Sharpening a Pocket Knife with Sandpaper: 4 Techniques You Should Know

Sharpen a Pocket Knife with Sandpaper

How to Sharpen a Pocket Knife with Sandpaper

If you are in a survival situation or are looking for a cheap DIY strategy to sharpen the blade of your pocket knife, there are techniques to use standard tools such as sandpaper to produce a sharp cutting blade. Although these techniques are challenging to master and use, they could help you in an emergency and are useful to know.

How to sharpen a pocket knife with sandpaper? Here are four ways to sharpen a pocket knife with sandpaper:

  1. Sandpaper block method
  2. Twenty-two-degree method
  3. Stationary sandpaper method
  4. Rub and pull method

Sharpening a knife can be dangerous, and the last thing that you want to do in an emergency or survival situation is to injure yourself with your own knife. Use extreme caution when utilizing these techniques. Read on to find out the steps and precautions of sharpening your pocket knife with sandpaper.

Sharpening a Pocket Knife with Sandpaper

Sharpening a pocket knife with sandpaper is a handy skill to have. Although most experts recommend using a “whetstone” or knife block, these sharpening tools are not always available. Whetstones also wear out and must be resurfaced and can be expensive to buy and maintain.

Sandpaper is available almost anywhere and is much more likely to be around for use in an emergency or survival situation. The best methods for sharpening your pocket knife with sandpaper are detailed with steps below.

1. The Sandpaper Block Method

In order to get a good, clean edge on your pocket knife, you should sharpen on a firm surface. The sandpaper block method is great for keeping a consistent edge because you will be using the firm surface or brick or board to support the sandpaper surface.

The sandpaper block method also can be done with few supplies. Its simple process can be easily replicated, giving you access to consistent sharpening over a long time.

What You Need:

  • Brick or woodblock: Find a block of wood or brick about six inches in length and three to four inches in width. Make sure the brick or block of wood has a smooth and even surface that you can sharpen on.
  • Sandpaper: have multiple grits of sandpaper on hand.
  • Protective Gear: See below for a complete list

How to Do It:

  • Put the sandpaper on the woodblock or brick. You may even want to wrap the sandpaper around the block or brick to stabilize the sandpaper for the sharpening process if you have enough.
  • Sharpen in circles: Lay the blade of the knife flat against the sandpaper and slowly rub against the sandpaper in a circular motion. Complete this on both sides of the pocket knife blade.
  • Increase sandpaper grit: If you have multiple types of sandpaper, start with the lower numbered grit sandpaper and gradually work your way up to the finest sandpaper grit that you have.

How to Know When to Stop Sharpening

This will apply to all of the methods we discuss. If you need a method for testing pocket knife sharpness, try slicing a piece of paper. If the knife slices through cleanly, without snagging or tearing, odds are your pocket knife is sharp enough!

2. The Twenty-Two Degree Method

If you do not have access to a flat and level block or brick, the twenty-two-degree method of sharpening a pocket knife with sandpaper is a great alternative. This is the most simplistic method of sharpening on this list, but it gets the job done.

What You Need:

You don’t need much for this method of sharpening your pocket knife. While it’s a good idea to wear gloves with any of these methods, you’ll definitely want to wear them with this one, since there is nothing but the sandpaper between your hands and the blade.

  • Sandpaper: Get a finer grit of sandpaper, around one hundred and twenty or more. Multiple sandpaper grits that are finer are recommended. However, if you can only get one piece of sandpaper, go for a finer grit.
  • Protective Gear: See below for a complete list

How to Do It:

  • Twenty-two degrees: In order to sharpen your knife at approximately twenty-two degrees, first place the knife at a ninety-degree angle to the sandpaper, then forty-five degrees, then halfway between that. This is the ideal angle to sharpen your pocket knife blade.
  • Sharpening motion: To sharpen, hold the sandpaper in one hand, and the pocket knife in your other. Keep the blade at twenty-two degrees to the sandpaper and gently slide the blade down the sandpaper away from your body. You will want to sharpen the entire blade and the tip.

3. The Stationary Sandpaper Method

The stationary sandpaper method of sharpening a pocket knife with sandpaper is a more permanent method that can be made as a portable sharpening station. However, this method requires several tools to complete and is a bit more expensive.

