A survival knife is one of a prepper’s most important tools, but it also needs to be sharpened occasionally to keep its edge.
A dull survival knife is useless in a survival situation, so I’ll show you how to sharpen your knife even if you’ve never done it before.
By the end of this post you’ll have all the knowledge you need to keep your knife razor sharp so it’s ready at a moment’s notice when SHTF.
How Knife Sharpening Works
A sharp knife has a fine edge that stays consistent along the length of the blade. A dull blade has dents and tears that prevent it from cutting properly.
The metal blade of a knife wears out every time it comes into contact with another object. Over time, the blade will no longer be straight or have a fine edge.
The purpose of sharpening a knife is to straighten the blade and restore it to the ideal angle.
To sharpen your knife, you need to use another tool that’s capable of reshaping the blade.
There are several types of tools that can do this, but this blog post will focus on sharpening knives with a whetstone because that’s the most versatile method after you learn the skill.
Required Knife Sharpening Tools
You’ll need two tools to sharpen your knife.
The first is the whetstone. The whetstone is the hard block of material that grinds away unwanted metal from your knife blade.
Whetstones can be made of different materials including: diamond, ceramic, carbide, or synthetic.
Each of these materials has their own advantages, but at the end of the day they’ll all get the job done just fine. So don’t worry about picking the absolute best one. If you’re new to knife sharpening, you won’t be able to tell the difference anyway.
Whetstones also come in different grit sizes ranging from small to large and everything in between. Again, don’t get hung up on all the choices. A medium grit size is good enough for general purpose use.
The next thing you’ll need is a lubricant. The lubricant makes it easier for the knife and whetstone to slide against each other. It also stops metal shavings from clogging the whetstone’s pores and making it less effective.
The most common types of lubricants for knife sharpening are mineral oil and honing oil, which is made specifically for knife sharpening.
Mineral oil and honing oil are also good at reducing the heat caused by friction, but if you’re in the field without a proper lubricant, it’s OK to use water.
How to Sharpen Your Knife with a Whetstone
The first step to sharpening your knife is to identify the angle of the blade, or pick a new angle you want it to have.
The only way to tell what angle your knife has is to get that information from the manufacturer. If you still can’t find it, it’s OK to rework your knife with a new angle.
Any angle between 15 – 22 degrees will be good enough for general use.
The smaller the angle, the sharper your knife will be. The drawback is that a smaller angle will lose its edge faster. So choose a smaller angle if you just want the sharpest blade possible, and choose a bigger angle if you want it to last longer.
Next up is to pour a good amount of lubricant over both sides of the whetstone.
Now, begin sharpening the blade. There are two sides to the whetstone: the rough side and the fine side. We’ll use the rough side first.
Hold one edge of the knife against the stone at the angle you’ve chosen. The biggest mistake people make is not giving both sides of the edge the same angle. You can use an angle guide to do this for you, or try to do it by feel.
Now pull the blade towards you over the whetstone while applying a moderate amount of pressure onto the blade. Do this about ten times or so, and then flip the knife over to get the other side.
Now that you’ve finished the rough passes, it’s time to flip the whetstone over to use the fine side. Repeat the same steps above on the fine side of the whetstone.
Your knife should now be much sharper than when you started, though it probably won’t be perfect the first time you try it. Keep practicing and you’ll get the hang of it eventually.
If this sounds like too much work to you, you can also use pre-made knife sharpeners. They won’t produce as good of an edge as doing it yourself, but it’s quick and easy and sure beats having a dull knife.