How to Sharpen a Survival Knife

Jacob Moore

Last updated April 15, 2021

If you plan on spending any amount of time in the wilderness, whether for camping, hiking, hunting, fishing, or any other activity, you need to be prepared for just about anything.

This means that there are certain items you should always have with you, including a survival knife. But, just having a knife isn’t enough. You have to make sure it is always going to work when you need it, which means that it needs to be sharpened regularly.

If you don’t have a good, sharp survival knife when you are in the field, you may end up empty-handed when you run into a problem.

These knives are used to hack through many things in the wilderness, and in some cases, having or not having a knife with you could be a matter of life and death.

Today we are going to talk about the various tools that can be used to sharpen your survival knife, and how to properly sharpen it with a sharpening stone to get the keenest edge possible.

How to Sharpen a Survival Knife – Tools You Will Need

Before you learn how to sharpen your survival knife, you need the right tools to get the job done, and of course, how to use them. When you have the right tools, sharpening a knife is pretty easy, and it only takes a few minutes to get that keen edge you will need.

Here is a basic rundown of the tools that can be used to sharpen survival knives.


One of the most common methods of sharpening a knife is by using a whetstone, which isn’t nearly as difficult as you might think. Every whetstone has a coarse side and a fine side.

When the knife blade is rubbed against the surface at the proper angle, it is going to get sharper.

If you are out in the wild and you need to sharpen your survival knife and you don’t have a whetstone, it is possible to make one out of natural items.

You will need some course stones from a riverbed, and wood from a living tree. Peel the bark off the tree, crush the stones into a fine pulp, wet the wood, and rub the rock pulp onto the tree.

Now you have a whetstone you can use to sharpen your survival knife.

What you need to know about Survival Knife Care


How to Sharpen a Survival Knife

Ceramic Sharpener

Ceramic sharpeners are quite popular, and one of the most common tools used to sharpen knives. It is made from a super-hard ceramic that is almost as hard as a diamond, and less abrasive, so you will get a practically razor-sharp edge.

How does it work? When you slide the blade against the ceramic, it peels off very fine layers of the metal on the blade, and each time you make a pass it will get sharper.

You never have to worry about buying a new ceramic sharpener, unless of course, you lose yours, because they never wear out.

Electric Sharpener

In most cases, an electric sharpener would be used for kitchen knives, but they can be used for any other type of knife.

Electricity is used to power small orbiting plates of abrasive material that are fixed at the right grinding angles. There are slots on the machine through which you run your knives to sharpen blades, and this type of sharpener can be used for both straight edge and serrated blade knives.

If you want to sharpen your knife in a hurry, this is the best option; you can sharpen just about any knife in a few minutes. Some people say this is the best way to sharpen your knife when you need to get it done quickly.

Sharpening Your Survival Knife

Now that you know the best tools to use, it’s time to talk about how to sharpen your survival knife. No matter what you will be using it for, it should always be super-sharp so it will always do the job you need it to do.

Before beginning, make sure that you have all your tools, and that you know what you are doing. If you have never sharpened a knife before, it is a good idea to watch a few instructional videos so you can see how it’s done.

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Use a Stable Surface

Make sure that you are working on a stable surface. You will need to hold the knife at a specific angle, and having a stable surface will make this much easier.

Glide the Knife Across the Surface

Once everything is set up and stable, it’s time to get to work. Slide the blade surface, moving up and down the knife while pressing the blade against the rough side of the whetstone.

Do this in a circular motion so you know you are going in the right direction. You should be able to see small metal shavings at the edge of the blade. Wipe them off and keep going. Keep working in this manner until the blade starts to get sharper.

Sharpen the Back

Once you have sharpened the front of the blade, you will need to sharpen the other side to be sure you have plenty of cutting power. Flip the knife around and use the same technique you used for the front.

Use the Smooth Side of the Stone

Now, turn the stone so the fine side is facing upwards. Using this side will make your knife super-sharp. The coarse side is for extremely dull knives. Make sure that you know the angle of your blade.

Every knife is different, and the bevel of the blade determines how effective the knife is.

Test the Knife

Once you think the knife is sharp enough, you will need to test it. You don’t want to end up in the middle of the woods with a blade that is still too dull to cut much of anything.

Hold a piece of paper lengthwise, and run the blade through it, perpendicularly. If the blade cuts the paper without tearing and leaves a clean edge, it is sharp enough. If it tears or leaves a jagged edge, you will need to do some more sharpening.

Using a Sharpening Guide

Another option is to use a sharpening guide, which is a tool that can be connected to the knife so you have better stability and will be working at the proper angle, both of which can be difficult until you have some experience with sharpening various types of knives.

If you are not sharpening the blade at the correct angle, you can damage it. So, if you are inexperienced at sharpening knives, it might be a good idea to invest in a sharpening guide.

The sharpening guide has a hard surface, so it is a great platform to hold the knife and keep everything stable while you are working. The more you use the guide, the better you will become at sharpening your knives, and after a while, you won’t need to use a sharpening guide.

Then, if you are in the wild and need to sharpen your knife, you will have the skills needed to be able to do without using a guide.

Jacob Moore

Jacob Moore is the founder of, and he has spent more time surviving in the wilderness than an average human being. A familiar face from the rural United States, Jacob has always wanted to live close to nature. Even after spending a few years in the buzzing world of cities and 9 to 5 jobs, he managed to get out to the outer world when he got a chance. Jacob would say that hiking is his passion, and he has spent up to several weeks in the wild.