HOW TO SHARPEN A KNIFE
Written by Blade HQ Staff Writer Andrew Hamilton on 1/16/2019
What good is carrying around a dull knife? Learning how to keep your gear in tip-top shape will give you a greater appreciation of your edged tools and cutting and slicing will be effortless! If you’ve invested in an expensive EDC knife, it’s important to know how to maintain that blade and find the best knife sharpener for it. Read through this guide as we’ve got sharpeners in all price ranges to get your knife back to its best laser status.
1. Spyderco Sharpmaker: $63The Spyderco Sharpmaker is: affordable, portable, and easy to use.
The Sharpmaker shines for its ease of use combined with high quality results. The Sharpmaker is capable of reprofiling a knife, but where it shines is in doing quick weekly touchups on your EDC knife. This sharpener fits easily in any bag or drawer. Pull it out, set up the stones, and make a few passes on each stone. Your knife will be back to shaving sharp in no time. Many in the knife industry consider the Sharpmaker to be one of the best sharpeners available because of its ease of use and portability.
Usage: Not sure how to use your Spyderco Sharpmaker? Good news is that it comes with an informational DVD. But here are the basics… Open up the plastic case. Insert the brass safety rods into the two small holes near the center of the rig. This will protect your stabilizing hand as you’re sharpening. Insert your stones into the plastic base—there are slots for a 30° or 40° edge. Start with the edge of the brown stone. Then rotate the stone to the flat section. Next you can move on to the white finishing stones and do the same thing. Hold your knife perpendicular to the table and make passes from the back of the blade to the tip. Go back and forth between the two stones equally to ensure an even bevel. There are also other rods available for the Sharpmaker.
Click here to see our video of the Sharpmaker in action.
2. Darex Work Sharp Field Sharpener: $30The Darex Work Sharp Field Sharpener is: affordable, portable, and innovative.
If you’re a hiker, camper, or hunter, there may be no better field sharpener than the Work Sharp Guided Field Sharpener. With built in angle guides, coarse and fine sharpening stones, coarse and fine ceramic rods, and a leather strop, you can get any edged tool back in tip-top shape. From knives to your favorite axe, scissors, fishhooks, and more, the Work Sharp Field Sharpener does it all and is the best knife sharpener to throw in a camping pack.
Usage: The Darex Work Sharp Field Sharpener is a great tool for field sharpening. Start with the coarse stones, move to the fine ceramic rods, and finish your edge with the leather strop. It’s important to consider what edge angle you’re trying to achieve. The Field Sharpener gives you an angle reference to increase consistency. A system like this teaches you a lot about how sharpening works!
Click here to see a video of the Work Sharp Field Sharpener in action.
3. Darex Work Sharp Ken Onion Edition: $130The Darex Work Sharp Ken Onion Edition is: fast, flexible, and easy to use.
For the guy that’s short on time but wants professional results, look to the Ken Onion Edition Work Sharp. Easily change the grit of your belts to refine your edge, and set an angle anywhere from 15-30 degrees per side. A variable speed motor ensures you never remove too much steel at once. With the Ken Onion Work Sharp, you could sharpen all the knives at Blade HQ in a single afternoon!
Usage: The Ken Onion Edition Work Sharp sharpening system is impressively easy to use. Set your edge angle, install the appropriate grit belt, and let ‘er rip! When learning, start with a slow speed and fine grit to make sure you remove material as desired. This sharpener has a Grinding Attachment available separately that will allow you to customize your sharpening angles.
Click here to see a video of the Ken Onion Sharpener in action.
4. Edge Pro Apex 4: $255The Edge Pro Apex 4 is: professional, flexible, and modular.
My personal favorite sharpening system is the Edge Pro Apex. With an infinitely adjustable angle arm, edge profile is completely up to you. The stones that come with the Edge Pro are of an extremely high quality, and aftermarket stones from Chosera can be purchased to round out your kit. The Edge Pro Apex makes those Instagram-worthy mirrored edges simple. If you’re interested in pursuing sharpening professionally, there’s no better brand than Edge Pro.
Usage: The Edge Pro Apex is a system that can take a little bit of study to get dialed. I recommend picking up their bench mount to stabilize the sharpening system fully. Adjust the angle arm to the desired edge angle. Progress through the stones until you’re satisfied with the edge. You’ll start to see a mirrored edge around 400-600 grit, and it really shines with the use of edge tapes or a leather strop.
5. KME Precision Sharpener: $170The KME Precision Sharpener is: high-quality, portable, and upgradable.
One alternative to the Edge Pro is the KME Precision Sharpener. A more compact system, mount your blade in the clamp and sharpen away with the ergonomic wood pistol grip. A wood base can be purchased to securely mount your sharpener to a work bench.
