The following are some tips and advice on how to sharpen a dull knife and how to make a knife that’s already pretty sharp – even sharper.
Just about everyone has at least one knife. More than likely you have several knives or more, each of them them serving a range of uses and purposes.
The invariable issue that you will encounter is sharpening a dulled knife back to a very sharp edge. Until you have actually sharpened a knife the right way, you won’t know what you’re missing…
Here’s the simple secret how to sharpen a dull knife:
From knife maker James Whals of IHKnives.com
Every Knife maker has his own rules, and they are always and often debated. But mine works, it works anywhere, and costs very, very little.
My personal preference in knife sharpening is as follows.
High Carbon Steel Blade Easier To Sharpen
Carbon Steel Knife
First, I recommend to always choose a knife of high carbon steel.
1. It’s easy to sharpen anywhere (which means in the field and not some fancy shop like mine or a souped-up workshop).
2. Carbon Steel holds an edge better than stainless.
Take Care of your Knife
To keep your sharp knife sharp, take good care of it.
Keep it clean and oil it regularly. Olive oil is my preference because it’s cheap, very light weight and not gummy. You can put it in your mouth (which is key and can’t be done with most expensive gun/knife oils which always blows my mind).
To keep your sharp knife sharp, don’t bang it on anything harder than knife’s edge. Your main culprits in nature are bones and rocks.
How To Sharpen An Already Sharp Knife
First, lets talk about sharpening a knife that’s already fairly sharp.
Strop it every evening on a good old piece of leather after you have used it. This is the main reason I wear an old leather belt (keeps an already good edge razor sharp with very little effort).
Nothing keeps your knife edge sharper than a regular stropping and is a must have for anyone who uses and keeps their knife or straight razor sharp!
Stropping is a motion which pulls the cutting edge away from a substrate.
The direction of stropping strokes: drag the edge backwards over the strop. In other words, it’s a “trailing stroke” by pulling the knife edge rather than “leading strokes” (as you would with a stone or rod).
Use a light touch and maintain the angle of the knife edge.
Alternate sides with each stroke.
Optionally use Stropping Compound to further enhance results:
Extra Fine Buffing Compound
Important: Maintain the bevel angle while stropping (or any sharpening technique).
How To Sharpen A Dull Knife
Okay if you don’t have a sharp knife or if you have incurred some damage from hitting bones, rocks, or other, and need to reproduce a microscopic edge, then my only choice for knives is to use diamond and ceramic sharpening rods.
Diamond & Ceramic Rods
A rod works better in my opinion due to the fact that every blade has a different degree of bevel or angle. The rod allows you to let the edge guide you while keeping the rest of the knife away from the sharpening device.
The diamond rod is for a knife blade with serious damage or very dulled blade.
The ceramic rod is for “freshening up” a dull-ish blade. I keep one on my bench as well as in the kitchen and field pack.
I keep these two rods in my pant pocket at all times when in the field. Primarily the tactical rod. The ceramic is actually just a rod.
Here are some recommendations for knife sharpening rods:
Diamond Rod Tip
From a reader here on the blog:
“One word of caution you might want to add regarding diamond hones and grease — NO!. Yep, that’s the word. Make sure you don’t have a coating of grease, oil, or fat on the knife before you attempt to use a diamond surface for honing or sharpening. Those materials will stick to the diamond surface and seriously reduce its effectiveness.”
[Ken adds: ] I measured the angle of the built-in tungsten-carbide blades (24-degrees /side). Although James didn’t mention it, the use of these blades should be reserved for a severely damaged knife edge.
So, what’s the secret to sharpen a dull knife?
1. Diamond Rod
2. Ceramic Rod
3. Then strop on the leather for a razors edge.
James said, “Hope that helps. It’s one of my favorite questions and I get it all the time and from folks stopping by for sharpening lessons.”
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