How-To: Improvising sharpening tools

1st Oct 2015


Improvising sharpening tools

Whenever you have an edge in need of attention and your preferred sharpening tools are back home in your workshop, all you have to do is look around -- you'll usually find something to serve the purpose in a pinch.

Here, for example, are some surprisingly effective stand-ins for a sharpening stone:

  • Ceramic coffee mug (use the unglazed ring on the bottom)
  • Ceramic dinner plate (use the unglazed ring on the bottom)
  • Toilet-tank lid (use the unglazed part on the underside)
  • Flowerpot (terra cotta)
  • Car window (roll it down and use the edge)
  • Emery board
  • Sandpaper
  • Smooth fire brick (not masonry brick)
  • Flat stones (gathered from a river or lake)

Stropping is our preferred sharpening method. We've used these items as substitutes for a hone:

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

To make stropping compound, try these:

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

Our suggestions may prompt a few ideas of your own. The best idea of all, of course, is to remember to bring your sharpening kit next time out.

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