Have you ever heard someone say, “He’s not the sharpest tool in the shed?”
The expression is used about someone who is not particularly bright. People who lack intelligence are not a big help when it comes to solving problems. And a dull tool does not provide much assistance when it comes to performing a task.
This is especially true with knives. A knife is considered by many as the most important survival tool you can own. But it must be sharp to be effective.
A knife can perform a wide variety of very important tasks when it comes to dealing with a survival situation. But if it’s allowed to become dull, it will be basically useless.
Let’s take a quick look at the best ways to keep a survival knife sharp.
Even with regular use only, a knife will eventually go dull. Cutting and chopping cause the edge of the blade to roll, and suddenly it won’t cut like it used to.
Other things that can cause a blade to become dull over time include higher temperatures and corrosive materials, such as what vegetables and fruits possess.
Among the maintenance activities you can perform to help keep your knife sharp are cutting straight, rather than side to side. And using a soft cutting surface or mat when chopping or cutting.
Others are cleaning your blade right after using it to wash away corrosives, and coating it with a little oil to keep moisture out.
Make sure to do these things regularly. Don’t wait until your blade becomes dull to maintain it.
Try this black sharpie trick before sharpening
Mark both edges of your knife with a black sharpie pen before you start sharpening.
Once the ink is in place, you can easily see where you’ve sharpened and where you missed a spot. This black sharpie trick can be repeated multiple times during the sharpening process until the knife is sharp enough.
From honing steel to a whetstone
The most important thing when sharpening your knife is removing just enough material from the blade to form a new edge. It’s similar to sharpening a pencil or peeling bark off an old tree.
You can do this by grinding the knife’s edge against a hard, rough surface until your blade is as sharp as you want it to be
If your knife only needs moderate sharpening, use honing steel. You can hold your knife blade against the steel rod and stroke it four to six times on each side of the blade.
If your knife needs more than just minor sharpening, a whetstone is recommended. A combination whetstone provides both coarse and fine surfaces. First use the coarse side, which is like sandpaper, then the finer grit side for touch-up.
Step by step instruction
If you’re using a whetstone, follow the instructions given by its manufacturer. This may involve soaking the whetstone in clean water for 10 minutes. These stones are most effective when they’ve absorbed water.
Place the whetstone in a location where it won’t slip. On top of a dry towel would work. The angle at which you hold the knife can vary, depending on the blade’s cross-section shape and the type of knife it is. Ideal is 25 to 30 degrees.
Applying only a small amount of pressure, move the blade across the coarser side of the stone as if you were shaving the top of it. At the end of that motion, pull the knife back toward you so that the full length of the blade makes contact with the stone.
Burrs and metal shavings will accumulate around the edges of the blade, and you can wipe them off with a cloth. Then flip the blade over and do the same thing. Use the same number of strokes for each side of the knife.
Testing the sharpness
The directions may recommend applying more water to the whetstone. If so, soak your whetstone again and repeat your knife-sharpening motions on the coarse side of the stone. Now use the finer side of the whetstone to do the same thing.
You can then polish your knife with a strip of leather called a strop. Finally, clean the whetstone per the manufacturer’s instructions, then rinse your knife with water, dry it and apply a small amount of non-toxic oil.
How do you know if your blade is now sharp enough? One simple test is to hold a piece of paper up and see if your knife cleanly slices it down the middle. Another is to hold your knife up to a light. If it reflects light anywhere, that area needs to be trimmed down more.
A sharp knife will put you in the best position to both survive and thrive in an emergency.