How to Sharpen a Pocket Knife – From Dull to Razor Sharp

Pocket knives are important tactical gear that every camper or person spending some time outdoors should have. They come in handy in plenty of situations such as hunting, cutting rope and wire, when you’re defending yourself from attackers, fishing, mapping, and digging.

Their slick design as well as convenient weight makes carrying and handling them easier. Upon purchase, an ideal stainless steel pocket knife can slice through almost anything. With time, however, the blade gets blunt and needs sharpening.

Instead of wasting dough on a new knife, why not sharpen the one you have? With the right method and tools, you can get the job done in a matter of minutes. Here’s what you’ll need to get your precious possession ready for use again:


Lubricant can either be oil or water. Experts agree that lubricants make the sharpening process easier. They are crucial for clearing out swarf that accumulates as you grind the blade.

They also lower heat from the friction caused during sharpening, which is great since excess heat can bend the blade. Depending on the stone you use, however, you may not need the good old mineral oil.


Also called sharpening stones, these babies come in a variety of shapes and sizes and have various grades of grit. As such, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach. Try out as many as you can and see which fits your knife.

Many basic stones have a several sides: A fine grit and rough grit. Sharpening starts on the rough grit and is finished on the finer side.

Now that you’ve got the tools, sharpening the knife will be a breeze for you. Check out these top pointers to get the best results:

1. Rub the Blade on the Rough Grit

The rough grit side on the stone is the side that feels, well, rough. If you’ve got a stone that you can easily tell which is the rough side, the better! However, if it’s not as straightforward, just scratch your thumbnail on both sides.

The side with a certain amount of resistance is the ideal one to kick things off with. Start rubbing the blade gently against the surface and once you get the hang of it, increase your speed gradually. Be sure not to go too fast to avoid damaging the blade.

2. Get the Stone Ready

The type of stone you use determines the final result you’ll get. Depending on the stone you use, you may need lubricant to make sharpening more effective. If the stone needs some oil, pour just the right amount on its surface.

You could also dust the stone up or wipe it to remove any loose particles on it and increase its sharpening power.

3. Maintain the Right Angle

This is the most important part of the sharpening exercise. Before going any further, it’s important to note that various knives have a different ideal sharpening angle. Creativity may not come into play here. Ideally, the right angle is 10 to 15 degrees.

One way to get the right angle is through sharpening by hand. It’s been used since time immemorial. And, it’s cheaper. The downside is, it takes practice. Getting the right angle requires that you keep your hand fixed throughout the procedure.

Sound like a hassle? With $10 or less, you can change that by getting a sharpening guide. With one, all you have to do is press the blade close to the guide and sharpen away- with a reasonable amount of force. Piece of cake.

4. Repeat on the Opposite Side

It may be difficult to determine if you’ve sharpened one side sufficiently. The giveaway is if you sharpen until you raise a burr. A burr happens when one bevel is ground until it comes into contact with another. Realize that the bevel is weak, so ensure that it doesn’t come into contact with the edge of your knife.

Another easy way to know that you’ve sharpened one side enough is if it has a highlight along the edge. To see the highlight more clearly, hold your edge up to a bright light and look closely. Upon further inspection, you’ll realize that the alternate side does not have this highlight.

5. Perform Strokes on Both Sides in an Alternate Manner

At this point, you’re almost done. Both sides are fresh from sharpening but they need some strengthening so the sharpness can stick. Take both sides through another round of grinding on the rough grit-end. 10 strokes as you change the side on each stroke should do the trick.

While stroking, be careful not to cut yourself accidentally. Maintain a slow stroking pace so alternating is easy and safe. It wouldn’t hurt to keep a mental record of the number of times you stroke so you can get a balanced number.

As you get used to the process, rubbing will come naturally. You won’t even have to keep track anymore.

6. Repeat on the Fine Grit Side

Consider this as a cleanup process. The blade of your pocket knife has some burr from the constant brushing on the opposite end. Stroking your blade on the fine side basically gets rid of the burr. It also helps in keeping the blade strong.

Stroke both sides individually on the fine grit end then rub them in an alternating way on the same side. Some people prefer to put on gloves as they stroke their knives to keep the burr away from their hands. If you’re not one of them, ensure that you wash your hands at this point.

One More Thing

And you’re done! Great job. You may want to test the final product to see how well you’ve done. Get some pieces of, preferably paper, and cut them. As you do, observe how easily the knife slices across them.

The sharpening equipment will be useful during the next sharpening session, so clean your stone properly to keep it from rusting and store it in the right place along with the lubricant.

You now have the sharpening power in your hands. Feel free to practice to fully grasp the concept. If you haven’t gotten it right, don’t fret. There’s plenty of room to keep trying. Enjoy using your knife and please make safety a top priority as you enjoy the fruits of your effort. All the best!

About the Author

I'm Rodney Heaton and I love hunting in the wild. In the past, I was in the military for over 5 years. After that I became a licensed hunter and a mountain guide.