What You Need:

  • Bathroom tiles or other small, smooth glossy finished tile surface
  • Acetone
  • Spray adhesive
  • High grit sandpaper
  • Cotton cloth
  • Rubber bumpers
  • Ventilated workspace
  • Protective Gear: See below for a complete list

How to Do It:

  • Tile positioning: Layout the glossy finished bathroom tiles in a row. You will be creating several different sandpaper grit types of pocket knife sharpening stones at once. Give a small gap between each. Lay cloth or clean paper under the tiles to catch any of the acetone or adhesive.
  • Acetone clean tiles: Place a small amount of acetone on the clean cloth and rub it onto the bathroom tiles so that you remove any particles of dust or dirt. Allow the acetone to evaporate.
  • Attach sandpaper to tiles: Using the spray adhesive, lay an even coat onto the top of the tiles you have just cleaned with acetone. Next, position the squares of sandpaper over the tile and press firmly and evenly. Do not allow for any air bubbles to form under the sandpaper. Maintain pressure for several seconds to a minute to ensure a firm and even fit.
  • Let the adhesive spray dry: The dry time for spray adhesive varies from product to product. You can be assured that after an hour or two, the adhesive is ready to securely hold the sandpaper.
  • Label the tile: Using a sharpie pen, write the grit number of the sandpaper on the back of the tile.
  • Rubber bumper installation: Install rubber bumpers on the four corners of the underside of the bathroom tiles. This will keep the tile from moving when you sharpen your pocket knife and get your tile up, and you are sharpening on off the table or surface.
  • Sharpen your knife: Use either the twenty-two-degree method of sharpening your blade or the circular motion of sharpening your blade to sharpen your pocket knife. Remember to start sharpening on the lower numbered sandpaper and work your way up to the finer and higher-numbered sandpaper.

4. Rub and Pull Method

You can’t always have a smooth, level, and sturdy surface to place your sandpaper on, therefore sharpening your pocket knife can become more hazardous and harder to accomplish.

If you are in a situation where you do not have access to a level, stable and sturdy surface, you may need to hold the sandpaper in your hands to sharpen your pocket knife. The Rub and Pull method can be used without a surface to sharpen on.

What You Need:

  • Sandpaper: Get a finer grit of sandpaper, around one hundred and twenty or more. Multiple sandpaper grits that are finer are recommended. However, if you can only get one piece of sandpaper, go for a finer grit.
  • Protective Gear: See below for a complete list

How to Do It:

  • Holding the sandpaper: Unlike the other methods of sharpening your pocket knife with sandpaper, this method requires you to sharpen both sides. Hold the sandpaper pinched around the edge of the blade. On the outer part of the sandpaper, double up the paper or have a guard of cardboard or some other surface that is flexible.
  • Sharpening motion: To sharpen, hold the sandpaper in one hand, and the pocket knife in your other. Gently pinch and rub, then pull the sandpaper along the blade of your pocket knife. You want to make this motion slowly to avoid cutting yourself.
  • Finishing touches: Hold the pocket knife blade at an angle to the sandpaper and gently rub in small circles to buff out the final sharp edge.

Why is Sharpening Your Pocket Knife Important?

Sharpening your pocket knife not only gives you a more precise and better cutting edge, but it also gives you discipline and teaches you to respect your knife. Here are some of the top reasons why you should sharpen your pocket knife on a consistent basis:

  • Quality cuts: The quality of your blade will be increased if you keep it sharp. You will be able to accomplish more tasks efficiently if you are using a sharp pocket knife blade. Also, the quality of the cuts you make can help to produce better quality projects.
  • Sharp knives are safer: We know it sounds questionable, but when you have a sharp knife, it can actually be safer than a slightly dull one. A duller knife is harder to cut with, so you have to put more force and body weight into your cutting projects. Using greater force when cutting is not safe and can lead to improper cutting techniques, which may cause you to injure yourself.
  • Cost savings: When you keep your knife sharp, it actually prolongs the life of your blade. You will not have to buy knives as often if you sharpen consistently. Also, you can use DIY hacks such as sharpening your pocket knife with sandpaper to cut down on sharpening costs and still reap the benefits of a sharp cutting blade.
  • Teaches discipline: Those who take care of their own tools need to learn the important lesson of discipline. Sure, it can take longer for you to sharpen your own pocket knife. But you will learn the effort it takes to take care of your tool and have more respect for it when using it for your various projects.
  • Keeps you prepared: The odds of having a whetstone or other polishing or sharpening surface on you during an emergency or survival situation are very slim. However, sandpaper is easy to keep on hand. Sharpening a knife is just one way to be prepared with sandpaper and could even mean the difference between survival and death.

