Knife Sharpening 101

knife-sharpening-101Knives could be considered the ultimate survival tool. They have so many uses and can certainly play a big part in keeping you alive in a survival situation.

Keeping your knife in top condition is important to ensure it is working effectively when you need it to. A blunt knife is not only less effective but can be dangerous as well. With an unsharpened blade you will be applying extra pressure to the knife to make a cut which can lead to slips – -causing injury and maybe even worse.

Knife sharpening is one of those skills everyone should have.  Your knife is too important of a tool to allow it to become useless due to a dull blade.

These same techniques can be modified for keeping an axe, hedge trimmers, scissors and any other edged tool sharp and useful.

Here is a step by step guide on how to keep your knife sharp using a sharpening stone:

1. The first step before you put your knife anywhere near your sharpening stone is to make sure you know what type of stone you have.

If you are using a whetstone or diamond stone, you will need to lubricate the stone with mineral oil before use. This lubrication helps you move the knife over the stone but also helps collect the steel shavings as they come off the knife. This prevents the stones’ pores from becoming clogged by the shavings.

If you are using the more common carborundum stone – these can be used dry but if you wish to use lubrication only use water as oil can destroy this type of stone.

2. Have your stone laid out horizontally in front of you. Start with the coarse side of the stone facing up.

3. Hold your knife in your dominant hand – your other hand will be used to help guide the blade over the stone by pushing down on the center of the blade.

The angle at which to move your knife over the stone can be different depending on the type of knife you have and its use. You can ask the manufacturer of the knife for the correct angle although usually an angle of around 20 degrees works well.

4. Once you have your angle sorted, you can now drag your blade over the stone. You should work from the heel of the blade to the tip. Repeatedly (4 or 5 times) pull the blade of your knife over the stone while applying moderate pressure with your non-dominant hand. A good way of getting the amount of pressure right is to visualize taking a thin layer off the top of your stone.

5. Once you’re finished with the first side, flip the knife over and do the same again on the other side of the knife until you can feel a burr on the side of the blade.

A burr is a rough edge that will be formed by the stone. The burr will be too small to see but you should be able to feel it catching on your thumbnail as you stroke down the blade (from the top edge to the cutting edge of the blade).

6. At this point you will need to turn your stone over to the finer side for the finishing part of the sharpening process.

7. Using the same method as before, repeatedly drag the knife over the stone while pushing down as you swipe. However, this time alternate the sides of the knife touching the stone with each swipe. The purpose of this is to smooth and eliminate the burrs created in the first stage of sharpening.

This means that the edge of the blade will change from a ground edge to a finer edge which will be sharp and suitable for cutting.

8. All that is left to do is to give the blade a quick wipe over with a towel and wash off any lubricant from the sharpening stone.

Things to consider:

  • Make sure your sharpening stone is secure before use. You do not want your stone sliding around as you pull your knife over it.
  • To ensure you keep the angle of the blade the same throughout sharpening – use an angle guide. This gets placed underneath the knife to maintain a set angle.
  • Another option for maintaining the same angle is to draw a line down the sharp edge of the blade on both sides with an indelible Sharpie marker. Throughout the sharpening process, keep an eye to see if the Sharpie mark is being removed evenly.




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