I’m happy to have my first guest writer for the Tincross blog! Dan Sullivan – http://www.survivalsullivan.com/ – has written a good article on how to sharpen a knife:
Here’s How to Sharpen a Knife
Sharpening a knife is probably something you’ve already done but… have you done it correctly? If you haven’t, you’ve probably not only wasted your time but ruined some perfectly good knives. If you’re frustrated that your knives don’t last you that long and need to be re-sharpened often, this article is for you… and the good news is that it’s all in the technique.
What kind of knives can you sharpen? I’m glad you ask. You can sharpen pretty much anything, from pocket knives and kitchen knives to machetes, scissors and axes.
What to Use as a Knife Sharpener
There are plenty of surfaces to use to sharpen your knife. Some of them are good, others… some not that good while others are quite interesting.
Recommendations: whetstones, diamond stones and Japanese water stones.
Of course, you can just get a portable sharpener that you can keep in your bug out bag at all times (such as the DMT FWFC Double Sided Diafold Sharpener you can get off Amazon for $30). These are impregnated with industrial diamonds and aver very lightweight, particularly compared to Japanese water stones.
What’s the Right Angle?
One of the most common debates when it comes to sharpening knives is which angle to use when doing it. While some people prefer a very narrow angle (of 10 degrees), others hold the knife at 30 degrees or more.
Ideally, your knife should come with instructions that tell you the angle it needs to be sharpened at but, if you don’t have those and you’re not sure, the ideal angle is no more and no less than 22 degrees.
Of course, it’s impossible for any human being to perform every movement at that angle but the more you strive for it, the better the end-result. If you’re familiar with the 30 degree angle from school (back when you were studying geometry), start from there only tilt the blade closer to the surface. That should get you pretty close to the 22 magic number.
Tip: some people use a binder clip to keep the knife titled at the right angle during sharpening while others use two stacked pennies. You have to remove the pennies before you start sharpening, of course.
The technique is easy. First, you need to place the knife on the stone. Then tilt the blade until its edge is aligned flat on the top of the stone.
Using one or both hands (depending on the size of the knife), move it away from you in a semicircular motion such that, as you approach the end of it, you sharpen the tip. Do it with a firm motion yet make sure you don’t apply too much pressure on the blade.
After you’ve done the motion 3-4 times, turn the knife with the blade towards you and do the same motion over and over again, switching the direction of the blade every so often.
Some people set a goal of doing the motion no less than 100 times. This could take a while since you can’t do this hastily but the end result is an amazing knife that will easily cut just about anything it’s supposed to.
There isn’t THAT MUCH to say about knife sharpening. It’s a simple process that shouldn’t worry you to much as there are many other survival skills that you can learn (you can find a full list right here).
Still, I want to give you some simple tips that may assist you (depending on the type of knife you’re using as well as the surface you’re sharpening it against):
- If you’re using a Japanese water stone, make sure you apply a few drops of water on it when it’s getting dry.
- If this is your first time, practice on a knife that’s really dull and you’re not really thinking about using. To get it right you have to practice. You don’t want to sharpen a knife that doesn’t really need to because then you’ll be done quickly and think that all knives are going to sharpen just as easily. Wrong.
- Don’t go astray from the technique I taught you if you see the knife is not sharpening. It takes time and practice. Don’t do it at a sharper angle and don’t put more pressure.
- Don’t’ rely on your thumb to determine whether your knife is sharp. Most of the times, the tiny particles on the blade will fool you. As soon as you actually use the knife, those particles are gone. Try running the blade on a piece of wood to safely remove them first. If you really want to see how sharp a blade is, use a jeweler’s loupe.