How Do I Care for My ZT?

Sometimes, you just need a tune-up.

Buying and caring for a ZT can be somewhat daunting, especially if it’s your first high-end knife. We understand. With premium materials, you don’t want to throw it in a drawer and forget about it. True, ZTs are built to last a lifetime. But to maximize the experience, we recommend regular maintenance to keep your ZT in tip-top condition.

So, how can you do that?

Step 1: Cleaning and Storing 

Keeping your ZT clean is one of the most important steps. These knives are built for tough use. Naturally, they will sometimes get dirty. After you’re done using your ZT, wipe away any obvious debris. You may also want to wash with a mild detergent.

The quality blade steel contains high-carbon content, meaning that it may corrode if not properly cared for. Because of this, we recommend rubbing a light coating of knife oil on the blade, pivot points, and lock before storing. Not only will this help prevent corrosion, but it can also improve the flipping action as your knife breaks in.

Our sister brand, Kershaw Knives, offers knife oil that can be used with ZTs. 

Some of this may be new information to you. If so, there’s a chance your ZT may have already developed a rust spot or two. What now?

Thankfully, there’s a couple remedies to choose from.  A light abrasive, such as Flitz metal polish or Bon Ami cleanser, will get the job done. For the latter, turn it into a paste with a little water. Apply the cleanser with an absorbent soft cloth.

If you wait too long, rust can spread past the surface level. These methods may not work in this case. Instead, WD-40 can break down the bonds between the rust and steel. Naval jelly is an even stronger option. It’s a phosphoric acid that will dissolves the rust. 

Blade coatings are another thing to keep in mind. ZT includes many of these coatings to enhance performance features and make the blades non-reflective. They’re designed to stand up to regular knife use. However, some scratches and other wear should be expected – a little added character, if you will.

ZT Knife Storage Bag (ZT 997)

After you’re done cleaning, store your ZTs in a safe place that’s free from moisture. Collectors can purchase ZT Storage Bags, which accommodate up to 18 folding knives. These bags are convenient for checked-bag travel or long-term storage.

Step 2: Sharpening the Edge

Sharpening steps with Ultra-Tek Blade Sharpener (2535)

If you use the knife with any regularity, you’ll need to sharpen it eventually.

Any ZT purchased from an authorized retailer comes with free lifetime sharpening. Just send the knife to our Tualatin, OR warranty team, and it will come back sharp and ready for work. That’s, by far, the easiest way to sharpen your knife.

But if you prefer to sharpen your own blades, just keep in mind that ZTs are sharpened at 18˚ to 22˚. It’s critical to maintain an angle in this range while sharpening. To complete this task, there are many sharpening kits and stones available. For a quick, portable option, Kershaw offers the Ultra-Tek Blade Sharpener, which works great with ZT knives.

While holding your ZT at the suggested angle, position the base of blade near the tip of the sharpener. Pull the blade down and toward you across the top of the sharpener in a slight arc. Do this again across the bottom of the sharpener, sharpening the top portion of the edge. Repeat this “over and under” motion about three to five times, and your edge will be ready for cutting.

Step 3: Fine Adjustments

Some product care may require you to unscrew the knife. For instance, many enjoy swapping out pocketclips for aftermarket options, or just simply reversing the position to be more lefty friendly. Use a Torx #6 to fit the pocketclip screws and remove them.

If you need to remove the handle scale, use a Torx #10 to fit the handle screws. Disassembly allows you to clean the internal components of your knife, or swap a SpeedSafe® torsion bar. Just remember that disassembly could have negative consequences if done improperly.

For example, you may find that your blade is no longer centered. Not to worry. Try tightening the pivot screw with a Torx #8. This usually re-centers the blade. Note that a few ZTs require a 3/8-inch hex socket. And the 0609’s See-Through Pivot will need the STP Pivot Tool for adjustments.

It’s very important to use Torx bits for any of these modifications, not Allen bits. The latter will strip the heads of the screws – no fun at all. Our TX-Tool includes the most common tools needed in one convenient package. 


If you think you’ve stripped the screws – or they seem loose – apply blue Loctite and give it 24 hours to set up before using knife. Please contact our warranty team if you have questions about any of these steps.

Product care requires a little time and effort, but it’s well worth it. It helps you get to know the anatomy of your knife and keeps it working as intended. Come back and review these tips anytime to help you along the way.

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