Sharpening stones

Being able to sharpen your knife is an absolute key skill.  So knowing about the various types of sharpening stones out there is going to be useful.  So here are some of the pros and cons of various sharpening stones.

Type Advantages Disadvantages
  •   Fast cutting.
  •   Long lasting.
  •   Best choice for honing carbide tools.
  •   Can be used dry – without water or oil.


  •   Generally more expensive than other types.


  •   Can be used dry – without oil or water which   makes them easy to use when in the field.
  •   Can be cleaned with soap and a common kitchen pot   scrubber.
  •   The finer grits leave a polished, very sharp   edge.
  •   The ultra-hardness of ceramic stones insures a   flat, long lasting surface.


  •   Normally available in finer grits only.
  •   Ceramic stones with coarser grits will ‘glaze’   over time and lose some of their aggressiveness.
  •   Brittle and therefore easy to break.


  •   The coarse and medium grit oil stones will remove   metal fairly rapidly.
  •   Because their surface is hard, oil stones wear   very slowly and stay flat for a long time.
  •   Good variety of grits available.
  •   Generally affordable.


  •   The finer grit oil stones tend to remove metal   slowly and are prone to excessive ‘glazing’.
  •   Messy; the oil can get other things dirty.


  •   Fast cutting action with a good ‘feel’.
  •   Wide variety of grits available.
  •   Fine grit stones leave a polished, very sharp   edge which is difficult to obtain with oil and diamond stones.
  •   Relatively inexpensive.


  •   Quite big and heavy to carry in the field
  •   Water stones wear rapidly and must be flattened   periodically.
  •   Water stones are somewhat fragile and must be   stored and handled carefully.
  •   Can freeze in cold climates.


I routinely use 3 of these sharpening stones, the exception being oil stones.  I use a Japanese waterstone to sharpen knives in preparation for a course, such as in the photo below.  However, they’re bulky and so I carry a DC4 sharpening stone in the woods as it’s much smaller.  These are double sided stones, diamond one side and ceramic the other.
sharpening stones | knife sharpening

We teach knife sharpening and the pros and cons of avrious types of sharpening stones on our 2 Day & 5 Day Bushcraft Courses, and also our 2 Day & 5 Day Survival Courses.
You can see plenty of photos from all of these courses on our Facebook page.

About Gary

Lead Instructor at Jack Raven Bushcraft, teaching bushcraft, wilderness and survival skills to groups and individuals.

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