11 Ways To Sharpen Your Knife Without A Sharpener


There will always be a time where you need to sharpen your knife but don’t have any tools to sharpen it with. Well, the truth is that in those desperate situations, it is possible to use everyday items to make your knife razor-sharp again.

You might have heard about some of these, but you might just as well discover tricks you didn’t know.

Well, here are 11 working ways to sharpen your knife without any sharpening equipment around you.

 


1) Using your coffee mug.

This is one that you probably know already. In this one, you use your coffee mug as a homemade sharpening stone.

You probably know that while most of the surface of the mup/cup is polished, the bottom of the mug, the part that touches the table when you put it on a table, is usually quite rough. This might not be true of all mugs, but usually, old mugs tend to have this sharp circular surface on the bottom.

This surface can be an improvised coarse grit, medium grit or fine grit sharpening stone, depending on how rough it is. And you can use it to sharpen your knife.

Here’s how to do it:

Step 1: Find an old mug that is quite rough on the bottom. This trick will not work if the surface of the mug is entirely polished. The rough surface is what will sharpen the blade.

Step 2: Place the mug upside down on a hard surface (a table usually does fine). Make sure the surface is not too slippery. If it is, you can add a piece of cloth, or a wooden cutting board under the cup. This is just to make it easier.

Step 3: Take your knife, and place it at a 10° angle to the rough surface of the mug.

Step 4: Stroke the full length of the blade, making sure to keep the same angle between the mug and the knife.

Step 5: Lift the knife, turn it over, and repeat for the other side of the blade.

Step 6: Repeat until you feel that the edge is sharp, remembering to keep the same angle and to work both sides equally.

This method will prove very useful when you have nothing else than a mug. It’s amazing how simple, everyday items can perform so many tasks.

This hack also works with a ceramic plate or a bowl, since the bottom of those items are similar to that of the coffee mug. Just choose which one you want to use!


2) Using a nail file.

This one is also quite common, though less than the coffee mug. In this one you use your good old nail file as a sharpening stone to sharpen your blade.

Nail files, as you probably know, are quite rough, and are quite accurate representations of the texture of actual sharpening stones which are used to sharpen knives properly.

This trick will be a lifesaver if you have nothing else with you. It can also be a lightweight, small improvised sharpener if you go on a long outdoors hiking trip, for example.

Here are the steps to take:

Step 1: Place you nail file on a hard surface, the rough side facing up (any hard surface, such as a table or a large rock, will be a good support). The reason for this step is that you must avoid putting it on your knee and sharpening there. You have some quite important arteries in your thighs which you don’t really want to damage!

Step 2: Take your knife, and place it at a 10° angle to the surface of the file, the blade directed away from you.

Step 3: Stroke away from you, ‘into’ the file, while using your other hand to hold the file in place.

Step 4: Move your stroke to cover the full length of the blade, and keeping the same sharpening angle throughout.

Step 5: Lift the knife, turn it over, and bring it back towards you, using the same technique to sharpen the other side of the blade.

Step 6: Repeat until you feel that your knife is sharp enough, remembering to work both sides equally.


3) Using another knife.

This trick proves very useful when you have two slightly blunt knives. Just use one to sharpen the other! In this technique, you basically use another knife as a sharpening or honing rod to make your own knife sharp.

But hold on!

You’ve probably heard from other people, or even knife-making experts, that you shouldn’t use a knife to sharpen your knife. Well, this is simply because people do it the wrong way.

Most people use the blade of a knife to sharpen the blade of their own knife. Of course, this is wrong, and will damage the blades of both knives!

The right way to do it is to use the back of the second knife to sharpen the blade of the first one. It is much harder to damage the back of a knife than its blade, and even if you do, it’s really not a big deal!

So here’s the RIGHT way to do it. There are actually to methods to approach this trick.

METHOD 1

Step 1: Hold the knife that you want to sharpen in your left hand, and the knife that you will use to sharpen the first knife in your right hand.

Step 2: Rotate the knives to that both blades face the right.

Step 3: Take the second knife (in your right hand), and place it at a 10° angle to the blade of the first knife (in your left hand).

Step 4: Stroke the blade of the first knife, directing the movement away from you, and keeping the same sharpening angle throughout the movement.

