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When it comes to using a knife, keeping a good edge on it is essential for getting a job done efficiently and safely. I have heard some people say that they don’t want a knife too sharp because they are afraid of being cut.
The fact is that when a knife is too dull you can be tempted to use it incorrectly and cut yourself or you put too much stress on your hands over the course of longer jobs. Those reading this that have cut up whole animals or hand sliced peppers for canning know what I am talking about.
The best thing is to have a sharp knife and be careful with it. Take your time when doing jobs. What you need to keep a good edge on your knife depends on the type of metal it is made of and your usage. If you keep your knives sharp by touching them up with a fine or ultra-fine grit stone then you are not going to have as much need for a medium grade stone.
Most people are not that good about keeping knives sharp. Most of us probably put them away without ever thinking about it until we notice that it is not performing as we want. Having a set of stones is not a big investment and it means you can sharpen most any knife in your home.
Carbon Steel Vs. Stainless Steel
Carbon is naturally softer metal than stainless so it takes an edge easier and can thus be used with almost any sharpening stone with ease. A lot of those that are knife enthusiasts or use knives often will choose carbon over stainless so they can easily keep that razor sharp edge.
Of course carbon requires oiling and proper storage to avoid rust and pitting over time. Some blades are partially coated carbon to prevent rust while allowing for a pure carbon edge for supreme sharpness when it counts! Some of the better knives we have for butchering pigs are carbon steel.
2. Stainless Steel
Diamond impregnated stones are best for hard stainless steel. Some of the modern stainless steels have been created using processes that make the metal more hard and brittle. A diamond impregnated stone will make sharpening a lot easier.
This is not to say that you cannot use an Arkansas whetstone or any other non diamond impregnated sharpening stone, it will just take longer to sharpen, especially if you have chosen one of the hardest grades of stainless steel out there.
Genuine Arkansas Sharpening Stone
This genuine Arkansa Fine whetstone is a good choice for keeping and edge on your knife when out in the field or when you have to use your knife for an extended period of time. With a leather pouch, you might want to pick up a few of these.
Genuine Arkansas Whetstone Knife Sharpening
This is an affordable starter set of Arkansas Whetstones with a holder and honing oil. The coarse stone can be used to bring back abused and damaged edges to your favorite knife while the medium and fine grades allow you to get a keen edge. Follow up with a leather strop with sharpening compound or you can use an ultra fine stone before the strop if desired.
Norton Water Stones
Norton Water Stones are well known for the quality edge they allow for and the durability of the stone with long term and frequent use. The trade off is that you are going to pay a lot more for these stones than for an Arkansas Whetstone. Also keep in mind that a lot of these stones are 2 in 1 grits and they are 3 inches thick so it is like getting two stones. Plenty of the other stones on this list are thin and that reduces the cost considerably.
Norton Waterstone’s come in much finer grits than a lot of competitors so if you are the type of person that really prides themselves on the smoothest and finest edge on your knives, it may be worth it to own a few of these or get the combination set.
Norton 24335 Japanese-Style Combination Waterstone
Norton Waterstone Starter Kit
This kit offers you a variety of stones and you get an instructional disk to view and learn how to get a super fine edge The Norton way. Another thing that stands out with this starter kit is that it includes a flattening stone that can be used to re-level any old sharpening stones you have used a lot and are starting to be uneven and harder to use. The leveling stone can pay for itself in little time if you have a lot of older stones laying around.
At Home Or Bugging Out Have Three Grades To Keep Knives In Good Shape
You can get stones in various sizes. The bench sized stones cost more and are made for sharpening while you set around at home. The smaller kits that are made for portability and weight are plenty for most people and they allow you to have medium, coarse, and fine stones on hand without taking up a lot of room or weighing down your pack.
DMT Diamond Whetstone Mini Diamond Stone
This set of 3 diamond stones is a great starter set and is small enough to pack in a bug out bag or keep in a car or utility vehicle for work and play. Since the stones are smaller versions of their more expensive bench sized stones, you save a lot and get all the grits most people need to keep a good edge.
