How to Sharpen a Pocket Knife Using Sharpening Stones

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A pocket knife is a handy tool that you can use for different purposes in the outdoors as well as indoors if you do not have a survival knife. There is a difference between having a pocket knife and an ideal pocket knife. This difference is in terms of how sharp the blade is!

It is said that a dull pocket knife is more unsafe than a sharp one. Although all knives carry a risk factor, this adage also is undeniable. A sharp knife is not that risky if you are not fooling around. However, a dull knife takes no time in harming you.

A dull pocket knife is not user-friendly; it has an uneven edge and needs too much force. A dull blade is infamous for its non-smooth glide, as it is likely to snag and get stuck in whatever you are cutting.

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In this situation, knife users typically press and push harder, which may lead to nicks and slips. Thus, it is essential to keep a pocket knife sharp regardless of whether you use it daily or occasionally. So, how do you sharpen a pocket knife?

Well, those who are experienced know how to do so in their own unique way, as it is what works smoothly for them. Yes, you understood it right; there is more than one way to sharpen a pocket knife. One of them is the beginner’s choice, while the other requires an advanced skill.

Sharpening a pocket knife is not that tough. Just do not get discouraged if you do not end up doing right for the initial five to six times. It is a skill that needs practice and attention. However, full focus and no rush can make you a sharpening pro in no time. This guide aims to make you so while using a sharpening stone! So, read on…

How Dull Is Your Pocket Knife?

If you think that your pocket knife is still sharp and is fine enough to work without sharpening, do test it! A sharp knife performs better and is safer than a dull one. So, as a test, cut a ripe tomato. It the cut is not happening or is taking much time only to make this easy task quite hard; it indicates that the edge is dull and needs sharpening.

Another way to test is to make the edge face the bright light beam like that of a lamp or sun. If it is dull, it will reflect it. The simplest test for checking the dullness is to touch the edge with a nail. If blunt, the edge will glide effortlessly.

What Kind of Tools Are Required for Sharpening a Pocket Knife?

When it comes to how to sharpen a pocket knife, it suffices to have just two tools namely, a sharpening stone and an oil or a lubricant. If you start looking for a sharpening stone, you will come across the different varieties of these stones. This can certainly confuse you.

To overcome this confusion, you need to know the basics of these stone varieties. Keeping this in mind, here are the details of these stones along with lubricants in use. This will help you make an informed decision.

Sharpening Stones

Popularly known as whetstones, sharpening stones are sold in a variety of styles. A few of them come with two sides with various grit levels. Mostly, there is a smoother side and a rough side. Some sharpening stones are of high-end quality, whose surface comes coated with diamond dust. A few other high-end stones are termed as Japanese water stones. These stones work with water rather than a honing oil.

For trying to sharpen a high-end knife, it is unwise to invest in the cheapest sharpening stone. This is because these stones are typically made using low-quality materials that are likely to harm the blade.

It is true that sharpening stones are costly but investing in a high-end product may not be the solution either. If you are about to sharpen a pocket knife for the first time, a basic sharpening stone is undoubtedly a wise choice.

For beginners, such good stones are available at affordable rates. Once they learn to sharpen their pocket knives properly, it is wise for them to try out costlier stones to know their functionality and performance. Until then, a basic stone is ideal for pocket knife honing. Here are the different types of stones to consider:

  • Oil: Are the typical stones usually found in sheds of your ancestors as well as at most hardware stores. Oil stones are ideal for giving you the originally sharp edge. They are, however, not for older pocket knives having too dull blades. This is because these stones are likely to take a few more hours in restoring the desired edge sharpness. The reason for this time-consuming task is the stone’s finer grit.

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  • Diamond: Are perfect for obtaining a razor-sharp blade edge. Many diamond stones are affordable and are likely to last for life. Diamond dust implanted on the blade is considered ideal for sharpening several times.

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  • Ceramic: Are only recommended for use by those who have lots of experience in sharpening knives. If you are a beginner, it is essential for you to be careful. This is because the ceramic quality plays a big role in how nicely the stone will do the sharpening job. If too hard, the stone is ineffective and end up glazing. Similarly, if too soft, the stone is likely to wear out fast due to which you will be replacing it sooner than expected. Even the care and maintenance that ceramic stones require are significant. For obtaining a distinctly sharp edge with a ceramic stone, experience and proper process are indispensable.

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  • Natural: Are perhaps the best sharpening stones for pocket knives. However, they are also the costliest ones to have. Originally mined on the land of the rising sun, these stones are known for rendering a lasting edge to a pocket knife. All credit for this goes to the random grits present in these stones. However, with only a few mines left in Japan, the natural stones for sharpening knives are available in limited quantities and with increasing prices.

