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Indefinitely Wild

How to Sharpen Your Knife the Right Way

“A sharp knife is a safe knife, is a useful knife,” says Wes Siler. As you use your blade, it will grow dull, but sharpening one is pretty straightforward. Here, Siler shows you how to use his favorite gadget for the task: the Spyderco Sharpmaker ($60). 

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Video Transcript

[MUSIC PLAYING] WES SILER: Back when we started this series, we identified that a lot of the advice out there is just some tough guy trying to one up the other dudes on YouTube. I don't want to be that person. I want to just show you how simple and easy enjoying the outdoors can be. 

The most important tool you can bring with you outdoors is a good knife. But you need to keep that knife sharp so that it's safe and useful. We're going to show you how to sharpen it. 

Pretty much any knife that you're going to want to use outdoors is going to have a 40 degree edge, 20 degrees on either side. The trick to sharpening that is maintaining that consistent angle as you grind against it. And that's why using a whetstone or a coffee mug or your car window is kind of counterproductive. 

So this little doohickey here is a Spyderco Sharpmaker. And to my mind, this is the best knife sharpener in the world. They're really affordable, they're $50 to $60. I've had this one for 15 years. You only need to buy it once. 

So what's in this plastic case are some abrasive sharpening stones, which are the gray ones. And some less abrasive sharpening stones, which are the white ones. And there's also these little brass guide rods. 

So what this device does is it locates the sharpening stones of that perfect 40 degree edge that most outdoor blades use. These little brass guide rods chute in here over the handle and protect your hands from accidents. So with the Sharpmaker, you work with these gray abrasive stones first on the points of the triangle. And all you do is keep the knife perfectly upright, and you just run it against these rods an even number of times on each side, a few minutes on each rod. And then you switch to the flats and do the same. 

Now, the number of passes that you're going to have to do is going to depend on how dull your edge is, and what kind of steel your knife is made from. This ESEE is made from a high carbon steel. It makes it pretty easy to sharpen, but it also means that it can lose its edge faster than some of the really exotic stainless steels. 

After you have sort of a good, relatively sharp edge, you progress to less abrasive stones. And these really just do the last little bit of that sharpening. Again, just keep the knife perfectly upright to maintain that perfect angle. You just do this and you do this and you do this until your knife's really sharp. 

Now, determining how sharp your knife is, determining when it's ready go, is one of the harder parts of sharpening. I like to do it on my arm. I like a razor sharp knife. So I get it to the point where it'll shave my arm hair. 

Now, the obvious downfall of that is that you might cut yourself. I'm stupid, you don't have to be. You can use a piece of paper and just determine the thickness by how well it slices that paper. Whatever you want to use, just try to maintain some safety. 

One of the tips I can give you there is never run your hand or your finger along the edge. Run it across as you're sort of testing that. The neat thing about knife sharpening is that it means even cheap knives like the Swiss Army Knife can be as good as a more expensive knife. Test your blade sharpness. Good to go. 

Doesn't matter if you're hunting, doesn't matter if you're camping, doesn't matter if you're just using a knife around the house. A sharp knife is a safe knife is a useful knife. You can get yours sharp, too. Razor sharp, just like that. I'm not going to have any hair left on my forearm when we're done shooting this video. 

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