Are you having problems with your outdoor knives wearing out and becoming dull? Do you find it hard to sharpen them once again?
If the answer to these questions is yes, you probably need to read through this article because you’ll find some super-useful tricks that will help you sharpen your knife up perfectly every time when you need to go to the great outdoors.
With that said, you’ll still need to put some time and effort into the process because it requires skill. The best thing you should do is to start with some cheap knives you don’t care about and move on to your prized piece once you get a hold of things. Here are the essential tips you need to keep your outdoor knives sharp as a razor.
KNOW THE ANGLE OF YOUR BLADE
You can’t sharpen a blade correctly without getting the right angle, and to do that, you need to know the angle of your blade. Here are the basic guidelines for most outdoor blades:
- Hunting knives, survival knives, pocket knives: 25-30 degrees
- Boning knives, kitchen knives and other small knives: 18-25 degrees
- Machetes: 30-35 degrees
- Razors: 12-18 degrees
USE A WHETSTONE FIRST
The sharpening stone is probably as old as the blade. It is a tool used for sharpening and shaping knives since the dark ages and even before that. Ceramic and diamond stones are excellent for the job, but it is better that you start on a whetstone if you are a beginner.
The diamond and ceramic stones are really rough, and they remove more material from the blade. They are used by craftsmen with plenty of experience. Those people have a steady hand and know every angle needed for sharpening your quality hunting knife.
Compared to the other types, whetstone gives you plenty of room for error, making it great for beginners. Just remember one thing: don’t use a power-driven grinding wheel for the sharpening of your outdoor knife! It works well with standard kitchen and chef knives, but it will burn the temper off the blade you need the most. There are also ways to sharpen your survival knives without a stone which you can read in our other article.
PREPARATION IS KEY
Before you decide on using a whetstone, you need to prep it first. This is what you have to do:
- Clean the stone from residue: The metal shavings and the oil can make your sharpening stone dirty, and that can affect the sharpening process. Make sure you clean the stone with some hot water. Scrub it down with a brush until everything is nice and clean.
- Wet it up: The name Whetstone is there for a reason – the stone has to be soaked in water to work. Five minutes of soaking with a hose or a bucket should be enough.
- Make sure it’s stable: The whetstone can slide around while you are using it. You can either build a holder that keeps it in place, or you can just throw a rag underneath to keep it in place.
- Add some oil: Pouring water onto the stone is one thing, but you also need to add some oil. Oil will lower the heat produced by friction, and it will also keep the metal shavings away from the work area. You need only a teaspoon of oil and you’re good to go.
THE SHARPIE TRICK
This trick is as simple as they come, but it’s also very useful and it will help you sharpen your blade in no time.
All you have to do is draw a line over the bevel of the knife with a marker or a sharpie.
When that’s done, stroke the knife over the stone a couple of times. If you held it at the right angle, the sharpie you drew on the blade should be gone. If it’s still there, you didn’t hold the angle well enough.
If you still see the markings on the knife’s bottom but not on the top side, the angle is too flat – increase it.
If it’s the other way around, you need to lower the angle to get the job done. See? Simple!
USE THE RIGHT GRIT FOR THE JOB
Most knife enthusiasts think that they need to start with the coarser grit first and progress to the finer grit after, but that’s not always true. Here is what you should do:
- If your knife is made out of softer metal – it will wear done faster. If that’s the case, you should definitely start with a coarse grit and work your way to finer grits. If you leave the edge rough, it will wear down in no time.
- Harder knives are more durable, so they wear down slower. If you have one of these knives, a fine or medium grit should get it right.
WHEN IS THE TIME TO SWITCH TO A FINER GRINDING STONE?
If you want to start with the coarser grit, you should know that it could take too much material off your knife, and that’s never good. But how do you know when to progress to a finer grit? Look at the burr.
When you sharpen the blade on one side, the material will build upon the other edge. That’s what we call a burr, and you can see it when working with the coarse grit. The finer the grit – the harder it is to spot the burr. That’s why many professional sharpeners work with magnifying glasses.
Even if the burr is hard to spot, you can feel it under your fingers. Just don’t run the finger down the blade because you’ll cut yourself. Run it from the spine to the edge of the knife to check your progress. When you can’t see or feel the burr, it’s time you move to a finer grindstone.
COUNT THE STROKES
Knife lovers can’t come to the exact number of strokes you should make when sharpening a knife, but most experts say that you need at least five strokes on every side. If you want to sharpen hunting knife that’s dull, you will need to make up to 15 strokes on every side.
However, the one thing that knife experts do agree on is that you should make the same number of strokes on each side. Otherwise, you might end up taking too much material from one side and not enough from the other.
ALWAYS SHARPEN YOUR KNIFE BEFORE IT GETS DULL
This one is a no-brainer. The duller your fixed blade knife is – the harder it will be to sharpen it. Not only that, dull knives are much harder to work with which makes them dangerous. That’s why you should sharpen your outdoor knives every time before using them.