Step 5: Flip the knife over, and repeat for the other side of the blade of the first knife.

Step 6: Repeat, remembering to work each side of the blade equally and to keep the same angle of sharpening during the whole process.

 

METHOD 2

Step 1: Hold the knife that you want to sharpen in your right hand, and the knife that you will use to sharpen the first knife in your left hand.

Step 2: Rotate the knife in your left hand so that the blade faces down.

Step 3: Take your knife that you are sharpening (in your right hand) and place it at a 10° angle to the back of the blade of the other knife, the blade facing away from you.

Step 4: Stroke along the back of the sharpening knife, away from you, in one smooth movement, moving the stroke to cover the full length of the blade, and keeping the same sharpening angle throughout the movement.

Step 5: Flip the knife over, and repeat a similar stroke for the other side of the blade, this time bringing the knife back towards you.

Step 6: Repeat, remembering to work each side of the blade equally.

 


4) Using a flat rock.

Yes, you can just use a random stone instead of a sharpening stone, and although an actual sharpening stone will probably give you a better result, using a flat rock can be a very good option if you don’t have one within hand reach.

This method can be very practical, since you won’t have to carry anything with you on your backpacking trip.

The key to this is finding a nice, relatively smooth, flat rock to do the job. Lubricating the rock the water, a common technique when using sharpening stones, can possibly give you a better result.

So here are the steps to take:

Step 1: Find a smooth, relatively flat rock, and clean it with water. If it is not dirty, still clean it with water, so that you moisten it, like for sharpening stones.

Step 2: Place the knife with the blade at a 10° angle to the surface of the rock, facing away from you.

Step 3: In one smooth movement, stroke the knife away from you, moving the stroke so that you cover the full length of the blade. Flip the knife over and drag it back towards you, this time sharpening the other side of the blade.

Step 4: Repeat until your blade becomes sharp, making sure that you sharpen both sides equally.


5) Using a car window.

As weird and random as it may seem, using a car window can be a very effective sharpening method if you don’t have any sharpening equipment around.

In this method you will be using the edge of the car window like a sharpening rod. The key to this is that the edge of the car window, unlike the rest of the window, is not polished, and slightly rough. This will act like a sharpening rod when in contact with the blade.

It might be quite difficult to carry a car around in your backpack, so this is not so much a hiking/backpacking hack. You’d rather want to carry all the sharpening stones you can find!

However, this trick might prove very useful in you are on a road trip through quite empty places like Greenland or the Australian mainland. You simply have to open your window halfway, and it makes a perfect tool to sharpen your blades!

So what are the steps to take?

Step 1: Open your car window halfway, and check if the edge is slightly rough.

Step 2: Place your knife with the blade facing away from you, at a 10° angle to the edge.

Step 3: Stroke away from you, ‘into’ the window, in one smooth movement. The window edge here acts like a honing rod, although you are moving the knife over the sharpening equipment instead of moving the sharpening equipment over the knife.

Step 4: Move the stroke so that you cover the full length of the blade.

Step 5: Flip your knife over and repeat to sharpen the other side of the blade, this time dragging the knife back towards you.

Step 6: Repeat, keeping the sharpening angle the same throughout the process, and making sure that you work both sides of the blade equally, until the edge is sharp.


6) Using a slate

A slate is probably one of the closest thing to a sharpening stone that you could get in this list of household items.

The key to this method is to use the flooring slate as an actual sharpening stone, using the same movements and techniques.

If you don’t have a sharpening stone handy, it might be easier for you to find a slate. Slates are rough enough that the sharpening will be effective, but not too rough. Try to find a flat slate (not with special ornaments on it) that is clean and a bit rough.

So how exactly do you sharpen your knife with a slate?

Well, here are the steps to take in this process:

Step 1: Lubricate the slate that you have found with water.

Step 2: Set the knife on the slate, at a 10° angle to the surface of the slate, with the blade facing away from you.

Step 3: In a smooth movement, drag the edge of the knife away from you, along the slate, keeping the same sharpening angle throughout the movement.

Step 4: Move the stroke so that you cover the full length of the blade, it the slate is small.

