Care & Feeding of your Zombie Tool
To increase the odds of the survival of your blade, we have some suggestions for use and care of your new tool.
Some BasicsFirst and foremost, you should know that your blade is made from carbon steel which will rust if not properly cared for. Upon first receiving the blade, wipe it down gently with a rag to redistribute the oil that comes on the blade. You might add a little extra while you’re at it. We ship the blade covered with good old 3-in-1 oil, which is cheap, readily available and effective. But just about any oil will do. Mineral oil and gun oil are great (although the “penetrating” variety may take a small toll on the finish). Light engine oil is fine. And even vegetable oil will do in a pinch. While you should be sure to get a little oil into the cracks where the blade meets the handle, you don’t need to get much oil on the handle itself, if any. The handles are made with acid etched aluminum covered with a coating of asphaltum (which is basically tar), and are thus very resistant to corrosion.
If not in use, we recommend re-oiling the blade every 2 - 4 months, depending upon the humidity of your region.
If your blade gets wet, wipe it dry and re-oil. Do not re-sheath and store your blade wet. It will rust. If your blade gets gunked up with dirt, wood sap or unicorn blood, you can gently wash the blade with soap and water, dry thoroughly and re-oil.
If you finger the blade with bare hands, be sure to wipe the blade down afterward. Human body oil is surprisingly acidic and can create rusty fingerprints.
There’s a small trick to unsheathing our blades. Our Kydex sheaths are formed to have a pressure lock on the handle. If you just grab the sheath with one hand and the handle with the other and pull, the unsheathing can be difficult and awkward. The trick is to use your thumb to pop the sheath off the handle lock. Grab the sheath with one hand and the handle with the other and use the thumb of your handle hand to push the sheath off of the blade while gently pulling at the same time. You’ll also want to turn the blade so that the edge is facing up and the blade rides on its spine as you unsheath. This is especially helpful with our curved blades.
If you've purchase one of our optional leather sheaths, an occasional dose of Neatsfoot or Mink oil should keep it in good condition.
Your blade ships with shrink wrap on it to keep the finish pristine. If you want to keep the blade in perfect shape for display, we don’t recommend sheathing and unsheathing the blade a lot, as this will scuff the finish. But do not store the blade with the shrink wrap on it, as moisture can get trapped and rust the blade over the long haul.
Using Your ToolThere are lots of ways to have fun with your blade and practice your technique. There’s traditional cutting practice with bamboo, cardboard tubes and tatami mats. A popular and cheaper method is using plastic jugs filled with water (the softer HDPE “milk jug” plastic works a lot better than the harder PETE soda bottle plastic). And don’t forget fruits and vegetables. Pumpkins are awesome. We also like to cut beer cans filled with water, but be warned that cutting aluminum will scratch up your blade pretty good and will dull your edge fairly quickly.
We strongly recommend that you not hit anything harder than wood with your blade. (And check that wood for nails!) If you’ve seen our test videos on YouTube, you’ve seen that our blades can hold up pretty well against metal and light concrete (and TVs and bikes and air hockey tables). However, this was a dangerous destructive test that damaged and eventually broke the blade (and nearly killed the cameraman). Our blades are tough, but they are not magical. Hitting anything harder than wood can create chips and divots in the edge, which then become potential breaking points.
Extreme temperatures can affect the durability of your blade. Steel becomes more brittle in cold temperatures, so we don't recommend putting your blade under any significant stress when the temperature is at or below freezing. On the other end of the scale, you should avoid getting your blade really hot. If a blade gets above 400 degrees F, you risk ruining the blade's temper. Resist the urge to use your blade as a campfire poker.
Our sheaths are made of a thermo-moldable plastic called Kydex. The heat required to shape Kydex is pretty low (around 300 degrees) and it will start warping at temperatures lower than that. So avoid putting your sheath in the sun or in a hot car for any length of time.
We are proud of our work and back-up our blades. If you ever have problems with your blade resulting from non-destructive use, we will fix or replace your blade. If you have problems with your blade from destructive use, we’ll also try to fix your blade, if fixable, but we’ll charge you something for our work.
SharpeningIf you use your sword a lot, eventually the edge will dull and will need to be re-sharpened. Sharpening is a technical skill that requires practice, but you can do it with the right tools and care.
We recommend that novice sharpeners use a ceramic rod, with a vise to hold the blade. Lansky has a lot of ceramic rod options. Our edge angle is about 19 degrees. Key to good sharpening is maintaining a consistent angle on your rod as you stroke. Er. Yeah.
YouTube has a number of good ceramic rod sharpening videos. Be careful. It’s pretty easy to cut yourself sharpening if you’re not paying attention. We highly recommend thick leather gloves.
