Uses for a Pocket Knife

documenting the many uses for the common pocket knife

How to Sharpen a Pocket Knife

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I’ve you’ve just purchased a new pocket knife, or have had a pocket knife that is seeming a little dull, you’re probably wondering how to sharpen the blade. There are several options available to sharpen a pocket knife, and this little how to will attempt to outline them, and provide you a good understanding of sharpening a small pocket knife blade.

Table of Contents:

What You’ll Need to Sharpen a Pocket Knife

Sharpening Stone

Sharpening stones come in as many varieties as do pocket knives themselves so you’ll have no shortage of options.  Each stone will have a different grit level with stones that have a rougher grit good for starting the sharpening process, and stones with the finest grit best for putting that final sharp edge.

Recommended Sharpening Stones:

Smith’s TRI-6 Arkansas TRI-HONE Sharpening Stones System

Lubricant

Also called a honing oil, lubricant plays a vital role in the sharpening process.  The primary purpose of the lubricant is to cut down on the friction, and resulting heat generated when sharping a blade.  Too much heat can actually warp a blade, so using some sort of oil or water based lubricant will reduce the chances of that happening and will keep your blade in pristine condition after many sharpenings.  The secondary benefit is to continually remove (by washing away) the debris generated when sharpening your blade.

Typical Lubricants:

  • Mineral Oil
  • Honing Oil
  • Vegetable Oil (in a pinch)
  • Water (in an even tighter pinch)
  • Nothing – If you’re surviving Bear Grylis style, don’t worry about lubricating that blade first (save the oil for cooking that fresh caught rabbit)

Recommended Honing Oil:

Lansky Nathan’s Natural Honing Oil

Sharpening Procedure

Prepare the Stone

Cover your stone with the lubricant of your choice.  This is where having a clean and prepared workspace makes sense, as you don’t want oil or water to go everywhere (and have to explain to your wife why there’s oil and knives all over the kitchen).

  1. Get Gritty
    Your sharpening stone will most likely have at least two sides, each with a different grit level.  Start with the grittier side, and then work to the finer grit side to put the final edge on your blade.
  2. Angle Your Blade
    This is by far the most difficult part of sharpening a pocket knife by hand.  Keeping a consistent angle throughout is key to a uniform sharpening.  Each blade will require a slightly different angle, but more than likely your pocket knife will be somewhere in the 10-20 degree range.
  3. Stroke It
    Once you have your stone lubed and your blade angled it’s some to get down to business. Two options here, you can either pull the blade towards you or push it away from you for each stroke.  Personal preference plays a big part, as maintaining your angle and consistency is more important than the direction you choose.

Pocket Knife Sharpening Videos

This video by CarterCutlery goes over the process of how to sharpen a pocket knife in fairly good detail. It’s long, but if you’re interested in protecting your pocket knife investment, or don’t want to ruin an older knife while sharpening – it’s worth the watch and patience.

For another perspective, shilohtv offers this shorter video on how to sharpen a pocket knife. This video also introduced me to a new term related to blade sharpening, called “stropping”.