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Knife sharpening is a skill that requires time and practice to master. The right tools to sharpen your knives properly can make all the difference to learning the skill and maintaining your knives. We have detailed what we consider some must-have tools in your knife sharpening toolkit.
The must-have tools to properly sharpen your knives are a whetstone set to do major repair and precision sharpening on your knives, a quality pocket sharpener if in-field sharpening, and a leather strop to straighten and polish the edge. These tools provide all you need for proper sharpening.
There are many knife sharpeners available to the undiscerning and unwary knife owner. If you enjoy your knives and want to keep the edges well maintained and properly sharp, there are some must-have tools we recommend to keep your knives in tip-top shape!
If you are interested in checking out the best whetstones for sharpening your knives we recommend and use, you can find them by clicking here (Amazon link).
What Tools Are Needed To Sharpen A Knife?
Knife sharpening is not just knife sharpening but rather knife maintenance. Different knife sharpening tasks do different things to the blade’s edge and different tools to get these tasks done.
There are three main aspects to knife sharpening.
- Edge repair. This sharpening task is to repair a damaged edge on a knife and restore it to the point where it can be properly sharpened.
- Knife sharpening. This process is sharpening the edge of a knife that has become dull.
- Honing a knife. Honing is taking the sharpness of an already sharp knife up a notch to restore keenness to the sharp edge.
Each of these sharpening tasks requires different tools or different components of the same tool to achieve the desired result.
Your location may also determine the type of tools you use for each task since sharpening a knife in the field is different from sharpening a knife at home.
Let’s get into the tools that we recommend as the must-have tools to sharpen your knives for each type of sharpening task in different circumstances.
1. Whetstones For Sharpening Knives
If you are serious about your knife maintenance and achieving spectacular results on the edges of your knives, then whetstones would be one of the primary tools to consider in your knife sharpening toolbox!
Whetstones are considered in most knife sharpening circles as the best method to get a superb edge on your knives since the process is done by hand. This allows angles to be modified according to the function and blade type of the knife you are sharpening.
One great advantage of sharpening with whetstones is that they can be used for the full spectrum of knife sharpening tasks, from edge repair to sharpening and honing. Whetstones in 3 or 4 different grits will give you what you need to maintain the edges on almost any knife in your possession.
There are some disadvantages to whetstones, including the following.
- Whetstones require practice. Sharpening knives on a whetstone is a learned skill that takes time to master.
- Whetstones can be expensive. Cheap whetstones are not worth spending any money on, so you will need to spend a bit more money to acquire quality stones.
- Not portable. Whetstones are generally considered a workshop-type tool, which you would use either at home or in your garage to sharpen your knives. It is generally not considered a field sharpening tool.
TIP: Are you looking to buy a new whetstone? Check out our recommendations (we personally use the first three ones):
Our PRO choice whetstones combo (Amazon links):
- Fixing stone: Whetstone SHAPTON Ceramic KUROMAKU #320
- Sharpening stone: Suehiro CERAX soaking whetstone: Medium #1000
- Finishing stone: Whetstone SHAPTON Ceramic KUROMAKU #5000
Our budget choice (Amazon link): Sharp Pebble Extra Large Sharpening Stone Set
2. Pocket Sharpeners For Knife Sharpening
Pocket sharpeners can be an important tool to have available for touching up your blade out in the field. Several types of pocket-sized knife sharpeners fit the bill in this regard.
Some of these sharpeners have the advantage that they can perform sharpening and honing functions, but it is unlikely you will be able to use a pocket sharpener to fix a damaged edge.
We have selected two types of pocket sharpeners that we recommend as good field knife sharpeners to put an edge back on your knife when you cannot get to your whetstones.
The advantages of pocket sharpeners are their portability, making sharpening and honing your knife anywhere, anytime, is an easy task.
The disadvantage of pocket sharpeners is they lack the capacity to fix a damaged knife edge, and the degree to which the knife can be sharpened is limited.
DMT Diamond Plate Folding Sharpener
Diamond plates are used with the same action as whetstones, making them easy to use if you have already learned the skill on your whetstones.
The DMT Diamond Plate Folding Sharpener (Amazon link) has a fine and extra-fine grit in the folding tool. It gives you the ability to sharpen or finetune the edge of a knife. The tool is foldable and small enough to be portable in most situations.
The advantage of diamond plates is that you do not need water or other lubricants to use them. They can be used dry if you have no other option, but they work better when a little water is splashed on them during the sharpening process.
Lansky PS-MED01 BladeMedic
The Lansky BladeMedic is a great pocket sharpener that is small enough to slip unnoticed into any pocket and has the capability on hand to put an edge on your knife wherever you need it.
The Lansky BladeMedic (Amazon link) includes a Tungsten Carbide sharpening slot and a ceramic honing slot. A nice feature of this pocket sharpener is that it includes a diamond rod for sharpening serrated blades and a ceramic hone for serrated blades.
TIP: A handy sharpening tool for your pocket knife would be a good investment. Check out the detailed guide on the best sharpeners for pocket knives in the article below:
The 4 Best Knife Sharpeners For Pocket Knives
3. A Strop For Honing Your Knives
A strop is used to put the finishing touch on an already sharp knife. This process is termed honing and can be the final step in the sharpening process of a knife or used on its own to restore the keen edge of the knife.
