HOW TO USE A SHARPENING STONE
Written by Blade HQ Staff Writer Logan Rainey on 10/31/2019
We’ve all been there. We get a new knife, we love how sharp it is out of the box, and we use it… a lot. Over time, we start noticing the knife is losing its edge. What happened to the smooth slicing we once shared with our beloved blade? If only there was a way to restore it back to its original glory!
Make sure you have the right sharpening supplies before you get started. First, you’ll need a coarse and a fine grit sharpening stone. We like Spyderco’s Double Stuff because it comes with both, and they are stuck together. Second, you will need a strop and stropping compound after using the stone to finish the edge. Let’s get going!
The Sharpening Process
To sharpen your knife, start by examining the edge of the blade paying special attention to the angle of the edge (check out our knife angle guide for more info, but it should be about 20°). Be sure to note any damage like gouges, gashes or corrosion.
Next, place the coarse stone on a flat surface. In our case, we put the coarse side of the Double Stuff facing up. Make sure the sharpening stone is stable and will stay in place. If your sharpening system doesn't come with a grippy base, put a damp paper towel or cloth under the stone for the same effect. Do not wet your sharpening stone unless instructions direct otherwise.
Now place the blade on the sharpening stone with the back of the blade at the front of the stone. Position the blade with the edge at a 20° angle. Next, slide the blade with light pressure from the front of the stone to the back of the stone moving from the back of the blade to the front of the blade. Make sure to maintain that 20° angle for the entire length of the edge. Continue to work the blade in this manner until a burr develops on the opposite edge and all imperfections are gone from the edge.
When a burr has developed, flip the knife over. This time place the edge of the knife at the 20° angle on the top of the sharpening stone. Using light pressure, slide the knife toward you making sure to hold the edge angle as you move the entire edge of the knife across the stone. When the burr is gone and can’t be felt on the other side of the edge, you can now move on to the fine side of the sharpening stone.
Finishing the Edge
At this point, the knife should have a sharpened edge. It will perform well enough for most tasks, but we all know sharper is better. Stropping your knife will help you reach next level, hair-splitting sharp.
If you are new to knives and still learning the lingo, a strop is a strip of leather (or other soft material) originally used by barbers to give straight razors a finished edge. This soft material helps to take any fine burrs or fine imperfections out of the edge. Stropping your knife starts with a strop and some stropping compound. Here at Blade HQ, we prefer the Flexcut Knife Strop. At around $15 it’s an amazing tool to have and makes all the difference when sharpening knives.
Liberally apply stropping compound to the surface of the strop. Like we did with the sharpening stone, place the knife at a 20° angle with the back of the edge at the front of the strop. While maintaining the angle, lightly slide the knife from back to front across the strop for one pass. Holding the angle, pivot the knife to the other side of the edge and slide the knife from the back to the front of the strop. Repeat this process until the knife is finished to your liking.
Knife sharpening isn’t rocket science when you have the right tools. If you are patient and take time to practice, you can quickly freshen up your knife’s edge. Using a sharpening stone is the simplest and most cost-effective way to sharpen a knife. It isn’t necessarily the easiest or most perfect, but it gets the job done and yields great results.
If you're looking for something a little more robust, check out our guide on how to sharpen your knife using the incredibly simple Spyderco Sharpmaker. The ceramic rods can be placed flat on the bottom and used for axe heads like a regular sharpening stone. For more information on knife sharpening and maintenance, check out our other guides. Be sure to check out our great selection of knife sharpeners and knife accessories. We have a great variety for every skill level and budget.