Gabriel Woods
Published by Gabriel Woods
Last Updated On: August 26, 2021

There may come a time in life where you need to sharpen your knife - may it be a kitchen knife or a pocket knife - yet you don’t have a sharpening stone or whetstone handy.

However, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. You can transform your dull knife into a razor-sharp one with the help of everyday household items.

In this article, you’ll find 11 different tips and tricks to help keep your knife sharp - tried and tested by yours truly. Sharpen your knife the right way with this ultimate sharpening guide.

11 Ways to Sharpen a Knife Without a Sharpening Stone

Coffee mug near the window sill

Method 1 - A Coffee Mug

Did you know you can actually use a coffee mug as a makeshift sharpening stone?

You may not have a mug handy if you’re camping and in need of something to sharpen your blunt pocket knife, however, it’s more than likely you have one at home.

The surface of a mug is usually shiny and polished, however, the bottom is usually rough to help the mug grip the table.

The grit can range from medium to fine, depending on how rough the button of your mug is. This is what you can use to sharpen your dull knives.

If you don’t have a mug handy, you can always use a ceramic bowl, plate, or similar item. Most ceramic items can work as a homemade sharpening stone.

It is both easy and convenient to sharpen a knife.

The method: 

  • Step 1: Grab yourself a coffee mug with a coarse bottom - a completely polished mug won’t work. On a hard and flat surface, place the mug upside down. If you find the surface to be too slippery, you can put a cloth or chopping board under the mug.
  • Step 2: Grab your knife and place the blade at a 10-degree angle on the coarse side of the mug.
  • Step 3: Ensure you keep the same angle between the knife and the cup as you stroke the full length of the blade as you sharpen. Flip the pocket knife over and repeat the same steps on the opposite side of the blade.
  • Step 4: Repeat until you feel your knife starting to sharpen.

Method 2 - Sandpaper

A rolled sandpaper

Sandpaper is a great makeshift knife sharpener as it’s similar to a rough sharpening stone.

By mounting the sandpaper on the back of a piece of flat wood, you’ll have a great surface to begin sharpening your blunt blade.

The method:

  • Step 1: Fold the paper in half and use the wooden block trick to create a rectangular surface. Place the paper or paper block on any hard, flat surface.
  • Step 2: Grab your pocket knife and place it at a 10-degree angle. Directly the dull knife away from you and stroke it into the sandpaper. Carefully use your left hand to hold the paper in place as you use the knife sharpener.
  • Step 3: Cover the full length of the blade with every stroke you make. flip the pocket knife and continue sharpening on the opposite side of the knife.
  • Step 4: Continue sharpening the knife blade until you feel like it’s enough. Always sharpen both sides equally to ensure your camping knife stays even.

Method 3 - A Nail File/Emery Board

Using nail file on fingernails

Using a nail file to sharpen a knife is a pretty common trick. It’s a simple sharpening process and you’ll more than likely already have one at home.

Similar to sandpaper, nail files are also rather rough. The texture is a great way to sharpen up your knife.

This is a great trick if you have nothing else on you - they’re small and lightweight and that makes them perfect for taking camping or an outdoor hiking trip when you may need a pocket knife.

The method: 

  • Step 1: Place your file or emery board on a stable surface such as a table or large rock, with the rough side facing up. Grab your pocket knife and place it against the rough side of the file at a 10-degree angle.
  • Step 2: With the blade facing away from you, stroke it down the whole length of the file. Cover the full length of the blade.
  • Step 3: Flip the pocket knife over and sharpen the blade on the other side of the knife with the same sharpening technique. Continue to sharpen up your knife until you feel like it’s enough.

Method 4 - Another Knife

A chef sharpening a knife with another knife

You can kill two birds with one stone with this next trick if you have two dull blades. Each knife essentially works as a honing rod or sharpening rod.

You may have heard that sharpening a knife with another knife isn’t the way to go. However, if you do this trick properly you shouldn’t have any problem.

The trick is to never use the blade of your knife to sharpen another blade - all this will do is damage both pocket knives.

You always use the back of the second knife to get the other knife sharp.

The method:

  • Step 1: Place the knife you’re looking to sharpen in your left hand and the knife you want to use as sharpening steel in your right. Both of the blades should be facing the right.
  • Step 2: Take the knife in your right hand and place it at a 10-degree angle over the knife in your left hand. Directing the knives away from you, stroke the blade of the first knife down the knife sharpener.
  • Step 3: Flip over the second knife and repeat the steps on the other side of the blade, sharpening equally.

Method 5 - A Car Window

An open car window

Now bear with me on this one - I realize how bizarre this sounds. However, using a car window can be an effective surface to sharpen a knife when you have no tools.

It seems like a smooth surface, but the window edge is actually quite rough as it has not been polished. This edge will work as a sharpening hone on your knife.

You may have a little trouble fitting this one into your backpack - and I don’t recommend sharpening your knife on a stranger's car window.

But, this may be a handy trick if you’re on a road trip with a blunt knife in your pocket.

“A kitchen without a knife is not a kitchen.”

 

- Masaharu Morimoto, Japanese Chef.

