A sharp knife is absolutely essential for bushcraft so knife sharpening is therefore a key skill. A lot is written about knife sharpening that can make it sound much more complicated than it really is, so as with many aspects of bushcraft, keep it simple!
The description below is for a method of knife sharpening known as ‘Wire Edge Sharpening’ using a water stone.
Find a flat, stable surface to put your stones on. The choice of what grit to use depends on how much work needs to be done to the knife, but typically water stones are a fine grit.
- Immerse the stone in water; you should see bubbles coming out of the stone.
- Once the stone has stopped bubbling, it’s ready to use.
- Begin sharpening the knife by laying its bevel flat on the stone.
- Push the knife forwards on the stone with the blade facing away from you.
- Use slow firm movements.
- Check the bevel of the knife regularly; if the knife is polished above or below the shoulder you need to adjust the angle you are holding the knife.
- If the top of the stone gets dry, wet it down with a few drops of water.
- Using your nail, carefully feel the opposite side of the knife edge for a burr, or wire edge, along the whole length of the edge.
- Once a wire edge or “burr” has developed, repeat on the other side of the blade.
- Change to a finishing stone and use the same technique as on the coarse stone. This won’t produce as much of a burr.
As a final step, use a leather strop to further hone the edge of your knife. The back of a leather belt will work (I bought one in a second hand shop for £1 that does the trick). Run the knife up the strop 20 or so times.
When you’ve finished your knife sharpening it should be able to cleanly slice down through a sheet of paper held in the air between your finger and thumb.
You can see plenty of photos from all of these courses on our Facebook page.