How to Sharpen a Knife – Sharpening a Knife


Tips and notes on sharpening a knife.


  • The secret to sharpening a knife is consistency in the angle on the abrasive surface, as well as equal treatment on both sides of the blade.
  • Remember that with each sharpening of your tools, scissors or knife; you are removing a layer of metal from the blades.
  • If applicable you should alternates sides as often as you can.
  • Check your sharpening progress on a frequent basis.
  • Always handle your blade sharpeners with care as to protect the surfaces of your sharpening components. This protection should be done during use, and during storage.
  • Always use sharpening fluid when sharpening with flat stones or other blade sharpeners, even if the stone can be used wet or dry as this keeps the pores of the sharpener clean and clear. It will also dissipate frictional heat and it facilitates a smooth sharpening action. Use water, or non petroleum based honing solution to lubricate the stone and always use lubricants on a natural stone to avoid damaging the stone. When you have used oil on a natural stone, it will be difficult to change back to water again. When you do decide to use oil, it should be a permanent decision.

Use enough liquid so there is always a visible layer on the stone while sharpening. When the liquid gets murky, pat it up and put fresh fluid on the stone. Use a little extra fluid after every use to wipe the sharpener clean with and then pat dry. After about three to four uses you should clean your stone with some soap and water and brush it mildly to eliminate debris build up on the stone, glossy grey coloured greasy streaks will indicate a debris build up. You can use an old toothbrush to scrub the stone with as it will help to remove debris but won’t damage the stone.

  • If you are worried about damaging your knives, buy a cheaper knife first to practice on when blade sharpening.
  • Blade sharpening should be done on a regular basis, regular sharpening will ensure that you only have to fine tune the edges, while infrequent sharpening may require more work to restore the edges. It really shouldn’t take much to bring an edge back to sharp once you notice the edges needs sharpening and attend to it immediately, rather than leaving it.
  • Keep your blade sharpeners where you use your knifes most often (garage, knife drawer, fishing tackle box or where ever else) as this will encourage you more to do blade sharpening on the dull edges right away when you notice they aren’t working the way that they should.
  • To ensure a proper sharpening process you should reverse or replace your abrasive materials when and if possible and needed.


Sharpening Straight Blades

  • Straight edged blades allow for a clean cut and a smooth one at that. This blade can be used for soft foods and firm foods alike, such as vegetables, fruit and meat.
  • You can inspect your blade by holding it up and looking down the length of the blade for any nicks or flats spots reflected in the light.

If you do find any-thing wrong start sharpening directly with a coarse/rough abrasive blade sharpeners such as carbide blades, diamond stone sharpeners or synthetic stones to remove the problem areas on the blade to where it is from very dull to almost perfectly sharp but not just finished yet. After you have the new sharp edge on your knife you should take a medium or even a fine sharpening stone or other material to finish it off with and give it that razor sharp finish.

  • Is the blade completely dull, or does it just need a touch up?

If so, start blade sharpening with medium abrasive blade sharpeners like a medium grit diamond, or a fine material like ceramic, depending on how dull the blade is. If you start with a medium abrasive, you should finish with a fine abrasive material to smooth and polish the edges and remove any remaining burr.


Blade sharpening of Very Small Tools and the Tip of Your Blade


When sharpening the tip of your blade, or very fine tools, you should use a sharpener with an uninterrupted surface. This will ensure that the edges and points don’t catch on the uninterrupted surface. Solid surface diamonds, synthetics or Arkansas works well in this application.

Exercise restraint due to the fact that you are working with a small object:

  • When stroking the sharpener you shouldn’t use any pressure.
  • You should alternate sides often even after each stroke, otherwise you might wear away part of the tool.
  • Take small steps and check your progress frequently.
  • As you are working with sharp edges always be very careful.


Sharpening Serrated Blades and Gut Hooks

You will need a specially shaped sharpener, or abrasive material and different techniques to sharpen gut hooks or serrated blades. Usually one would use a round file style sharpener that is tapered or a pull through sharpener with specially shaped abrasive stones to achieve the most consistent results.




Serrated edges works best for slicing cuts, especially through hard surfaces where the serration tend to grab and pierce through a surface quickly, thus they serrated edge has notches or teeth like the cutting edge of a saw. You will need a triangular shaped surface or tapered rod to sharpen a serrated edge, these shapes allow you to sharpen the whole edge as well as the tip. A flat stone will only sharpen the tips of the serrations and not the whole serration blade.

