February Skill of the Month: Sharpening Knives
By RightWingMom, our Skill of the Month editor
Whether you depend on the newest sharpening gadget or have learned how to use a whetstone, keeping your blades sharp will benefit you now and in a post collapse world. Of course, if a dull blade slips and cuts you, you can always practice another skill….basic first aid!
There are as many knife sharpening tools out there as opinions. Here are a few we’ve used:
Tools and Gadgets:
My father’s choice of gadgets was a tool similar to AccuSharp001. It’s inexpensive and easy to use and only features one sharpening stone. Simply place your knife, sharp side up, and carefully slide the tool from the hilt to the tip. A few strokes and you’re finished.
A tool we’ve been using lately is the Sharp N Easy. It is also inexpensive and features two sharpening stones; coarse and fine. This tool is placed on a flat surface, coarse side up. Run your blade, hilt to tip, across it until the blade feels smooth. Flip the tool to the fine side and repeat.
We’ve used this tool on everything from pocket knives to kitchen knives and have been pleased with the results.
For serrated knives we’ve found the Smith’s PP1 Pocket Pal. It has both coarse and fine ceramic stones for flat blades. It also has a diamond rod that can sharpen a serrated blade.
Here’s how to sharpen a serrated blade:
1. Hold the sharpener with one hand and your knife in the other
2. Insert the tapered diamond rod fully into the serration at the desired sharpening angle. Smith’s recommends a 23 degree sharpening angle for best results.
3. Move the tapered rod back and forth through the serration until sharp. Repeat for each serration.
4. Put the finished edge on your serrations by pulling the serrated part of your blade through the ceramic slot.
Sharp N Easy and Smith’s PP1 Pocket Pal are small enough to pack in your emergency kit or bug out bag. Some people argue against knife sharpening tools, saying they take off too much of the knife blade and that the angle is too blunt. This causes you to need to sharpen more often. Therefore, let’s look at the old school technique!
As with sharpening tools, whetstones come in a large variety of choices and price ranges. They can be natural or man-made. Natural stones use oil as a lubricant, usually provided by the manufacturer. These can be difficult to learn to master. Man-made stones use water as a lubricant and are considered easier to master.
Stones come in various grades, also called grits. Rough grit up to #600 is used for repairing small chips in the blade. A medium grit ranges from #1000 to #2000 and is used mainly for restoring the blade. A fine grit of #3000 or above is used for finishing the blade and provides a very sharp edge. The finer the grit the more dense the stone and the sharper the finish will be on your blade. Stones can be purchased with a single grit, two grits, or you can buy kits with multiple stones of varying grits. Choose the stones and grits that best fit your need.
What You Need:
- Pan of water
- Non-slip surface
- A dull knife
- Sharpening steel (also known as knife steel or honing steel)
Basic steps using natural whetstone:
- Soak the stone in water for 5 minutes. Check with your manufacturer, some stones soak longer.
- Place it on a cutting board or countertop on a non-slip surface, such as a dish towel, with the coarse grit face up.
- Hold the knife by the handle and place the edge, point-first, against the stone. The cutting edge should rest against the stone at an angle between 20 and 22 degrees. You can place your hand on the other side of the blade to keep it steady.
- Using medium pressure, slide the blade forward and across the whetstone. It must cover the entire length of the blade. Don’t forget to keep the entire blade at the 20 to 22 degree angle.
- Do this several times on one side, then flip the knife over and give the other side the same number of strokes until the blade feels smooth.
- Flip the stone over to the fine grit side and repeat.
- Finish by using a sharpening steel to hone the blade, then rinse and wipe the blade dry to remove any metal particles. A honing tool is used to maintain a sharp edge, not to sharpen the blade.
Do your homework. Whetstones come in several grits and price ranges. Make sure you purchase a man-made stone if you want to lubricate with water and natural if you don’t mind stockpiling extra oil. Here are a few that caught my eye.
- Shun 300 – 1000 grit Whetstone (uses water)
- Woodstock Steele 1000 Grit and 6000 Grit (uses water)
- Smith’s TRI-6 Arkansas TRI-HONE Sharpening Stones System (uses oil)
Finally, we wouldn’t be Survival Mom’s if we didn’t check out Bear Grylls’ knife sharpening technique!
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