​Good as New: 5 Cleaning and Maintenance Tips for OTF Knives

Jan 30th 2019

An out-the-front or OTF knife as it is commonly called is a switchblade that exposes and conceals its blade through an opening at the end of the handle. It is also known as a sliding knife or a telescoping knife.

This popular switchblade has been around since 1860 and is ideal for tight spaces because the blade deploys straight out the front.

Why Do OTF Knives Require Constant Care?

Due to the mechanism that makes the blade spring forward, OTF knives take quite a beating, and some users idly fire and retract their OTF knives even when there is no need for it.

This overuse, coupled with the fact they are often carried for of their portability, makes them susceptible to damage from exposure to dust and dirt, which affect the knife’s mechanism and moving internal parts.

All these factors can affect the spring mechanism of your OTF knife and cause it to misfire or not fire at all.

In emergencies, every second counts. If your blade does not discharge when you need it to, it can mean the difference between life and death.

This is what makes constant maintenance of your double-action OTF knife crucial for increasing its lifespan and maximizing its functionality.

1. Know When to Clean

Even though it is better to clean and maintain a knife every time it is used, the following signs are a good indication your knife requires maintenance:

  • The knife begins to misfire when charged
  • The mechanism of the knife starts to feel strange, sticky or unnatural
  • The knife does not discharge or retract as quickly as desired
  • Residue buildup is clogging the opening 
  • Rarely it can mean it needs to go back for warranty repair

2. Make It a Habit

For optimum performance, develop a habit of cleaning the blade of your knife immediately after you use it. A light spray of thorough drying will ensure your double-action OTF knife remains clear of rust and residual buildup.

3. Get the Tools You Need

Even with a good maintenance routine, OTF knives should be thoroughly cleaned every month or two, depending on how often it is used.

To thoroughly clean an OTF knife, you will need a few tools and materials. Firstly, a good quality knife lubricant will ensure the spring mechanism does not stick. Any gun oil or rem oil is sufficient as well as WD-40.

4. Learn How to Clean Properly

OTF knives come in a variety of shapes and sizes, but the following maintenance tips apply across the board.

01. Blow compressed or canned air into the opening of the knife to remove any lint or similar substance. If cutting boxes with tape, try to remove tape residue from the blade as soon as possible using a Q-tip and rubbing alcohol. We use 99% Isopropyl.

02. Spray Rem Oil (very light gun oil) into the opening of the knife. You can spray onto the blade and let it run down inside. Deploy and retract the knife a few times to make sure all internal parts are lubricated.

03. Again, lightly blow the knife out with the compressed or canned air to remove any excess oil. It is important to keep your knife lubricated, however, too much lubrication can cause build up and attract dust and dirt causing knife to become rough and malfunction.

04. These steps apply to folding knives as well. The only difference is to spray the Rem Oil at the base of the blade towards the pivot. Then repeatedly open and close the blade to lubricate the pivot thoroughly.

5. Proper Storage is Key

It is preferable to keep OTF knives closed and stored away where moisture and dust will not get to them. This prevents rusting or clogging. If you carry your OTF knife with you daily, it is best to keep it in a carry pouch that keeps it from collecting residue and clean it more often than you would a blade that remains in storage.

Cleaning and maintaining an OTF knife are as important as owning one. A clean and well-maintained OTF is a reliable and highly functional tool.