Brilliance Gone Bad
Last March, I departed Wellton, Arizona with what I hoped was a practical way to keep sharp kitchen knives protected, but handy. There are no reasonable (or safe) wall options for magnetic bars in the Four Wheel (unless you consider installation to the inside of a cabinet door safe), and no storage space for massive butcher block sheaths.
I decided to go with individual blade sheaths, partially in order to keep my options open for which knives to bring along on tour, and which to leave behind in the TT. In the hardware store I once worked at, they offered a knife-sharpening service, and card stock sleeves were used to safely store and handle the finished knives. Oh, that I had a half-dozen of those! There are all sorts of DIY sleeves on the Internet of course, based on packaging tape over folded strips from manila folders, or corrugated cardboard and duct tape. Or whatever.
But a more durable option is the Edge-Mag, a long, hinged, blade wallet with walls of what I’ll call magnetized rubber. This is the stuff stocked in better hardware stores that is promoted as a handy way to hold lightweight metal objects to flat surfaces. Unlike real magnets in long wood or plastic wall-mount knife-racks, these magnetized rubber strips are weak and of very limited utility. But, when asked to cling to a sharp, flat knife blade without having to support the knife’s weight, they are perfect. With two strips durably hinged at the center, these blade wallets are of just the right character to hold and protect a blade of nearly any size and configuration securely, but not so possessively that removal becomes an issue.
I ordered a couple of sizes of the “Victorinox Edge-Mag” and “Forschner Edge-Mag by Victorinox” before taking off in March of last year, and they worked great in practice. I had read some product reviews complaining of a tendency to rust blades, but figured that these folks had probably slapped still-moist blades into these sheaths. I’d need to be careful to dry my knives carefully before storing them away, since the rubber is indeed infused with iron particles. It’s hard to describe how convenient these Edge-Mags are to use, and how well they serve as a compact, safe and mutually protective way to toss kitchen cutlery in a drawer for travel.
Trouble is, unpacking the truck camper after some nine months of unplanned touring through medical facilities in the upper Midwest showed some problems. One old cook’s knife (my fav), had begun to rust along the spine, opposite the cutting edge, with most of the rust along the magnetic sheet rather than the blade. It took some work with steel wool to get it off that blade, though some discoloration remains as part of its carbon steel “patina”. Another blade, a stainless steel serrated bread knife, was deeply pitted and glued in by rust, making it more difficult to peel the Edge-Mag off it. That now looks unstained, but the areas of pitting are obvious, up close. A common stainless paring knife that had seen more action the first couple of months was still pristine.
I’m not sure just how to rant and whine. I knew the issues and always wiped down the blades before sheathing them. I would assume that I didn’t do a complete enough job of drying them, except that the worst victim, the bread knife, never sees water. At any rate, I’m not that thrilled with anything else I’m seeing online, so I voted to experiment a bit for a year. I stuck a layer of thin clear packaging tape over the two interior walls of each wallet, figuring that the metal-free plastic surface shouldn’t provoke a repeat. The plastic is thin enough that blade retention is unaffected. Some plastics tend to disintegrate from contact with rust, so there are no guarantees here. I’ve got two pristine wallets and two rust-tainted ones, so we’ll see what happens over the course of a year. In the meantime, I’m saying that the Edge-Mags are a joy to use, but are also capable of scarring your knife blades if they are used as they are. Your blades need to be isolated, however slightly, from direct contact with the magnetic surfaces.