The following are some tips and advice on how to sharpen a dull knife and how to sharpen a knife that’s already pretty sharp – from knifemaker James Wahls.
Every prepper 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 knife in a way that will end up with 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…
From James Whals of IHKnives.com
Every Knifemaker 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.
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.
How To Sharpen An Already Sharp Knife
Preferably you want to start with an already sharp knife. To keep your sharp knife sharp, take good care of it, which means 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).
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).
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 (straight razors are a whole different story) is to use diamond and ceramic sharpening rods.
A rod works better in my opinion due to the fact that every blade has a different degree of bevel or angle, and the rod allows you to let the edge guide you while keeping the rest of the knife away from the sharpening device.
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.
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.
Then strop on the leather for a razors edge.
Here is a link to the best on the market and they cost (together under $30)
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.
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.”