This afternoon I removed the broken handle and gave the entire length of the blade a first pass with some 260 grit sandpaper to remove the worst of the grime and rust.
The old blade’s steel is like brand new. What you see in the photo is not rust or pitting; it’s merely discoloration.
I showed both blades to a friend of mine yesterday and he figures the new blade with the cheap wood handle is somewhere between ten and twenty years old and that the old blade could be upwards of a half a century old.
It needs the right handle though – I am thinking what would be perfect could be something like a buttery greenish-yellow old piece of olive wood with a well defined grain (but I sincerely doubt I can find any of that here). Another solution would be finding some locally sourced hardwood (but this isn’t exactly hardwood tree country). If that doesn’t work out I’ll hold out and buy the olive wood once I get to Oregon next month. I might have to special order it – expensive* as that might be – but imagine what that could look like on that old blade.
PS – The cheap wood handle on the new blade – while serviceable – is/was pretty damn ugly straight out of the box. Maybe 50 years of use will add that necessary worn patina to transform it into an object of beauty. (Or maybe I’ll just run out of patience and replace the damn thing.)
*I bought a small 4″W X 1.5″T X 12″L piece of olive wood 20 years ago in North Carolina and paid the outrageous sum of something like $50 for it. I didn’t need it for any particular purpose – heaven knows I had hundreds of board-feet of other wonderful hardwoods like walnut, maple (including some of the exotic spalted variety), hickory, and cherry – but there was something perfect about that single small piece of olive wood that I knew I would eventually find a special place in my home building project for.