Usage: The primary difference between the KME Sharpening System and the Edge Pro Apex is that the KME holds your blade between a clamp. Clamp based systems have an easier learning curve but are less effective at sharpening large knives like you might use while in the kitchen or camping. Additional stones can be purchased to increase the quality of your edge. The KME comes in a high quality plastic case for when you want to take your gear on the go.
6. Spyderco Double Stuff Ceramic: $30The Spyderco Double Stuff Ceramic Sharpener is: affordable, portable, and minimalistic.
The Spyderco Double Stuff Ceramic sharpener offers a premium double-sided ceramic stone in a streamlined, lightweight package. Housed in a premium handmade leather slip, this guy is at home in an ultralight camping pack. Spyderco is known for making some of the highest quality ceramic stones in the world. From simple touch-ups to full-on reprofiles, anything can be done with the Spyderco Double Stuff sharpener.
Usage: The Spyderco Double Stuff Ceramic Pocket Sharpener excels in situations where every bit of weight matters. Compared to the Work Sharp Field Sharpener, the Spyderco Double Stuff is more than 20 times lighter! This system is simple—no guides or motors. What you do get is high quality ceramic capable of putting a nasty sharp edge on any blade.
7. Wicked Edge WE120: $400The Wicked Edge WE120 Sharpener is: professional, easy to use, and upgradable.
One of the best pocket knife sharpeners money can buy. If you’re looking to get an extremely high-quality edge as fast as possible and price is no object, we recommend the Wicked Edge WE120. With stones mounted to both sides of the knife clamp, there’s no need to flip your knife from side to side to get a great edge. The system includes some stones to get you started, but Wicked Edge offers a wide variety of different grits to meet your needs.
Usage: The Wicked Edge WE120 is a popular sharpening system for professional knife sharpeners and serious hobbyists around the world. The Wicked Edge WE120 features a vertical clamp mount for the blade with dual sharpening stones on each side. This allows you sharpen your knife twice as fast while still getting an edge of the highest quality.
8. Lansky Tactical Blademedic: $12The Lansky Tactical Blademedic Sharpener is: portable, ultralight, and simple.
I’ll be honest, pull-through sharpeners are really not something we recommend… That said, if you need to touch up a cheap knife or are unwilling to invest in one of our other recommended systems, the Lansky Tactical Blademedic will put a nice working edge on your blades. I’d recommend this system as a last resort in a Get Home or Bugout Bag.
Usage: So this one’s pretty simple. Pull your knife through the tungsten carbide slot 3-4 times. Then pull it through the ceramic slot another 3-4 times. There ya go. This system lacks in precision, but sometimes you just need something pocket size and fast. It's good to have one of our other systems to refine your edge from time to time.
9. Flexcut Knife Strop: $14The Flexcut Knife Strop is: affordable, a great compliment to other sharpeners, and perfect for any knife guy.
Every sharpener needs a good strop! Between sharpening, your edge can roll over at a micro level. A couple of passes on a leather strop realigns your edge and returns your blade to its former glory. I tend to sharpen my knives about once a month. I pass a knife over a strop any time I clean it or when I feel like the knife might need a little touch up. Many strops come with a stropping compound, which is to be rubbed in and helps your strop do its thing.
Usage: Using a strop is super simple. Start by applying some stropping compound to your leather strop. Your knife should already be freshly sharpened or feature only a rolled edge. Edges that need significant sharpening should be taken to the stone-based systems. Make passes in one direction on your strop while holding the knife at an angle slightly more acute than the edge angle on your knife.
Bonus: Richard Kell Bevel Gauge: $10
This affordable tool will give you a good idea of your edge bevel or edge angle. Small edge angles make for better slicers, but tend to lack in durability. Obtuse angles tend to be more durable, but good luck when you try cutting a transparent slice of tomato. More information is always a good thing. A bevel gauge is an important bit of kit when you get into sharpening.
KNIFE SHARPENING OVERVIEW
A lot of people seem to get intimidated by sharpening. They bring their knives to “professionals” at the farmer’s market that end up doing more harm than good. Don’t make that mistake! Take sharpening into your own hands. Any of these systems will get a great edge on your knife. Learning how to sharpen will feel liberating, I promise!
What sharpening system appeals most to you? It’s great to have a more professional system at home while also keeping a more minimal system in your backpack or car. Remember, a dull knife is more dangerous because it is unpredictable and prone to slipping.
You already know Blade HQ has all the knives. Make it happen, unbox your new EDC knife and then email me a picture with a few words about what went into your decision (AHamilton at BladeHQ.com). We'll feature submissions on our Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
TLDR? Check out the videos below on a few of the above systems, the Spyderco Sharpmaker and various Work Sharp sharpeners. You really can't go wrong with any of these for your knife sharpening needs.
OTHER BEST KNIFE GUIDES
Still in that information gathering phase? We've got a bunch more guides on many different topics! Happy hunting and may you find that one special knife of your dreams.