How to sharpen a pocket knife

Sharpening a knife

For those that enjoy the great outdoors and do not want to carry around a heavy survival knife or are looking for something more convenient, a pocket knife is always the best choice.

A pocket knife can be handy for various other things from helping you with things like slicing fruits and vegetables and gutting fish to opening letters, whittling and much more. But, to get the many benefits that come with a pocket knife or to keep yours useful, it needs to remain sharp. And this means you need to resharpen it regularly.

Sharpening a pocket knife is an easy task that anyone can do, and all it takes is to have the right tools and know what to do.

In this piece, we explain the important things that you will need to sharpen your pocket knife and the easy steps to follow.

What you Need and their Uses

Most people that have enough experience with sharpening pocket knives and other kinds of knives will have their own unique ways and tools of doing it.

But whether you are a beginner or pro knife sharpener, in most instances you will basically need just two things which are a sharpening stone and lubricant. Each of the two has a crucial role to play in the process.

Sharpening Stone

A sharpening stone or whet stone

The sharpening stone is what will do the actual sharpening. But, just as there are several styles or methods of sharpening pocket knives, there are also numerous types of sharpening stones. And they include traditional Japanese water stones to several others with different grit grades.
Your choice of sharpening stone will depend on your preferences and sharpening style, but it is always a great idea to try out a few to find the perfect one that will provide the desired results.

For the pros that want to sharpen high-quality and expensive pocket knives, a cheap stone will not work well but for beginners, it makes more sense not to get too fancy with your choice.

Also, go for a sharpening stone with two sides which are a fine grit side and a rough grit one. And this is because proper sharpening requires you to start on rough grit and give the knife a finer and sharper finish on the fine grit.



Although it is possible to sharpen a pocket knife on the stone without a lubricant, it is always recommended to lubricate it. Lubrication minimizes the heat from the friction caused by the sharpening action as it can cause
the blade to warp. Also, by lubricating the stone, you can remove tiny particles and rubble that will be created when sharpening as they can make it hard to get a fine edge.

Sharpening lubricant will come in various forms from regular tap water to mineral oil. Your choice of lubricant will depend on your preferences and availability. But also note that some types of sharpening stones will not require any lubrication, and so it is important to read instructions.

Step by Step Pocket Knife Sharpening Instructions

Now that you know what you need to sharpen your pocket knife, the other more important step is to understand what you need to do. Although there are different styles of sharpening pocket knives, the following are the basic steps that you need to follow.

Step #1: Examine the Blade

The first step and what many people often overlook or forget is examining the condition of the blade. It is crucial to always take time to check the blade thoroughly before you start sharpening.
By examining the blade you are able to know its exact condition and hence determine what you will need to do to get the best edge.
For example, if the blade is very dull, it will be important to start sharpening it on the rough grit side, but if it is still sharp and only want to make it better you can go directly to the fine grit side.

Step #2: Prepare the Sharpening Stone

Once you determine how dull the blade is and know which side of the stone to use, the next step is to prepare the sharpening stone for the job.
Preparation will mostly involve lubricating the stone. Because in most cases the rough grit side is what you will use first, you should start by applying a generous amount of oil on it. The stone does not have to be completely drenched in the mineral oil, but just make sure you have enough before you start sharpening.

Additionally, for those that are using new sharpening stones, it is important to wait a few minutes to see whether it will absorb the oil, and if so, you need to add apply more oil.

Step #3: Place the Knife at the Correct Sharpening Angle

This step can be a little daunting at first for beginners, but it only takes some practice to master. To choose the proper sharpening angle you will need to raise the blade over the stone at an angle of 10 to 15 degrees.
If you are having a hard time choosing and maintaining this angle, it will be a great idea to use a sharpening guide as it makes things easier. And the good news is that the guides are cheap and widely available.

Step #4: Start Sharpening

Once you have the blade at the ideal angle, you can now start sharpening. To do this you need to swipe down like you are carving off a slim piece from the surface of the sharpening stone. There are also different ways of sharpening the blade as some people will prefer to bring their
blade into the stones while for others stroking it away from the stone works best. Both styles work well, and so it is all a matter of what you prefer. Also, if your blade is longer than your stone or is curved, you will need to sweep it sideways to ensure the entire edge is sharpened uniformly. And make sure that you count the number of strokes as it is recommended to make the same number of stokes on both sides of the blade.

Step #5: Alternate Sides

Now you can flip the blade to the other side and repeat step #4 above on the new side, and try to make the same number of stroke for a more even edge.

Step #6: Use Fine Grit Side

After sharpening both sides of the blade on the rough grit side, you should now flip the stone to the fine grit side to finish it off with a finer edge. Here you should start by applying a generous amount of mineral oil or water depending on the type of lubricant you are using before you start sharpening. For the actual sharpening, you will only need to do the same thing you did when using the rough grit side. But, you can also take alternating strokes which means sharpening one side and then the other successively.

Once this is done, your knife should be now sharp enough and you only need to use a towel or dishcloth to wipe it clean and it will be ready for use.


A sharp pocket knife is a handy tool that will be highly useful both at home and when outdoors, camping, hiking, fishing and doing any other of your favorite activities.

But, like with any other type of knife, it will lose its edge as you continue to use it, but a simple sharpening process is all it takes to keep it sharp. All you will need is a good sharpening stone and mineral oil or water for lubrication, and if you follow our easy steps above, your knife should be sharp and ready to use in no time. Lastly, remember to handle the knife carefully when both dull and after sharpening to prevent accidents.

About the author

Ashley is Editor of Outdoor Gear Today, a popular blog about outdoor gear like knife, flashlight, archery, fishing,…

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