How to Sharpen a Knife Without a Sharpener

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A dull knife can be frustrating as well as dangerous. If a knife sharpener isn’t available, sharpening a blade is possible with many common household items like coffee mugs, Bic lighters, nail files, a car window, and even stones from outside. Here are seven ways to get that blade really sharp when a knife sharpener isn’t available.

Photo by Igor bispoon Unsplash

A Coffee Mug

It may sound a little crazy, but a coffee mug is one of the most effective ways to sharpen a knife. Using a coffee mug removes material from the blade, which makes the knife very sharp. Simply turn the cup over, find the roughest part of the raw edge, and pull each side of the blade across that edge at a 10 to 20-degree angle. When you see discoloration on the mug, that means it is working, and pulling away steel for a sharper edge.

A Stone from Outside

A smooth flat stone is a great knife sharpener. Wet the stone with water and use it like a sharpening stone. Like the coffee mug and your sharpening stone, the material is removed from the blade, making it very sharp. If a stone isn’t smooth enough, rubbing two stones together can potentially smooth it out.

Your Car Window

Yes, a car or truck window. Simply lower the window and use the rougher, frosted top of the window as a way to sharpen your knife. That frosted area is just the right level of roughness to make a big difference to the sharpness of the blade. Run the knife over your window just like you would a stone, and it will come out incredibly sharp. A tempered window will withstand your car or truck hitting potholes and the like, so holding up to knife sharping isn’t a problem.

This is a great hack if you’re out hunting and realize your hunting knife is dull. The video below is an excellent demonstration of this sharpening hack.

Use Another Knife

While not as effective as your car window, in a pinch, use the back of a second knife like you would a honing rod.  Come at the dull knife from the top and stroke the knife’s blade at a 10 to 20-degree angle, directing the movement away from you. Flip over and repeat at the same angle.

The honing knife can also be underneath the blade, and the blade being sharpened is then pushed away or pulled towards you depending on the side.

This method isn’t sharpening; it is technically honing. Honing isn’t removing any of the blade’s steel but is aligning it. If your knife is very dull, this method will help but it is not as effective as actual sharpening.

Photo byAoumeur AbderrahmenUnsplash

A Lighter

It was neat when you learned a Bic lighter could be great for popping the cap on a bottle, but sharpening a knife is even more impressive. That same spark wheel that throws a spark to light the lighter is great for knife sharpening. Applying two to four lbs. of pressure, pull or push the spark wheel along the blade. Often, the way the spark blade is recessed a bit means it is the right angle for sharpening without any thought needed.

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Another way to use lighters is to pull the spark wheels from two lighters, screw them into the board next to one another and pull your knife blade through them. Yes, it’s more time-consuming to put together than just a quick sharpening hack, but it works amazingly well.

Emery Boards (Nail File)

That thing that makes sharp fingernails smooth can make blades sharp. An emery board is straightforward in that the knife is just pulled along the board at a 10 to 20-degree angle. A bonus with an emery board is two different sides of roughness. A dull knife can be started on the rougher side and honed with the smoother side, giving you a sharp blade.

It probably deserves its own category, but sandpaper works similarly to emery boards. That you might have multiple grits in the garage can be a great way to hone that sharper blade. Do not start on really gritty sandpaper, as it might be too rough on the edge. It’s better to start with 1000 or 1200 grit and see how sharp the blade becomes. If the knife is exceptionally dull and has nicks, 200 to 400 grit sandpaper is fine.

Put That Shovel to Use

Another novel way to sharpen your knife is sitting up against the wall of your garage. A shovel has a surface on the foot edge that is great for sharpening your knife. Just hold the shovel vertically, using your left hand, with the blade at the bottom. Have the blade facing away from you and stroke away from you for the entire length of the blade. Flip the knife over to sharpen the other side; you will be pulling it back towards you. Just remember to work each side equally, and you’ll have a knife that can cut paper.

There is a way to sharpen your knife without a knife sharpener, no matter where you are. Shovels, stones, lighters, and almost anything with a solid and slightly rough surface has the potential to be a knife sharpener. You never need to be without a sharp knife.

We hope you’ve learned a few sharpening hacks you weren’t aware of previously. We look forward to your comments about other knife sharpening methods we aren’t aware of yet.

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