how to sharpen a pocket knife

Learning how to sharpen a pocket knife can extend its longevity, as well as retain its function and beauty.

Sharpening a pocket knife is more than a maintenance and care practice, sharpening your knife is an art form that takes patience, experience, and skill to perfect. Once you get the hang of it, it goes from an annoying chore to a labor of love with each purposeful swipe. Using a manual sharpening tool requires fine skill and balance, but mastery is totally achievable with some practice. Electric sharpening tools get your blades sharp at a faster rate thanks to the beauty of technology.

From maintaining a constant angle when sharpening to buying mineral oil lubricant for a sharpening stone, there are a few things to consider on how to sharpen a pocket knife. Our pocket knife sharpening guide breaks down the tools needed, sharpening process, and expert tips to keep your blades sharp.

Gather Your Sharpening Tools

Knife Sharpening Toolkit

Sharpening tools come in all shapes and sizes. Consider the blade’s material and quality to choose the right type of sharpening tool for your pocket knife. Sharpeners range from electric to manual-operated devices, each with the capacity to hone your blade. Whichever type of tool you choose, there will be a learning curve to achieving a razor-sharp blade.

Electric vs. Manual

High-tech electric sharpeners offer fast and convenient restorations but require an adept hand and super precise angling of the blade. For the uninitiated, the speed of the grinding wheels or belts on an electric sharpener can take off more metal than required, if you are not careful. Manual sharpeners can offer unmatched precision in sharpening, so long as you have mastered the deft movements and sharpening process. At an accessible price, these manual tools are usually compact and portable for small spaces and quick touch-ups on-the-go. There are super cheap tiny handheld sharpeners up to several hundred dollar electric sharpeners, depending on your needs.

Electric Sharpener

Electric sharpeners are quick, relatively user-friendly, and are preferred by people who have many tools to sharpen. Electric options can have features such as pre-programed control guides, nonslip grips, and a retractable power cord. For the electric sharpener, you often slide the knife right in and it does the work for you creating a nice sharp edge. They might be a little loud and can sometimes sound a bit like the pencil sharpeners from elementary school days, those loud grinding metal ones.

Handheld Sharpener

Sometimes you just want to do it yourself. You want to feel the tool and be able to maneuver it ever so slightly rather than rely on something electric to do it for you. You want to master a skill and feel accomplished at the end of the day. There are many handheld knife sharpeners to choose from. Many of them are super affordable, making it a captivating choice for knife sharpening experts and rookies alike. You have to rely on your own strength and force to sharpen the blades.

Knife Sharpener

The knife sharpener is a bit more modern and looks like the tool version of Wolverine’s claw. These are great for sharpening pocket knives or any non-serrated blade. All you have to do is place the side of the blade of your pocket knife in the slot to restore your dull knives. Pull the knife gently through a few times. It often comes with a grip to better hold it, a slip-resistant base to keep it in place with each motion as you slide the blade across.

Sharpening Stone

Rough grit or finer grit on a sharpening stone? The choices are many. Using a sharpening stone is a different handheld way to sharpen your knife blade. Also known as whetstones, the sharpening stone is a popular and quite traditional way to sharpen knives and edges of steel tools. To whet means to sharpen, so a whetstone is a sharpening stone. There are many different kinds of stones to pick from depending on the material, cost, and care needs. There are many sharpening stone materials out there and diamond and ceramic are among the most popular. Some sharpening stones will also need some type of lubricant like mineral oil or water lubricant. Keep in mind that you have to pick a lubricant that does not harden or rot.


Sharpening stones tend to come with two sides, a rough grit side and a fine grit side. Simply flip the stone to flip the grit. There are multiple grit levels that you can buy in addition to the basics. The stone grit variations are there to help you determine how much to sharpen your pocket knife. You can find course stones less than 1000 grit up to finishing stones at 8000 grit grades. Start off sharpening on the rough grit and then use the finer grit for superfine finishing. Is the edge of the blade particularly dull? Is the knife blade more rough or jagged? Your blade condition can help you determine what grit to use.


You sharpen one side at a time on the side of the stone. Simply switch sides of the blade on the stone to sharpen all edges, then finish off with alternating strokes. The durability of ceramic sharpening stones makes it a popular choice for dull knife sharpening. Cleaning should not be too hard, depending on your brand and the directions. Clean-up can range based on the brand, so it is best to read their exact instructions. The clean-up methods can range from soap and water to a plastic abrasive pad and powdered abrasive cleanser. Some ceramic stones must be used dry, without any oil or water.


Much like its ceramic version, you sharpen one side of the blade at a time. Diamond sharpening stones tend to come in Extra Fine, Fine, Coarse, and Extra Coarse grits and bases. Sharpen a dull blade or damaged blade with the extra coarse side of a diamond sharpening stone. If needed, follow up with the extra-fine grit that gives knives and tools a razor-sharp edge. These are a really great way to sharpen your pocket knife, but proper maintenance for your diamond sharpening stone is an important step to making it last.

Tips to Consider

Blade Sharpening

You have acquired your sharpening tools and you are ready to get to work. Now what? You do not want to grind your blade into a tiny nub so these are some fast and easy tips you will not want to miss. We want to help you make your blade the sharpest tool in the shed.

Clean Your Pocket Knife

One of the first steps to sharpening your pocket knife is cleaning it. You want to make sure you take off any debris, gunk, stickiness, or whatever is attached to the precious pocket knives. Start off with soap and water and consult these tips on how to clean your blade.It is impossible to accurately sharpen your knife, gauge the bevel, or correct the sharpening angle if you cannot even see your knife because it is covered in goop from past adventures.

Identify Your Bevel

No matter what you use to make a dull blade sharp, how to sharpen a pocket knife starts with identifying where the knife’s bevel is. The bevel is that slight angle or slight edge that runs across the knife. Usually there is only one bevel, but there are double bevel knife options, so confirm which one you have. Hunting and pocket knife bevel angles range from 22 to 30 degrees normally. Some people like to mark the edge of the bevel with a marker so they can tell if they are hitting the right angle as they hit the blade.

Sharpening Angles

Sparks From Knife Sharpening

If you watch enough videos on YouTube about how to sharpen a pocket knife, the experts often talk about finding the correct angle. What exactly is it? How do you find it? The constant angle and pressure across the stone or sharpening device allows you to hone at the right angle without having any accidents. Due to the angle, speed, and direction that you are sharpening, a slip may act as a guillotine.

Make sure you are careful during the process because as you are moving back and forth, there is a possibility of severely hurting yourself on a sharp blade edge. You want to ensure that you are sharpening the correct spot to ensure this does not happen. Some knives recommend sharpening at an exact degree angle, whether it is 15 or 20 degrees, other tools are already set at specific angles. You need to sharpen both sides of your pocket knife, so flip to the opposite side and do the process again. Once you reach the tip you might want to lift the knife a little as you sharpen back-and-forth.

Sharpening Frequency

Now that you purchased your equipment and you even have some experience you realize another question pops up. How often should you be sharpening the blade anyway? It will definitely depend on how frequently you use the knife in the first place. If it does not get much use, no need. But, if it feels rough around the edges, it might be time for a sprucing up.

Like any tool, it is all about how you use it. Some sharpeners are legitimately higher quality valued at several hundred dollars. If you do not feel inspired to spend that much to get a sharp knife, there are more affordable options that will do the trick. When in doubt, trust your sharpener’s instructions. Your stone and brand will usually contain instructions on how to clean it, whether you need a lubricant like mineral oil or water, and will walk you through those first steps. Sharpening a pocket knife should not be as difficult as a larger knife but still requires a fair share of elbow grease. Stay sharp!