DMT W6EFC Diamond Whetstone Models
These bench style full size diamond sharpening stones are made to last a lifetime and come in a very nice wood storage box. If you want a really nice set for at home use then these will not disappoint. No oil is needed to use these stones. Use water if desired or sharpen dry.
Out In The Field Short Term & Or Close To Home
A diamond impregnated or fine grade stone for touching up a blade to keep a good edge when out on a brief camping trip or working is all you really need. If you buy a kit of stones you can always just take a single one out with you.
DMT D3EFC Dia-Sharp Sharpener
I love the size of these stones and how affordable they are. I have to say it would be tempting to just throw one in a wallet but since they are so thin they might break if you sat down hard on them. I can see the appeal though of keeping these in the credit card/ID card area of a tactical backpack. I have a Molle style pack that it would be easy to slip these into and they would have their own designated spot they lived in for bugging out or camping.
A leather strop will hone a fine razor sharp edge after you have used a fine grade sharpening stone on your knife. There are different grades of honing compound that you can buy as needed.
BeaverCraft, Leather Paddle Strop
This double sided strop paddle allows you to use two different honing compounds in the same sharpening session. This style makes it easy to hold. The pre drilled hole in the handle allows you to put paracord, leather cording, or string through to hang the honing strop on a hook for storage.
Upon Leather Pocket Leather Honing Strop
This honing strop is not mounted on any wood block but you can easily do this yourself using any wood. Most people use heavier woods to add weight and stability. You get three different grades of honing compound to get started.
Electric Knife Sharpeners
Sharpening stones are great and they last forever but some people may have trouble using their hands or want a faster way to sharpen a lot of knives in a given time period. Electric knife sharpeners are worth looking at if want some convenience.
Here are a couple to consider. You might consider an electric sharpener for those times when you are running short on time and want a good edge. Taking a knife from super dull to razor sharp with stones and strops can be time consuming.
Work Sharp Knife & Tool Sharpener
This handheld electric sharpener is useful because it can be used to sharpen a variety of tools and blades. You can angle this sharpener however you want so you need to be careful when using this. You can save a lot of time with this inexpensive electric sharpener. You do need to keep sharpening belts on hand.
- Standard Replacement
- Diamond Belt Replacement Kit
Chefman Electric Knife Sharpener
This is an inexpensive countertop sharpener. It is made for culinary knives more than anything but people do use it for sharpening pocket knives. It does have diamond coated sharpening blades so it is a good choice for your stainless steel.
Serrated Knife Sharpeners
Serrated knives are harder to properly sharpen. Allow some extra time for any knife that has a lot of serration on it. Also make sure that you don’t forget to actually sharpen serrated bits. It can be easy to just sharpen the non serrated parts if you have a tactical knife that has a combination blade. Here are a few sharpeners that are up for the job of keeping your serrated knives in good shape.
DMT FSKF Diafold Serrated Knife Sharpener
This is a high quality serrated sharpener from DMT. It is also very useful for sharpening curved blade knives that can be a little more challenging with traditional shaped stones. You can get these hones in different grades to suit your needs. The Fine grade is good for keeping an edge but if you have neglected sharpening you will want a coarser grade to start the sharpening process.
Lansky Blade Medic
This little pocket sharpener is amazing for what it offers. This would be a fine tool for keeping an edge on all types of knives out in the field. This is one of those tools you can afford to have a few of scattered around in packs, workshops, or in the kitchen.
If you are on a budget and want an all around sharpener then you won’t find anything to beat this. It even has a hole so you can use a carabiner to attach it to your pack or even put it on your keychain using a ring!
Complete Sharpening Kits
I am going to include a few kits here for those that want to just buy everything they need to keep knives sharp at once. If you are starting out with nothing, this is not a bad way to go to make sure you are not forgetting something and the kits are often a better value than buying everything separately.
Lansky Professional Sharpening System
This complete kit from Lansky has everything you need to sharpen any blade including those with serration. The small bottle of honing oil is enough to last awhile. This whole kit costs less than a lot of single stones. Lansky is a highly regarded name in the world of knife sharpening. You are getting a lot for your money and it fits in a small space compared to a lot of heavy bench stones.
