Tips From The Balisong Collector

Using Militec-1 Lubricant

If you read the various on-line knife discussion forums, you'll notice that one topic that comes up again and again is lubricants for folding knives. There are dozens of excellent products on the market and there are scores of people who swear that each one is best.

Over the years, I've tried many of these products including WD-40, TriFlow, White Lightening, Tuff Glide, and TetraGun. Believe me, nobody knows more about lubricating folding knives than balisong artists do. In just a few minutes of free-style manipulation, I can cycle the joints on my knife more times than a typical user of a conventional folding knife will in a year of average use. In my years of experience and searching for the best balisong oil, the best I've found is Militec-1.

(click on the picture for a higher resolution view, 421K)

Militec-1 is actually not an oil at all. The folks at Militec would probably get very upset at me for calling it oil. It is, as they say, a "Synthetic Metal Surface Conditioner." Ok. Whatever. I don't think I can say it better than they do, so I'll just quote from their site:

MILITEC-1 is a chemically-reacted synthetic-based hydrocarbon derivative metal conditioner that protects metal with a constant synthetic-based impregnated molecular bond. MILITEC-1 contains no solids, PTFE’s, solvents, metals, fluorine, or chlorinated paraffins, and does not require agitation before use.

Ahhh, sure...

well... I'm mean obviously...


They've even got a bunch of stuff about "Atomic Force Microscopy" and "Infrared Spectroscopy" on their website, but I won't bore you with those technical details.

Anyway, they go on to state.

MILITEC-1 Synthetic Based Metal Conditioner has the unique ability to create a chemical bond within the micropores of metal surfaces. MILITEC-1 actually becomes part of the metal, not merely a film on the surface. MILITEC-1’s chemical action seals the metal, reduces friction, and creates a self-lubricating effect.

It's that part about reducing friction and creating a self-lubricating effect that I like. Militec-1 was actually originally formulated as a gun lubricant. The results achieved in firearms are impressive.

Remains on the metal even after repeated firing - - a minimum of 1,000 rounds;

Traditional lubricants temporarily bathe and coat the metal surfaces and create a temporary film between all metal parts. Since the condition is only temporary, a lack of constant lubrication, over time, leaves the weapon unprotected due to the effects of firing, environmental conditions and long-term storage. Traditional lubricants also attract and hold foreign particles on the metal surfaces and inside the finely machined parts, causing increased friction, heat and wear, resulting in outright stoppages. In addition, stoppages will also occur when excess fouling is cemented to the unprotected metal surfaces.

It's that part about "a minimum of 1,000 rounds" that I like. If a lubricant can withstand a thousand rounds in a firearm, it might even hold up to extended balisong routines.

But, I've had several folks who have tried Militec-1 on balisongs and conventional folding knives report that their results weren't as impressive as they'd hoped for.

There is a definite technique you need to use to get the most out of this stuff. The secret lies in Militec-1's original use as a gun lubricant.

MILITEC-1 is applied on all inside and outside surfaces including the bore. After firing enough rounds to heat the firearm, MILITEC-1 can be wiped dry without losing its lubrication effect.


The next time you use the firearm (whether it’s five minutes or five months later), the heat and friction of firing intensifies MILITEC-1’s chemical action. This increases the strength of the bond within the micropores of the metal surface.

This Militec-1 stuff is supposed to somehow bond to the surface and that bonding is speeded and intensified by heat.

And then there's this clue:

Though MILITEC-1 will be adequately bonded after the first firing session, the effect often continues to intensify for two or three repetitions of the firing, cleaning and reapplication cycle. Thus, be sure to use MILITEC-1 several times in succession for full effect.

"Two or three repetitions," and "several times in succession for full effect."

My procedure for lubricating my balisongs with Militec-1 begins with cleaning out the joints. Most of my daily user balisongs have purely metal handles, so I just use a product called Electro Wash PX from Chemtronics which is available from electronics supply houses. It's intended to clean circuit boards after soldering. If you can't get hold of Electro Wash, there are many such products for cleaning circuit boards available even from your local Radio Shack store. When considering these products, just be sure you get one that DOES NOT contain a lubricant as some do.

I've also had good results with a product called Gun Scrubber from Birchwood Casey which is available from gun shops and sporting goods stores. But, be very careful with Gun Scrubber. It is a very powerful solvent and can damage many common insert materials. (By the way, a few years ago Gun Scrubber got a major reformulation to remove chloroflorocarbons thought to cause environmental damage. The name was retained and the packaging was virtually unchanged. But, it is a substantially different product inside that can today. So, if you've used Gun Scrubber in the past, be aware that while it looks the same, today's Gun Scrubber is a different product. Be careful.)

All of these solvent products do basically the same three things: First, they remove old oil or grease by chemical solvent action. Second, they remove dirt, lint, etc., by mechanical washing action. Finally, they evaporate quickly and leave no residue.

The important thing to look for is a spray can that comes with a little tube so that you can spray it right into the joint and get a good, strong mechanical washing action.

Once the joints are clean and dry, the next step in my process is to heat the joints up.

