Caring for your Higo Knife
The higo knife (higonokami) was once found in pockets throughout Japan. At one point over 50 manufacturers produced these small, slim pocket knives. Today production is limited to just a handful of makers, and these knives are a special treat for those who are proud to own them.
To ensure that your higo serves you well, there are a few items regarding its care that will ensure its longevity. First, keep your higo clean and dry. If it becomes dirty wipe it with a rag dipped in mineral spirits or a mild detergent and water mixture. Even rinsing your higo in hot water is acceptable, provided you dry it quickly and thoroughly afterwards. Regular cleaning is especially important if you’re using your higo near a salt water or marine environment which will quickly corrode the steel. Never allow your higo to sit submerged in water for an extended period of time.
After cleaning your higo it is very important that you apply a thin coat of oil to the blade and the folding hinge. The blade is not stainless and will rust. Liberal use of just about any household lubricant will suffice, such as WD-40 or 3-in-One. This coat of oil will protect your knife from moisture and corrosion.
If you do find that your higo knife is developing rust, remove the offending rust immediately with steel wool or high grit sandpaper. A store bought metal polish on a rag may also do the trick. Should your higo become severely rusted more drastic measures must be taken. Open the knife and submerge the blade in a glass of vinegar. The vinegar will dissolve the rust, and you should be able to remove it with a scouring pad or high grit wet/dry sandpaper. The vinegar will also etch and alter the appearance of the steel, but such is the price to pay for cleaning a badly rusted knife.
To sharpen we recommend the use of a whetstone. Because of the curved shape of the higo blade you will need to sweep the blade across the stone at the same time you’re pushing it forward. For touch up sharpening, a 1000 or 1200 grit stone will suffice. For more aggressive sharpening, the use of a lower grit stone (700 or lower) will be needed.
Lastly, you may find that a new higo knife is a bit stiff when opening. This is normal and the hinge will loosen over time. Should your higo’s hinge become too loose and not keep the blade closed, gently tap on the hinge rivet with a small hammer to tighten.
Failing to properly care for any tool will render it difficult and unpleasant to use, meaning it will be used less often, often resulting in continued neglect; a vicious cycle. Properly caring for your higo knife takes just a little time, and once you get the hang of it you may find yourself enjoying the ritual of maintenance for years to come.