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Bill Harsey 02-28-2004 20:24

Field Sharpening
Maybe you guys can help me. How do you field sharpen your knives? What problems do you have? This is not a trick question because you guys are always surprising me with how much you do well. Reaper has already surprised me with a couple field expedient sharpening tricks I'd never heard of. I'm wondering what else I'm missing. Many Thanks, Bill

brownapple 02-28-2004 20:34

I carry a small whetstone and a small ceramic rod. Use the whetstone for more extensive work, the ceramic rod to dress an edge.

Eagle5US 02-28-2004 20:40

I have a diamond dust butterfly stone...fine on one side/ dress on the other...
For stuff that is really bad off...a swift river rock with water first has set me in a pinch - then finishing with some CLP, but I have never used this on my "Good Knife"...only a USN issue MK5 and the Survival vest Issue Knife.


NousDefionsDoc 02-28-2004 21:08

I am the worse knife sharpener in the world. I usually give mine to somebody that knows what they are doing in exchange for free medical care or something. I wish I could learn how to do it.

Eagle5US 02-28-2004 21:18


Originally posted by Bill Harsey
Eagle, What is CLP?
Cleaner, Lubricant,'s "weapons windex"


Bill Harsey 02-28-2004 21:23

NDD, I've always said knifemaking is a genetic defect so your in good shape. Reason for my wanting all the response possible on this question is to see if what I know may be valuable to the Quiet Profesionals. My intention is to both write and illustrate a short piece on field sharpening. Goal is to make it useful to as many guys as possible. This will NOT be "how to bench sharpen in a well appointed custom knife making shop". This will be how to sit on the cold wet ground and make a knife that has seen some hard use cut again with stuff that's light enough to be in the pack when needed. Please guys, do not hesitate to jump in. This isn't a test and no judgement is being made. Remember, knifemaking is a genetic defect...and you all evolved past it.

Bill Harsey 02-28-2004 21:26

Eagle, Thanks for CLP. I shouldn't forget that.

The Reaper 02-28-2004 21:38

Okay, guess I will chime in here with my .02.

At home I have a Spyderco Tri-Angle sharpener and a DMT angle sharpener, along with files, a bench grinder, and all of my field sharpening gear.

For the field, I take a pair of DMT Duo-Fold double sided diamond sticks, and a DMT diamond rod for sharpening serrations. I drop the Duo-Fold, or a soft Arkansas stone into the outside pouch of a knife sheath. A machete or an axe really needs a file for the field.

For field expedient use, any flat abrasive surface harder than the steel works, albeit some better than others. Concrete works well in a pinch, as will hardened steel, certain bricks, or even the top of a vehicle window. I have stropped knives and razors on leather belts or the palm of my hand.

As I am sure Mr. Harsey will tell you, sharpening is an effort to remove metal from the edge of a blade to reshape it to a certain angle. Different blades and cutting applications require different angles. IIRC, the desired angles are usually from 35 degrees (blunt chopping tools) to 15 degrees or so (shaving razors). All other factors being equal, the thinner the angle, the quicker it will go away and need sharpening. Some tools have a double bevel on the edge, and some very dull ones can be best sharpened by taking an angle, then trimming it down to a lesser angle. If the blade was sharp on both sides, be sure to sharpen both sides equally in alternating patterns, or you will get a one sided or wire edge which will quickly come off and leave the knife dull again. Some knives are flat on one side and beveled on the other, like a chisel, and require sharpening only on the beveled side.

The harder the steel, the longer it will take to sharpen, and the longer the tool will hold its edge. The worst case is a hard steel tool with a very dull blunted edge being resharpened hair popping sharp. This can be a laborious process. It almost always takes less time to stop and keep the blade relatively sharp than to let it get extremely dull and try to resharpen it then.

And as Forest Gump says, "That's all I have to say about that" Hope that passes on what little I know about the subject and meets Mr. Harsey's intent.


NousDefionsDoc 02-28-2004 21:42

I have a DMT single sided, but I've never tried to use it.

BadMuther 02-28-2004 21:54

I always had a spyderco ceramic double sided stone taped in it's sheath to my scabbard. Everyone who borrowed it said it worked awesome....I wouldn't know, I sharpen like NDD. :rolleyes:

NDD, I ended up getting a Lansky knife sharpener...that's the ONLY thing I can sharpen a knife with.

I like the spyderco ceramic cuz it doesn't load up that quickly and you can use spit as alubricant. Cleaned up really fast with a toothbrush and some soap.

Bill Harsey 02-28-2004 21:54

Sir Reaper, Thanks! That's right on track, you've done this before haven't you? The reason I was thinking about "how to sharpen" was that I've noticed we are now several generations "off the farm and out of the woods" so to speak. I meet young guys now who never had their dad show them how to sharpen. I'll let out more as we go along, have any of you guys watched the ESPN, Stihl Timber Sports? Noticed any chopping with an axe? More on this to come and it has to do with field sharpening.

The Reaper 02-28-2004 22:02


Originally posted by NousDefionsDoc
I have a DMT single sided, but I've never tried to use it.
NOTE: Sharpening knives is dangerous and should not be attempted without adequate professional training and safety gear. Avoid cutting yourself, or others, as well as treasured items. Knives may inflict serious injuries, even when dull. Attempt sharpening at your own risk.

My technique would be to decide what a good angle would be for the knife and look at the gap between the rear of the blade and the stone. Try to maintain the same gap (angle) the entire time. Put the stone on a flat surface or if large enough, in your weak hand. Your thigh will do, if you are experienced and have nowhere else,, and have plenty of whole blood handy. While holding it at that angle and the base of the knife at the near edge of the stone, push the knife away from you (like you are trying to slice a wedge from the stone) while simultaneously sliding it so that the entire blade gets sharpened all the way to the tip. Reverse the blade to the other side and pull it back towards you at the same angle, being careful not to slice yourself in the process. Repeat as needed. If the stone loses its abrasiveness due to steel buildup, stop and wash it with liquid detergent. If you have two different grits, and the knife does not respond quickly to the finest, go back to start with the coarsest. Depending on the knife, the steel, the desired edge, and the cutting ability of the stone, this can take anywhere from a couple of minutes to an hour.

Looking forward to Mr. Harsey, Jr. telling me the correct way and learning something in the process. That is just the way my Dad taught me.


The Reaper 02-28-2004 22:08

Hey, unsolicited plug here.

I stopped by the DMT booth at the SHOT Show and the owner said that they receive thousands of requests every year for sharpening gear from guys who are deployed.

They have gone as far as adopting units and sending them care packages and sharpeners for free.

If you are passing on goodie lists to civilian support groups, you might add sharpeners like the DMT to the list, it appears that while every soldier has his Jimmy Lile Rambo knife, few thought to bring sharpeners. The Duo-folds are particularly handy.

Hey, NDD, wanna tell your One Eyed Nail story now?


Bill Harsey 02-28-2004 22:20

I've never before seen a warning for sharpening. I should post that in the shop here and read it once in a while. I've also never heard of balancing the stone on your thigh before. Like I said, this is where I get surprised, often. Ok now, ARE YOU NUTS? I'm going out in the shop to try that right away. Mishandling of edged tools around here over the years has resulted in stitches, couple trips to the ER and one scheduled surgery. Do as I say, not as I do.

Edited to add years later:
Of course TR is nuts, at a very high level of function. There are more here like him.

Field Sharpening is about getting it done in the field with minimum equipment. I am now going to look at this thread and for reasons of clarity may edit some of my writing as needed.

NousDefionsDoc 02-28-2004 22:20

Somebody must have deleted it, I can't find it.

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