hunting knife sharpening: Survival Tactics: How To Sharpen A Hunting Knife With Or Without A Sharpener

When hunting out in the wild, you get utter satisfaction with a good kill. As soon as you’re done, you want to settle down and enjoy your trophy. You bring out your hunting knife to skin your coveted game.

But the sleek and slim metallic sheen of the hunting knife is gone the moment you flay the skin off the animal. To be able to cut through the tough stretches of skin, you’ll need a very sharp knife that can cut with ease, without you losing your grip. You don’t want to rip the skin off with a dull knife, you want to flay through the layers with ease. And not for just skinning, you’ll also need a sharp hunting knife to make your way through the leaves and branches of an untouched forest trail.

Hunting knife sharpening might seem like a simple process but maintaining its sharpness is a recurring, yet challenging task in the long run. This article will teach you everything you need to know about hunting knife sharpening for a seamless hunting experience at all times.

Factors to Consider Before Sharpening the Blade

When you go hunting, you should take a hunting knife sharpener (also known as whetstone) with you. Don’t leave it behind. Sharpening is a skill that can be mastered over time; but before following the process, you’ll need to understand a few factors that are crucial to the process.

  • Type of blade steel used to make the knife
  • Type of blade grind because different blade grinds require different angles for sharpening to achieve your desired edge
  • Kind of grit on the knife sharpener
  • Honing angle of the knife
  • Type of sharpener or whetstone

Types of Blades and Grinds

  1. Hollow grind: such a knife blade would have a concave cutting edge that can be used for shaving.
  2. Flat grind: Such a knife blade would be completely flat on both sides from the spine all the way to the edge. Flat grinds have a lot of their metal removed to gain sharpness, so they are not much durable. Such knives are rare and so are not used much.
  3. Sabre grind: This also looks like a flat grind, but the bevel starts in the middle of the knife. Also known as V grind, this type of blade is seen in military knives. These knives are also easier to sharpen.
  4. Chisel grind: This blade can only be ground on one side, with an angle of up to 30 degrees. The other side remains flat. You can have left-handed and right-handed versions. You’ll often see culinary knives or Japanese knives have this grind.
  5. Compound bevel: These knives usually have two levels of bevel, one near the top and one near the middle of the knife. These blades are resilient but less sharp.
  6. Convex grind: The taper of the edge of this knife is curved instead of being straight. These knives are sharp and don’t lose enough metal when being sharpened.

Hunting knives usually have hollow grinds while the more heavy-duty knives have saber grinds. General knives have flat grinds. Knives with saber grinds need higher honing angles while flat and hollow grinds require lower angles for sharpening – around 10 to 15 degrees.

Types of Whetstone Sharpeners

Understanding the nature of a whetstone is important. Whetstones can be naturally occurring, such as Arkansas oil stones, or man-made stones such as India stones. For both these categories, you should ensure whether the whetstone is meant to be used with oil or water as lubricants. Some whetstones can be used with or without water. Whetstones can come with different grits. Coarse grits are more abrasive compared to finer grits.

When sharpening a knife with a whetstone, fine crystals are produced that quickly remove steel and polish the surface of the blade at the same time. However, no matter what whetstone you use, the sharpening process is still the same. You might have to lubricate with water or oil depending on the type of whetstone you have.

When you buy a whetstone you’ll see that there are numbers written on them. The numbers represent the amount of grit. Less than 1000 means you can use that portion to repair nicks and chipped edges in knives. Anywhere between 1000 to 3000 indicates a grit surface that can be used to sharpen knives. Grit level between 4000 to 8000 is used to refine and polish the knife edge. The lower the number, the coarser the grit surface. So, for hunting knife sharpening, you should start with the lower numbers first to repair the edges. Once the edges reach a desired shape, you can fine-tune the edges by sharpening on higher grit levels, which will give a polished sheen and perfect edge.

How to Use Whetstones as a Hunting Knife Sharpener?

Now that you know the basics, we can move on to the actual process, which is quite simple really. Get yourself a whetstone. Depending on the type of whetstone, you need to lubricate it using either water or oil. Also, depending on how damaged your knife is, you need to determine which grit to use. If your knife only needs polishing, hold its handle and place the edge on the whetstone grit level of 4000 at around 10 degrees. Slowly move the portion of cutting edge across the whetstone while ensuring this level. Repeat this process back and forth and do this for the other side as well, until you reach the sharpness you want. Maintaining the consistent angle could be tough; you could use a honing aid for extra support. If your knife is more damaged, start with a lower grit number and then make your way through higher grit numbers for finer edges.

How to Sharpen a Knife Without a Sharpener?

While hunting, you could lose your whetstone or even realize you left your whetstone at home. In such situations, should you give up on sharpening your hunting knife? The answer is, no. There are plenty of objects that can be used to sharpen your hunting knife without a sharpener. If you see any rocks or large pebbles with smooth surfaces nearby, you could use those for sharpening. It won’t be perfect, but at least the sharpness would be usable. However, what if there are no rocks around? If this is the case, you should do the following:

  • If there is an old coffee mug around you, you’re in luck. The bottom end of the coffee mug can be placed upwards. On a rough surface, place your hunting knife and start sharpening. Anything made of ceramic, such as the edge of a plate or bowl can be used.
  • Use nail files. Although it’s an odd thing to take during a hunting trip, in case you have it with you, use it. Place the nail file flat on the ground or a rock (not your knee!) with the rough side facing upwards. Place your knife on it and then sharpen the edges.
  • If you have another knife, you could use that. Although knife experts suggest not using one knife to sharpen the other, you might have to in this case. There’s actually a proper way of doing it. Using one knife blade to sharpen another’s cutting blade is the wrong way. Use the back of one knife to sharpen the blade of the knife you’re about to use.
  • Did you happen to take a bottle of coke for refreshment quite recently? If you did, it’s time to break it. Once you break the bottle in half, there would be rough edges. Stroke the blade edge of the knife inwards on the rough edges and then pull outwards. Keep stroking until you get the desired level of sharpness.
  • As a last resort, you can use a leather belt, especially if none of the other items previously mentioned isn’t around. Strip the belt off and lay it on a flat hard surface and place the hunting knife on the belt. Ensure the blade is facing towards you. Drag the knife on the belt away from you in one movement. Flip the knife and drag towards you, with the blade facing away from you this time. Repeat this process with the other edge as well. Continue for 10 to 15 minutes.

Hunting Knife Sharpening: What to Remember?

Remember that you should use a whetstone for the purpose of hunting knife sharpening. In case you don’t have a whetstone, you could use these objects. Sharpening a knife with these regular items too often could damage both the knife and the object, so make sure that the process is carefully done.

With a sharp glistening knife, you can finally get your hands dirty and start skinning your game.

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