The best tool to use for this sharpening process is a leather strop combined with a light grit abrasive compound.
The strop is used in a similar action to whetstones, using the same angles used to sharpen the knife. Less pressure is used on a strop since the purpose is to straighten and polish the final cutting edge.
Leather strops can be made in any convenient size, which means you can make large ones similar in size to your whetstones, or you can make smaller pocket-sized ones to carry with you wherever you go.
What Is The Best Tool Used In Sharpening?
The best sharpening tool will vary depending on who you speak to, but most knife and sharpening aficionados agree that whetstones make the best knife-sharpening tool.
This is because the angle of sharpening is easily adjusted to any angle for the knife concerned. The edge you can achieve with this sharpening method is generally superior to most other sharpening tools.
TIP: Knife sharpening systems are a great option when you are just starting to sharpen your knives. Check out the ultimate guide about the best knife sharpening systems in the article below:
Ultimate Guide: Best Knife Sharpening Systems for Beginners
What Material Is Best For Sharpening Knives?
Many materials are used in tools for knife sharpening, even within the whetstone category. Whetstones can be diamond plates, ceramic or glass stones, natural stones, aluminum oxide, or silicon carbide.
The best whetstone material for sharpening knives is Japanese water stones made from natural stone. The major disadvantage with these stones is the price, which puts them out of reach for most knife owners.
Diamond plates are the next best material to Japanese water stones and are considerably cheaper. Diamond stones have the advantage in that they retain their shape and do not require flattening as the other materials do.
TIP: Diamond sharpening stones are becoming a popular alternative to traditional whetstones. Find out what they are and how to take care of them in the article below:
Diamond Sharpening Stone: Explanation, Cleaning & Storage
What Tool Is Used To Sharpen Long Knives?
The best tools to sharpen long knives are whetstones. This is because the whetstones allow for the entire length of the blade to be passed across the stone in a single stroke.
There are other methods of sharpening long knives on whetstones, which involve sharpening sections of the blade at a time, but it is more difficult to maintain the same angle across the blade than using the single long-stroke method.
Many sharpening systems, such as the Lansky Deluxe Sharpening System, have limited capability for sharpening long knives. On the other hand, Whetstones can be used to sharpen swords if you so desire!
Knife Maintenance and Care Tips
Proper knife maintenance is vital for keeping your knives sharp, safe to use, and prolonging their lifespan. In this section, we’ll delve into essential knife care practices that will help you maintain the sharpness and quality of your knives.
1. Cleaning Your Knife:
After each use, it’s crucial to clean your knife properly. Hand wash your knives with mild detergent and warm water. Avoid using particularly abrasive scrubbers, as they can damage the blade’s edge. Gently scrub the blade and handle, rinse, and dry thoroughly.
2. Drying Techniques:
To prevent rust and corrosion, make sure your knives are thoroughly dry after washing. You can air-dry them by placing them on a dish rack or towel-dry them with a clean, lint-free cloth.
3. Storage Guidelines:
How you store your knives is essential. Consider using a knife block, magnetic strip, or blade guards to protect the sharp edge and prevent contact with other utensils. Never toss your knives into a drawer where they can collide with other objects.
4. Honing vs. Sharpening:
Understanding the difference between knife honing and sharpening is crucial. Honing with a honing rod or steel helps align the blade’s edge between sharpenings. Sharpening, however, involves removing metal to restore the edge. Regular honing can extend the time between sharpening sessions.
5. Frequency of Sharpening:
The frequency of sharpening depends on how often you use your knives. High-quality knives may require less frequent sharpening than lower-quality ones. Monitor your knife’s performance, and sharpen when you notice a decrease in cutting efficiency.
6. Using the Right Cutting Surfaces:
Choose the right cutting board to avoid dulling your knives. Wood and soft plastic cutting boards are gentle on knife edges, while hard surfaces like glass or stone can lead to quicker wear and tear.
7. Avoiding Cutting Bones and Frozen Foods:
Avoid using your knives to cut through bones or frozen foods, as this can chip or damage the blade. Instead, use a dedicated tool for such tasks, like a cleaver for bones.
8. Regular Inspections:
Regularly inspect your knives for nicks, chips, or other damage. Address any issues promptly to prevent further damage and maintain the knife’s performance.
9. Professional Sharpening Services:
If you’re uncomfortable sharpening your knives yourself, consider professional knife sharpening services. Look for reputable professionals who can restore your knives to their optimal condition.
Proper knife maintenance is a crucial aspect of owning high-quality knives. By following these care tips, you can be sure that your knives stay sharp, safe, and durable, even after using your sharpening tools.
While many tools are available for sharpening knives, the ones we have detailed can be considered the must-have tools for knife sharpening.
Other tools may offer more convenience but cannot compare to the quality of the edge on the knife when using whetstones for precision sharpness and edge repair, quality pocket sharpeners for in-field sharpening, and a leather strop to finesse the knife’s edge!
The cost and quality of the whetstones that you buy will often determine the success of your efforts when learning how to sharpen your knives. Check out the complete guide on how to choose a whetstone in the article below:
How To Choose And Buy A Whetstone: The Ultimate Buyer’s Guide