Step 5: Lift the knife, turn it over so that the blade faces you, and repeat the same movement, to sharpen the other side of the blade.

Step 6: Repeat until the edge feels sharp, remembering to work each side of the blade equally, and to keep the same angle of sharpening.


7) Using a broken glass bottle

Ok, hold on. You’re probably thinking “Wow, that’s dangerous!”. Don’t break a glass bottle for that. The point here is that the edge of a broken glass bottle is not polished. Unpolished glass in a good choice if you want to sharpen your blade.

There are multiple techniques to cut glass bottles cleanly. You can use a glass cutter, which is the more common way to go about this.

A more DIY method would be to dip some string in acetone, wrap it around the part of the bottle that you want to cut (5-7 times around), set it on fire for about 30 seconds, and then dip the whole bottle in a container of cold water.

The sharpening technique here is the same technique as for the car window, since both use rough glass.

Here is how to go about it:

Step 1: Cut, or find a neatly cut glass bottle, so that the edge is not polished.

Step 2: Take your knife and place it at a 10° angle to the edge of the glass bottle.

Step 3: Stroke ‘into’ the edge, in a smooth movement, keeping the same sharpening angle and moving your stroke to cover the full length of the blade.

Step 4: Lift your knife, flip it over, and repeat for the other side of the blade.

Step 5: Repeat until your blade becomes sharp, while remembering to work each side of the blade equally.

If you don’t feel like cutting a glass bottle, the edge of an empty jam jar will also do the job.


8) Using sandpaper

In this method, you use the roughness of the sandpaper to sharpen your knife. Sandpaper has a similar roughness to sharpening stones, and is a good short-term solution if you don’t have any handy sharpening equipment.

One trick I would recommend, if you use this method, is to mount the sandpaper on a block of wood that has a flat surface. This can be a good improvised sharpening stone.

Here are the steps to follow:

Step 1: Fold the piece of sandpaper, or mount if one a wooden block, to form a rectangular surface with some height above the support surface.

Step 2: Place your sandpaper or sandpaper block on a hard surface (any hard surface, such as a table or a large rock, will be a good support). The reason for this step is that you must avoid putting it on your knee and sharpening there. You have some quite important arteries in your thighs which you don’t really want to damage!

Step 3: Take your knife, and place it at a 10° angle to the surface of the sandpaper, the blade directed away from you.

Step 4: Stroke away from you, ‘into’ the sandpaper, while using your other hand to hold the folded sandpaper or sandpaper block in place.

Step 5: Move your stroke to cover the full length of the blade, depending on how much sandpaper you have, and keeping the same sharpening angle throughout.

Step 6: Lift the knife, turn it over, and bring it back towards you, using the same technique to sharpen the other side of the blade.

Step 7: Repeat until you feel that your knife is sharp enough, remembering to work both sides equally.


9) Using a brick

Like the slate (no.6), a brick is also one of these everyday things that is quite close to a sharpening stone.

In this method, you use the brick just like a normal sharpening stone – this means that you employ the same movements and techniques as the ones you would use if you were using actual sharpening equipment to sharpen your knife.

A brick is quite easy to find, if you don’t have a sharpening stone. The key is too find a brick that is not too rough, because bricks that are too rough and too hard will damage your blade. Try to find a ‘fine-grit’ brick, for an optimal home sharpening of your knife.

Step 1: Lubricate the brick that you have found with water.

Step 2: Set the knife on the brick, at a 10° angle to the surface of the brick, with the blade facing away from you.

Step 3: In a smooth movement, drag the edge of the knife away from you, along the brick, keeping the same sharpening angle throughout the movement.

Step 4: Move the stroke so that you cover the full length of the blade.

Step 5: Lift the knife, turn it over so that the blade faces you, and repeat the same movement, to sharpen the other side of the blade.

Step 6: Repeat until the edge feels sharp, remembering to work each side of the blade equally, and to keep the same angle of sharpening.


10) Using a shovel

This trick is similar to no. 3, where you use a knife to sharpen a knife. If you have a shovel on you, but no sharpening equipment, you can use you shovel as a short-term sharpening solution.

You are here basically using the top edge of the shovel blade (the foot rest – usually thickened) as a sharpening rod to sharpen your knife blade.

