A dull knife is more than just useless. It can even be dangerous to the user. There is a lot of great gear out there to help you keep your edges sharp.
When man discovered the secret of steel, it revolutionized the world. It revolutionized warfare, hunting, and daily living. We still depend on the sharp edge for daily living and in SHTF, survival.
Sharpening a blade is an art. Some people have the knack for it. I don’t. I do well with carbon steel blades, but not so well with stainless. Many people will invest in a number of edged tools for survival (knives, cutting tools, axes, etc) but not give much thought to keeping them seriously sharp. It is the same when people invest in quality firearms and neglect to acquire proper weapons cleaning kits for them A dull blade will not do the job you need, and can skip on the item you are cutting, possible letting you injure yourself. There are a number of good sharpening devices on the market to enable you to keep your blades sharp so you can properly cut, slice, dice, carve, skin, and chop whatever it is you need for survival. The important part of sharpening is knowing the correct blade angle to sharpen it to. Know these for your various knives and tools.
These come in both natural stone or man-made stones. They can be used dry, with water, or a water based oil. Once you use oil though, it is recommended not to go back to using water. They will generally come in coarse, medium, and fine grade. Plain stones get the job done for sure. But it takes practice to be able to hold your blade at the correct angle for each stroke. One of the drawbacks to stones is that they will eventually wear down and are susceptible to breaking if dropped.
The Smith’s TRI-6 Arkansas TRI-HONE Sharpening Stones System illustrated is three stones that rotate on a triangular base so you can quickly go from course, to medium, then fine grit.
Manual Portable Sharpeners
These are designed to take a lot of the guesswork out of knife sharpening by guiding the blade in a pre set angle. Most of these are of the pull through design, are lightweight, and will fit in your bug out bag. Chef’s Choice makes a large number of sharpeners and their Sportsman model illustrated is especially designed with three sharpening modes: Fish, Hunting, and Polishing/Serrated Blades. It weighs only 8 oz. and has no slip rubber bases. There are a number of much smaller pull through knife sharpeners that are small, handy, and will fit in your pocket. The Gerber Fiskar is an example. It uses ceramic rods in course and fine and has finger grooves for a solid grip. I keep one in my bug out bag, one in my get home bag, and one in my EDC kit. The Lansky Blade Medic is a handy, multi purpose sharpener that will fit in your pocket. It has tungsten carbide rods, ceramic rods, a ceramic for serrated blades, and a diamond tapered rod. The Spyderco Golden Stone is an interesting design made of aluminum bonded ceramic covered in micro sized sapphires. It comes in a suede case that doubles as a base. It wont wear out and doesn’t require lubricant. Holding the stone vertically the stone tilts side to side, lifting one edge up and making a 20 degree sharpening angle for knife blades. Both of the sides are an elliptical edge with a large radius to sharpen PlainEdges and a smaller radius for SpyderEdges. Held vertically on its side, it creates a 12.5 degree angle for scissors and a seam channel running the stone’s length hones pointed objects. It weighs 9 ounces.
Most sharpeners move the blade across the sharpening element. Dynamic sharpeners reverse that and move the stone across the blade. Lansky makes a wide variety of sharpening systems and their Diamond Deluxe Sharpening System with Extra Coarse, Coarse, Medium and Fine Hones is an example. It includes 4-stone diamond knife sharpeners with extra-coarse, coarse, medium, and fine diamond hones. It allows you to clamp the stone in a clamp with a rod and select 17, 20, 25, and 30-degree angle options. This type of sharpener is ideal for the novice or someone who has a variety of blades with different angles.
Learning to sharpen a blade well takes practice. If you are new to knife sharpening and need a good reference, The Complete Guide To Sharpening is a good start.
Steels and Strops
Sharpening steels are another option. Between professional sharpenings, tiny metal fibers bend down on a blade, dulling the surface. The purpose of the sharpening steel is to straighten up those fibers, maintaining the sharpest edge possible for daily use. These are good for a quick touch up if you are doing a lot of knife work such as skinning large game. The one illustrated is a quality steel made in Germany. These are made from the same type of steel many knives are made of.
Strops are used to keep a very fine edge on a thin blade such as a straight razor. You can use sharpening compounds on them such as Herb’s Yellowstone Honing and Stropping Compound. My first experience with a razor strop was when my Father applied my Grandfather’s strop to my butt when I needed it. They make excellent child attitude adjustment tools.
Field Expedient Sharpening
If you find yourself with a dull blade, and for some reason do not have one of your sharpeners available, there are a couple of field expedients you can use, especially in an urban environment. Most ceramic coffee cups will have an unglazed rim on the bottom which makes a pretty good sharpener.
Auto window glass will have a top edge that is rough and not smooth. It can be used as a field expedient sharpener.
Keeping your edged tools and weapons sharp could be the difference between life and death in SHTF. Insure you have the proper sharpening tools to keep your life saving edges sharp.
15 thoughts on “Sharpen Those Blades!”
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Glad you added the field expedient sharpeners.
Here are a couple of extra thoughts for you.
The underside of the ceramic toilet cistern lid.
Yep, it’s the same as a mug, fired but unglazed pottery,
River smoothed stones BUT NOT A FLINT.
Glass, you mentioned cars only if you can’t find one?
Take a glass shard and carefully rub it along a brick or paving stone until it turns matt. Same thing.
The back of another knife or even a rebar.
An engineering brick is a dense VERY hard brick used in older buildings as a damp proof course. It looks almost semi glazed, is not porous in the slightest, and is great as a smooth sharpening stone.
Paving stones and concrete kerbs.