The method:

  • Step 1: To check if your window is rough enough, open it halfway and run your finger along the edge of the window. If it feels too smooth then it probably won't be a very effective sharpener.
  • Step 2: Grab your knife and place it at a 10-degree angle, facing away from you. In a swift, smooth motion, stoke the knife away from you, just like you would with a honing rod.
  • Step 3: Cover the full length of the blade with every stroke of the knife. Turn your knife over and keep sharpening the knife-edge using the same method, dragging the knife back and forth.
  • Step 4: Continue the knife sharpening on the rough surface until you have a nice, sharp knife.

Method 6 - A Flat Rock

3 Flat rock stacked at each other

Probably the most convenient method out there when you’re looking to sharpen pocket knives since you can just pick up a rock on your hike.

Of course, a real sharpening stone would be better, however, any rough surface will help sharpen a knife.

Look out for a flat rock that is both smooth and rough in texture. Wet the stone with water, just like you would with a whetstone [1].

The method:

  • Step 1: Even if you’ve found a clean stone, wet it with water. This will help the sharpening process. Grab your knife and place it over the stone at a 10-degree angle, facing away from you.
  • Step 2: Make sure you stoke the knife along the whole length of the stone so you cover the entire blade. Turn the knife over to sharpen the other side of the knife.
  • Step 3: Continue sharpening your knife along the edge of the stone until your blade becomes sharp enough.

Method 7 - Slate/River Stone

River stone scattered around

A slate or river stone is probably the closest thing you’ll find to sharpening stones.

Slates have the perfect consistency when you want to sharpen a knife.

Plus, you can find a rock on the go, so you don’t have to carry it around with you.

The method: 

  • Step 1: Wet the stone with water, just as you would with your whetstones. Place the blade of your knife at a 10-degree angle over the sharpener and keep the blade facing away from you.
  • Step 2: In one swift movement, stroke the knife away for you, making sure you cover the full length of the blade.
  • Step 3: Flip the knife over and begin sharpening the other side of the blade with the same process.
  • Step 4: Continue to sharpen the edge of your blade until you feel like it is sharpened enough.

Method 8 - Broken Glass Bottle

A broken glass bottle on the floor

As dangerous as it sounds, using a broken glass bottle could be a good alternative to your usual sharpener.

The reason being is the edge of a broken bottle is not polished, so it will be rough enough to sharpen your knife.

Of course, we do not recommend you go around smashing bottles. A great way to cleanly break a bottle is to dip the string in acetone and wrap it around the bottle 5 times.

Set the string on fire for 30 seconds then put the bottle in cold water [2].

The method is the exact same as the car window, since they both use unpolished glass.

Method 9 - A Brick

A single brick

A brick is also quite similar to a slate or a stone - both great alternatives to your sharpener.

Brick is usually quite easy to find, so you don’t have to carry one around in your pocket.

You should search for a brick that is neither too coarse nor too smooth. A very coarse brick will only damage your blade.

The method is the exact same as the slate method - always ensure you’re sharpening your blade on a stable surface.

Method 10 - A Shovel

A shovel outside the garage

Using a shovel as a sharpener is similar to using a knife to sharpen a knife. You may not have a shovel on you while you hike, but you may have one sitting in your garage.

To sharpen your knife, you’ll want to use the top of the shovel (where you rest your foot) to sharpen your blade.

If your shovel is made from strong material - stainless steel is much better than aluminum - then you’ll have an easier time using it as a sharpener.

The method of using a shovel to sharpen your knife is the exact same as using another knife when sharpening. The only difference being you will use the footrest to sharpen your knife.

Method 11 - A Leather Belt

Different leather belts

Now, this method is more of a last resort type of deal.

A belt or a leather strap - maybe on a bag - can sometimes come in handy when you want to sharpen your knife.

However, a leather belt (or alternatively, nylon straps) usually works better when you want to remove the burr created after sharpening the metal.

If you have an already quite sharp knife, a leather belt will help you keep it sharp. It isn’t necessarily the best way to bring back a dull blade, only for maintaining an already sharp knife.

Always use an old belt - the rougher the better.

The method:

  • Step 1: Take your belt and lay it on a hard, flat surface. That’ll make it easier for you to hold the belt in place. Face the blade toward you and angle it at 10-degrees.
  • Step 2: Keeping the same angle on your pocket knife, drag the blade along the belt away from you. Cover the full length of the blade in one swift swipe.
  • Step 3: Flip your pocket knife over and run the opposite side knife-edge along with the leather. Continue the knife sharpening for 10-15 minutes until you can feel the blade getting sharper. Work both sides of the pocket knife evenly.

Read More:

What's the Best Way to Sharpen A Knife Without a Sharpener?

If you’re ever left with a dull knife and there are no sharpening stones around, don’t fret.

There are many ways you can sharpen your knife, from convenient techniques like a coffee cup to more bizarre techniques such as a car window and a broken glass bottle, the choice is all yours.

References:

  1. https://www.protoolreviews.com/how-to-use-whetstone-sharpen-knives/
  2. https://www.wikihow.com/Cut-a-Glass-Bottle

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