Anytime you talk about heating up the blade of a knife, people start getting nervous about destroying the blade temper. To affect the temper of a blade, you've got to get to temperatures in the hundreds of degrees. My technique don't go anywhere near that. My technique is to use a common hair blow dryer to heat the joints for a just a minute or so. The blade and the handles will be warm to the touch, but not anywhere near hot enough to affect the blade temper.

To affect the temper of a blade, you have to heat it above the final temperature of the heat treatment used. The lowest temperature heat treatments in use today finish well over 300F and most heat treatment processes finish higher than that. Water boils at a little over 200F. We my hair dryer technique, the blade does not get anywhere near hot enough to boil water. So, the blade clearly at least a hundred degree below any affect on temper.

If water dropped onto the blade doesn't sizzle, then you know that the blade is at least a hundred degrees below any affect on the temper.

With the joint nice and warm, I apply a few drops of Militec-1, one drop to each side of each joint. I apply it to the blade just above the joint and just let it run down into the joint.

Next, I gently work the points back and forth a dozen or two times (gently so as not to splash the Militec-1 out of the joint).

I let the knife so treated sit overnight.

In the morning, I wipe up any excess Militec-1 that might still be liquid on the surfaces.

The final trick is not to expect to much from your first such treatment. Work with the knife for a day or two and then repeat the process. After three or four treatments, you'll see dramatic results.

The other thing I really like about Militec-1 is that it is really not a oil. Once the excess is wiped off, Militec-1 doesn't leave the surface of the handles "oily". It doesn't affect my grip on the knife. Perfect!

I also use Militec-1 similarly on my other folding knives with great results. Just clean the joint out, gently heat the joint, apply the Militec-1, work it in, and allow it to sit overnight.

"So," you may be wondering, "where can I get this Militec-1 stuff?"

You can get it directly from Militec-1. The one ounce bottle is enough for almost two hundred treatments of a balisong. So, if you're going to just use Militec-1 for your balisongs and other folding knives, a one ounce bottle for $5.95 plus $3.95 for shipping will last for years.


Recently, I have seen rumors that Militec-1 contains chlorine which is corrosive to many steel alloys, especially the carbon steel alloys that most knives blades are made of.

Of course, I don't know the formulation of Militec-1. So, I can't say if it does or does not contain chlorine.

What I can tell you is that I just took some cyanide. Now, before you run off and call the poison control center or the suicide hotline, let me explain: the cyanide I took was in the almonds in the cookie I just ate. Almonds contain deadly cyanide -- fortunately, not very much. (In fact, the flavor of almonds is actually the flavor of cyanide.) While cyanide is a deadly poison, it's ok in very low concentrations.

Chlorine has a very distinct and very strong odor.

Household bleach is less than 5% chlorine and yet it has a very strong chlorine smell.

One of the steps in making home-brew beer is to sanitize the carboy. A carboy is a large glass jar that typically holds five gallons. To sanitize it, it's filled with warm water and three tablespoons of household bleach are added. That's enough to kill off any natural yeasts or bacteria that might be in the carboy and which might interfere with the beer's proper fermentation.

Three tablespoons of household bleach in five gallons of water will give all of that water a noticeable chlorine smell. I haven't even calculated what the dilution is when three tablespoons of 5% chlorine is added to five gallons of water, but I can tell you that it's highly diluted. While my nose is not a calibrated scientific instrument to detect chlorine, I do know that if I can smell three tablespoons of 5% chlorine bleach in five gallons of water, then I can smell chlorine in even tiny concentrations.

If Militec-1 does contain chlorine, it must not be very much since I can not smell any chlorine odor in Militec-1 (Militec-1 is, in fact, almost odorless).

Even city tap water in many cities in the United States has, if you smell it carefully, a slight chlorine odor from the very low concentration of chlorine added to it to kill germs that might be in it. You wouldn't think that splashing a bit if tap water on your knife would be harmful.

Furthermore, chlorine is a hazardous chemical. If a product contains more than a tiny concentration of it, then that fact must, by law, be listed on the product's Material Safety Data Sheet. I've reviewed the MSDS for Militec-1 and it doesn't mention chlorine. So, if there is any chlorine in Militec-1, it must be a very small concentration.

Chlorine evaporates very quickly. So, if there is a tiny amount of chlorine in Militec-1, then it would evaporate very quickly without damage to the steel.

I have been using Militec-1 on many of my knives, including ATS-34, 12C40, and 440C steels and titanium handles and liners, and handles made of steel, brass, and aluminum, for almost two years now and I can see no corrosion or other ill effects.

While I certainly recommend that you keep any chemical away from delicate insert materials such as wood, bone, horn, ivory, Mother of Pearl, etc., and while I can't say that I've tested it on every insert material, I have not seen Militec-1 attack, or damage any insert material except that will stain (darken) unsealed wood, but just about all lubricants will do that (mineral oil often doesn't).

Here's an interesting little item brought to my attention by my friends at Militec-1. It seems that the Coast Guard has taken my advice. They've authorized all Coast Guard balisongs to be lubricated with Militec-1. Actually, it's about firearms. But, it's interesting to see that the Coast Guard likes Militec-1 too, especially since their equipment is often exposed to salt water which is very corrosive.

Coast Guard Switches to Militec-1 Weapons Lubricant

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