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  • Synthetic: Are gaining much popularity at present. This is because they have the right blend of design and materials to give you a sharp edge on your pocket knife without any hassle. Yes, these stones are easy to use for sharpening. A few of them need a bit of lubrication; whereas the rest of them need soaking for some time prior to use. Synthetic stones for sharpening are perfect for sharpening western style knives.

So, how do you know which is the right stone for you? Well, this can be somewhat overwhelming for you, especially if you are doing so for the first time. To choose the most suitable sharpening stone without being overwhelmed, here are some guidelines for you to follow:

  • Go with a stone that comes with a minimum of two grit levels, one being smoother and one being rough. The rougher grit is required for sharpening a very dull blade, while the smoother or finer one is required for ensuring a good edge.
  • Consider the pocket knife size for choosing the most suitable sharpening stone in terms of size. If your pocket knives are small, stones that are 3-inch, 4-inch, and 6-inch long are just ideal for sharpening. For larger knives, a bigger sharpening stone is required. For example, you should go with an 8-inch stone.

Finally, consider buying a sharpening stone as per the purpose and budget in mind. For a pocket knife that you will be using every day, a quality stone is what you should choose. However, do not spend lavishly on good stones if your budget is restricted. Do not buy a stone for sharpening a knife that you will be using occasionally.

Once you master the art of sharpening knives, you can easily identify the right type of stone. However, until that, the stone you should choose is dependent on your preference and the knife’s function. Trying the various stones is the only option to know the most suitable one for your pocket knives.

Lubricant/Honing Oil

While running a blade along the length of the stone, the metal flakes are likely to gather on the stone at the time of sharpening. This makes the stone less effective. Lubrication is required here to keep blockage with grit and filings at bay. It also reduces the heat generated by the friction while rubbing the blade.

Honing oil is a lubricant required for sharpening the dull edge of your pocket knife such that no harm occurs to the blade. While a few consider water as a lubricant, the rest of the knife owners go with mineral oil.

You can even choose a honing oil made especially for sharpening stone. Such oil is truly within your budget, as it usually has an affordable price tag.

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Steps to Sharpen a Pocket Knife

Now that you know about the tools required to sharpen a pocket knife, here are the steps to use them:

  1. Begin by analyzing the blade’s condition. If found very dull, it is wise to start with the stone’s rougher grit side. How to know which is the rough grit side? Well, you can tell this just by looking at the stone in some cases. If this is not possible, a thumbnail test is your option. In this test, just scratch the surface using the fingernail. The side that feels rough is the side to begin with. Moreover, rough grits are more porous than the smoother or finer grits. Thus, pouring water on a side where it is completely absorbed, it is likely to be the rough grit side.
  2. The next step is to prepare the stone. In other words, lubricate your stone. A whetstone or a ceramic stone should be soaked in water for the specified time (as in manual or product description). If you are using oil that is ideally better for its somewhat more forgiving, consider applying it in a generous amount to the stone’s surface. However, there is no need to drench the stone into it. If the stone is new, wait for some minutes to know whether the stone absorbs the oil or not. If it absorbs, do apply more.
  3. Now, determine the sharpening angle or the bevel angle of the edge. Position the blade on the stone such that it rests flat. Prior to commencement, lift the blade to make an angle of 10 to 15 degrees. While you can tell which one is the right angle, it can be hard for the first-timers to retain the angle incessantly. To make this easy, it is essential to have a sharpening guide. These guides are usually inexpensive. Many pocket knives have a beveled edge ranging from 25 to 30 degrees. This angle is gauged from the centerline of the edge. Nevertheless, some gauge the same from one blade side to the other. This results in a difference of five degrees from what is measured from the centerline.
  4. Make your first stroke. At the correct angle, put the blade down to sharpen even its tip. If the blade is curved or longer than the stone, sweep it sideways to sharpen the whole edge evenly. After one stroke, repeat it for making another stroke. Continue making strokes 6-12 times and count them. This is because the same number of strokes will be done on the other side.
  5. Make the same number of strokes on the other side. If this number differs, the edge will not be even or sharp.
  6. Now, flip the stone over, lubricate the finer grit side, and make strokes. That’s it! Your pocket knife now has a sharp blade.


The process to sharpen a pocket knife is easy. Even the tools required are not many. However, there is one thing to remember: The key to its success is to retain the same angle until the knife is sharpened.