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SA dagger runner cleaning without taking runners out of scabbard

Article about: With the help of Larry, I've been trying to clean a recent SA dagger pickup's scabbard runners without risking removing the runners. Larry thought it was worth a thread, and I'm hoping eithe

  1. #1

    Default SA dagger runner cleaning without taking runners out of scabbard

    With the help of Larry, I've been trying to clean a recent SA dagger pickup's scabbard runners without risking removing the runners. Larry thought it was worth a thread, and I'm hoping either this might help others who are not comfortable with removing the runners do some cleaning, or perhaps start a discussion that would lead to even more effective methods.

    When I first pulled my dagger out of the scabbard after receiving it, I noticed rust powder on the blade. I wiped the powder off and performed a Simichrome polish of the blade. I also thumped the scabbard end on some paper and removed a decent amount of rust powder. After a few times of putting the dagger in and out of the scabbard over the course of a few days, I noticed the previous runner marks were getting worse on the blade. I did another Simichrome cleaning of the blade, which helped get it fairly close to where it was, and took a good look inside the scabbard. I discovered the runners were dirty looking and had a caking of rust powder on them. From there, I decided it was time to figure out how to clean the runners off, before risking returning the blade to the scabbard.

    The first thing I tried was using a 3/4" wide 6" long medical tongue depressor, running it in and out of the scabbard between the humps on the runners that contact the blade and put pressure on it. The depressor came out marked in orange and shortly after black. I don't have pictures of this step, but the depressor was quite dirty and marked up.

    It seemed like I needed to find a way to chemically remove this grime without using harsh chemicals or polish that could be difficult to completely wipe off the runners, and lead to continued "polishing" of the blade along the runner path, adding to the marking on the blade over time. Rubbing alcohol is a fast drying solvent that in my maintenance days I recalled did not contribute to rust due to these properties, though you'll want to watch for those that are diluted with water. You can get 99% pretty easy, but often those in stores is 70% isopropyl. The fast alcohol evaporation will carry some of that water with it, but it may be the 30% could contribute to more rusting if you don't make sure to dry out the scabbard well with compressed air or something of that nature. So, the purer the better.

    I started with Q-tips, cleaning the runners closest to the hilt that they could reach. This removed quite a bit of grime from the first few passes:

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    Next, I soaked the wooden tongue depressor in the alcohol for a while, allowing it to soften a little and expand. Then, I ran the depressor through the contact points many times. This seemed to loosen up grime, and combined with the Q-tips seemed to clean the first set of contact humps pretty well:

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    There still was the problem of the second (lower/deeper) set of runner contacts past the first set. The Q-tips won't reach, and it would require some force to get them past the first runner even if they did, which risks them breaking off inside the scabbard. Since the depressor was long enough to reach both sets of runners. it seemed like it might work to take an old worn out hand towel that had thinned from use and washing, and cut it into strips which then could be wrapped long ways tightly to the wooden tongue depressor, and taped at the end to keep the towel strip tight and attached (see image below). Medical gauze now that I think of it, might also work for this.

    Once attached to the depressor, I dipped the wrapped end of the depressor in the alcohol and ran it through the runners as before. The first few passes through, the depressor/towel strip came out pretty black. It's hard to tell in the below image though, because I would re-soak the depressor in the alchohol which cleaned off much of the blackening. After switching the strip to a clean one (still attached to depressor in below image), it was coming back clean. So, I think I've gotten all I'm going to without opening up the scabbard and pulling out the runners.

    The first runners look pretty clean of grime from what I can see inside the scabbard, though still yellowed (like you can see in Larry's cleaning thread). I can tell from running the depressor into the scabbard, that it moves a lot more smoothly now. It's hard to tell how effective the cleaning is without opening up the scabbard, but judging by the cleaning materials, some good was done:

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    If I were to do this over again, I would probably start with the towel strips and depressor combo, and not bother with the Q-tips other than to clean around the mouth and the runner where visible. As for this attempt, the tongue depressor (no towel strip) moves silky through the runners now, so I think some good was done. I've blown compressed air through it, and plan to give it a couple of days to air out before trying to put the dagger back in, just to be safe.

    This my novice and scaredy-cat approach to cleaning my runners, which may be an alternative (though certainly less effective) method for cleaning the them.
    "Only a real risk tests the reality of a belief." - C.S. Lewis

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  3. #2


    Hi Scott,

    dirty or corroded runners can be a pain in the ass when the runner fitting has corroded onto the scabbard and is non removable.
    Runners that only contain old grease or dried up oil are the easy ones, and you have given de solution to clean them in your post.
    The hard ones are the ones that have been cooroded in a way that they realy harm the blade.
    They only way to clean them is to attach a high polishing sandpaper ( 1200-1400 ) that is attached to lets say a customised butterknife: then put it in and out as many times as needed to polished them.
    After that clean it with a high presure airpistol to remove the sandparticals


  4. #3


    Hi Gerrit,

    I think I'm in the corroded camp now. I tried putting the blade back in a few times, and the runner marks I polished out are worse than before now. There's no doubt the runners are clean, but they're doing this to my blade:

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    That's one of the marks, there's 3 others where the other humps touch the blade.

