​FAQ: I left my sharpening kit at home & my knife is getting dull -- what can I do?

13th Aug 2015

It's happened to us, and we're pretty sure it's happened to you -- in the middle of a campout or a hunt, we feel an edge start to go south. And, to our chagrin, all of our sharpening tools are back at home.

No problem.

See, whenever we have an edge in need of attention and we're without our maintenance kit, all we have to do is look around. Usually we find something that'll serve the purpose.

Over the years we've tried almost everything. Sometimes we did it because we had to, and sometimes we experimented (just for fun). Here, for example, are some surprisingly effective substitutes for a sharpening stone:

  • Ceramic coffee mug or dinner plate (the unglazed ring on the bottom)
  • Toilet-tank lid (the unglazed part on the underside)
  • Terra-cotta flowerpot
  • Car window (the edge)
  • Emery board
  • Sandpaper
  • Smooth fire brick (not rough masonry brick)
  • Flat stones (from a river or lake)

You know that stropping is our preferred sharpening method. We've been known to use these items as stand-ins for a hone:

  • Leather belt (the unfinished "flesh side," on the back, works best)
  • Nylon webbing (like a pack strap)
  • Newspaper
  • Corrugated cardboard (the dirtier the better)

And to improvise stropping compound:

  • Mud (fine silt is best)
  • Toothpaste
  • Automotive metal polish (the gritty stuff, not wax)

You can probably think of a few ideas we haven't tried yet. It's simply a matter of being creative -- and, of course, remembering to bring your sharpening kit next time out.

(To learn more, check out "When Good Edges Go Bad" and visit our Knife Sharpening page.)