Today I’d like to talk about a somewhat little considered necessity for survival and field craft; Keeping our knives sharp. There are so many different methods out there to get your blades razor sharp. There are stones and similar tools like diamond files, kits from all kinds of manufacturers are available for all kinds of budgets. Today I’d like to gloss over a few of my favorites that won’t break the bank. There are options out there that are just so cost prohibitively expensive that I’m not even going to go over them here.
One of my go to knife sharpening implements is my Smith’s Diamond Precision Knife Sharpening System. ($39.99 MSRP) This tool is very useful for getting a good usable edge on your favorite daily carried blade. I’ve had this kit since about 2007 and used it quite often on my knives and the blades of my buddies while in Iraq. This kept our blades combat effective for opening our MRE‘s and packs of bottled water among other things. This method has a guide you clamp onto the blade that offers two options for blade angles a 20 degree and a 25 degree. The latter being the more durable blade angle which in theory would require less maintenance. The 20 degree is more suited for kitchen knives or anything you’d like to put a more fine edge on. That being said 20 degree was my go to setting. This set comes with three “stones”(a strip of metal coated with a diamond abrasive) a coarse, fine and a serrated edge stone which has a triangular shape. This works well for most serrated edges but not all and requires a careful and light touch. The individual stones have metal dowels that are screwed into the end of the stone to maintain the angle. This system works very well and it has served me well for years. Make sure you use the supplied oil with the kit and follow the directions.
Another tool I have found useful is another offering from Smith’s. It is pretty much identical in function to the tool above with a few obvious differences. This tool is the DCS4 Smith’s 4″ Diamond Combination sharpening tool (MSRP $19.99). The type of abrasive used is identical but doesn’t have a guide so you have to sharpen free hand. This tool works as well as the previous system and for me is better suited to field use. I don’t find it practical to carry a full sharpening kit into the field where weight and size is of the utmost importance, also I don’t use this method nearly as much as other options as this is more suited to maintaining an edge quickly versus creating one after hard use of the knife.
My current go-to method of knife sharpening is what is called convex knife sharpening. This is the opposite of what is called “hollow ground” and results in a very sharp and durable blade. This is however by far the most complicated and difficult method for knife sharpening. With this method you are going to be using a bench top belt sander. With this method you have to be very cautious with what you’re doing as any slip of the hand or inattention to what you’re doing will result in a knife that is no longer usable or that will require a lot of grinding to fix. I only recommend this method to the experienced hand if you don’t have much to practice with. The belts necessary are also a little difficult to find. I had to travel to two separate woodworking shops to find the sanding belts needed to get a good edge. The first belt I use for a blade I haven’t sharpened with this method before is a 600 or 650 grit. Moving down the way I wind up with a micron grit belt which is comparable to a 3000 grit belt. I use several steps moving up methodically in grits, all the while maintaining a constant pressure and angle for the blade. The blade is finished off with a leather stropping belt to get the smooth finish on the edge. Many people use a compound to finish off the blade. I have used compound and have gone without and I can’t tell any appreciable difference in the finishes.
I have tried a few other inexpensive methods like “pull through” sharpeners that usually have two carbide or other ultra hard substances set to a fixed angle that are designed to “shave” off the metal on the blade to create an edge. I have not once gotten a good edge from one of these sharpeners and do not under any circumstance recommend them. Also I have recommended two sharpening systems from the same company and I am aware of that. These tools are inexpensive and work. These are meant to be an illustration of the method more than the exact item. If you have any questions for me, don’t hesitate to ask in the comments section and I’ll get back to you. As always stay safe, train and have a good un’.