How To Sharpen A Knife Without A Sharpener?

how to sharpen a knife without a sharpener

Though knife sharpeners are the best way to sharpen a knife, there might be times when you don’t have one and wish you had some other means to sharpen the knife for the time being. If this dilemma sounds like your situation, then it is the perfect time to learn how to sharpen a knife without a sharpener.

Note: If you have invested a good amount of money in a quality knife, then it is better to use a sharpener than these methods listed below. A good knife sharpener not only gives razor edge sharpness but also promises to offer the accurate amount of pressure required by the blade.

How To Sharpen A Knife Without A Sharpener?

There might be times when you don’t have a knife sharpener or perhaps, out somewhere hunting or camping. In such times, you probably don’t want to take the knife sharpener with you.  Considering this, here are a few substitutes to keep up the knives sharp.

1. Use A Diamond Stone Or Whetstone

If you are on an outdoor adventure like fishing, hunting, or camping, then it is vital to keep your knives properly sharpened. This can be done without a knife sharpener if you have a diamond stone or whetstone handy. These stones are lightweight and can do the task as good as a sharpening tool.

  • Step 1: Before using a diamond stone or whetstone, select an angle in which you want to sharpen the knife. Now, if you are unaware as to what angle the knife is to be sharpened at, choose a degree angle between 10 and 30 for every side of the knife blade. This tip can never go wrong. Shallow angles will give a sharper edge but the problem is that it won’t last long. On the other hand, steeper angles are sturdier; hence, degrees from 17 to 20 are excellent compromises.
  • Step 2: Once you have decided the angle, wet the diamond stone or whetstone using a nice, light oil like mineral or honing oil. This step is important because it makes the blade effortless to pass through the stone during the process of sharpening. Also, oiling will prevent the stone from clogging.
  • Step 3: After oiling the stone, keep the “sharpening guide” under the knife so that the blade is at a proper angle. However, if you don’t have a sharpening guide, make sure to keep the knife firmly by using your hand.
  • Step 4: The most difficult part while using a diamond stone or whetstone is setting the correct angle. To overcome this, you can mark the knife’s tip on both the sides using a nice sharpie pen. Check if the marks are being removed while performing the sharpening work.
  • A diamond stone or whetstone is rough on one side and fine on the other. Always begin on the rough part. To form a symmetrical edge, keep the knife sideways on the stone, and drag halfway towards you until the grind goes through the steel.
  • Step 5: Flip the knife and perform the same on the next side (the finer side).  Repeat the same steps as you did with the rougher side. Doing this will eliminate the burrs and make a good, honed edge. Again, turn the knife and even the other side.  In order to achieve the smoothest blade, you need to glide the knife at the finer side, flip it and glide again immediately on the stone’s other side.
  • Step 6: Polish or buff up the blade by gliding it over the stone.

Don’t use a diamond stone or whetstone to sharpen the knives often because the knife’s quality will not last long.

2. Use A Porcelain Coffee Mug

Dull knives not only make the slicing difficult but also can be dangerous to use. If you don’t have a sharpener at home, then learn how to sharpen a knife without a knife sharpener using a coffee mug. This trick works because the mug’s ceramic material is coarse enough to get the desired results. So, let’s get started.

  • Step 1: Coffee mugs can be an effective tool for sharpening a knife, especially when you do not have that fancy equipment to do the job. Start by placing the coffee mug (ceramic or porcelain) upside down.
  • Step 2: Adjust the knife at an angle of 20 degrees and sweep the blade’s one side across the grit for a few times.
  • Step 3: Repeat the above step but this time, with the other side of the knife (still maintaining it at 20-degree angle).
  • Step 4: Finally, alternate the sides with 2 to 3 more sweeps. Take the blade’s one side, sweep it across the mug, then turn it around and sweep the other side. Perform this pattern multiple times.
  • Step 5: Complete the process with 8 – 10 more swipes but this time with a honing rod. This will smooth the kinks or burrs in the metal. However, if you don’t have a honing rod, skip this step.

