How to Sharpen Hunting Knives Using Wet Stones

How to Sharpen Hunting Knives Using Wet Stones -

Hunting is a great skill, and a sharp knife is one of the key tools you need to take with you in order to be successful. Apart from purchasing a high-quality blade, it is also important to know how to sharpen it so you will be successful in your endeavors.

If you are reading this article, you are most likely looking for a quick guide to sharpen your knife. Make sure you read through all the sections below to discover not only the proper technique but also lots of tips and tricks on how to pick up this skill in no time.

That being said, do not worry if you are not successful on your first try, as sharpening hunting knives using wet stones requires some skill. If you have a high-quality hunting knife, it’s best to find a cheaper one and practice on it until you know how to do this exercise properly.

What’s The Difference Between A Wet Stone And A Whetstone?

First of all, it is important to understand what we mean when we refer to these two objects - a wet stone and a whetstone. Some confusion can occur because ‘whet’ sounds quite similar to ‘wet’. Thus, many beginners are not sure what the difference between them is.

Whetting means to ‘sharpen’; therefore, a whetstone refers to any stone that is used for sharpening. A wet stone, however, refers only to those types of whetstones that use water. We also have whetstones that use other fluids, such as oil.

What Are The Main Types Of Sharpening Stones?

There are different types of whetstones out there. Some of them naturally occur in the wild, such as Arkansas oil stones or Japanese water stones (wet stones). Furthermore, you may also find sharpening stones that are manufactured.

Examples include those made from silicon carbide, called India stones, and those made of aluminum oxide, known as Crystalon.

All types of sharpening stones, regardless of whether they occur naturally or they are fabricated, are designed to be used with either oil or water. Thus, you will find references to them as oil stones or water stones.

In addition to this, ceramic or diamond whetting stones are manufactured and can also be used without water. Another difference between these types is the degree of coarseness, as they might be more or less abrasive.

You might be wondering how all of this information helps you to understand how to sharpen hunting knives using wet stones. Different blades require sharpening at varied angles to produce a sharp hunting knife. This refers to the blade grind.

Before analyzing different types of blade grinds and their requirements, here is some good information to know. No matter what type of wet stone you choose, the process of sharpening your knife does not change. The main difference might be that some wet stones use oil or other liquids, so you need to lubricate yours with the correct fluid.

Types Of Blade Grinds

One of the most popular blade grinds for hunting knives is the hollow grind. It has been used for a very long time when hunting because of its concave shape. In other words, the sides of the blade have an inward curve. While this type of blade grind is ideal for skinning, it might become dull very quickly, so you need to be prepared to sharpen it quite often.

Another common blade is the saber grind. It has a flat edge bevel and a secondary one that makes the final, sharp edge of the blade. The saber grind starts close to the middle or lower parts of the knife, while a flat grind starts right at the spine. The spine represents, intuitively, the widest section of the knife where you hold it.

To sum up, the most popular types of knives have hollow grinds, which are used for hunting and, particularly, skinning. These are followed by saber grinds, which are used because of their heavy-duty qualities, and, lastly, flat grinds are common for any other application.

What Angle Should I Use?

Because saber grinds are used for heavy-duty applications, they need a high angle of 25-30 degrees when they are sharpened. On the other hand, hollow grinds are sharpened at 10-15 degrees, while the flat grinds need to be sharpened somewhere in between. This depends on how thick the spine is.

What Grit Should I Choose?

Different blade materials also require different grits or even different types of wet stones. For example, softer materials are most commonly used for heavy blades that come with saber grinds. They sharpen in a short time, but they are the most easily damaged, unfortunately.

Thus, if you have a saber grind that is made of a soft material, you should start sharpening it with a wet stone that has a coarse grit first. Then, change progressively to finer grits.

If, on the other hand, you have a hollow grind or a flat grind, you may want to start with a medium grit, then slowly go for a fine grit. These knives are made of harder materials.


Before you decide to sharpen your hunting knife, there is some preparation that you should take care of. First of all, if your wet stone is not new, it is important to clean it to remove residue and dirt. The oil and metal shavings can build up on your wet stone, which will affect the quality of the sharpening process.

In order to clean the wet stone, you can use hot water, which will also clean off the oil. You may also use a brush to give it a good scrub until it is clean.

The next step is to make the wet stone actually wet. This step depends on whether your wet stone uses water or oil, but in both situations, make sure you soak it for a few minutes before use.

