How to Sharpen a Sailing Knife

A sailor’s knife is one of the most important tools that a sailor needs on board. Either to cut a rope or to free a jam-packed halyard, a sailor needs a knife. Therefore, most sailors carry a sharp and sturdy knife with them. To sharpen this knife, you can follow a simple and effective step-by-step method. The tools you need are some bench stones or a honing rod and your sailor’s knife that needs to be sharpened.

Before you start with sharpening process, you need to go through some basic instructions about knife sharpening. To sharpen a knife, you need to hold the knife at a certain angle. That helps in making the knife sharper at a faster pace. Similarly, you need a sharpening tool for this job. You can either look for a commercial sharpener or a sharpening stone for this purpose. Most of the sharpening tools also come with a guide that help users in understanding the basic steps involved in knife sharpening method. Here is a detailed overview about the knife sharpening process.

Equipment List

First things first.  You’re going to need the right tools to get this job done.  The good news is they are all easily acquirable and once you have them you are set for life.  Having the right tools for the right job makes sharpening your sailing knife a breeze! You only need two items before we begin:

My Favorite Bench Stone

There are quite a few different sharpening stones out there, it can often be quite confusing–especially because they all claim to be the best.  Between my friends and myself, however, I have been able to try quite a few and have determined my buddy Jeff’s stone–the Norton 24336 Japanese-Style Combination Waterstone 4000/8000 Grit is by far the easiest and most effective sharpening stone.

There are a couple features this sharpening stone has that makes it perfect for sharpening your sailing knife.  The blue case you see actually props the stone up at a few different heights to assist in getting the proper angle for your blade.  The two levels of grit allow you take an extremely dull blade to extremely sharp quite quickly.  The biggest benefit is the size–at 3 inches, it ensure the sharpening process does not cause any inconsistent points along your blade–ensuring a smooth sharp finish.

How to Sharpen a Sailing Knife

Step 1: Select the bench stone.

Selecting the appropriate bench stone for sharpening your knife is the very first step that you need to follow.  Also, check the coarseness for the bench stone that you select. That’s because the coarseness helps in sharpening your knife. If you want to make your sailing knife very sharp, then find the coarsest stone for the knife sharpening. Knifes with a nickel blade should be sharpened on the coarsest bench stone. As a coarse stone removes the materials quickly, the sharpening procedure is quick and easy. After using the coarse stone, you need to also use a fine stone to make your sailing knife’s edges smooth and refined. If your knife only needs some touch up, then start on a medium stone. By selecting the right bench stone, your task can be a lot easier than you think.

Step 2: Find the proper bevel angle for sharpening.

When you have the stone ready, you can start with the sharpening process. However, you need to know the proper bevel angle for sharpening your knife. No matter what type of sharpening method you choose, you should always find the correct bevel angle for best results. Most bench stones come with a manufacturer’s guide that recommend up to 20 degree angle for sharpening blades and knifes. You can follow these general guides to find the appropriate bevel angle for your knife. Also, depending on the type of knife, you need to change the angle. For an instance, a fillet knife needs minimal angle for sharpening. In contrast, a kitchen knife should be sharpened at 20 or more bevel angle.

Step 3: Use a lubricant on the stone.

Based on the manufacturer’s guide, you can use a lubricant or water on the stone before starting to sharpen. All you need to do is simply apply a few drops of lubricant on the stone before starting with the process. The lubricant type is determined based on the type of bench you choose. If your bench is made of stones, then you need water as the lubricant. Similarly, you need oil for coarse stones. You don’t have to layer the bench with water or oil. Instead, you just need a few drops of lubricant on the bench before sharpening your blade on it.

Step 4: Sharpening your knife.

Once your bench is properly lubricated, you can start to sharpen your knife. Start by resting your knife on the selected bevel angle and then keep moving it up and down. Your aim is to rub the sharp edges of the knife against the bench to sharpen it. Adjust the angle and the position accordingly. If you are using a long knife, then you need to keep changing the angles frequently. It is important to maintain the angle to have a refined sharpened edge on your knife. Remember that the motion of sharpening the knife should resemble a sweeping arc pattern. Continue with the process until the desired sharpness is achieved.

Additional: If using a honing stone.

If you are using a honing rod instead of a bench, then you don’t need a lubricant. Simply, maintain the bevel angle and start with sharpening the blade. Compared to a stone or a bench, this rod doesn’t help to sharpen the knife significantly. However, for a mild touch-up or sharpening, you can always use the honing rod.

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