There is a specific procedure of oiling used for different types of swords. For example, Japanese sword oiling looks like a ritual which is executed in a specific succession. An important moment is to remove the blade from the hilt in order to clean the old oil and to apply a fresh coating. Some of European swords can’t be disassembled; others need to be unscrewed and unpinned to release the tang.
Steps to Oil a sword
I. Remove the hilt. (If it is applicable to your sword). If it is a Japanese sword, especially a very rare and fragile one, be extremely careful or find a master who will do it for you (at least for the first time).
II. Remove the old oil and dust. The cleaning should be done with lint cloth or special paper. The blade should be wiped upward, one way, starting from the base. Do not apply to much force or too active frictions. Take care when you wipe the point and the cutting edge(s)! Firstly, because you can get injured (especially if you hold a top grade, razor polished katana); secondly, because you can alter the patterns, etchings or other thin art works which can be present on the blade. If the oil can’t be easily removed, soak the cloth in pure alcohol or benzene and try again. Japanese swords are even powdered and then wiped to remove all particles that have deposited.
III. Rust checking. After totally cleaning the surface, check the blade for any presence of rust and damages.
IV. Blade Re-oiling. Use a piece folded paper or flannel, a rectangular of about 3cm x 6cm. Soak it in fresh oil and start oiling the blade surface from base to the point. The procedure should be repeated in order to make sure all the surface is coated well. The oil should be spread uniformly. Pay attention to how you apply oil on the tang! It has to be a very thin coating with as little oil as possible.
V. Wooden Hilts and Scabbards Oiling. The wooden components of your sword should also be taken care of. Use special wood oil or some fine substances for furniture care. The oiling is necessary because the wood has the propriety to dry out. Avoid using furniture waxes or sealants. Firstly it will make the weapon slip out of your hands; secondly some furniture waxes contain components that can ruin the wood. Do not over oil the wood!
VI. Assembling. Before assembling the sword you should leave it for a while. Again, make it very attentively or give it to a specialist to assemble it for you. Be careful because after oiling the blade is slippery.
VII. Long Term Storage. If you want to store your blade for a longer period, then it is better not to prime it into the scabbard. If the sheath is made of leather, then it is recommended to store it separately from the sword, even for a shorter period of time. If the blade is very ancient and you want it stored for a longer period, then you can use Vaseline or Renaissance Wax and then wrap it in an oily cloth. For better storing cool, clean and dry places are just perfect.
Note: Any other kinds of bladed weapons: spears, axes, daggers, sabers, etc. are oiled in the same way with little exceptions when dissembled or specific restrictions for some substances.
Short Tips for Sword Oiling
- Wooden hilts and scabbards should be treated with oil and lemon to help prevent drying up and cracking.
- Place your sword apart of the leather sheath. Because the leather sheaths have the capacity to trap moisture. Wooden scabbards work better, but still not longer than a month.
- Treat leather covered elements of your sword with a good leather paste wax or mink oil.
- Avoid any contact of leather parts with any kind of oil because it can cause the leather to rot.
- Don’t touch the blade with your fingers in order not to live acidic skin oil on it, which in the long run will cause stains or even rust.