How to Sharpen A Pocket Knife at Home or Outdoors

For those who know how to use them, pocket knives are some of the handiest tools you can have.

You don’t even need to spend a lot of time outdoors to need them. From cutting up fruits you buy/ pluck around to cutting cardboard boxes open, their value is almost limitless. Look at this knife identification chart for the different kinds of folding blades that there are – and what they can do – if you don’t believe me.

Even if you had the best folding knife in the world, though, it would do you no good with a dull blade edge.

That is why, today, we discuss how to sharpen a pocket knife at home with different tools – from a sharpening stone to anything else.

Tools you Need to Sharpen a Pocket Knife

If you want to sharpen your pocket knife conventionally, this is the place for you.

For those who don’t have a sharpening stone at home (I’d recommend this one on Amazon – comes with a free strop), jump to the next section (click here) for other methods for sharpening your knife.

That said, make sure to have these handy.

A Dull Knife

After all, there won’t be a need for this guide if your pocket knife’s cutting edge wasn’t dull in the first place.

If you are unsure of how dull the knife is, run the sharp edge through any of these sharpness/ dullness tests to find out.

Cleaning Tools

If you’re at home, this means your basic dishwashing liquid and a towel for drying.

Even if you are not home, have something to clean the surface of the knife with before starting. The concern here is not hygiene but making sure that the knife edge doesn’t have any debris to disturb the sharpening process.

Sharpening Stones

As I have seen them be the best and most reliable way of sharpening your knife.

In my other knife sharpening guide, I mentioned how the gritstone has varying levels – and for what. You might want to look at that to pick the best stone to sharpen your pocket knife.

Whetstone grit sizes

Likewise, know if you are buying whetstones or one of those mineral oil stones. I prefer whetstones (you can find my best pick on Amazon) and ceramic stones (get this Spyderco Ceramic stone here on Amazon) as they help retain the edge better and give a better result. Not to mention their lower maintenance level.


Since the time I discovered stropping for myself, I have joined the team of other knife enthusiasts that swear by it.

It doesn’t take too much of your time anyway, so you should try it out. The benefits are long-lasting and you’ll be glad you ran that knife through leather when you’re done.

You can get a strop on Amazon or at nearby hardware stores, depending on your preference.

Honing Rod

Let me start by saying this is optional.

If you have seen my honing vs sharpening comparison guide, you will be more convinced about why you need to hone your knife. Honing the pocket blade will get it sharper right now, keep the knife sharp for long and make sure you never have to worry about sharpening the blade for even longer.

That sounds like a good deal.

PS If you’ve read my other honing guides, you’d know I love this Green Elephant Honing Rod when going ceramic or the Mercer 12-inch Honing Rod for diamond-made ones. I generally stay off the steel.

Steps to Sharpen your Pocket Knife with a Sharpening Stone

Now that you have the right tools as discussed above, I found this really helpful video.

How to Sharpen your Pocket Knife on the Sharpening Stone

Here are some important pointers to reiterate from/ add to what you have already learned in the video.

Clean your Pocket Knife

If you’re at home, wash the pocket knife blade so that it is free of debris.

Otherwise, simply get a cloth to wipe down the blade of the knife. Be careful not to cut yourself while at this. The knife could be dull, but it is still sharp enough to nick you.

Choose a Sharpening Angle

Most people assume 15-20 degrees is the best angle for sharpening all knives.

That might be true for most knives but not all knives.

Knife Sharpening Angle
Sharpening angle for different knives – with results

If you can get in touch with the manufacturer/ check the purchase details of the knife, there is a high chance it comes with a recommended degree.

Otherwise, stick with 20-25 degrees on both sides as that’s usually a safe bet anyway. For pocket knives, that is.

Choose your Grit Stone

The idea is to start with a water stone that has a coarser grit and work your way to those with a finer grit.

That way, you sharpen a pocket knife blade faster and proceed to eliminate the burr on the surface with the finer grit.

Prepare the gritstone

Depending on the kind of gritstone you have chosen (ceramic, diamond, or whetstones), you need to prepare the surface for the sharpening operation.

Here’s how to prepare the different kinds of grit stones you might have chosen:

  • Whetstones – to be soaked in water for about five to ten minutes before the sharpening begins. Little wonder they are also called water stones
  • Ceramic stones – should be soaked in water too. About 3-5 minutes of submersion should get them ready for sharpening your blade.
  • Diamond stones – unlike the other stones, diamond stones are born ready. Just whip them out, make sure their surface is clean and you are good to go.

