Words by Danny Reber
A good knife is one of the tools that should be within arm’s reach any time you’re in the outdoors. From food prep and campsite jobs, to fighting off a bear, there are plenty of knife skills you should practice, however, they all involve having your blade shaving sharp. Remember, a dull knife is bloody dangerous, so let’s get the basics of knife sharpening down pat.
CHOOSING THE RIGHT STONE
There are stacks of different sharpening stones available, but you’re going to go through these same steps regardless of whether you choose an oil, water or diamond stone. The grit around the 2000–3000 mark is recommended for sharpening and polishing an edge, while 1000 grit is great for repairing a damaged edge.
Step 1: Start with a clean surface – that means both the knife and the stone should be free of debris and old metal swarf. Prep your stone appropriate to its type. This could mean wetting, soaking or oiling the stone’s surface.
FINDING YOUR ANGLE
Most manufacturers will list their knive’s angle. So once you have that, here’s a great way to get a feel for it. Using your mobile phone’s level, hold the stone up at the correct angle and then place the blade vertically against the stone. This will show you the correct angle to hold the blade on the stone. The average hunting/camping/survival knife is somewhere in between 22–30 degrees.
Step 2: Place the stone lengthways in front of you on something that won't slip, like a damp cloth or strip of rubber. Keeping the blade angle consistent against the stone is absolutely imperative now. Starting on the coarse side of the stone and working in steady strokes, push the knife along the whole length of the stone away from you while moving the blade sideways across the stone, from hilt to tip. Make one pass, then flip the knife over and repeat on the other side for one pass. Repeat this several times.
Step 3: Every few sets of passes, stop and check the blade edge (carefully) and clean any debris off the blade and stone. If you’re finding that the edge isn't coming up within about ten sets of passes, you’re more than likely altering your angle as you switch sides. The blade will be deadly sharp no matter what angle you use, so long as that angle is exactly the same on both sides.
Step 4: Once you've got a nice edge formed on the knife, flip your stone over to the fine side and repeat the process from steps two and three. Within a few minutes you should have a shaving sharp, perfectly beveled knife ready to go. Give everything a wipe down, shave a few hairs and call ‘er good.
AND THAT IS THAT... KINDA
Remember, knife sharpening is a bit of an art, so don't expect you’ll get it perfect straight
away. There are some great video tutorials online, so practice, practice and practice some more (just not on your expensive kitchen knives at first, eh?).