How to Sharpen a Knife
Anyone who has tried to use a dull hunting knife to skin a dear or a dull boning knife to prepare chicken will understanding the value of knowing how to sharpen a knife. It is a skill that fewer people possess with every passing year. Knives are cheap and disposed of once the edge wears off or they are the expensive type that come with an edge that is permanently sharp.
In between these extremes, there are a host of knives for many different purposes that do require the owner to know how to sharpen a knife. Knives for the kitchen, for hunting and fishing, and pocket knives for utility purposes are just the most common types that require periodic sharpening. This step by step guide isn’t the only strategy for how to sharpen a knife, but it is one that will work very well for a wide variety of knives.
1. Gather your tools. You’ll need a quality sharpening stone, also known as a whetstone, with a rough grit side and a fine grit side. You will also need knife sharpening lubricant that will reduce the heat of friction and remove the sharpening dust from the blade. Mineral oil works well. The local hardware store is a good place to find these items and they are also readily available online. Together they will cost as little as $15-$20.
2. Start with the rough grit side and a healthy dose of oil. If it threatens to drip off the stone, wipe off the excess with a rag. If you sharpen your knife often you’ll be able to skip the rough grit side and start on the fine grit side. We’re assuming you’ve got a pretty dull knife since you are interested in learning how to sharpen a knife.
3. Lay the flat of the knife on the stone and raise the angle 10-15 degrees. This angle will produce a sharp and durable blade. A lesser angle would produce a thin edge that will dull quickly.
4. Begin the sharpening process by moving the blade in a circular motion against the stone. Apply moderate pressure. On the forward stroke, imagine that you are trying to slice off a thin piece of the stone. If the blade is longer than the stone, you’ll have to swipe the knife along the stone to sharpen the entire blade uniformly. Complete 5-10 circles or swipes with the knife.
5. Turn the knife over and sharpen the second side in the same manner. Be sure to apply more oil to the stone if needed.
6. When you’ve sharpened both sides, give each side 2 or 3 more swipes to ensure the edge is balanced.
7. Turn the stone over to the fine grit side and apply oil. Repeat steps 3 through 7 and you have sharpened your knife!
Practice makes perfect. With time you’ll learn to sharpen each knife is a slightly different way to supply the perfect edge for your purpose. Now that you know how to sharpen a knife, this will be an enjoyable and effective process each time.