The Best Quality Sand Paper to Sharpen Your Pocket Knife

Not all sandpaper brands are created equal. Some brands use higher quality and more consistent material for the grit that will actually be sharpening your pocket knife blade.

Since almost all sandpapers are made of a high-quality paper that is not easily cut, wadded, or torn and the sand part of the paper is made from aluminum oxide, it is important to compare brand names and to look at reliable reviews.

Our list is derived from research of some of the best sandpaper brands that are quality, durable, and great for sharpening your pocket knife. Below are some of the best sandpaper products that you can buy for your sharpening methods:

  • 3M 9005NA 9-Inch by 11-Inch Aluminum Oxide Sandpaper, Assorted: The 3M sheets of sandpaper are consistent and made from quality materials that last longer than competitors. This pack also comes with several grit types of sandpaper for a complete sharpening kit. The aluminum oxide material used to create this sandpaper is very durable.
  • 42 Pcs Wet Dry Sandpaper 120 to 3000 Grit Assortment: The high-quality paper that these sandpaper sheets are made from will not crumble or fall apart during use. The sheets are long and able to be wrapped around a block or tile and can even be cut easily to the shapes and sizes that you need.
  • Fandeli 36021 060 Grit Multipurpose Sandpaper Sheets, 9″ x 11″, 25-Sheet: These high-quality paper sheets covered with aluminum oxide are some of the best on the market for durability that you will need for sharpening the cutting blade of your pocket knife. The set comes with multi-use sheets that should be able to last as a knife sharpener for many uses.

Safety and Protection When Sharpening

Before sharpening your pocket knife using any of the following methods, you need to complete a few preliminary things and take some precautions:

  • Clean your blade: Using water and a dry rag or even dish soap, clean away debris and dirt from the blade of your pocket knife. If the blade is excessively dirty, use a scrub brush or sponge to remove the built-up dirt.
  • Use gloves: Gloves are considered a safety precaution for sharpening your pocket knife using sandpaper. Since some of these methods require using sandpaper that is not attached to anything, you will want to have a firm grip on your pocket knife.
  • Sharpening directions: Cutting or sharpening with your pocket knife can be done away from your body to decrease the chances of accidentally cutting yourself or into yourself with the blade out to decrease the chances of cutting the sandpaper and prolonging its life of use.
  • Wear protective eyeglasses: Another precaution that you may want to take is to use protective eyewear while sharpening to avoid dust or metal particles from getting into your eyes and injuring them.
  • Use a well-ventilated area or work outdoors: Sharpening may produce dust, fumes, or other particles that you want to be ventilated away. Try to find a well-ventilated area to complete your sharpening or sharpen your pocket knife outdoors.

What Type of Sandpaper to Use

For the best results of sharpening a pocket knife with sandpaper, you should use several different sandpaper types.

Use larger grit sandpapers, like 80 or 100 grit, first and then gradually increase to 120, 140, 200 grit sandpaper with finer sanding for the best and sharpest results.  For extra pitted and even chipped pocket knives, you may even want to start at a lower grit than 80.

Conclusion

Using sandpaper to sharpen your pocket knife will not only save you money but is much more accessible than traditional sharpening stones. The skill of sharpening a pocket knife with sandpaper is great to have if you are in a survival or emergency situation. Also, this skill gives you the knowledge of what it takes to keep your blade on your pocket knife clean and sharp.

The methods detailed in this article can be duplicated for very little cost. They are also less expensive and easier tools for sharpening to maintain than a whetstone.

Finally, these methods are lighter in weight and can be more easily transported or found if you are in a survival or emergency situation. Use the techniques described in this article to start taking better care of your pocket knife and be rest assured that you now have one more skill for your own survival.

Scroll to Top