Also See: Best Ceramic Knife Sharpener

3. Use A Sandpaper

Well, sandpaper isn’t essentially a daily item. However, it is versatile and inexpensive. If you have one handy, then it can be a great tool to sharpen your knife. Even if you don’t have one, get it from a store because it is not going to cost you much.

  • Method: Begin with the coarser grit. Work all the way up towards the finer grit. This will accomplish maximum sharpness.

4. Use A Honing Rod

To keep that skinny knife sharp, a honing rod can be effective. But, also note that honing rod won’t make a dull knife sharp again. It only keeps the knife sharp only if you have been sharpening it with quality sharpeners and for the time being, you don’t have the equipment handy. Moreover, if you don’t have a diamond stone or whetstone, then honing rod serves as the right alternative.

A honing rod helps 1. Amend the small nicks or indentations, 2. Realign the knife’s metal, and 3. Flatten the spots. Unlike diamond or whetstone, the honing rod does not eliminate a big quantity of metal from the knife.

  • Step 1: Using a honing rod to sharpen a knife is simple. Hold it in a way that the angle is comfortable.
  • Step 2:  Once the angle is set, use the dominant hand to hold the knife in proper position.
  • Step 3: Slide the knife across the honing rod. Glide the knife from the heel to top edge.
  • Step 4: Do this a few times to sharpen the knife.

5. Use A Good Scissor

Since the topic is about how to sharpen a knife without a sharpener, a handy tool like scissors cannot be missed. But do not use this trick if you own an expensive quality knife because you might end up ruining its sharpening quality.

  • Step 1: Use a long quality scissor that has a narrowing metal. Alter the angle according to the size of the knife. For example, if you are going to chop some wood with a knife, set the angle to 45°. But, if you are going to cut down wood, set the angle as little as possible.
  • Step 2: Place the knife at the intersection of two finger holes. Press it firmly against its spleet. Close the scissors until you obtain a nice corner. Move it back & forth a few times and press it sturdily against the scissor. Ensure that the knife’s & scissor’s angle isn’t at 90°. Keep it about 70°.

Other Simple Tricks For Sharpening Knives

Apart from the above, there are some more ways to sharpen a knife. Here are they:

how to sharpen a knife without a knife sharpener

6. Use Cement Or Slate

This is one of the best options to sharpen a knife if you don’t have a knife sharpener or you are probably outdoors. Find a good piece of concrete or slate. Locate a nice, flat surface. Wipe the blade several times (in back and forth manner).

7. Use Another Knife

Just the saying goes – iron cuts iron, “a knife can sharpen another knife” too. Hold both the knives diagonally at right angles. Sweep them across multiple times to sharpen a dull knife.

8. Use A Broken Glass

Broken glass is yet another wonderful way to sharpen a knife. All you have to do is to hold the knife (slanting) at an angle so that it is slightly against the broken glass’s edge. Sweep it a few times in the same direction.

9. Use A Nail File

Like sandpapers, even nail files can be of great use to sharpen a knife. Emery boards or nail files are usually seen in most survival kits. Run the blade’s cutting edge against the nail file or emery board a few times to sharpen the knife.

10. Use A Cardboard

If you don’t even have nail files, then cardboards can be a great way to sharpen a knife. I am sure this must be lying somewhere around in the house. Though cardboards aren’t as effective as other things mentioned on this list, they still work.

Sharpening Serrated Knives

Like kitchen and other regular knives, even serrated knives need regular sharpening so that they don’t go dull.

Since the style of the blade is different in a serrated knife, you cannot utilize the same sharpener that you have been using for other knives. An ideal product for sharpening a serrated knife is a serrated ceramic sharpening tool. This usually in is rod-shaped and is tapered at one end so that it can accommodate variously sized serrations.

  • Step 1: Find out which side of the serrated knife has a beveled edge. A beveled edge is usually the one where the blade’s face angles down somewhat right prior to the edge. Now, this is the side, which requires sharpening.
  • Step 2: Place the rod at the serrated groove and hit shorter strokes. Once you have run the tool across the serrated groove, you need to check for metal shavings or burrs.
  • Step 3: If you feel the burr, it signifies that the task performed by you is correct.

Whether knife is serrated or regular, keeping the blades properly sharpened also gives the tools their longevity.

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