  • Serrations normally have a grind on the one side of the blade only, so you should sharpen the grind side only.
  • You should always hold the sharpener at the angle that matches the original edge angle when you are not using a sharpener with fixed angles. When you use a fixed angle sharpener, you eliminate this requirement.
  • When you use a tapered rod style sharpener, you should put the pointed end of the sharpener against the serration and gently stroke the sharpener into the serrations, away from the blades edge and towards the spine. When the width of the taper sharpener and the width of the serrations are the same size you should stop stroking (never enlarge the width of the serrations).
  • Rotate or spin the sharpener, this will ensure an even and consistent sharpening proses.
  • Always check your progress as you go along and continue until sharp.

NOTE:  You will only end up sharpening the tip of serrations when using a flat stone, this isn’t ideal, but it will improve the results.


Gut Hooks

  • You will, like with serrations, need to use a tapered rod to sharpen the edges on a gut hook.

NOTE: Don’t fill the gut hook completely with the sharpener as this will only enlarge the curve of the gut hook and possibly disfigure the cutting edge.

  • Place the sharpener, narrow end first, against the open side of the gut hook, the open side should point in towards the thickness of the blade, in the opposite direction as the gut hooks edge.
  • The sharpener should be held at an angle that matches the original gut hook edge angle. Doing this will maintain the correct sharpening angle; it will also prevent being cut by the blade tip. Make sure you sharpen each side of the gut hook at the same angle.
  • You need to stoke the sharpener from side to side, in a forward and sideways motion, over the gut hook. Spin the sharpener as you go along and when you do the edge, stroke the sharpener away from the edge.
  • Alternate the blade sides if needed and always do the same amount of strokes on each side if it’s equally ground on both sides. Keep the strokes to a minimum to avoid distorting the shape of the gut hook.
  • Check your progress as you go until you have reached the desired sharpness.


Sharpening Fish Hooks and Small, Pointed Objects


When you sharpen pointed objects such as fish hooks, dart tips and needles you should always sharpen with a straight line sharpening groove. Never use a flat stone.

  • You will need to put the pointed object or fish hook in the groove, with the point toward the direction you will stroke.
  • Holding the hook in the groove you will then stroke it to the end of the groove.
  • Be sure to exercise restraint as you are working with a small, thin object.
  1. You may just need a few strokes, so check your progress frequently.
  2. Never use a lot of pressure during the stroking process.
  3. Continue stroking lightly until you reach the sharpness that you need.


Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best Sharpener?

Always choose your sharpener wisely, based on your expertise, your needs, the material and the edge sharpness required. The best sharpener will be the one that does what you need it to do. No matter what sharpener you end up choosing, they will all work, but each in their own way.


What is the best angle to sharpen your knife?


The consistency at which you sharpen is more important than the degree of the angle that you use. You will achieve the sharpest possible edge by maintaining a constant sharpening angle on both sides of the surface. Most sporting and outdoor knife requires a constant 14⁰-20⁰ angle for best results. Remember, you can use what ever angle you prefer, just keep the same angle on both sides to achieve the best and sharpest edge possible.


How often should I sharpen my knife or tool?

If you want your knife or tools to last long then never let them get dull. Rather do a touch up on your knife or tools after every use, which makes it easier to maintain your sharp edges, than having to replace them due to neglect. It will be harder and takes much more time to sharpen an edge when it has been left to get completely dull, than to maintain it.


How do I know when my knife is sharp?

Test the sharpness of your knife by cutting a piece of paper or food with it. Shaving some hair off your arm might seem like a good idea, but this is not the ideal way to test the sharpness. Over sharpening your knife can be just as bad as not sharpening or maintaining your knife, and remember, once you have reached the optimal sharpness you should stop sharpening.


Knowing how to sharpen a knife is important if you regularly use your knives and need them to be in perfect condition but there is more to know about how to sharpen your knife. Have a look at this great article called Knife Sharpener Equipment, Electric Knife Sharpeners and Sharpening Stones to learn more about the different types of knife sharpeners and how to use them.

You should also visit the Knife Blade Shapes article to get more familiar with the different types of blade shapes, read this article here. That will make the whole sharpening process a whole lot simpler and more understandable.