    Could you link the type of sandpaper you're talking about?
    "Only a real risk tests the reality of a belief." - C.S. Lewis

  5. #4


    I assume after such ttreatment that the runners are best left dry, i.e no lubricant of any sort?

  6. #5


    Wow Hold off on the 1400 grit sandpaper ( Unless there are measurements from each country that differ in size ) may as well rub the runners in a parking lot...sorry Ger.
    The highest grit paper that I know of is 5000 grit. I have at one point started at a 2000 grit point and went to 3000 grit..then finish at 5000. This application I used to remove gouges that someone inserted a metal object in the scabbard throat to do the same thing. This process was done with the runners removed.

    I would hold of for the time being with the sand paper. Sit back and regroup your thoughts. It is possible that was was removed may have left a stubborn particle that now represents an ice berg..which was never there in the beginning..but now the original gunk broken off exposing an uneven surface....a new rough surface.

    Lets also stay in focus too..that these daggers when brand new coming from the producer.... did not have runner marks...but after a few in and outs with the SA guys showing off their the Hofbrau..or even at home admiring or cleaning the blade..runner marks will already begin. Runner marks dont happen after almost 80 yrs..they happen relatively in a short time depending how much in and out there is.

    The runners are bent inside to add tension so to hold in the blade from falling out. Even if the runners are smooth as a babys butt...there is still pressure on the blade from the high points resting on the blade. Car tires are a great example...nothing stays new for a long time..and wear will come with use.

    Take a breather Scott...for now. Regards Larry
    It is not the size of a Collection in History that matters......Its the size of your Passion for it!! - Larry C

    One never knows what tree roots push to the surface of what laid buried before the tree was planted - Larry C

    “The farther back you can look, the farther forward you are likely to see.” - Winston Churchill

  7. #6


    Larry i have worked in a car paint shop and the 1400 i refer to is the smallest wet sanding paper available, thats the final sanding before the paint brush.
    So its vey very small maybe we talk about different types?

    I know its also the last thing to do, when your running out of options, but i have had this problem also and there was only 1 way left and it did cure the problem.
    The Iceberg did not came of the runner and realy carved into the blade, so it was necassary.


  8. #7


    2000 grit is the finest grade I have ever used and it is like newspaper in terms of coarseness.

  9. #8


    I'm not sure what to do with it at this point, and feel like I may have set up a nice a cautionary tale for people visiting the forum.

    I wanted to remove the light rust coating I saw inside to prevent this very same damage it's been doing to the blade. But, it seems there's more than rust on the runners. And, judging by the width of the runner marks and the fact it's doing this on all 4 spots the humps touch the blade, I think there's more than just a random iceburg or two, but some sort of grit on all the runner humps.

    I have modeling polishing paper that is an ultrafine grit sandpaper. It's more of a fabric with the grit on it than paper, kind of like this where it goes up to 12,000 grit (according to the description).

    Revell Micro-Mesh Model Polishing Kit - Polishing Pads And Bonnets -

    I've used these to polish the paint on my car models. But, it seems like any roughness from sanding left on the runners would still scuff the blade.

    I have a couple of questions that might help give some clarity to things:

    The runner mark in my picture above is after 4-5 inserts and removals. Over time, won't this start to wear a gouge into the blade where the pressure of the runners continues to remove metal until a channel forms?

    Do runner marks like in the picture I posted above hurt the value enough to where the dagger has taken a significant hit? If this basically ruins the daggers blade, I'm sure the marks could be polished down with Simichrome so they're not so easily visible (they are right now). But, more significant work would have to be done on the runners to prevent the dagger from returning right back to where it is right now, perhaps using my towel strips/tongue depressor method with strips of the fine grit modeling sandpaper instead of towel attached to it.

    I'll see about taking some wider shots of the blade sides to show the extent of the runner markings tonight.
    "Only a real risk tests the reality of a belief." - C.S. Lewis

  10. #9


    Okay, here's a bit of a study on runner marks. I took some photos in various natural light. Depending on how light hits it, the marks can look dark or almost black, or shiny and bright with a bit of a bluish, greasy hue. I think I have a good mix of both types here. Perhaps these are just pretty normal looking?

    After polishing with a little Simichrome, it only took a few times going in and out of the scabbard for these to show up like this. I wonder if polishing made them appear subtle, but when the dagger went back into the scabbard, it started to undo what the polish did along the runners, and scuff the blade back up there.

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    "Only a real risk tests the reality of a belief." - C.S. Lewis

  11. #10


    Looks fine to me, just natural wear to the blade. The chips on the blade edge are not natural wear and IMO detract more than normal runner marks. Are you bothered by those chips to the edge?

    As you can see, my Justinuswerk blade has runner marks which I don't think detract as much as the spot of cancer does.

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