How To Sharpen a Knife Without a Sharpener

How To Sharpen A Knife Without A Sharpener

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A surprising amount of people have wondered how to sharpen a knife without a sharpener. 

Perhaps you have yours buried in the depths of your pantry. Maybe you find yourself out on a camping trip with no access to a proper sharpener. 

Things happen, and sometimes we need an alternative option to turn to. Fortunately, when it comes to this topic, several different things will work. 

You may be wondering, “why can’t I just use a dull knife?”

Using a dull knife will not only be frustrating, but it can be dangerous as well. Most of the time, people skip out on the sharpening process simply because they don’t have access to a knife sharpener.

Let’s take a look at six ways to sharpen a knife without a sharpener. The best part is, many items on the list will already be in your home. 

Use Ceramic Dishware

Use Ceramic Dishware

When you wonder how to sharpen a knife without a sharpener, you may find it hard to believe that your favorite coffee cup could do the trick.

Using ceramic dishware is one of the most popular ways to get the job done since almost everybody has this in their home. 

Here are the dishes you can use:

  • Ceramic mugs
  • Ceramic plates
  • Ceramic bowls

How To Use Ceramic Dishware To Sharpen a Knife

Take the ceramic dish of your choice and flip it over. There should be a rough edge on the bottom of the dish. (Many older dishes will have this.) 

If the dish is entirely polished, then it won’t work. 

Once you found the dish, place it on a hard, stable surface. If you are worried about the dish moving and slipping, you can always tape a kitchen rag onto the surface and place the mug on top.

You will then put the blade at a 10-degree angle on the rough ceramic surface and run the blade’s full length down the dish. 

When you have sharpened it to your liking, turn the knife over and sharpen the other side, making sure to keep both sides of the blade relatively even. 

Use Another Knife

Use Another Knife

This option can be a bit tricky. It is possible to damage both knives if you go about this the wrong way, which is why so many knife experts advise against it. 

However, there are a few ways to use another knife to sharpen your blade that will not damage either tool. 

How Do I Do It?

The key is to use the back of the other knife’s blade. Never sharpen a blade with another blade.

If you stroke two knife blades together, you will damage them. 

However, it is much harder to damage the back of the knife.

Let’s take a look at how to do it. 

  1. Put the knife you want to sharpen in your left hand and the other knife in your right hand. 
  2. Turn both knives so they are each facing right (the blade facing right).
  3. Take the knife in your right hand, and use the blade’s back to sharpen the knife in your left hand. 
  4. You will move the sharpening knife down the blade, stroking the knife away from your body. 

When you are using this option, make sure to hold the knife you are sharpening with at a 10-degree angle. Furthermore, don’t forget to sharpen both sides of the knife. Try to make them relatively even. 

Use a Rock

Use a Rock

If you are trying to figure out how to sharpen a knife without a sharpener, you can simply take a look in your backyard. 

Many people find that using a flat rock works just as well (well, almost as well) as a sharpening stone

This option is especially great for when you are out on a camping or hiking trip. It will be relatively easy to find the right stone for the job. 

How To Use a Rock as a Sharpener

The first thing you need to do is to find a smooth rock. If you have water, make sure to clean the rock with water. If you don’t have a water bottle, you can always use a nearby stream.

Even if the rock isn’t dirty, moistening it will still help. 

Like all of the other techniques, place the knife at a ten-degree angle on the surface of the rock. Then sweep the blade across the rock in a smooth motion away from you. 

After you finish sharpening that side, turn the blade over and sharpen the other side. Instead of sweeping the blade outward, you will drag the blade inward. 

Use a Nail File

Use a Nail File

Another common tool that will function as a make-shift sharpening stone is a nail file. 

Many people love this option since nail files are extremely light; you can easily stuff them inside a pocket before a big trip. 

Nail files are also an everyday object you can find around the house. 

How Do I Do It?

Any nail file should work relatively well, but try to choose a more sturdy nail file. If you are buying a new one for this purpose, purchase the widest one you can find. 

  1. Place the nail file on a hard surface. If you are using this tool out in the wilderness, it may be tempting just to place it on your knee. To avoid serious injuries, use a rock or a tree stump instead. 
  2. Ensure that the rough side of the nail file is facing up. Some files have two rough faces, but others will only have one. 
  3. Make sure the blade is facing away from you as you put it on the nail file. Place it on the file at, you guessed it, a ten-degree angle. 
  4. Sharpen the blade by stroking it away from you. You will have to simultaneously move it in a sweeping motion laterally to make sure to sharpen the whole blade. 
  5. Turn the blade over and sharpen the other side. Sweep the blade towards your body this time. 

Use a Shovel

Use a Shovel

Wondering how to sharpen a knife without a sharpener? Your handy shovel in the tool shed may be the answer you are looking for. 

Shovels are usually made of titanium, stainless steel, or aluminum. These materials make for a strong surface that will work well as a sharpening rod. 

How To Use a Shovel To Sharpen Your Knives

This option is pretty simple. 

The first thing you should do is let the shovel rest against a wall, as you normally would, with the shovel at the bottom and handle at the top. 

Place the knife on the lip of the shovel where you would normally put your foot. With the blade facing the right (away from the handle), move the blade vertically across the lip. 

Once you have sharpened it enough, flip the blade over and do the other side. Repeat until both sides look equally sharp. 

Use Sandpaper

Use Sandpaper

Another way to sharpen a knife is with sandpaper. 

Sandpaper has a very rough surface that is similar to what a sharpening block feels like. This option is also easy to use and might be safer than other options on the list. 

Another benefit of sandpaper is that it is pretty easy to travel with. You can simply fold it a few times and stuff it in a backpack, making it great for hiking trips. 

How Do I Do It?

Let’s take a look at how to use sandpaper. 

  • First things first, make sure you have a hard surface to use. Putting the sandpaper on a hard surface will substantially increase the effectiveness of the technique. If you are out in the woods, a tree stump or a flat rock will work great. 
  • If you do not have a hard surface, fold the sandpaper in half. Folding it in half will increase the hardness and stability of the surface.
  • Place the knife on the sandpaper with the blade facing away from you. Next, make sure the knife is at a 10-degree angle. 
  • Use one hand to hold the sandpaper in place and stroke the knife away from you in one smooth motion. You can also consider taping the sandpaper in place to reduce the amount of movement. 
  • Make sure to cover the entire surface area of the blade. Sharpen it to your liking. 
  • Flip the blade over and sharpen the other side. Similar to the nail file option, you will draw the blade towards you now. 

If you want to bring sandpaper on a longer trip for a short-term sharpening option, make sure to bring a few sheets of sandpaper.

Depending on how often you are sharpening the knife, the paper will eventually wear out. 


When people wonder how to sharpen a knife without a sharpener, they won’t expect to have items in the home they can use. 

The most common household items you can sharpen a knife with are ceramic dishware (coffee mugs, plates, and bowls), nail files, or another knife. 

Other objects you might find outdoors or in your tool shed are rocks, shovels, or sandpaper. 

It is worth noting that you should only use all of these items as temporary options. They may work surprisingly well, but none will work as well and efficiently as legitimate knife sharpeners. 

Only use these when you have to. If you sharpen your knives regularly, consider buying a knife sharpening stone or some honing rods. 



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