It’s often said that a dull knife is more dangerous than a sharp one. While we’d argue all knives are dangerous in their own right, there is some truth to the old line. Because a dull, jagged blade doesn’t glide as easily, it has a tendency to snag and get caught in the material you’re cutting. When this happens, many press on, push harder, which can lead to slips, nicks, and lost digits. For this reason, many people keep their kitchen set sharp—but what about the knife you carry every day? Sharpening a pocket knife is essential, yet it’s rarely done. Don’t know how to start or what to buy? Here’s how you sharpen a pocket knife:
Just like for your $150 Wusthof chef’s knife, there are plenty of different tools out there to help you sharpen your pocket knife—most completely unnecessary. Skip the $100 electric sharpeners and other expensive gadgets and opt for a sharpening stone, which is a simple number that’s tried and true.
Now, you may have just jumped to Amazon to find a stone and been overwhelmed by the amount of options. Yes, there are a lot. Ceramic whetstone. Diamond stone. Sharpening surfaces in different grits. Just know that all these stones work (primarily) the same way. No matter which one you choose, you’ll be able to give your pocket knife a sharp edge.
Here are a few we recommend:
- Winco 12″ Fine/Grain Sharpening Stone (USED BELOW) – $12
- EZE-LAP Fine Diamond Pocket Stone – $10
- Spyderco Double Stuff Stone – $27
- Pocket Knife Sharpener with Lanyard – $14
- Dan’s Translucent Pocket Knife Sharpening Stone Whetstone – $19
- Fallkniven DC4 – $22
If you’d rather something besides a sharpening stone, there are other options, even if they aren’t all practical to carry around or quite as simple. You could go with a honing steel, not unlike the one in your kitchen drawer. You could go with a pocket gadget like the one Smith’s offers. You could go with a variety of different tools. Still, for our money, a sharpening stone is simple and perfect.
Before you go swiping your blade up and down your stone, it’s best you wet the stone you’re using. While it’s not always necessary, wetting your sharpening stone helps keep it cool while you sharpen, and thus prevents the knife from warping in any way from heat. The lubricant also helps remove the tiny particles and rubble created when you sharpen that could prevent you from getting a fine edge. Lubricants range from oils sold specifically for sharpening stones to your own damn spit. We recommend either mineral oil or water. If you want to buy a specialty oil, that’s totally fine, but we’ve found that water works just fine.
1. Wet Your Stone
Like we said earlier, you don’t absolutely need to do this, but it is recommended. Whether you’re going to hock a few loogies or apply some of your new oil, now’s the time to do so. If you’re using a stone with a rough side and a fine side, start with the rougher side.
2. Get the Angle
You’re going to want to hold your knife at an angle while sharpening it. That angle depends on the knife you’re sharpening, and it can range from about 15° to 30°. Finding the bevel can take some practice, but you should be able get it by feel. If you are struggling, you can contact the knife maker and ask for the info.
Start with the knife at one end of the stone holding it so the blade’s edge is facing away from you. Pull the knife toward yourself while trying to keep the angle. As you reach the end, glide the knife down so you hit any curved part of your blade. Repeat 10 times. Flip blade over and repeat 10 times.
4. Use the Fine Side of the Stone
If you purchased a stone with one course side and one fine side, flip the stone over and repeat from Step 1.
5. Wipe the Blade Clean
Use a dish cloth or towel to carefully wipe the blade.
6. Use Your Knife
Your freshly sharpened pocket knife will function better than it has for some time. Just remember to sharpen after every few uses.