How to Sharpen Just About Anything


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There’s nothing worse than pulling out your knife only to find that the blade is dull — or even chipped. While this is a minor inconvenience, in a survival situation, it can be dangerous or even deadly. If you’re stuck with a dull blade, here are some tips and tricks to help you learn how to sharpen just about anything, no matter where you are.

What Do You Need to Sharpen?

What sort of things do you need to sharpen? That will depend on what tools you use regularly, but it could include:

  • Knives: Knives can run the gamut, from short to long to straight to curved. It doesn’t matter what your knife looks like or how long it is — it will eventually need to be sharpened.
  • Axes/Hatchets: These tools are useful for chopping wood, clearing brush or digging, in a pinch.
  • Machetes/Falchions/Kukri: Longer than standard knives, these can be used as weapons or for clearing brush.
  • Spears: If you’re in a survival situation, spears can be useful tools.
  • Saw Blades: It might be easier to replace the blades on a hacksaw or a sawmill, but if you can’t make it to the store, sharpening the blades could draw some more life out of those tools.

How to Sharpen at Home

Let’s start with how to sharpen your blades at home. Blades dull from everyday use — you don’t necessarily have to be in a survival situation to sharpen your knives.

You’ll need a whetstone or another sharpening stone and either a good grasp of geometry or a protractor. The angle you hold the blade will vary depending on what you are sharpening. Kitchen knives usually need to be held at around 20 degrees to be sharpened properly. Survival knives need a thicker edge — about 25 degrees — and machetes and other blades used for hacking need a 30-degree angle. Axes should also be filed at roughly 30 degrees.

Once you have your stone and your angle, you simply have to move the blade along the stone until you get a nice clean edge.

In a Survival Situation

So how are you supposed to sharpen your blades if you’re stranded out in the wilderness and your whetstone is at home?

There are plenty of things that you can use as a DIY whetstone that you can find just about anywhere. Any rock with a flat surface can be used as a whetstone. Just pour a little bit of water on it and go to town.

If you’re wearing a leather belt, it can be used as a makeshift strop — similar to how a barber sharpens his razor. It won’t hone your blade to a razor’s edge, but it can make it a bit of sharper if you don’t have anything else.

If you find a discarded ceramic coffee mug with a rough bottom, you can use that to sharpen your knife, too.

There are plenty of things that you can use to sharpen your knife, even if you don’t have a whetstone with you. There are also wearable whetstones you can keep on your belt if you would prefer to carry a stone with you.

Sharpening your knife is a good way to make sure it will be usable no matter what you need it for. Learning how to sharpen your knife means you will be able to stay safe no matter what happens.