How to Sharpen a Pocket Knife with a Stone

Roman Herrick
Written by
Last update:

Buy a Good Sharpening Stone and Lubricant

A pocket knife is an essential in an outdoorsman’s toolbox. After all, it’s an expected item, given that almost no one leaves the house without a knife. Even if you think a pocket knife is just a practical tool, it’s also a must-have camping and hunting accessory.

A pocket knife is useful but must be kept sharp to remain functional. Keeping your knife sharp not only helps in preventing injuries, it also saves the time of using a dull knife that requires extra effort.

Being able to sharpen your pocket knife using a stone is a skill that every outdoorsman must possess. You can’t always rely on the services of a knife sharpener. One must be able to sharpen their own tools. Having a sharp tool can also save you time and money. You don’t have to spend money going back and forth to the knife sharpener and there are no restrictions when you use a stone.

To sharpen your knife correctly and effectively, you need a good sharpening stone. That said, it’s important that you learn the right techniques and use specific skills to sharpen your knife.

Lubricate Your Sharpening Stone

It’s important to remember that a stone is an abrasive substance. It’s going to eat away at the blade of the knife.

Therefore, the top layer of the blade needs to be protected by some form of lubricant. This prevents the abrasive nature of the stone from coming into contact with the metal.

If you forget to apply lubricant to the stone, there’s a chance that you’ll end up grinding away at the metal of the knife, which can be dangerous and result in ruining the blade.

Lubricating the stone with water will not produce the desired effect. Instead, use some type of oil, such as mineral oil or vegetable oil.

Wipe the stone down with the oil before you start sharpening the blade. A thin coating is sufficient; you don’t need too much.

Identify Your Angle and Use a Rough or Medium Grit to Sharpen Your Knife

Learning how to sharpen a pocket knife with a stone is easy with a little bit of practice. Although a sharpening stone is not as precise as a knife-sharpening system, it is ideal for keeping your knife sharp. Any good pocket knife should come with a sharpening stone, but if you have one that you’ve had for years, you may want to check the grit rating.

First, determine what angle to set your sharpening stone at. Typically, the right angle for any knife blade is somewhere between 17 and 20 degrees. Remember that your pocket knife is almost always thicker than its blade. A 20-degree angle therefore implies that you should apply a 20-degree angle to the knife’s edge.

The opposite side of the stone is a medium grit and should be used to sharpen or remove deep gouges or chips from the blade.

You should use the rough grit first to sharpen your knife. Most people use a sharpening stone with grit that’s too coarse for sharpening a pocket knife. You grade this side of the stone with something in the 800 to 1000 grit range.

If you want to reshape the edge as well, sharpen it with the other side of the stone.

Switch to a Fine Grit to Further Work the Edge of Your Blade

There are two ways to sharpen a knife, using a whetstone or a steel.

Most of the knives you’ll find today are made of much harder steel than knives were made of only a century ago. So you can sharpen a brand new knife using a steel to maintain its edge because it’s going to be really hard. That is, unless you want a very dull knife.

If your knife is dull, you’ll want to sharpen all the way to a fine, sharp edge. To get there, you’ll work through the different grits. So start with the coarse grits and work up to a fine grit.

If you want the full lesson, it’s here.

Otherwise, here are the basics:

  • Start with about a quarter of the blade on each side down on the whetstone. If one side feels rough, start with that side.
  • Work one side until you reach the cutting edge. You’ll know you’ve reached it when the whetstone’s surface feels smoother and more slippery.
  • Switch sides and repeat until the other side feels smoother and more slippery.
  • Repeat this until you feel you’ve sharpened the entire blade.