Knife Sharpening Guide

Whether you have bought your own knife for practical purposes, have been given a knife set as a gift, or have been so fortunate as to receive a promotional knife or promotional knives set for being a valued customer, you are going to want to sharpen it or them. Most knives, even the multi-function Swiss army type, or other functional tool or camping knives, have some blades that will need sharpening.

Knife sharpening is a controversial subject. You might not think so, but check around in the knife aficionado world and you will find out it is so. The battle rages over what type of stone to use, wet or dry, and which way to move the knife. Then there is if wet, what type of wet, water or oil. And there is the angle to consider. It is all very technical.

The coarse stone

For practical purposes and ordinary knife users, here is a simple and reasonable method. You want a stone that is a good size for the knife you want to sharpen. Obviously a large kitchen knife will need a larger stone. The stone needs to be long enough that you can sweep the blade across it, the full length of the blade, without running out of stone or slicing something vital off. Then, if you want to use something wet, you can use oil or water. I have used oil, but now I just use water. It is handy and seems to work fine. If you have a considerable collection of knives to work through, you might want to invest in one of those nicely mounted sharpening stones that rest on a stable base. Or you can use the two sided coarse and fine kind you get at the hardware store. Those have kept my pocket, hunting, fishing, and kitchen knives sharp for many years.

The angle

The angle is important, and you can read up on that. But ten to thirty degrees seems to be the popular recommendation. I shoot for about fifteen degrees when sharpening my knives. That makes a fine sharp edge that will hold up well enough for ordinary kitchen and fishing work. With the stone securely resting on a level surface, you draw or sweep the blade across the stone, keeping the angle constant.  You can use the sweep away method, in which you move the knife blade in the opposite way that you would if you were trying to slice a thin layer off the stone. That sounds safer, and some say it is better for the blade and the stone. I admit that I do it the other way, sweeping the blade as if slicing a thin layer off the top of the stone. It is the way I was taught, and has worked well for a long time.

How to move knife

When starting with a dull knife, it is good to make several passes, keeping the angle constant, before turning the knife over and going the other way. Perhaps several sets of ten passes on each side, then going to five on each side for a couple of sets, then three, then two, then one on each side, switching sides and carefully maintaining the angle as you go; that is about how I do it. You can take your time, test the blade now and then and you will figure out what works for you. Kitchen knives with heavy blades, worn from much chopping, will take more time to build an edge than your sharp folding pocket knife, that just needs a little edge refresher to keep it show-off sharp.


Knives are wonderful to own, and promotional knives are great promotional products to give and receive, but it is good to know how to sharpen them, if you intend to use them at all. So if you are given a nice promotional knife for your valued business, or want to give some to your valuable customers, invest in a sharpening stone, practice a little, and you will be able to keep them as functional as they are handsome.