The Cutting Edge – Best Way to Sharpen a Hunting Knife

The Cutting Edge - Best Way to Sharpen a Hunting Knife

After a successful catch, you want to keep your knife clean and sharp ready for the next hunting session.

If you haven’t done it before, sharpening a hunting knife can be a bit of a challenge. This is because you risk chipping the edges, resulting in an uneven surface which might be blunter than before.

Moreover, a blunt knife poses the danger of cutting yourself when struggling with, and it would be torture to the animal you might be slaughtering.

One of the tricks to getting your knife nice and sharp with no damage is maintaining a consistent angle. Preparing to go hunting? Let us show you the best way to sharpen a hunting knife!


There is more than one way to sharpen a knife!

Real hunters like to sharpen their knives the conventional way; using a good old bench stone. They come in handy especially because they can be carried along with you to the hunting ground and are quite inexpensive.

However, a few other sharpeners have been developed as an improvement to the bench stone. Check out your options below. 

Sharpening Stones


Whetstones can either be natural or artificial with artificial stones, which allow them to cut faster than their natural counterparts. Both usually come with a double-sided design, one side composed of coarse grit for sharpening and fine grit for finishing and shaping.

Whetstones, both natural and artificial, are great for sharpening low- to mid-grade steel as well as carbon steel. They often use oil or water for lubrication when sharpening in order to collect steel residue which helps sharpen the knife faster. It should be noted that using lubricant is not necessary with whetstones.

You can get them in all sorts of shapes and sizes including small pocket stones as well as bench stones (installed in a bench). 

Diamond plates

Diamond plates are an upgrade to whetstones which are often susceptible to flattening or wear after years of use. Not only are they durable but they are also excellent for sharpening high-grade steel like CPM-S30V and 154CM among others.

The diamonds are bonded on a ground surface and come in different sizes and grit grades. The coarse grits are used to remove huge layers of metal in sharpening while finer grits are for refining the edge.

The best diamond sharpeners use monocrystalline diamonds, which give your plates longevity and a fast sharpening action. 

Pull through sharpeners

As the word suggests, these come in a V-shaped design through which you pull your knife for sharpening.

Although they are pretty easy to use, you will have a hard time maintaining a specific angle and they are not as aggressive as handheld stones. For this reason, they are better left for home use rather than sharpening hunting knives. 

Electric Knife Sharpeners

If you want to speed things up when it comes to sharpening your knife, an electric sharpener should do the trick. It comes with pre-set angles so all you have to do is run the knife through the slots.

Most electric sharpeners come with three slots for extreme sharpening, honing and polishing respectively. Although most electric sharpeners are meant for home/kitchen knives, some can handle hunting knives including serrated blades. They may not be as flexible as using the handheld stone sharpeners but they will have your knife sharp and ready in under a minute or so. 

The actual technique

The most important thing to keep in mind when sharpening a hunting knife is to maintain the initial angle you started with. Different angles are required depending on the shape of the edge.

For instance, a flat edge knife should be sharpened laying flat on the surface of the sharpener.

If you are not sure what angle to use on an angled edge, you can maintain the standard 30-degree angle throughout the sharpening of any curved knives.

Before we dive into the action, I have to mention that the technique is pretty much the same when working with a serrated blade or a gut hook knife.

What changes is that a cylindrical sharpening rod is used instead of a bench stone. Below are the steps you need to follow to sharpen a hunting knife.

There is more than one way to sharpen a knife

Apply oil or water to the sharpening stone

This helps sharpen the knife much faster. While applying oil, use tiny drops and spread it all over the stone. Using too much oil will slow down the process, so ensure you use a thin film of oil. 

Place the knife at an angle with the edge touching the sharpening stone

In a fluid motion, glide the wear across the sharpening surface, away from you, starting from the base of the knife blade to the tip. 

Make sure you keep tabs on the number of times you’ve sharpened each side

After you are done with one side, flip the knife over and start working on the other side of the blade. Use the same number of strokes you used on the flip side of the blade to ensure your knife is evenly sharpened. 

How will you know it’s time to flip over to the other side of your blade?

After sharpening your knife on one side for a number of strokes, you should flip it over and start working on the other side. To know when it's time to work on the other side of your blade, feel for a little bump on the opposite side of your blade called the "burr".

Don't expect to see it but rather feel it by gently sliding your thumb on the opposite side of the sharpened area. If there is a burr, it's time to sharpen the other side. 

Flip over the sharpening stone to the finer grit

This helps sharpen the edge further while smoothing over any uneven bumps made when using the coarse grit.

You should pay special attention to the tip of the knife at this point and sharpen it further if you intend to use it for dressing or any similar activity that requires a sharp tip.


After a thorough sharpening session, you can try and cut through a sheet of paper to test whether the knife is sharp enough.

If this whole process sounds like Greek to you, this short video will help straighten things out.