time allows of thses vintage knives. Some are better than other, and in truth there may be some that are too far gone. You just never know. To me that is part of the fun of the hobby. I don't make new ones, so I work on the old ones.

 I agree wiith Brad and Steve- I use Flitz and the soaking method Brad referred to, as well. I had a Hammer brand knife of my fathers that he had apparently used to open paint cans with{sigh) covered in paint and rust. Used a product called OOPS! to take off the paint( also works on tar,grease,etc.(available in most any hardware store) .Then used the Flitz and a mineral oil soak to help the rust and gunk. I went a step further,and used microfine sanding pads to clean up a little more of the rust.I am talking about 4000 to 12000 grit sanding pads  (available from hobby shops or online) that are used on model airplanes and such.It went from a rusted,paint covered pile of junk to a cherished heirloom,and still did not affect the intregrity of the knife- Wish I had snapped a before picture, but here is the after pic-

I'm not sure if refinish is the correct term or not, but they should, at least, be stabilized to prevent further damage.

I would think of if more along the lines of administering CPR to a dying man -- Breathing new life into a knife that is dying from years of neglect. There's a difference between removing rust and disturbing the patina. I'm all for bringing a knife back from the brink of a corrosive death!

Francis,

The historical value, in my opinion, is gone if they have not been well cared for.  They will continue to deteriorate and not be of any type of value.  While we are collectors, knives are designed to be used.  Clean them up, carry them and let them remind you daily that someone cared enough to put them into loving hands

Good advise Ivars.

Thank you all for your advice to date. In reading some of the replies, including Ivars and John McCain's specific "how too's" regarding or outlining methods and products is any product that can be found outshine (work better, not shine) any other in producing a better result. I am again trying to find some sort of consensus among you the serious collector through your experience and I really, really don't want to use a product that will do more damage. For example in using a soaking method should I avoid any particular product because it will eat the finish off the bone scales? 

Francis,

I have posted this in our group Knife repair. modifications and restorations

Great Ivars, I sent you those to help you learn more about knives. Good to hear how they came out.

You have gotten some great advice on cleaning up these knives, and not restoring. I love the older knives and don't care if they look new, I believe in the imagined stories of their history. I have always believed that if the knives were never used in any way how could anyone put a value of quality or a collectable value. I do know you will have to at least stop the rust and clean them of any dirt to keep them as they were designed, Working tools.

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