This will work better if the metal of your shovel blade is somewhat strong (a stainless steel shovel is better than an aluminium shovel. A titanium shovel would be the best since is it stronger than steel, which is probably what your blade is made out of.

Step 1: Hold the shovel vertically, with the blade at the bottom, with your left hand.

Step 2: Hold the knife that you want to sharpen in your right hand, and place it on the foot rest, the thick part of the top edge of the blade, at a 10° angle, the blade facing away from you.

Step 3: Stroke along the top edge of the shovel blade, in one smooth movement away from you, moving the stroke to cover the full length of the blade, and keeping the same sharpening angle throughout the movement.

Step 4: Flip the knife over, and repeat a similar stroke for the other side of the blade, this time bringing the knife back towards you.

Step 5: Repeat, remembering to work each side of the blade equally.


11) Using your leather belt

Alright, this one’s a bit different from the others. You should use a belt or some kind of leather strap even if you want to sharpen your knife properly, with sharpening stones and all.

The belt comes into the stropping phase of the sharpening process, to remove the burr created by the honing step on the blade of the knife.

However, if your knife is sharp and you want to keep it sharp but don’t have anything else than your leather belt on you, I would suggest using that as your maintenance sharpening method.

If you do this regularly enough, you could potentially keep your knife sharp much longer than usual.

Of course, this trick could work better with a rougher belt. I would also recommend using an old belt or any old leather strap since you don’t really want to damage your brand new $2300 Gucci belt, if you have to sharpen your knife out in the field.

So what steps do you need to take to tone your blade with a belt?

Step 1: Lay the belt on a hard surface (a table, or a large rock). This will just make it easier for you. You could also do this by attaching the end of a belt to a high point and holding the other end, but I think just resting it on a surface is easier.

Step 2: Place the knife at a 10° angle to the leather belt, with the blade facing you.

Step 3: Drag the knife on the belt, away from you, keeping the same angle during the stroke, in one smooth movement.

Step 4: Move the stroke so that you cover the full length of the blade.

Step 5: Lift the knife, flip it over, and drag it back towards you, the blade facing away from you, using the same technique to sharpen/strop the other side of the blade.

Step 6: Repeat for about 10-15 minutes, remembering to work both sides equally.


The tricks that DON’T work…

Using a bolt, two nuts and a drill

You’ve probably seen this hack everywhere on youtube, but it simply doesn’t work. The principle is that you put two nuts on a bolt, next to each other, and then rotate the bolt with a drill, and put the edge of the blade between the two rotating nuts to sharpen it.

Well this will not work. There isn’t anything on the bolt and nuts that will sharpen your blade. All it will do, if it does anything, will be to damage your knife. It looks really, I even tried it myself, but I regretted it.

Using two lighters

Basically, in this trick, you take out the spark wheels out of two lighters, nail them down on a piece of wood next to each other, a stroke the blade of the knife between the two wheels, forwards and backwards.

This trick does sharpen your knife to some extent, however, it will do irreparable damage to your blade. You definitely don’t want to do that. This is mainly because the spark wheels have very rough teeth, much rougher than the roughest sharpening stones, and will either scratch you blade or make it even more blunt than before.

I really do not recommend this method. You don’t want to abuse your knife like that.

As you can see from the list, there are so many options for DIY knife sharpening that actually work… Please don’t pick the wrong ones, even if you see some awesome youtube videos that show you how to do it.


Conclusion

These 11 ways to sharpen your knife actually work, and can be extremely useful when you have nothing else to use. It will keep you blades sharp in these desperate situations, out in the field, or at home.

However, keep in mind that these tricks must only be used in extreme cases. Sharpening your knife regularly with household items will damage your blade if you do it too often. You don’t want to use them on brand-new expensive knives. Rather get decent sharpening equipment for that.

These 12 hacks are good short-term solutions, but in the long term, you will want to invest in some sharpening equipment. To learn how to sharpen your knife properly (with actual sharpening tools), here is The 5-Step Guide to Sharpening Your Knife (The Right Way).

If you have any questions, or want to add and tell us about a trick that we missed, or if you simply just want to tell us how great and helpful our post is, please feel free to comment in the section below. We look forward to hearing from you!

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