At bestpocketknifeadvice.com we are sticklers for sharp knives. A blunt knife is virtually useless in most situations and can actually be quite dangerous as well. Fortunately, modern knife steel is used on most knives (from the budget to the premium models), which means that the blade will remain sharp with regular use. Most knives come pre-sharpened and will hold their edge for many years to come, although this does depend on how you use your knife. That being said, every knife needs to be sharpened eventually and as a pocket knife owner it is important to know how to sharpen your knife the right way.
What you need to know before starting
There are many different ways to sharpen a knife and it is actually very difficult to sharpen a knife the wrong way. Everybody has a slightly different method and it is really the end result that matters. There are a number of knife sharpening products on the market that include automatic machines that can cost thousands of dollars. However, these devices are not necessary and is important to learn a method that you are able to feel comfortable with. There are different sharpening methods that are suitable for each knife, but in general pocket knives don’t require any special skills or methods to sharpen.
What you will need to sharpen your pocket knife
You can forget all about fancy sharpening tools and automatic machines. All you really need to sharpen a pocket knife is a sharpening stone and some form of lubricant.
The sharpening stone is what is going to sharpen that blade and create that great cutting edge again. There are numerous different types of sharpening stones on the market, but you don’t need to know about all of these. You should try to find a knife with two sides – a rough grit side and a fine grit side. Although you can easily pay more than $100 for a sharpening stone, this is really not necessary and you can get a very decent quality sharpening stone for about $20.
The lubricant you use is also very important because it helps limit the amount of heat that is produced while you were sharpening the knife. It is this heat that can potentially damage the blade and this is why lubrication is such an important part of the process. You can sharpen a knife without using any lubricant, and some sharpening stones advertise as lubricant fee, but this is definitely not the recommended method. There are a number of quality lubricants for knife sharpening for less than $10.
Knife sharpening steps
There are lots of great videos that will show you how to sharpen a pocket knife. This little video gives a good basic demonstration:
1. The first step is to apply lubricant to both sides of the sharpening stone. A thin layer is best, but using too much is better than using too little.
2. You can then begin to sharpen one side of the knife on the rough grit side of the sharpening stone. You will want to angle the knife blade to about 15 degrees against this side of the sharpening stone. This angle will very depending on the blade, but a 10 to 15 degree angle is most common for a standard pocket knife blade. Generally speaking, you will find that you will get a sharper blade with a smaller angle, but this reduces the edge retention (and you will have to sharper and more often). Maintaining the angle while sharpening is the most important part of this process. Don’t rush and practice keeping the blade at the right angle to maintain a top-quality sharp edge. If you have trouble with this process you can purchase our sharpening guide which is a tool for keeping the knife at a constant sharpening angle.
3. Once you are comfortable with the angle you can begin to gently stroke the blade against the stone. You can make this move toward you or away from you and this really comes down to personal preference. You don’t need to be putting a lot of pressure on the blade and a light to moderate pressure is all that is required. Imagine that you are trying to shave a very thin layer from the sharpening stone. Make about 10 strokes and then repeat this step on the other side of the blade. Once you have done this you should make 10 more strokes on each side, but this time you should alternate strokes between the left and right side of the blade. It is very important to maintain the same angle throughout this process and changing the sharpening angle is not recommended.
4. You should then repeat steps 2 and 3 using the fine grit side of the sharpening stone. This helps to refine the blade and removes any of the burr that was created during the first stage of sharpening.
5. You should then have a very sharp blade that is ready to be tested. Most knife users test the sharpness of their blade by cutting some paper sheets. It is a good idea to do this before and after sharpening so that you can see the difference you have made. If your knife is still not performing up to standard then you can repeat the steps and continue to sharpen the knife until it meets your expectations. After you’re finished you should clean the sharpening stone and ensure that you remove all of the small steel particles, because these can lead to rust in the future.