Instructor Corps Pro Tip: Alright, y’all. This is a good one. One of our favorites, actually. Normally we only show this one in our courses, but now we’re releasing it out into the interwebs for everybody’s benefit. Lots of people who carry knives are scared of sharpening them. In our experience, it’s mostly because they’re afraid of screwing up, so they don’t do it. Their blade gets dull, and then they dread spending the hours necessary to sharpen and re-profile it, especially if it’s stainless. So the cycle of dread and procrastination perpetuates itself until they just stop using the knife and buy another one to avoid having to deal with the hopelessly dull blade they’ve created. This is how people end up with boxes of knives in their closet or garage that they never use. We won’t name any names, but it’s more common than you think.
The way around this train wreck is regular preventative maintenance. It’s WAY easier to keep a blade sharp than it is to make it sharp. If you hone and strop your blade after every serious use, you’ll almost never have to actually sharpen it, that is, remove metal with an abrasive surface. Honing a blade, in the simplest of terms, is running it across a surface that’s harder than it is in order to correct microscopic imperfections in the cutting edge. There are lots of ways to hone a knife, besides actual ceramic or steel knife hones. River rocks, coffee mugs, tiles, and many other things work really well. But our favorite method is a car or truck window. Simply roll your window down, and use the slightly rough top edge to hone your knife. Lay your blade down and find the edge, and pull it across the window. I like to do ten times per side. When Jonathan and I work in the woods, we do this every time before we leave – it’s an easy habit to get into, just roll your window down, hone your knife, and you’re good to go. This technique works for any type of steel or blade grind. If you do this every time you use your knife, you can go for months without ever having to sharpen it (unless you’re like me and put a gigantic chip in the belly of your blade trying to cut a chainsaw out of a tree… sorry, Fieldcraft). Try it sometime – unless your knife is beyond hope already, it should sharpen right up.
Want to learn this and more knife care tips in a hands-on setting? Come to Sunday Afternoon Bushcraft: Outdoor Knives this Sunday, 9/23, 2pm-7pm! Register now at https://www.sarcraft.com/course-registration/register-sunday-afternoon-bushcraft!