A pocket knife is a versatile tool, that can be used for anything from opening a package, wood carving, slicing a piece of fruit or even as a means of self-defense.
But what good is a dull pocketknife that cannot cut? If it doesn’t have a razor-like edge, it will be pretty ineffective or even dangerous for most tasks.
But how do you get rid of that dull edge? Luckily, you can sharpen knives in just a few minutes
There are 2 main methods to sharpen a knife; stones and steels.
How To Sharpen Blades With A Stone
There are essentially only two things needed for this; a stone and some sort of lubricant.
Most stones come with two sides, rough grit one side, then flip the stone for fine grit on the other. The process of sharpening with stones usually starts with the rougher side and is then finished off with the other to fine-tune and finish the edge of the blade.
Sharpening stones can be found in most hardware stores, if not, ordered online. You may want to purchase two different types of stones to see which is the most comfortable to work with and best suits your needs.
But before we get into steps on how to sharpen your pocket knife, we have to chose what type of stone to use. The three most common types of stones are whetstones, ceramic stones and diamond stones.
Before using it, you must soak the stone in cold, clean water for ten minutes. These are the softest of the stones, so be sure to use the entire surface area. Failing to do this is how grooves in your stones can develop over time.
On the plus side, the harder ceramic material sharpens your blade faster and the longer life than their whetstone cousins, makes up for them being slightly more challenging to use.
Typically the most expensive type of sharpening stone, but the longest lasting. These stones comprise a metal disk enhanced with diamond particles that vary in coarseness from hard to fine to superfine.
You have probably already guessed these stones last the longest, being the hardest material of the three stones mentioned. Plus they will sharpen your knife the fastest making them worth the investment.
Lubricant is needed to both protect your pocket knife while maintaining the integrity of the stone. Depending on your skill level, this lubricant could be water, but specialist mineral oil is the preferred option, especially for the novice.
The lubricant’s role is primarily to reduce heat from the friction created when you sharpen your knife as too much heat can ruin the blade of your knife.
Lubricant also helps clear the shards of metal debris created when you sharpen your knife.
How to Sharpen a Pocket Knife With A Stone
Prepare the stone
Be sure to soak your stone in clean water for the recommended amount amount of time. Ten minutes for the whetstone and three to five minutes for ceramic stone.
Lubricate The Stone
Next, pour lubricant generously on the rough side of the stone. Thinned dishwashing liquid can be used to lubricate diamond stones.
Decide Your Angle
It’s crucial to the lifespan of your knife to know how to use a sharpening stone properly. Sharpening at the wrong angle can ruin the blade, rendering it useless. Check online or call a local shop to find out the ideal angle for your particular blade.
Position Your Knife.
First, position your knife on the stone. While keeping the blade to the stone, raise the blade to the desired angle per manufacturer’s suggestion.
How this works is that the lower the angle, the sharper the blade will be, but there will be poor edge retention and it will blunt faster. However, if you angle the knife higher while sharpening, the edge will not be as sharp but it will last longer.
The angle between the blade and the stone needs to be as steady and consistent as possible to prevent damaging the blade or the stone. Keep this consistent. If you don’t, you risk damaging the integrity of the cutting edge.
If this is new to you and you don’t want to risk damaging your blade, you can purchase a sharpening guide. This is an inexpensive, but very helpful, tool that keeps your blade at the ideal angle when sharpening your knife.
Using the stone – Start with the rough.
Once you are happy with the angle, you can begin to stroke the blade against the stone. Start with the rough side of the stone and then follow up with the fine grit to finish the edge.
Make sure your strokes are long and even across the entire blade. You can stroke the knife towards you or away from you, whichever you prefer. Both methods work just fine.
Do not press too hard, moderate the amount of pressure. If you are not sure how hard to push, it should feel easy. If you meet resistance, you need to change the angle or the pressure on the blade. Try to be consistent with each stroke.
The technique is to stroke the blade over the stone as though you want to slice a thin layer off of the stone. Start with the rough grit first, and repeat this process for 5-10 strokes until an edge is achieved.
Repeat the same process on the other side of the blade. If the blade of the knife is curved or if itâ€™s longer than the stone, youâ€™ll need to sweep the blade sideways as you work, so the entire edge is sharpened evenly.
Finish The Edge
Flip the stone over so that the finer grit side faces up, then lubricate the surface well.
Next, reset your knife to the correct angle and run it down the finer side of the stone. Doing this fine-tunes the blade’s sharpness. Finish the process with alternating strokes and then clean any lubricant and any particles off your blade.
- Very sharp results with fine stones
- There is an ideal sharpening stone for each phase of the sharpening process
- Ensures a long life span of your knife
- Can be used for regrinding blunt knives and maintaining sharp knives
- Useful for thinning knives
- Skill is necessary, but you can always buy an angle guide to help
- Achieving perfect results, takes practice
How To Sharpen A Blade With Sharpening Steels or Honing Rods
Steel honing rods, otherwise known as sharpening steels, can be very effective and reliable ways to sharpen your blade. They essentially produce the same results you get from sharpening stones, so the choice of which to use is really down to preference.
Like the stones, rods will usually be made from ceramic or diamond. Both of these materials work well, but the latter is widely considered to produce smoother finishes, but both will sharpen knives quickly.
How they differ is that the stone is laid flat, while the rod is held vertically.
Position the rod
Hold the rod by the handle with the tip placed firmly on a flat, solid surface. You may want to place some old towel or rag under the tip of the rod to prevent slipping (not to mention protecting your tabletop from scratches!)
Position the knife.
Similarly to the sharping stone, the angle at which you hold your bevel edge is the key to the whole process. Typically when using your sharpening steel, you should maintain an angle between 25 to 30 degrees to sharpen a pocket knife
Using the rod.
Run one side of the knife’s edge along the rod, but don’t apply too much pressure. Swipe slowly and gently across and down the rod with the full length of the blade, starting from handle of the knife to the tip. Try to maintain the same throughout the stroke.
As with the sharpening stone, switch sides so that you hone both sides of the knife blade. If your blade is relatively sharp, you should only have to swipe the blade along the rod a couple of times on each side. If blade edge is very dull, you will have to swipe the knife several more times.
- For quick maintenance
- Can extend the life span of your knife
- Sharpens faster than stone
- May cause damage to thinning blades
Camping or On The Trail
Frequently use your pocket knife in the wild? Then a pocket knife sharpener is well worth considering.
They are compact and easy to stow, designed for sharpening on the go. Some come with a built-in angle guide to help keep your sharp edge anytime, anywhere.
Keeping the sharp edge of your pocketknife is necessary to ensure it remains useful. Dull knives will cause you to have to push harder when using it, which can, in turn, lead to an accident.
So learning how to keep the edge is hugely important for any hiker. Luckily, with some practice, sharpening your blade is quick and easy.
Of course sharpening a knife can be dangerous, so always use caution regardless of the method you use to keep you blade razor sharp.
Matt Green, is an avid hiker and lover of the great outdoors. He is always planning his next big trip or hitting the trails for a solo hike.
He’s traveled extensively to many remote regions and has plenty of experience exploring various terrains, and stories to tell.
- 1 How To Sharpen Blades With A Stone
- 2 How to Sharpen a Pocket Knife With A Stone
- 3 How To Sharpen A Blade With Sharpening Steels or Honing Rods
- 4 Camping or On The Trail
- 5 Summary