DMT A-PROKIT Aligner Prokit Diamond Sharpener
This kit features diamond enhanced sharpeners, a serrated blade sharpener, and an blade guide that ensures you get the right angle and edge on your knife even if you are just a beginner. You can refer to the chart below for recommendations on what guide rod to used based on your knife blade width. This sharpening set can be used to put an edge on meat cleavers, machetes, and brush axes too using the #1 guide rod.
Compounds and Oils
Honing oils and compounds last awhile but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t keep extra on hand. Diamond stones can be used dry or with water. Follow the guidelines for the stones you are buy.
Oils For Stones
I am including two options for oil below. One is name brand and labeled for use with stones. Honing oil is just highly refined light mineral oil no matter how much you pay for it so I am including regular mineral oil too. Plenty of people use regular pharmacy grade mineral oil with no problems and it costs a lot less than the name brand sharpening stone oils.
If you do want name brand sharpening stone oil then Norton is a great option. The economically priced gallon of food grade mineral oil below is great for a lot of things around the kitchen besides knife sharpening. Use this oil to preserve your wood bowels, utensils, and cutting boards.
Norton Sharpening Stone Oil
Food Grade Mineral Oil
I know that it is tempting to get honing compound in kits where you get a lot of different grades but over the long term it is usually more economical to get different grades of compound in 1 lb blocks. This will help ensure that you have some stockpiled!
If you buy 2 one pound size blocks you can experience even greater savings so if you have a friend that sharpens their own knives or just want to have a lot on hand, it is not a bad idea to order the bigger pack. I did find a pack that gives you a lot for your money if you want variety!
Woodstock D2902 Buffing Compound
This extra fine honing compound is good for making your blade extra keen. You can get medium and coarse grades in 1 lb sizes too.
Enkay 6 pc. Polishing Compound Kit
If you do want to get a starter kit of compounds this is one of the better deals I was able to find. You get 6 grades and according to the reviews I have read each bar weighs around 5.5 oz instead of the typical 1 oz per bar that others sell you for the same price. In this case this pack is the exception in that it is an even better deal then buying by the pound from some manufacturers.
Tips For A Good Edge
- If a knife is very dull or you are restoring a knife that has been abused, you need to go from coarse to medium to fine to a leather strop.
- If a knife is not really dull you can use a fine grade stone to touch it up while doing a job
- Touching up knives with a fine grade stone before putting them away helps ensure that you don’t start to do a task with a very dull knife and helps save time because you don’t need to use several grades of stone one after the other to get a good edge.
- Use diamond coated stones for very hard versions of stainless steel. Cold Steel and other major knife makers have been offering some revolutionary hardened steels for awhile now and they can be much harder to sharpen with a standard stone.
- Watch some videos on knife sharpening if you are a beginner. There is an art to knife sharpening. While it may seem like something that everyone can just do with ease, you need to know how to properly use the different types of stones
- Always take your time when doing any sharpening. It might look neat when chefs sharpen knives loud and fast for effect but they are pros and they are just honing the edge a little.
- Cut proof gloves are available if you want to be safer but many people find them a bit cumbersome to use, especially if they have never used them before.
- Make sure you have good lighting and firm surface to work on if possible. I know that in a survival situation or out camping this might be difficult to achieve.
- Try to save all the major sharpening chores for when you are alert and not super fatigued.
- Teach kids safe knife sharpening techniques and supervise well when they are learning.
Knife Sharpening Procedures and Preferences Are Personal Sometimes
One lesson I have learned over the years of hearing a lot of my Dad and his friends talk and trade knives is that everyone has little quirks about what method is best for sharpening knives or what stone is best. You may run into folks that take a look at this post and say that they wouldn’t use anything on my list except the Norton Waterstones or you may hear that someone only uses Diamond stones for everything.
Still others may say that you don’t every need anything beyond a set of 3 Arkansas Whetstones. Personally, I will tell you that any of the kits and stones on this list have been successfully used by a lot of people and if you are just getting started sharpening your own knives, any of them are a good place to start. You can always add to your collection of stones later.
What is your favorite sharpening stone brands? Do you have any tips to share on how to get a keen edge on a knife that has been chipped and abused?
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