How to Sharpen your Knives

A sharp hunting knife is one tool that a hunter must always have at his disposal. Sharp knives are more efficient, safer and fun to work. The sharper they are the less amount of pressure you need to complete the cutting process. There are a number of different sharpeners and techniques for sharpening knives. These includes whetstones, sharpening rods, pull-through sharpeners, electric sharpeners and the guided sharpening steel.

Most people prefer using the sharpening rods since they are always readily available and require less expertise. They are also the hunters favorites since they are easily portable hence they are a part of the hunting gear (read about the maintenance of hunting knives).

Sharpening techniques

The underlying principle here is grinding the blade against a hard rough surface at a certain angle. There is a common saying that iron sharpens iron. Regardless of the tool that is being used, there are three major universal steps involved namely sharpening, straightening and polishing.

  • Sharpening – The point here is to remove chunks of unwanted material from the blade. This is achieved by setting the blade at an angle between 20 to 30 degrees against the material being used for sharpening. The process will result in the blade tapering at the edges thus removing the dullness.
  • Straightening – This is done at yet a smaller angle of about 15 to 20 degrees. It aims at making the edges straight by removing some excess metal but not as much as in the first step.
  • Polishing – This is a finishing technique that gives the blade a mirror like smooth edge.

Users will need to decide which step to start with depending on how dull their knife is.


WhetstonesThese are used when wet, so first submerge them in water. They come in a set with different coarseness on the surface, the surface of the whetstone may also vary in texture. If you have a really damaged knife, it would be advisable that you use a coarse grit of 220 to cut away the unwanted parts.

The knife is held at an angle of 15 degrees and then the blade is moved to and fro across the body of the entire stone repeatedly, and then repeated on the other side. A medium stone has a grit of about 1500 and is the stone of choice for dull knives. Finish the process by pulling the blade a few times at the cutting angle to polish it.

Sharpening Rods

Sharpening RodsThese popularly use by butchers. The rods are made of steel and are intended to be used to maintain blades with a fine edge. They are not primarily used for sharpening very dull knives. The rod is held vertically with the tip on a support. Then the knife is held at an angle of 20-25 degrees. Start at the edge near the handle, swipe the knife smoothly towards yourself for about 5-7 times and repeat on the other side. Determine whether the required sharpness has been obtained and then wipe the knife with a wet towel to remove the metallic filings. Your knife should then be ready to use.

Pull Through Sharpeners

These are sharpening tools with preset V-shaped angles where one pulls the knife through to sharpen it. The slots are fixable and adjustable, thus they can be used with many different types of knives. They are one of the easiest alternative in event of a whetstone not being available. These sharpeners do not require much technique, however, they are used by the majority in their homes.

Electric Sharpeners

Electric SharpenersThese are electric powered sharpeners that have been designed to restore and recreate the angles on the edges of a knife. They have been made in a way to guide the knife in a certain position. Each has two preset systems that allows the user to realign and grind their knife with precision. These tools also incorporate the three universal sharpening steps. They are automated therefore they yield the same results regardless of who is operating it. These sharpeners are always fast, reliable and do not require technical skills. There use is curtailed by the need to have electricity, therefore they cannot be used out in the fields.

Guided Sharpening Steel

This is a system set for precision. It has a mechanism for holding the blade in place as the sharpening occurs.

There may be some inaccuracy that occurs while sharpening the edges. This method provides similar results repeatedly. This method is also much faster and provides results most amateurs can not produce using some of the other methods so if you are not very slick at sharpening this method is a good start.

In Conclusion

While certain knife sharpeners may not be portable it is important to always have your hunting knives sharpened at all times. Before you purchase a knife sharpener do your research on them and learn how each works that way you can have a great investment on one that will serve you for many years to come.