How To Sharpen A Pocket Knife The Right Way

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By Bryan Rucker •  8 min read

Pocket knives can be very handy tools, used for cutting projects, fishing, hunting, crafts and even self-defense. However, a pocket knife is only as good as its sharpness.

Without a very sharp edge, pocket knives are nowhere near as effective as they should be, and they tend to require much more force and effort to use. This can be very frustrating to say the least.

Fortunately, the process of sharpening a pocket knife is relatively easy, fast and straightforward. To illustrate this point, below we have listed and fully described two sure-fire methods for sharpening a pocket knife: using a sharpening stone of some kind and/or using a honing rod.

Sharpening a Pocket Knife with a Sharpening Stone

Before you can sharpen your pocket knife with a sharpening stone you will first need to select that stone, or more specifically, choose the style of stone you intend to use. Regardless of which type of stone you select, you should probably ensure that the size of that stone is at least 2.5 inches by 6 inches—this will make the sharpening chore must easier to handle. T

here are several types of stones from which you can choose. These include whetstones, ceramic stones and diamond-based stones. Next we will look at all three of these types.

Once you have picked out the type of sharpening stone you intend to use, the next step is to prepare that stone for sharpening. If you have chosen a whetstone or a ceramic stone, this means lubricating the stones in cold, clean water.

You can also use lubricating oil like mineral oil if you prefer. Lubricating oil for sharpening stones can be found at most hardware and home improvement stores. The primary reason for using water or lubricating oil is to prevent the pores of the stone from clogging up with the filings from the knife and the grit from the stone. It also helps to reduce heat that is caused by the constant friction of knife to stone, heat that can damage the blade of your pocket knife.

Although diamond stones do not require the same amount of lubrication as other types of stones, experts suggest treating them with dish soap prior to use to reduce some of the friction.

After lubricating your stone you must then identify the bevel angle of the blade. Also known as the “rough grind” angle, the bevel angle is nothing more than the ideal angle at which the blade should be sharpened. With most pocket knives, the bevel angle is about 25 to 30 degrees. However, if you are not sure of this angle, please refer to the instructions that came with your knife before sharpening, or ask for help from a cutlery expert.

Place your pocket knife against the stone at the proper angle and maintain that angle with the blade facing away from you. Although maintaining the proper angle can be a tedious challenge, it is important that you do so for the best results. If you feel like you cannot hold the proper bevel angle for an extended period of time, you can always purchase a knife sharpening guide—one that attaches to your knife and holds it at a steady angle.

With the blade at the proper angle and facing away from you, guide it along the whetstone, ceramic stone or diamond stone. You will need to repeat this process several times to produce a very sharp edge, sometimes upwards of a dozen times. This may seem awkward to do at first, but once you become more proficient your honing action will transform into one easy circular motion as you move the blade against the stone.

If you have a blade that is longer than the height of the stone, or a curved blade, make sure to sweep the entire blade down the face of the stone to produce an even and consistent edge.

Once you have sharpened one side of the blade, you will need to flip the pocket knife over and perform these same steps on the other side of the blade, making certain to maintain the same bevel angle. This will also need to be repeated about 10-12 times for best results, even longer if your blade is particularly dull.

You should sharpen your pocket knife in this manner every so often to ensure a nice sharp edge. In subsequent sharpening sessions, you may need to flip the stone over so that the finer side is facing up. You should always use the finer side of the stone—the side with the least amount of valleys. This will help remove any bumps or burrs that may have formed on the blade of your pocket knife.

After you have sharpened your pocket knife you may want to test it to ensure you did a thorough job. To do this, hold up a piece of paper with one hand and, with the pocket knife in your other hand, attempt to slice down through the paper with your knife.

If you have done a thorough job the blade should easily slide through the paper from top to bottom. Another way to test your newly-sharpened blade is to hold it up to the light. By doing this you can inspect for any imperfections on the blade, such as the aforementioned bumps or burrs.

If you see none of these imperfections, your pocket knife is sharpened and ready to use on your next project. However, if you do notice some imperfections, you can always rub them out by using the finer side of your honing stone.

Sharpening a Pocket Knife with a Honing Rod

Another method for sharpening your pocket knife is to use a honing rod. Also known as sharpening steels, honing rods can do a fantastic job in ultimately sharpening your pocket knife, but what these tools really do is hone the blade.

There are many different types of honing rods available for purchase on the market today. Most of these rods are made out of tough steel, but they can also be found in ceramic and diamond versions as well. Keep in mind, though, if you choose a ceramic or diamond honing rod as opposed to a sharpening steel you can expect to pay much more for essentially achieving the same results.

Once you have picked out your honing rod, you will need to hold the device by the handle and place the tip of the rod on your counter or some other hard, flat surface. To ensure the rod does not move while in use, you may want to place a small towel under the tip. Now the rod should be in a perfectly vertical position, with the handle on top and the tip of the rod facing downwards.

Now, as you did when using your sharpening stone, find the correct bevel angle of your blade. Most pocket knives should have a bevel angle of about 22 to 33 degrees, but check with your manufacturer just to be sure.

While holding the pocket knife at the correct angle, simply swipe the blade of the knife along the edge of the honing rod. These swipes should be slow and deliberate using a fairly light touch. You do not need to “dig the blade” into the sharpening steel to produce the desired results. You may need to make 10-12 swipes across the edge of the honing rod to get a clean crisp edge on the blade.

After completing edge #1 on the blade of the pocket knife, turn your knife over and repeat the process on side #2. After you have sharpened both sides of the blade you can again test your work by attempting to slice through a piece of paper or by holding the pocket knife up to the light to inspect for any imperfections.

Bryan Rucker

Brian Rucker has spent his entire life participating in essentially all things wildlife. His concern grew astronomically during the previous tensions between the United States and other nations. He also has grown a substantial interest in survival and sustainability due to the current shape of the world over the years. He believes that preparation triumphs all things.