A knife is the single most important tool that any prepper or survivalist can have -- and it must be maintained! It is your primary line of defense on so many fronts. Food preparation, meat processing, the ability to create fire, and various weaponry all depend on the use of a knife. And the ability to effectively use a knife relies on one aspect .... a sharp knife! A knife with no edge is just a metal club with a pretty handle.
My husband, Peace-Loving Warrior, is a master at knife-sharpening. In our culture, a boy is given his first knife as early as he can handle one without cutting himself; usually around 7 or 8. Boys become young men, who become old men, and all the while a knife is their constant companion. But I am continually amazed at the number of his big, tough buddies who have been hunters all their lives, yet walk around with the dullest of blades. It's a matter of pride for PLW to always carry a sharpened knife, and he is forever sharpening the blades of those less disciplined.
In the realm of survivor skills, if you know how to correctly sharpen a knife, you will be in the smallest of percentages for people with a usable skill. Consider this: This one ability gives you a "Post-Collapse" skill that will allow you to trade for barter items.
"So, what's the big deal?" you ask. "Anybody can buy a sharpening tool at Cabelas, Northern Tool or Sears. Knife sharpening isn't magic!"
You're right ---- it's not magic. But it IS an old-school skill that continues to decline in the wake of the latest and greatest technological advances in knife-sharpening. These advances, (in my opinion), are an effort to skip the easy, time-tested techniques that are, in reality, the simplest and most effective methods. All it takes is a bit of effort and a little time.
I convinced PLW to show me the steps he uses to sharpen knives, and the following photos exhibit each step that took him a total of 6 minutes to go from a dull to a shaving edge. I admit it doesn't look as fancy and impressive as "two swipes and split the tomato" that you'll see on a late-night infomercial, but 6 minutes to get a sharp blade isn't a huge time investment. What do you need? It's simple; just three items:
1. A 5" or 6" carborundum stone
2. A 6" Arkansas Oil stone
3. A bottle of honing or machine oil.
Here are PLW's instructions in his own words: "Start with the Carborundum Stone. I like to use plain tap water on mine. The stone will suck up water; just add a few sprinkles now and then. Just like in PHOTO 1, you pull the knife from the bottom of the blade to the tip. The series of photos (1-6) shows you the exact process. Go slow and follow my sequence..... bottom to tip on the draw stroke (photos 1-3); bottom to tip on the out stroke (photos 4-6).
These are the only two motions required to hone any knife. The only other factor is angle. And this is where the nail-biting and mystery of this craft come in. You will find that utility knives usually sharpen anywhere between 15- and 24- degrees, but don't obsess over getting the right angle. The specific angle is not as important as keeping a constant angle.
Just remember to lay the knife flat on the stone, then lift the back of the blade about 1/4" off the stone and start the draw stroke. Repeat this motion for the out stroke and continue until your blade is sharp."
PLW likes to work his dull blades about 2-3 minutes on the carborundum stone to get his blade shaped, and to create a rough sharpened edge. The carborundum is able to sharpen so fast by removing more metal, and these 2-3 minutes are usually all it takes to make a dull blade ready for the oil stone.
He adds 1/2 teaspoon of machine oil or honing oil to the Arkansas stone, and repeats the series of draw strokes and out strokes. After 2-4 minutes on your oil stone, you should have a "shaving" sharp edge. The oil stone removes all burrs and polishes your final edge. The oil serves to lift the tiny particles of steel you are removing and floats them to the surface, keeping the stone from becoming clogged and losing its cutting ability.
That's it! If you will take the time to learn these methods and purchase the three items listed above, you can service any knife; from a straight razor to a 12" Chef's Knife. And you will be widely sought after for your valuable skill!
Ecclesiastes 10:10 "If the ax is dull and its edge unsharpened, more strength is needed, but skill will bring success. "