The best & quickest methods for sharpening knives, blades, axes & fishing hooks
Short winter days leave us with many long winter evenings to dream about new expeditions come spring. So why not use some of those extra hours to prepare your gear for the adventures ahead? In particular, now's the time to sharpen your tools of the trade. While there are many different sharpening techniques, these are the methods I use for the quickest, most effective results.
You'll need two whetstones: one coarse (800x) and one fine (4000x). I use water stones for their aggressive cut. It's a good idea to presoak your stones, and to keep them wet throughout the sharpening process. Rub your knife over the coarse stone in a circular motion (1). It's important to keep the blade oriented at a consistent angle to the stone-20° to 30° is fine. As you work, spend the same amount of time on both sides of the blade. Gradually, a burr will form on the edge of the blade. You can check for this burr by running your thumb lightly across the surface; you should feel a slight drag. Once the burr is consistent along the entire length of the blade, use the fine stone to remove the burr. The final step is stropping. Find a piece of leather—the rough side of an old belt works well—and pull the surface of the blade along it (2). Do this on both sides of the knife (3) repeatedly to remove the remaining small burr from the fine stone (and to polish the blade). You should be able to shave with your knife by now.
Serrated blades are handy in the field, but they can be a nuisance to sharpen. While it's easier to buy a new blade, it's possible to revive your old one. You can use a round chainsaw file, or a slip stone with a rounded back to fit into the scalloped recesses of your knife.
Hatchets & axes
Hatchets and axes are used by slamming them down, which often results in nicks to the blades. To sharpen these tools, start with a file. Clamp the blade in a vise and push the file downward across the blade, sliding it sideways as you go. Hatchets and axes take more abuse than knives, and therefore need thicker edges. Once the nicks and scratches are off the bevel, use your water stones to finish the job.
You can sharpen hooks with a flat stone, but it's easier to buy a fish hook sharpener. The simplest type is a stone with a groove milled along it to run your hook through. Of course, you can spend more on a variety of other styles, but I find the easiest solution is usually the best.