How to Sharpen Your Knife

Not only is keeping a sharp edge on your knife’s blade important for the overall function of the knife, but it’s also important for your own protection as well. Applying force on a dull blade can lead to some serious injuries, and in a survival situation especially, an injury is the last thing that you want because even if you manage to successfully treat it, an infection could still set in and that’s a game changer in any survival situation.

In this article, we will teach you how to sharpen your knife with only a whetstone. A sharpening stone of some kind belongs in any survival kit so that you can pull it out and sharpen your knife whenever you need to.

These Steps Will Help You To Get It Right:

Know What Angle You Will Sharpen Your Knife At

  • You can never start to sharpen a knife without first choosing the angle that you will sharpen it at. Generally speaking, you’ll want to sharpen your knife from the same angle that you’ve sharpened it already. If you sharpen it at a new angle, it will be a far more time consuming process.
  • If this is your first time sharpening your knife and don’t know the angle that you need to sharpen it at, you should read the directions that come with the knife or contact the manufacturer to ask what angle is best for sharpening your knife.
  • If this your first time sharpening your knife and you don’t have the means to contact a manufacturer because you’re in a survival situation, then a good rule of thumb is to sharpen it anywhere from ten to thirty degrees on either side. The shallower the angle, the sharper the knife will be but the lesser amount of time it will hold an edge, while an angle that is steeper won’t be as sharp but will also be more durable. An angle of twenty degrees would be a good compromise between a shallow and a steeper angle.
  • One way that you can test whether the knife is being sharpened at your desired angle is to mark the very tips of your blade, on both sides, with either a sharpie or a marker and then to see if it is removed while being sharpened. If it is, then it means that the knife is being sharpened properly.

Lubricate the Whetstone

  • Once you’ve selected the angle that you will sharpen your blade at, it’s time to lubricate the whetstone. The best way to lubricate the whetstone is by using a small dab of mineral oil. The purpose of lubricating the whetstone is so that it is easier to sharpen the knife. Your whetstone should have come with directions from the manufacturer as to the best kind of oil to use and how much of it to apply.


  • If you’re in a survival situation and don’t have any mineral oil with you, it is perfectly possible to sharpen your knife using a whetstone that has not been lubricated, but the actual sharpening process will likely be grittier as the blade will not pass over the whetstone as easily.

Grinding the Knife

  • Right before sharpening your knife, you will want to identify the grit that is on your whetstone. Most whetstones will have a different kind of grit on either side. The grit on one side will be quite rough, which is designed to grind the knife, while the grit on the other side will be finer and designed to hone the knife. Grinding comes first, so always begin sharpening your knife on the rough side.
  • Drag the knife across the whetstone, on the rough grit side, and in the opposing direction of where you would otherwise move the knife to slice the layer of stone. This action will increase the life of the whetstone.
  • You will want to continue this process of grinding the knife until the grind has gone around halfway through your steel.
  • Next, simple repeat this process with the other side of the knife. Again, use the rough grit side of the whetstone. Once this process is complete, you will begin to see a new edge forming on the knife. Even if you don’t see this edge, you will physically feel it by running your thumb or finger along the edge of the knife. However, the sharpening process is not over yet. We still have to hone the edge of the blade


Honing the Blade

  • The next step is to hone the blade and this will require you to flip the whetstone over to use the finer grit side. While an edge has already been created on your knife by the grinding process, the honing process is meant to smooth this edge and to make the blade even sharper.
  • Begin sharpening your knife on the finer grit part of the stone, just as you did with the coarse side, and then flip the knife over and complete this process again with the other side of the blade. It’s imperative that both sides of the knife are honed, or else the edge will not be completely smoothed. When honing the knife, you will want to run it along the fine grit side in one, long stroke at a time rather than a rapid series of small strokes.

With the steps that you have learned in this article, you can easily sharpen your knife to your desired sharpness level.  Remember that a knife with a dull blade not only won’t do you much good, but it can also be dangerous and inflict an open wound on you if it slips.  Fortunately, a sharpened knife will complete any task you need it to and reduce the chances of an injury happening.  Always keep a whetstone or sharpening stone as part of your survival kit so that you can sharpen your knife when lost out in the wilderness.

Dave Steen

About The Author: Dave is a 58 year old survivalist; father of three; with over 40 years of survival experience. He started young, learning survival the hard way, in the school of hard knocks. Now, after years of study, he's gray-haired and slightly overweight. That hasn't dimmed his interest in survival though. If anything, Dave has a greater commitment to survival than ever, so that he can protect his family. Click Here To Read More About Dave

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