The Different Ways to Sharpen a Hunting Knife

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Having a hunting knife ready to go is essential and that means implementing a proper maintenance routine.

When a hunting knife isn’t properly taken care of, it can become dull to the point of inefficiency. This is why it’s important to take a step back and focus on the different ways to sharpen a hunting knife.

Grit Sharpener

grit stone for hunting knife

Now, there are different types of knives for hunting, but this is a tool that can go a long way. You are going to take the hunting knife and hold it at a slight angle while pressing it against the grit sharpener.

By doing this, you are going to easily tweak the material to make sure it is sharp where it needs to be. In most cases, you are only going to have to do 4-5 strokes on each side for it to work properly. However, this is more about taking a look at the hunting knife and making a judgment call based on what you see in front of you.

Regardless of what you do, it’s important to make sure both sides have been correctly and evenly sharpened. Otherwise, the hunting knife isn’t going to work the way you want it to.

With a grit sharpener, you are going to have to take the time to understand how far you are grinding the knife. There are unfortunate examples of some going too far on one side and not far enough on others. This leads to an inefficient and at times useless knife that doesn’t work the way you want it to when put to use in the outdoors.

Stone or Belt Grinding

grinder for hunting knife

This is another option available for sharpening a hunting knife. In this case, you are going to take a simple whetstone and use this as a solution for sharpening the knife. This sharpening article has a good overview.

To do this the right way, you will want to begin by applying a bit of castor oil to the whetstone. This is going to make sure it doesn’t clog. Once you do this, you will begin the process of rubbing against the prepared whetstone. This is going to be done over the course of 10-12 passes (slowly) and you are going to want to pay attention to how well the knife is sharpened.

The goal is to do this on both sides, so the hunting knife looks the way it is supposed to and works efficiently. It can take a bit of time to get it right but the results will work out in your favor.

To take it to the next level, you can also bring in a leather strop and rub the knife against it at least 30-40 times. This is going to ensure the knife is incredibly sharp from all angles.

Final Thoughts

By implementing these strategies, you are going to be well on your way to a better, longer-lasting hunting knife that is going to do its part perfectly. It’s all about taking the time to see what is available to you and how you are going to make it work.


Sharpening your hunting knife—a detailed look

Don’t hurry into sharpening your hunting knife just yet. We want first to highlight three stages of sharpening the blade. Sometimes, your hunting knife may only need the second or the third stage.

Sharpening the hunting knife is less complicated than you might think and it consists of grinding and honing. With grinding, you will get rid of the metal, whereas honing is the precision abrasion process where you remove a small amount of material from the surface. The following method can only be used on straight and non-serrated knives.

Stage 1

Also known as the rough cut stage, the first stage refers to removing the inconsistencies in the blade. It’s a deep sharpening phase that you only have to do if the edges of your hunting knife are nicked and inconsistent. You should also do it if the blade is incredibly dull.

You will turn the edge blade from U to a sharp V shape with this stage. Start by angling the blade between 13 and 16 degrees from the coarse grit sharpener. Ideally, you want to do five strokes for every edge side. We insist you have precise control under the proper angle while stroking the blade across the sharpener.

Stage 2

This phase is a medium to final sharpening stage that you should use with quick touch-ups, dull blades, and final sharpening (for some knives). After you’re done with the first stage, you have to remove the rough scratches and sharpen the dull blades.

It’s a good idea to use some honing fluid, but you can perform the diamond sharpener both wet and dry. In the second stage, you do the same thing as you did in the first phase but use another sharpener for the job.

Many hunters aren’t aware that it’s possible to achieve excellent sharpness at the second stage, so they no longer need to go through the third stage. If you have the time, patience, and skills, you could work the edge and fine-tune it to smooth out all the scratches.

Stage 3

If you aim for fine sharpening, you will also need to go with Stage 3 sharpening. You will have to use a fine grit sharpener or natural stone for this phase. Should you decide to use natural stone, remember not to get it. Do the same strokes you did in Stage 1, but use light side-to-side strokes. Repeat the strokes a few times.

What’s the best way to sharpen serrated hunting blades?

Serrated blades are great because they can maintain their sharpness longer than straight-edged blades. If you think that’s ideal, you should consider it once again. Once the serrated edges get dull, it will struggle to sharpen them.

You shouldn’t even attempt sharpening your serrated blade without getting a tapered/cylindrical fine diamond steel or a ceramic sharpener. You have to sharpen every serration separately to make it even more complicated. There’s some good news to it, though, as you only have to sharpen the blade from one side.

As long as you’re using the correct angle, you shouldn’t need to take more than 5 to 8 strokes. Make sure that you only keep the ramp of the serration from edge to edge. Avoid making an edge bevel by grabbing a pen to paint the serration requiring sharpening. As you go with your sharpening, check out to see if you get rid of the black. This is how you will know if the sharpening is consistent or not.

To obtain the most consistent sharpening, we also recommend you rotate and spin the sharpener throughout the whole process.

What's the best way to sharpen serrated hunting blades

What if you have to sharpen the knife afield?

Ideally, you should never find yourself in the situation of having to sharpen your hunting knife in the field. At most, you should touch up the edge. However, if you’re hunting and discover that your knife is rather dull, here are two ways to continue with your pursuit.

Use a proprietary sharpener

One easy way to sharpen the blade afield is to use a proprietary sharpener that features a ceramic rod slot and a tungsten slot. These tools will let you run the knife through the tungsten side to get rid of some of the steel. You will clean off the burr by using the ceramic side. The main thing to keep in mind is always to use light pressure. The tools will remove chunks out of the bleed should you press too much. Not having any hunting knife is even worse than having a dull one!

The second method

With the second method, you will glue a tiny rectangle of 240grit wet and dry onto one side of some scrap ply (make sure it’s thin). You also need 600 grit wet and dry on the other side. You can use it similarly to a strop to create some edge. Don’t rely on the wet and dry for all your huntings; they only last a couple of times. However, they’re affordable and efficient. If you want to spare a buck, you can buy a small diamond stone that fits in your pocket.

So your blade is sharp now. How do you keep it that way, though?

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that there is such a knife that never needs sharpening. Even if some steels impress with the wear resistance abilities, such ability is both a blessing and a course. The same characteristics that make such knives keep their blade for the longest time make them incredibly difficult to sharpen.

A knife’s key to keeping its edge isn’t about the materials but more about how you use the knife. Some things will dull the edge a lot sooner than expected. The edge will get dull as long as you don’t cut flash or soft tissue. Additionally, the more you take care of your hunting knife, the longer it will keep its edge. Always wash and rinse your knife after use. You should end with applying food-safe oil on the blade after each use.

If you want your knife to stay sharp for as long as possible, you should keep it in its sheath every time you’re not using it so that you protect it against abrasive surfaces. At the end of the day, keeping the edge of your hunting knife is a matter of following the many tips that your grandpa would have taught you when you were a child.

See also our Tactical knife buying guide for an up-to-date selection of must-have tactical knives.

Robert Dwayne

Robert Dwayne

To say that I am an outdoors enthusiast is probably an understatement. I am hyper passionate about everything outdoors: hiking, survival, hunting. On this website I am sharing my stories and experiences, and I hope you'll find inspiration to take up your own adventures!