PS Some knife sharpening experts use mineral oil instead of water for this stage. I don’t see the clear difference between that and water, though.

Begin your sharpening motion

The most preferred techniques, as shown in the video.

Angle the side of the blade such that the entire pocket knife is resting against the sharpening stone. In a quick sweeping motion, pass the knife blade through the entire length of the sharpening stone.

Alternate immediately between both sides when using this technique. That way, you don’t spend much more time on one side of the blade than the other, causing unevenness or damage.

This part of the sharpening should begin on the coarser side of the gritstone. Knife sharpening experts recommend about 12 such sweeping movements on both sides of the knife to establish a god edge.

Repeat for a finer edge

Turn your gritstone over to get the finer side. If your stone doesn’t come with two sides (rare), you might have to buy two stones with different grit sizes.

Repeat the sharpening motion as you did above on this part of the stone too.

While the edge is surely getting finer and sharper, you are mostly removing the burr from the blade’s surface here.

Continue with this method for about 5-10 strokes for either side of the knife and you are good to go.

Test the Knife Sharpness

How else do you know that you have done a good job if you don’t test the sharpness?

I have discussed over ten (10) ways to determine how sharp your knife’s blade is here.

Take your pocket knife through one or more of the techniques discussed there – and you’ll have your answer.

PS If this is your first time that you will sharpen your knife by yourself, don’t get discouraged if it’s not sharp enough yet. Use the knife sharpener again and you’ll have a sharper knife. By next time, you will have gotten better at this.

Hone the edges

Honing is not the same as sharpening, but it achieves the same result.

This method ensures that the knife edge is re-aligned to make for an even sharper blade. This part of the sharpening doesn’t take much time. One of the best honing techniques for pocket knives is discussed in this video:

Hone your pocket knife like a pro

Strop the Pocket Knife

Before anything else, let me get this out of the way:

You don’t have to strop your pocket knife if you don’t want to.

If you choose to, though, you can rest assured of a sharper, cleaner, and more effective knife. By simply running the knife blade through the leather belt a couple of times, you will be making it last longer and stay sharper for even longer.

Here’s how to strop a pocket knife properly by yourself.

Sharpening your Pocket Knife without a Stone

The importance of a pocket knife is that you can carry it around with you – provided the law permits it in your region, anyways.

Thus, you might be caught out with a dull pocket knife when you’re not home – and no sharpening stone is in sight.

Fortunately, that is not the end of the line.

In this guide, I detail over ten steps to knife sharpening when you don’t have a conventional knife sharpener around. From using a coffee mug to concrete steps, you’ll be amazed at the various options that there are.

Like I said in that guide, though, don’t make this a habit. You stand the chance of destroying the knife blade altogether if you keep going the unorthodox route every time.

What about a serrated pocket knife?

How did I almost forget this?

For those who have a serrated pocket knife, the steps might be close to this one or different.

It all depends on whether your pocket knife is fully serrated or serrated on some parts of the edge only.

Follow this guide to achieve the best results with your serrated pocket knife edges. For mixed edges (serrated and non-serrated blades), combine the serrated blade sharpening guide and this sharpening stone approach.

Mistakes to avoid when sharpening your pocket knife

Anyone can learn how to sharpen a pocket knife, but only with care and practice do you learn how to sharpen a pocket knife properly.

Some of the mistakes that I have made, and seen others make, are:

  • Choosing a poor angle – take care not to sharpen different sides of the blade at different angles. This doesn’t give you an even edge and you might have to wear out more of the pocket knife to get that sharp edge.
  • Using single grit – one grit size is not enough for you. The sharpening process is best completed with multiple grit sizes.
  • Forgetting lubricants – when using a water stone, use lubricants. Water is enough to prevent friction/ heat. Otherwise, the heat from the sharpening process might damage the stone and parts of the blade too.
  • Sharpening all the time – yes, this is a mistake too. Sometimes, you just need to re-align the edges of the knife by honing it. A good pocket knife will need sharpening no more than 3-4 times a year, depending on their usage

Final Words

There you have it – all you wanted to know about proper pocket knife sharpening in one place.

If there is anything else I didn’t mention that you would like to know, you know the drill already:

Reach out to me via the comments section/ contact page and I’ll get back to you ASAP.

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