Both work wonders on all but ceramic and tungsten blades.
Lubricate with the No.1 bio-friendly lube carried by everyone:- SPIT!
As for the lubes?
As you say, only diamond or ceramic are best left dry (except when you have finished and you must wipe off the metal smear lest it build up).
Lubes are definitely important though with everything else but not a lot of people carry a small bottle of oil with them (unless you carry a weapon cleaning kit as SOP).
Only some folk get a bit silly about it all and that’s where hunters rock! Cooking something? Animal fats, and you need so very little.
Damn, I have an article coming out on monday, sharpening blades :) you’re a smart man good job.
I look forward to reading it!
Nice job !
Just an FYI-
A butcher’s steel,like the one you posted the pic of and correctly pointed out-is not for sharpening a knife,it’s only for “touch-up”-
there is an exception though-there are “steels” that are ceramic and/or diamond impregnated steel, or both that will sharpen knives-I’ll try to remember to dig mine out of my camping gear,and get a manufacturer and let you know.
I spent 20+ years as executive chef in first class hotels and private country clubs-so I did learn quite a bit about keeping knives made of good German stainless steel-(Henckels,Wusthof)- along with a lot of Sabatier carbon steel knives very sharp.
Those who have a hard time holding the angle when sharpening a knife are better off getting a Work Sharp powered sharpener,it uses belts like a belt sander,but the belts are made of much longer lasting abrasives.
The Work Sharp sharpeners are several orders of magnitude better than the Chef’s Choice and similar electric sharpeners that use small grinding wheels that are at an angle..
Prices range from around $60.00 to around $150.00,depending on model,they also make manual sharpeners.
Here’s their website…
I did a post a while back on sharpening knives-around the time the 5th or 6th guy who had me butcher their deer asked me to use the knives they bought in some big game hunting/processing kit consisting of several knives,and a meat saw-not a single one of the knives was sharp enough to use,and only a couple of the saws were usable.
That’s why if I’m going to their house-I bring my knives,my steel,and my diamond hone.
I appreciate the post and you make some excellent points. One of the challenges in writing a blog article is you have to avoid the tendency to make it a book! LOL! In my research I looked at a number of powered sharpeners but decided to go “basic” with items that a prepper would need in SHTF. Thats why I appreciate readers like you adding information and links to the article to give it more depth. I wish more readers would participate like you do. Thanks!
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I thought maybe my adding that I sharpened knives every day for over 20 years might generate some discussion on the post,no matter how much you know about a subject-someone can always show you something new,learning is not supposed to stop-ever.
It’s hard to get people to post comments,or to get a good discussion going.
I thought it would be fairly easy to get people to comment on posts that have to do with things that affect all of us-like being able to keep your knives sharp!
I guess that means all those people who make up all the page views we got on our posts all have all their sh*t squared away,and know everything they need to know about topics we post on,right?
I just got a Work Sharp from Amazon for $70 and it’s pretty easy to use and has 3 different belts with various degrees of grit. A little practice and one mistake lends itself to being a good purchase. I’m glad a professional user of pointy sticks thought the same tool was a good one to own.
I’m still learning to use my Work Sharp electric tool. I also have 2 little Lansky BladeMedics and a couple of the larger carbide-only sharpeners you can get at WallyWorld. I practice with my cheap blades so I don’t fudge up the good ones.The Work Sharp is pretty cool and fairly easy to use. I’m always afraid, though, that I’ll screw something up.
I practice on my “throw a ways” also. Usually the wife’s kitchen knives. They are cheaper to replace! LOL!
You wouldn’t want to practice on my wife’s kitchen knives-she’s got all mine,average cost per knife is around $100.00.
If you ever want to buy kitchen knives that’ll last a lifetime,then be able to be used for a lifetime by your heirs-buy the professional grade Henckel or Wusthof,not the garbage sold in Target,Sears,Kohl’s etc.
Just order them online direct from the company,or their “approved” dealers in the U.S.
Makes a world of difference for whoever’s doing all the slicing and dicing,the knives are actually comfortable in your hands.
All it takes is a once a week touch up on a good steel,and maybe a twice a year light re-sharpening on a good set of oilstones-or diamond stones,whichever you prefer.
Ours get resharpened after the annual late summer camping trip,then I give them another re-sharpening just before Thanksgiving,just so they’re ready to go for the holidays. That’s also around the time when my sisters and my brother bring all their kitchen knives over for me to sharpen.
Actually I was half joking about the wife’s knives. She is German and buys her cutlery in Germany although I never paid attention to the brand. Certainly not as expensive as yours.They are easy to sharpen though and do hold a good edge. I have always said that if you buy anything made from steel or glass, buy German.
It’s actually really hard to screw up a blade to the point it’s beyond being fairly easy to resharpen.
The single most important thing is to hold the blade at the proper angle-doesn’t matter if you’re using one of the Tri-hone 3 stone systems,good Arkansas oilstones,diamond bench stones,or the Work Sharp.
There are knife companies that supply knives to hotel and restaurant kitchens-what they use to sharpen the blades looks basically like a huge version of the Work Sharp sharpener.
I’ve had the same belt on my Work Sharp for at least 100 sharpenings,and it’s still almost as good as new.
Be careful when you buy knives-there’s a lot of knives for sale that look and feel great-until you have to sharpen them.
Here’s a good reference to go by when looking to buy a knife…
Click to access knife_steel_and_handle_material_reference_chart.pdf
Another good reference/guide to knife steels, and their properties…
Lots of other stuff that’s good to know …
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Thanks for the links!
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