The Best Way to Sharpen a Pocket Knife

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A good outdoorsman always carries his own pocketknife, whether it is for cutting rope, cooking meals or a peaceful whittling hobby. Over time, the blade will eventually dull with repeated use. It makes sense to have a working knowledge of basic sharpening techniques to keep your knife in top condition. Avoid the cost of taking it to a professional and sharpen your trusty pocketknife at home with just a few handy tools.

Buy or rent a sharpening stone, also known as a whetstone, at your local hardware store. Choose a stone that has rough grit on one side and fine grit on the other, because rough grit sharpens the knife and fine grit hones the blade.

Lubricate the rough side of the stone, using a mineral oil-based sharpening lubricant. Many of the same hardware stores that carry whetstones sell this lubricant, which is useful for reducing the heat caused by friction on your blade. It also keeps the stone free of debris as you sharpen.

Raise the knife at a 15-degree angle from the surface of the stone. The degree at which you hold the knife determines its sharpness, so you can adjust the angle of the knife to suit your own needs. Hold the knife steadily at this angle, since tilting it during sharpening damages the blade.

Press moderately on the surface of the stone and run the blade against it at a constant angle. Move the blade toward you or away from you; this is simply a matter of personal preference.

Press moderately on the surface of the stone again, but this time, use the other side of the blade. Run each side of the blade over the stone between 6 and 12 times, depending on your desired sharpness.

Flip your stone to the side with finer grit, to begin the finer-grit honing process. Press the blade against the fine side of the stone, using moderate pressure once again. Run each side of the blade over the stone 6 to 12 times.

Test the sharpness of your knife by carefully running the blade over the hair on your arm. A razor-sharp edge will act like a razor blade and remove the hair. Hold the edge of the blade up to the light to check for a glint, or reflection; this indicates that your blade is still dull.


  • Exercise caution when handling sharp objects like knives.


  • Determine which side of the stone has rough grit or fine grit, by running your finger over both surfaces of the stone. If you still cannot tell the difference, pour some water on each side. The surface which sucks the water up faster is the rough grit side.
  • Use a wet wheel machine, if you find it too difficult to hold the angle of the knife steady, or if you have many pocketknives to sharpen. These machines are more precise, because you can mechanically set the angle of the blade.


About the Author

Claire Moorman has been writing since 2007. Her work has appeared in several newspapers such as the "Bedford Times-Mail" in Bedford, Ind., and "Nuvo Newsweekly." She served for two years as a reporter and assistant copy editor for "The Franklin," her college newspaper. Moorman is pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in journalism and English from Franklin College.

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