How Sharp Should a Survival Knife Blade Be?


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Survival knives are really effective and useful when they are sharp, but how sharp should a survival knife be exactly? This is a common question and concern that many people have because sharpening a knife is hard work and you really don’t want to mess up your knife. Over the years I’ve sharpened and owned many survival knives, and so I’ve compiled this article to answer these questions and more.

There are many things to consider when figuring out how sharp your survival knife should be. Sometimes, the blade steel of your knife will hold you back from getting it razor sharp. You should sharpen your knife according to what you plan to use it for and to your preference.

While this might seem like a pretty simple question, there are actually quite a few things to think about and consider to see exactly how sharp your survival knife should be. Getting your survival knife too sharp could result in it chipping or worse, and if it is too dull it won’t be very effective at completing tasks.

How Sharp Should Your Survival Knife Be?

There is a fine line that you have to find between a survival knife being too sharp and it not being sharp enough. In general, you want to try to make your survival knife as razor-sharp as you possibly can, but sometimes there are characteristics of your knife blade and other factors that can hold you back from getting a super fine edge.

There really is no clear answer to how sharp your survival knife should be for every situation, but by looking at a few things and answering some questions for yourself, you can identify generally how sharp your survival knife should be.

Below are a few key aspects to think about and answer to help you decide how sharp you are able to get your knife blade and how sharp you should actually make it. There is a lot to think about, but just go through these things systematically and you’ll end up with a pretty good idea of how sharp YOUR survival knife blade should be for your needs.

Your Blade Steel Qualities and Hardness

This is one of the biggest factors that influence how sharp your survival knife can be. Depending on the steel that your survival knife is made of, getting a fine, razor edge might be easy or extremely difficult. Some knife steels are harder so that they can’t be sharpened easily and some just don’t hold an edge very well.

Take a detailed look at our survival knife steel and its qualities and see how sharp you are able to get your knife. If the steel is super hard and therefore pretty brittle, you will want to go with a steeper sharpening angle and you probably won’t want your knife super sharp to avoid it cracking or chipping. If your blade steel is pretty soft and can handle it, you can really sharpen your blade a lot and get a razor edge without the fear of it harming the blade when you use it.

As you practice and become more experienced with knife blades and sharpening, you will be able to work with the steel and know what it can handle and take. Really take a minute to look at the characteristics and qualities of your survival knife steel and it will pretty much tell you how sharp you should make your survival knife.

The Main Tasks You Will Complete with Your Knife

Another thing to think about when you are figuring out how sharp to make your survival knife blade is what you will actually be using your knife for. If your knife is a survival knife, chances are that you will be using it for survival and outdoor activities, but be a little bit more specific than that.

Will you be using your survival knife for everyday tasks? Will you be using it for a lot of wood carving? Will you be using it for intensive bushcraft activities? You should really take a minute to think about what you will most often use your survival knife for, so you can sharpen it accordingly.

If you are doing super intensive tasks, I would sharpen your blade to last and be pretty thick so even after a lot of use there is very little performance loss. If you are using your survival knife as an everyday carry knife and for tasks around the house, you might want to make the lade as sharp as you possibly can so that it is easy and effective at getting cutting chores done.

Another thing to think about is whether or not you will be using your knife for tasks that could benefit from a little rougher blade sharpen. If you plan on cutting a lot of rope or similar materials, you might want to hold off on stropping your blade to leave the edge rough so it can get through the material better.

Your Blade Sharpness Preferences

At the end of the day, it really comes down to what you prefer and the way that you like your knife blades sharpened. There are just so many ways that you can sharpen a knife and there are a lot of different levels of sharpness that you can bring a blade to, so find out what you like and you can sharpen your survival knife to fit your preferences.

Some people keep their knife blades a little dull and other people sharpen them every other day. Its really a mix of how often you want to sharpen your knife, what blade steel you have, what you intend to use your knife for, as well as your personal preference. All of those factors come together to determine how sharp you should make your survival knife blade.

There is something to be said about just taking care of your tools as well. In order for your knives to serve you well and be effective, you will have to dedicate an amount of time to sharpen them and care for them every so often. Especially for survival knives because you rely on them heavily when you are in the woods and if they are not taken care of properly they will sometimes fail you.

Can a Survival Knife be Too Sharp?

Yes. survival knives can be too sharp in some cases but the likeliness of this happening is very low. Normally, you will realize your knife is sharp enough WAY before it becomes too sharp and causes problems.

If you sharpen your knife too much, not only will it wear down the blade after a while, but it can also cause your blade to chip and crack more easily. Survival knives are generally used pretty intensively and a sharp edge can lead to it being very thin and not able to handle the stress that survival knives go though. But, in general, this will never be a problem but it is something to watch out for and be aware of.

What is the Best Angle to Sharpen a Survival Knife at?

Different types of knives and knife steels require different sharpening angles, but in general, you should sharpen your survival knife at about a 15-20 degree angle. Some people say more or less, but in my experience, this seems to be the sweet spot for survival knives.

You also might experiment with different angles to see what you prefer and what works for the type of activities you are doing. Generally, you don’t want to sharpen a survival knife at too steep of an angle or you risk making the blade too thin and weak. You should also consider your blade steel to help you decide on the perfect angle because if it a high hardness you might want to steer away from a steeper sharpening angle to avoid making it too brittle and thin.

How Fine of a Grit Should You Sharpen a Survival Knife to?

Depending on what activities and tasks you intend to complete with your survival knife, you might want to sharpen your blade with a very fine grit stone or a rougher one. For a rougher and more toothy edge, you can sharpen with about a 280 grit or you could go to 600 and above for a super-fine cutting edge.

You might want a finer edge if you intend to carve, skin game, or do very precise tasks with your survival knife. On the other hand, a toothier and rougher edge will come in handy if you are chopping wood or needing to cut a rope. It really depends on what you intend to do with your knife as well as what you prefer.

Should You Strop a Survival Knife Blade?

Stropping a survival knife blade is usually a good idea and can keep your blade nice and sharp without having to sharpen it. Stropping a blade will realign the edge of your knife make it cut smoother and easier which will make doing tasks and survival skills a little bit easier.

Usually, after you use your knife or whenever you get the chance, you should strop your blade. This can be considered part of generally caring for your knife, but it also vastly improves its performs in the field. It is essentially a way to keep your knife blade sharp without having to spend a lot of time sharpening it and is a good practice to do often to a survival knife.

Conclusion

There is a lot to think about when you are considering how sharp you should make your survival knife. And while there is no one size fits all solution, by just walking through the list and thinking about every aspect carefully, it should be fairly easy to come to a conclusion of how sharp you should sharpen your survival knife.

There are a lot of different factors that can influence how sharp you should make your knife, but in general, the sharper the better. Of course, you should make sure you aren’t oversharpening or making the blade too thin, but a sharp knife is going to usually be way more effective and get tasks done with ease.

Townsen Bell

I'm the founder and primary author at Knife Manual. Over many years, I have become proficient at survival and bushcraft skills through lots of practice and many great teachers. I enjoy spending time outdoors, collecting knives, and learning new skills.

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