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A sharp knife helps you use less force and less movement when skinning, gutting, or slicing your trophy. Therefore, you will save your energy and, in addition, you will gain in precision. Obviously, it is possible to call a professional but if you often sharpen your knives, it can become expensive. So here are some tips for learning how to sharpen your knives yourself. Watch out for your fingers!

The different tools to sharpen your knife

The 3 main tools depend on how much time you want to spend on sharpening, the quality of the finish you desire and the level of expertise you want to acquire.

For beginners, there are sharpeners. For those who have a little more time, there a steel sharpeners. And, finally, for those who really want quality, there are the sharpening stones. Each of these tools has its advantages and disadvantages.

1. The sharpener

Some brands have developed this concept knowing that there are many people who do not want to sharpen a knife or do not know how to do it. This is the easiest and the fastest way to sharpen your knife. However, the sharpening angle is seldom good for a hunting knife. These sharpeners are mostly used in the kitchen. But it is the perfect pocket tool for a last minute sharpening. You just have to run your blade through the sharpener and the job is done.

2. The steel sharpener

With the steel sharpener, it will take a little more time and expertise than with the previous sharpener. The result will be better because you choose your own angle, and if you can do it perfectly, the life of the knife will not be shortened as much as with the sharpener.

To sharpen your knife with it, simply put the blade on the steel sharpener with your thumb on the back of the blade. Slide it over from the bottom to the top of the steel sharpener. 3 to 4 back and forth per side should be sufficient. Repeat this movement at each level where the blade is damaged.

For right-handed people, hold your sharpener in your left hand and the knife in your right hand. For lefties, it will be the other way around. It is the knife that must be mastered with skill. The steel sharpener must not move.

3. The sharpening stone

It is recommended to use a water stone rather than an oil stone. Choose a two-sided stone, this will allow you to sharpen your knife and to polish it for a more beautiful and precise finish. There will be a side with a more aggressive grain to remake the edge of the knife then a finer grain to refine the blade.

On the stone, the outward movement is done with a gesture that sharpens the blade from tip to heel, unlike the rifle where sharpening is done at the same level of the blade during the 3-4 back and forth.

It is important to leave the water stone in the water for 10 to 15 minutes before starting. The stone should be wet throughout sharpening. So you should add water regularly. 

For a hunting knife, you can choose a stone with a grain between 800 and 1000 on one side (sharpening) and between 2000 and 5000 on the other side (polishing).

Some tips before starting

Whether you choose to do it by a professionnal or with your own equipment, you will have to be judicious. A first-price equipment or professional is rarely the right choice. However, be careful, the most expensive price is not the best choice either. Compare reviews, ask experienced people and read reviews online.

Installation for sharpening is an important step. You should work on something flat with room to move around and in a comfortable position. Put something like a rag under the stone for example. This will prevent your hand from rubbing on the work surface each time you go back and forth.

The sharpening angle changes depending on the blade and its use. For a hunting knife, the recommended angle for sharpening is 25-30 degrees. You will find your favorite angle once you've experimented with several. The important thing when sharpening is to keep the angle constant. You must not change the angle at each back and forth on the steel or on the stone, otherwise your blade will be warped.

Avoid electrical equipment which is for experts. They are much more abrasive to metal, so if a mistake is made it will be much more difficult to correct.

It is important to sharpen a knife both ways. For example, you can make it go by pushing on the blade and back by pulling the knife.

Wipe off any metal residue and regularly watch the edge of your blade during sharpening. The shiny parts are the sharp parts and the darker parts are the more worn part. Therefore those parts need to be sharpened.

If you are a beginner, do not start with your favorite knife! Begin with practicing on knives that will allow you to make mistakes without regret.

You don't have to press hard and go fast. Speed will make you make more mistakes, and heavy pressure will increase your mistakes on the blade.

It is better to sharpen your knife regularly for a few minutes rather than sharpen it less often and for longer.

Knowing how to sharpen your knife is a hard art to master. Practice is where you will find the right angle and movement for you. And, since there is no success without failure, it will take time and knives to practice! Once you are an expert, sharpening will take less and less time and you will save money and energy.