How to Sharpen a Knife

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A sharp knife is undoubtedly the handiest tool you can slip into your pocket, but a dull one is a disaster waiting to happen. Not only will a dull blade limit your effectiveness when you need to come to the rescue to open a box or whittle a stick, but its lack of grip on whatever you’re cutting actually makes it more dangerous than a sharp knife. If you want to keep the cachet that comes with having a handy pocket knife, here’s how to keep your blade in optimal shape.

1) Show Some Grit

To get started, you’re going to need two things: a knife and a whetstone. Whetstones are small blocks with gritty surfaces. Most have two sides: one with a coarse grain for getting your sharpening started, and the other with a finer grain for doing your finishing and polishing work. Set your whetstone on a counter in front of you, coarse side up. You may want to put a towel under it to keep it from moving around.

2) Learn All the Angles

You don’t need to break out your protractor from high school geometry, but it’s important to set your blade on the stone at the correct angle. For most knives, you’ll want to lay your blade on the stone at about 20 degrees. This angle will give you the best combination of sharpness and durability.

3) Take It Easy

Working with a knife may feel like a super manly task, but you don’t want to put too much muscle into your sharpening. Using gentle pressure, glide the blade down the stone away from you, working from the heel of your knife to the tip. If you’re doing it right, it should feel like you’re slicing an imaginary layer off the top of the stone. Once you get to the end, flip your knife over and gently bring it back toward you in the same fashion to sharpen the other side of the blade.

4) Stick With It

Keep working in this pattern for around six passes on each side of the blade. If your knife is very dull, you may need to do a few more rounds.

5) Learn the Finer Points

Once you’re done with the coarse side of your stone, finish putting the edge on your blade by flipping over to the finer grit side and repeating the whole process. You should now have a suitably sharp edge. Stick your knife back in your pocket, and wait for a good opportunity to do some cutting.
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Sharpening a knife takes serious focus. Once you’ve worked to get the blade you want, relax with the beer you’ve earned: an ice cold Dos Equis.

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August 8, 2013 - 8:48am
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