Keeping your hunting knife sharp will allow you to get the most out of your hunt. If you have ever tried to skin or gut an animal with a dull blade it is a misery compared to the quick precise slices of a razor sharp hunting knife. For many hunters keeping their knives sharp is part of the ritual for others it is an after thought that sneaks up on them when draw their knives to get the kill. So how do you actually know when to sharpen you hunting knife? My take on it, is that it is really personal preference, but anytime a knife is cutting with a noticeable difference it is time to cut. It isn’t hard to tell when a blade is getting dull. If you want to be ahead of the game try the thumb pad trick. You can perpendicularly run your thumb across the blade and feel how sharp it is. You can also try the old arm shave. If you can shave arm hair without too much trouble you know you have a hunting knife that is ready for a hunt.
So, what is best for sharpening? There are so many gimmicky tools on the market it is hard to know what is reliable and what is a waste of your time and money. Lets face it, if you buy the infomercial knife sharpener you will not take advantage of their 30 day money back guarantee. I tend to believe that you should keep it simple. I like the old fashioned three that people have been using for years. Sure there are other options but I have not found that I need to use anything besides the tried and testes tools of the trade.
Not all sharpeners are created equally
The Arkansas stone is the most common and what people have been using for generations. You generally buy an inexpensive set of two stones, one coarse and one fine and you have at it, starting with the coarse and moving to the fine. Cut in a carving motion alternating the side of the blade every couple of passes. These are tried and tested and will continue to be used for many generations to come.
Stones tend to wear out after frequent use, you can usually see a stone start to develop and indention after awhile, when the indention gets too pronounced it is time to replace. But being inexpensive this is not a big deal.
Ceramic sharpeners on the other hand are very durable and will probably break or get lost before they wear out. A ceramic sharpener is usually nothing more than a rod that can easily fit into your pocket. Ceramic is comparable to the fine stone of a stone set, so it is better for keeping a hunting knife sharp than actually sharpening a dull one. But the portability and the fact that it is effective without any type of lubricant allows you to use it on a regular basis.
Diamond sharpening stones are the one relative new comer on this scene. They are a little more expensive but they have the potential to last a long time. Industrial grade diamonds are used bringing down the cost a little. To make these they embed what amounts to diamond dust on a pad and create what is basically a very hard sharpening stone. The stone will usually be multi sided, with a fine and a coarse grit. These are very popular and can sharpen a dull blade very quickly they are also easy to carry and do not always require lubrication.
Lubricant can be an important part of the sharpening process if you are using a stone and sometimes a diamond sharpener. Honing is generally suggested but you can get by with regular motor oil if honing oils is not available. The oil actually collects the metal shavings that come off of the knife blade and uses these shavings to sharpen the knife. So when you are sharpening do not clean your stone when the oil gets dark this is what is intended and when you are really doing the most to sharpen your knife.
What is the best method to sharpen a blade
You must first figure out your blade angle unless you want to spend extra time adding a new angle. This may be suggested if your angle is to steep or dulls too quickly. If you are happy with your angle what you want to try to do is match the blade angle on the stone. This can be harder than it sounds because the surface is so small.
Next, if you are using a stone that requires lubrication make sure that you use a good lubricant. Honing oil, motor oil, even soapy water will do the trick. All you need is a few drops.
When you start the actual sharpening you should be moving in s motion that mimics shaving the stone. Don’t drag the knife, shave with the knife. This takes the excess metal off of the blade. Dragging the blade will cause the excess to fold to the opposite side of the blade.
Alternate sharpening sides on an equal basis. I usually make ten passes on each side then flip. I check for sharpness every couple switches. Use some patience and remember that the sharpener will work best after it has an accumulation of metal shavings. Once you have a good accumulation it does not take long.
Keeping your hunting knife sharp and it will be your best friend on the hunt besides your bow. Once a hunting knife goes dull it seems that it does not ever hold an edge as well, so keep the blade in prime condition.