A knife is a tool, whether you are using it to skin a buck or slice vegetables. Like any tool, you have to take care of it and keep it sharp. A dull knife is essentially useless unless you want to use it as a letter opener or hang it on your wall as a prop.
If you don’t have a sharpener lying around, you would be surprised at the number of items that will sharpen your knife. Some of them are kind of funny, and others you’ve probably never thought of, including smooth stones, car windows, concrete, leather belts, and more.
The thing is, it doesn’t matter what you use, so long as it has the capability of sharpening your knife, and you know how to run the blade across the material. If you want to learn how to sharpen a knife without a sharpener, read on.
11 Household Items You Can Use to Sharpen a Knife
For most knives, holding a blade at a 20° angle is more than enough to get a significantly sharp edge. Dropping to a 15° angle will make it brutally sharp but you lose the edge becomes very delicate, losing retention and durability.
Regardless of the surface, you always angle the blade and start from the bottom of the edge. Slide the knife across the surface, edge forward or backward, drawing the knife back and allowing the entire edge, all the way to the tip, to slide across the sharpening surface.
1. A Ceramic Coffee Mug
The only thing important about your ceramic coffee mug, in terms of knife sharpening, is the bottom of the mug. You’ll recognize its knife-sharpening potential immediately. It’s the rough circle designed to keep your coffee mug from sliding around all over the place.
It’s a pretty large circle, so you have plenty of sharpening surface to work your knife over. It’s not the most highly rated material for knife sharpening, so stick with the 20° angle as you run your blade across it.
2. Your Car Window
Who would’ve thought that your car window might be worth more than just rolling up and down? It’s not the large surface area of the car window you want. It’s the narrow edge, so you’ll have to roll it down a little to access it. You’ll notice that it’s rougher and more coarse than the rest of the window.
3. Leather Belts
If you happen to have a leather belt lying around, it’s perfect for sharpening your knife’s edge. Sharpening a knife on a leather belt is a little different than the above methods. For one, you’ll draw the knife’s edge back, rather than forward, to avoid the blade biting into the leather.
- Hold the leather belt in your non-dominant hand
- Step on the other end of the belt
- Pull the belt so it’s taught
- Use a small amount of water or light oil to sub into the belt where the knife contact will be
- With your dominant hand, grab the knife by the handle
- Face the cutting edge away from you and start at the bottom of the belt
- Hold the blade at 10° and draw the blade edge up the belt, toward you
- As you draw the blade toward you, move the handle away from the belt to allow the entire blade to contact the leather
4. Nail File
If a nail file is good enough to file those nails down, why not a knife blade? If you’ve seen some people’s nails before and after a nail file, you would believe it could file down Mount Rushmore.
You’ll want to keep your blade at a 15° to 20° angle and work the blade away from you, sharp edge pointing away. In other words, opposite of how you would sharpen it on a leather belt.
Slate rocks are as close as you can come to a whetstone. You’ll work the knife’s edge backward on slate and, like you would a whetstone, make sure there is plenty of water on the stone. Hold the blade at 20° as you work it against the stone.
It can’t be cracked concrete, and you shouldn’t confuse concrete with the rocky, uneven mess that local governments pay to have the roads paved with. Concrete should be pretty smooth, and if you know where some smooth grout is, so much the better.
Like a whetstone or slate, you need to keep the surface of the concrete wet and work the edge backward across the surface.
7. Another knife
Hold the knife that you want to sharpen in your dominant hand and the knife you’re sharpening it against in your off-hand. Face the off-hand blade down. Work the edge of the dominant down and off the backside of the off-hand blade.
8. A flat rock or pond stone
It’s not quite as effective as a whetstone or slate, but it will do the trick in a pinch. Treat it the same way you would the other two, continuously wetting the stone and working your edge back across the rock, making sure you cover the entire edge.
9. Broken Glass Bottle
Okay, you’re getting pretty desperate to sharpen your knife here but we take what we’re given and go with it sometimes. Of course, you should exercise a bit of caution since both instruments are sharp. Use the sharp edge of the glass and run your blade edge-backward across it.
Just like the nail file. The best sandpaper for this requires a very fine grit, and you will need to find a surface to lay it on where the sandpaper will remain immobile while you work the blade across it.
11. A brick
Another rock-like tool for sharpening your knife, a brick will definitely do the trick. Just make sure the brick isn’t too mangled, and you have enough flat surface to work your knife on. Like the whetstone, keep the water coming and work your knife toward you, cutting edge facing away.
When it comes down to it, where there’s a will, there’s a way. As long as you can find something harder than the edge of your blade, it will sharpen it. The sharp edge of a knife is far softer than most people realize.
That’s why something as supple and tough as leather is capable of sharpening it. That’s 11 things that will sharpen your blade for you, and, although some are kind of humorous, your knife will cut clean through paper when you’re done using them.