How to Sharpen a Knife (in 9 Easy Steps)

James Lynch
Photo credit: Getty Images

From Popular Mechanics

When cutting that piece of rope, ripping open a box, or even just whittling some wood become a difficulty, it's time to sharpen your knife. If you’re carrying a knife every day, you want it to be as useful as possible, so keep it sharp.

And as an added benefit, a sharp knife is actually safer than a dull knife. According to the University of Rochester Medical Center, “A dull blade is actually more dangerous to use than one that is sharp. Here's why: A dull blade requires more pressure to cut, increasing the chance that the knife will slip with great force behind it. A sharp knife 'bites' the surface more readily.”

So not only will you have a more effective tool, it’ll be safer, too. Here's how to do it.

Step 1: Get a Whetstone

There are a slew of gadgets out to sharpen knives, and some work great, but we love the dependability, and portability of a classic whetstone. We like the Sharp Pebble.

Step 2: Clean Your Knife

Carefully remove the dirt, oil, and grime from your blade. Not only will it make for a cleaner edge, it’ll make sure that you have the best grip possible on your blade.

Step 3: Lubricate Your Whetstone

Start with the coarser side before finishing with the finer side. A small splash of water or a few drops of oil, like mineral oil, are all you need to help get the metal bits you shave off your knife edge away from your sharpening surface.

Step 4: Master the Grip

Photo credit: Getty Images

Hold your whetstone like you are going to whittle it, and put your blade edge at about a 30 degree angle to the stone.

Step 5: Master the Motion

While applying constant and even pressure, push the blade away from you down the whetstone using a semi-circle motion from the right side of the stone closest to you to the right side of the stone farthest away. Move the contact point of stone and blade from the heel to the tip. Repeat.

💡 In a pinch you can slightly sharpen your knife by drawing it towards you, with the knife at a 30 degree angle, across the unfinished bottom of a ceramic coffee mug.

Step 6: Check Your Progress

Run your thumbnail down the blade carefully feeling for any rough areas. A dull knife edge will reflect light and look shiny. As it gets sharper, it won’t shine

Step 7: Sharpen the Opposite Side

Hold the whetstone the same way and roll the knife over so you are pulling it towards you. Keep the 30 degree angle and use the same semi circle motion. Do the same number of strokes on each side.

Step 8: Check Your Progress (Again)

If both sides of the knife are sharp, flip the whetstone over, lubricate the fine side, and repeat the process to finish sharpening your knife.

Step 9: The Paper Test

If your blade can easily pass through a piece of paper, you're done. Wipe off your whetstone and clean your knife.

See how to do it here with some handy knife work by trusted pocket knife users, the Boy Scouts of America:

If you don't want to practice using a whetstone, consider a gadget like a two stage knife sharpener. You won't have the control or precision, but you can quickly get an edge back on a knife.

Simply draw your knife through the coarse side until it passes sharpness tests, then finish on the fine side.


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