When preparing the area where you will sharpen your hunting knife, it is important for your safety to ensure that the wet stone remains stable and does not slip or move. You can either place it in a stone holder, or you can put some rags underneath it to keep it stable.

Another trick to keep the metal shavings away while you sharpen your knife is to add a few drops of oil. The oil will keep the area clean, and it will also reduce the level of heat as a result of friction.

How To Sharpen Hunting Knives Using a Wet Stone

Now that we know the basics of knife sharpening, it is important to mention that, regardless of the wet stone you have, the process remains the same.

First of all, grab the knife by its handle and put the blade edge against your wet stone. The angle should be between 10 to 30 degrees, according to the recommendations discussed above.

25-30 degrees is good for saber grinds, and 10-15 degrees is best for hollow grinds. Somewhere in between, there is the angle you want to use for flat grinds, depending on how big the knife spine is.

If you have issues keeping a constant angle between the wet stone and the knife, you can check out products on the market that will help you achieve more stability. Once you set the angle, make slow movements across the wet stone with the entire cutting edge of the knife.

It is important to maintain the same angle so the blade is evenly sharpened. Once you slide the knife down one side, turn the blade over and repeat the same movement on the other side.

You need to repeat these movements, alternating one side to the other, until the knife is as sharp as you wish. If you are unsure how many strokes to use, do not worry. Even experts have issues coming to a consensus regarding the number of strokes needed to sharpen a hunting knife.

A general recommendation, if your blade is still in good shape, is to use a minimum of five strokes on each side. If your hunting knife is very dull, approximately 15 strokes on each side will be needed to sharpen the blade.

Professionals do agree, though, that it is important to remember the number of strokes used and apply an equal number on both sides. If you sharpen too much on one side, you will end up taking too much material from that side. Then, you will end up with an uneven blade, which is never a good idea.

Lastly, do not wait until the last moment to sharpen your dull knife. The duller it is, the more you have to work on it to sharpen it. Make sure you sharpen your hunting knife before every use. This is also important for your safety, because dull knives are dangerous, as they are more difficult to work with.

How To Have A Constant Angle

One way to achieve a constant angle is quite simple - practice, practice, and practice! What are some other easier and quicker methods, though? One way to help you improve your technique is to place the knife on the wet stone at the desired angle. Then, as you slide the blade across the wet stone, draw the blade from the tip to the heel on the stone, so the whole edge comes in contact with the stone.

Additionally, you can check out some products that will help you maintain a constant angle. However, to become a pro at sharpening your own knife, it is best to purchase a few cheap blades and practice your technique until you find out what works best for you.

In the beginning, the results might not be so great. Sharpening a hunting knife takes time and skill, but you will get a better grasp on how to maintain a consistent angle over time. This is why we recommend that you do not experiment with this on your high-quality, expensive hunting knife first.

Instead, experiment on a few cheaper knives first. If you go hunting quite often, you will improve this skill quickly, as it is recommended to always sharpen your knife before using it.

When To Choose A Finer Grit

We briefly mentioned before that, as a rule of thumb, softer materials require a coarser grit in the beginning. Meanwhile, harder blades need a medium grit. Over time, we need to progress to finer grits, but when is the right moment to do so?

The burr tells us what we need to know. When you sharpen the knife, metal particles build up on the opposite side of the blade. This material build-up is called the burr. Using a coarse grit for a very long time will take away too much of your blade, so you need to keep an eye on the burr to find out when to switch to a finer grit.

In the first stages of using a coarse grit, you will not have any problems spotting the burr. As long as you can see it, you do not need to change to a finer grindstone. If, however, you cannot see the burr anymore, this is a sign that you need a finer wet stone.

Some professionals even use magnifying glasses to check the presence of the burr. Others prefer to check whether they feel the burr or not, as the burr might be so small that it is difficult to see. However, it is not recommended to touch the blade because you could cut yourself. It is best to go for magnifying glasses instead.

Summing Up

All in all, we can summarize the process of how to sharpen hunting knives using wet stones in a few simple steps. Firstly, choose a wet stone that is suitable for your hunting knife. Prepare it according to our recommendations, then sharpen your blade at the right angle.

The key to success is to have a consistent angle when you sharpen your hunting knife. So take a good read of the steps above and you will have perfectly sharp hunting knives.