How to Sharpen Knives in the Wild

Way back when, during a Sunday School class in my youth, a kid asked why David needed to take five smooth stones from a river bank as he headed out with his slingshot to confront Goliath. If the lad was so confident God would give him victory over the Israelites’ enemy, why didn’t he just grab one stone?

There’s no way to know, of course. But if you recall the story, after David felled the giant with the first stone, he took the Philistine’s sword and cut off his head. Perhaps that sword needed a little sharpening first, and if so, those four smooth stones could have done the job very nicely.

And it would be the same for us if we found ourselves in the wild, needing to sharpen a knife or spear, or yes, even a sword. Smooth stones can do that job pretty well, especially ones that have been softened by sitting in a creek or river for a period of time.

A survival knife is one of the most important items you could possibly have in your possession when in the wild because of its many uses. It can help you make a shelter, defend yourself, prepare a meal and much more. But if it’s not sharp, you’re going to struggle with it.

So, first dampen your stone if it’s not already wet and lay it on a flat surface. Holding the handle with one hand, use the fingertips of your other hand to press the blade down on the stone softly, then slide the blade around in a counterclockwise circular motion.

Check the edge of the blade frequently, as you don’t want it to get sharp enough to chip. When you’re satisfied with the improvement, turn the blade over and begin sliding the blade around in a clockwise circular motion. Again, stop if the edge is becoming too fine.

Finally, clean the blade and then thoroughly dry it so that no rust appears. If you know you’re not going to be using the blade for a while, rub some oil on it.


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