I have to admit—and I feel like I should lead with this—that I’ve never sharpened a knife before. Sure, I’ve had the same hunting knife for the last six years or so (a birthday present), and don’t get me wrong I love the thing almost as much as my rifle, but maybe I have been a tad naïve in assuming that it would stay razor sharp after the years of cutting limbs in the brush, cutting wedges of cheese for lunch in the field, and skinning deer.

And maybe there’s been a lot more of the former things in that list, and unfortunately too little of the latter, if you know what I’m saying… regardless, I’ve never sharpened a knife. And so at first, opening the unassuming and frankly underwhelmingly flimsy cardboard top of “The Pocket and Hunting Knife Care Kit” from F.A. Seeds’, I really didn’t know what to expect.

Inside I found a bottle of “Merit Hunting Oil – The finest quality oil for use with your whetstone” (me: Dad, why do I need oil for my whetstone? Wait, what is a whetstone?), yet another bottle, this time “Merit Knife Oil – Developed for superior lubrication to prevent rust and will not gum up in all temperatures” (I’m supposed to oil my knife?!), a rectilinear grey block “Merit Rust Eraser – Erase away rust on any knife and metal object” (Nice!), and a two-sided, two-tone “Merit Whetstone – A two sided stone with medium and fine grit to hone the sharpest edge” (Again, WTF a whetstone?).

Alright, alright, part of this was simply for effect: I DO know what a whetstone is, and I’ve heard that it’s important to oil my knife, though it is  true that I’ve never, ever sharpened a knife before.

What struck me immediately about the constituents of the knife case were the bottles, and the labels thereupon. The writing, the simplicity, the tone, the formatting, it all made me feel like I was walking out of an Old West apothecary, or perhaps buying some liniment from a true tradesman at a county fair. I love that look, and I love that, to me, F. A. Seeds’ seems unapologetically ‘Old School.’ They seem to have wholeheartedly embraced their heritage (Since 1883), and I totally dig the minimalist approach: their products appear to (boldly) proclaim that their performance and utility speaks volumes more than do their presentation or festoonery.

And, in keeping with this ‘old school’ ethos, the kit—and my ignorance of knife-sharpening—actually facilitated a hands-on lesson from my father in the art of honing a blade…very, very cool, and certainly very old school. Still, had he not been there to show me the ropes, I wouldn’t have found any references in the gun kit itself: there were NO instructions contained inside, save for those printed on the bottles of oil themselves. I know this might be a minor criticism—perhaps I wouldn’t be buying a knife-sharpening kit unless I already knew how to physically sharpen a knife, right?—but I can’t help but feel that F.A. Seeds’ would do well to encourage and support the newcomer with a piece of paper containing basic instructions.

First, I’d be remiss not to mention how frustrating and excessively difficult it was to remove the red plastic plugs from each of the bottles of oil. I ended up getting so frustrated that I had to use my teeth on the honing oil, and when I finally popped the cap it spilled a bit on my lap, and onto my kitchen floor, and I couldn’t get the taste of it out of my mouth for about an hour. These caps, though effective, are over-the-top, and the fact that it’s easier and more satisfying to open a cup of yogurt, a jar of vitamins, or a bottle of ketchup should lend some credence to my argument.

The honing oil, though, wasn’t oppressively pungent, and seeped into the whetstone pretty readily; what I was REALLY impressed by was the rust eraser: I even used it on my gun. And, like a diligent newcomer to the art of knife sharpening, I even lubricated it afterwards. I’m sure this step is more important for a flip knife, a Leatherman, or a switchblade, but it still felt cool to put it on my newly-honed Buck knife.

When all was said and done, I’d made a dent in the volume of both oils, and the rust eraser looked a little worse for wear… but if I had to estimate, I’d say that I could repeat this process about fifteen times before usurping all of the oils, or wearing away all of the rust eraser; the whetstone, I’m sure, will last for much longer than that.

At $19.95 I think this would be a pretty decent deal for the heritage and care that F.A. Seeds’ puts into its product. I only wish I had some more serious knives to really necessitate such a purchase, but would consider buying this again after the testing samples are used up (even if only for the rust-eraser!).

PROS: Rust eraser is cool, and works very well; dual-sided whetstone for coarse and fine sharpening; vintage labeling and unassuming packaging

CONS: Next to impossible to open the red plastic caps; packaging (cardboard) seems underwhelming, and cheaply temporal in comparison to the heritage and vintage expressed by the products within; no instructions whatsoever

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