If you don’t want to sharpen yourself, find a professional knife sharpener. You can also send the blade back to us for sharpening for a small fee plus shipping. If you’re local to us, you can swing by the shop for an edge touchup. Our service fee is a 12-pack of beer.
Carrying Your Blade
Some of our smaller blades come with belt loops and leg straps for carry. Our larger blades do not. While you may want to attach a larger blade to your belt and strut around like a pirate, we think a more realistic and practical form of carry is to strap the blade to a pack or carry with a shoulder sling. While wearing a large sword on your hip was fine for renaissance gentlemen on a stroll, or a samurai soberly walking to meet his next dueling opponent, we think that in most modern scenarios, having a sword on the hip would limit mobility and be a pain in the ass. Literally.
Then there’s the back carry. Drawing and sheathing a sword from a sheath strapped to the back is an idea created by Hollywood. It’s a really impractical and dangerous way to carry a blade. First, for many of our longer blades, your arms are likely not long enough to do it. Second, it’s a really easy way to cut your ear off or worse. Drawing is dangerous enough, but re-sheathing behind your back is a surefire way to jab a blade tip into your neck. Don’t try it. You can carry the blade strung across your back, but unsling the blade from your body before drawing or sheathing.
As a starting point for creating your own carry system, lace cord through the grommet holes of the sheath. You can lace the cord across the sheath or down the length, or both, and thereby create points through which you can run the straps of your pack. If you want to sling the blade over your shoulder or back, you can get creative with a gun sling, guitar strap, or a detachable luggage strap.
If you really want to wear the blade at your hip like a swashbucker, we’d recommend looking into a sword “frog”, which is a leather belt attachment system for swords. Search for “sword frog” on the infraweb.
Throwing Your Axes and Blades
Sometimes it’s hard to resist. We know. If you are going to throw your blades, we have some suggestions.
Our Traumahawk, Felon, and Vakra are good throwers. But we don’t recommend you trying to throw anything larger. There are ways to throw a large blade badly so that the tip sticks, but the momentum of the ass-end of the blade carries forward and makes the blade flop back and forth, putting lots of torqueing stress on the tip. This can tweak your blade and fatigue the metal so that the tip eventually snaps. Don’t ask us how we know this.
The best target is a nice wood round, well supported and with some sort of soft backing should you miss. Hay bales are awesome if you’ve got them around. Put your target on grass, as concrete is hell on an edge. A poorly thrown blade can bounce back surprisingly far, so make sure there are no spectators nearby that could be hit.
If you don’t want to damage your ax or blade, throw them one at a time and retrieve a blade after every throw. If you get good (or lucky) enough, you can hit another blade, which can damage both blades (and qualifies as “destructive use” – see above).
If you choose to throw axes or blades together, always check your blades after a collision. Our handles are made of aluminum and, if struck by another blade, can have very sharp edges which can cut the shit out of your hands.
A blade is a powerful tool designed to cut human flesh. And like all powerful tools, it can be dangerous if not treated with respect and handled with skill.
When using your blade, we strongly recommend gloves, eye protection and good boots. Why boots? We find that novice blade users, when using longer blades, tend to end their swing by dishing the tip of the blade into the ground. Bad for your blade, bad for your toes.
Always swing your blade with your lead leg forward and your off leg back. So, if you’re right handed, cut with your right leg forward and left leg back. This way, if you miss with your swing, there’s less risk of cutting off your toes or sinking the blade into your knee cap.
When cutting, make it a practice to check your swing perimeter for other people, especially if you have kids or dogs around that can sneak up on you.
Never wield your sword at anyone whom you don’t intend to mortally wound. “Pretending” to take a swing at someone is pretty lame and just as dangerous as pretending to shoot someone with a gun. The emergency room of a hospital is a really shitty place to spend an afternoon.
All of our blades designs have a circular cutout between the blade edge and the handle. This is called a choil. The choil is both an aesthetic design element and provides a neat starting place for our particular kind of bevel grind. We find that some people mistake the choil for a finger hold. It is not a finger hold. While it can be used as a finger hold for extra control while doing detailed cutting work (like if you were skinning a unicorn with a Felon blade), it is not a good idea for general cutting work. It’s uncomfortable, and you risk slipping your finger up unto the edge and cutting yourself. Keep all your fingers on the leather handle wrap.
Kids love swords! A lot. And what’s the first thing they do when they have a stick or a plastic sword? They hit somebody. So, for the love of freaking Loki, keep your blades away from your kids. Lock them up with your guns so that they can’t get at them when you aren’t at home.