Sharpening a Tactical Knife for the Performance You Need



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Sharpening a Tactical Knife for the Performance You Need

Everyone that I know owns knives! Everyone in the world, for the most part, owns knives of one type of another and uses them on a daily basis for whatever chore that the knife is intended for. Whether that is working in the fields or working in the indoor everyone needs knives that are sharp and that will perform. OK! Buying a good tactical knife and using the knife is the easy part, the hard part is for most people that sharpening and maintaining of the tactical knife itself.

How many people can you think of that have knives in their pockets or in their kitchens and they are not sharp? For the most part, if you ask yourself, how many people do you know that can actually sharpen the knife they carry or the knives that they use in the kitchen? It’s OK if you can’t sharpen your tactical knives that you own as it is an acquired skill and takes time and skill and education to develop that skill.

The fact of the matter is that when sharpening your tactical knives or getting them sharpened, you are getting them sharpened for performance. You want your knives to work/act in a certain way and you have an expectation of the performance that you will get from your sharpened knife. OK! So what is involved in tactical knife sharpening or learning how to sharpen a tactical knife. Well, this all depends on how deep into the subject of knife sharpening you want to get. There is a lot involved in it if you really want to get immersed in the black art of knife sharpening.

So here in this post I am just going to touch on the subject of sharpening a bit and I of course will follow up with other posts. So, How to get a tactical knife sharp? There are many ways of course and many tools that can be employed to sharpen your knives, everything from the humble manual method employed by using whetstones of either natural or synthetic origin or using some form of a sharpening system. Both will work and the fact of the matter is that you really do not even need much of the “technical” education to use either system. But! You will need the proper abrasive to cut the steel that you are wishing to sharpen.

So whether or not you know a lot about the different kinds of steels that tactical knives are made from, it does not mean that you can’t get certain performance advantages from one steel over another. In fact when you go out to buy a tactical knife that you are going to carry in your pocket or on your belt or in the outdoor it is always best to find out what kind of steel the knife is made from. The fact of the matter is that choosing steel can most definitely determine the impact of the performance level that you will get from the knife.

In my humble opinion what really brings out the benefits of blade performance is the angle at which the tactical knife is sharpening it. A good quality steel and a correct edge angle for the job at hand and you will be happier than a pigging you know that! It is always better to choose a better steel, naturally in your cutlery choices because look at it this way: If you can make a cheaper brittle steel perform the chore that you want it to perform when it is ground and then sharpened at say 25 degrees on each side then think of what a good quality premium steel will do for you at the same edge angle, and it will do it longer!

In my humble opinion again, premium quality steel will perform much better if you sharpen it at 40 degrees or 20 degrees on each side or less depending on the chore that you want to perform. Remember, if you take the edge down to much then the blade gets to “thin” for certain chores and you will have a decrease in cutting edge performance.

There are advantages of course to choosing a premium quality steel in your tactical knife endeavors over a cheap steel. One of the best advantages is the fact that the premium steel is that it is stronger and tougher than the cheap steel and will hold up better when using a smaller edge angle. The fact of the matter is that smaller edge angles will outperform larger edge angles as long as you are using the smaller edge angle for something that it can handle. Here is an example of what I mean. Most European outdoor tactical knives are sharpened roughly at 20 degrees and most Japanese tactical knives are sharpened at 15 degrees.

The Japanese tactical knife will cut finer and better in my opinion but will need more touch ups, whereas the European tactical knife may not cut as fine and in fact may cut longer and the blade is thicker and may not need to be touched up as often as the Japanese tactical knife. When it comes to knives there is always a “give and take” scenario. Now, this is just one for instance. In fact as stated the smaller edge angle will outperform the bigger edge angle in certain cutting jobs. In most cases you as a person who can sharpen your tactical knives or is learning to sharpen your knives will see a big increase in cutting longevity when you nix about 5 degrees off your sharpening angle.

You know a lot of people I have come into contact with over the years in the cutlery biz are always trying to keep up with the Jone’s. They will tell me that they want to upgrade their tactical knife life from something like 154CM steel to S30V steel.

OK! That’s cool! And I might ask them if they know how to sharpen their tactical knives and they tell me “yes” and I ask what angle they will sharpen the knife at and they tell me 20 degrees per side. They will sharpen the S30V blade at the same angle as they were sharpening the 154CM blade. OK! So, this guy just spent some extra dough to keep up with the Jone’s and get some extra wear resistance that in most cases most tactical knife buyers/users would not even notice, and really not get any true performance advantages.

Now, the fact of the matter is that if that same guy spent the extra money on the S30V and wants to take advantage of the extra toughness that S30V has over 154CM, then that person should take the angle down to about 15 degrees per side and they would see a huge difference if cutting ability and performance.(As long as the cutting chores warrant a 15 degree on each side, remember that 15 degrees on each side are getting a bit thin in my opinion and for some chores is not a good angle.)

So I know that this has been a long post and I am only just touching the surface of the issue of tactical knife sharpening and knife sharpening education. In the following weeks and months I will be doing videos to teach you guy and gals all I know about the different kinds of steels and the different ways to sharpen your tactical knives. So stay tuned and subscribe to my feed so that you will be informed as to when the videos are up and I promise you will learn all about knife sharpening in its many forms.


    1. DeanB Aug 23, 2019
      A well sharpened blade is the safest and will keep you from cutting yourself.
      Caribou and TMT Tactical like this.
    2. duke in wales Aug 15, 2019
      You don't need a sharp knife to stab a person.
    3. arctic bill Aug 12, 2019
      I think that sharpening a knife is very important, i have three sharpening stones, on in the kitchen, one in my workshop , and one at my cottage. I buy sharpening stones and the built a little wooden box to hold them. when i sharpen any thing i wet the stone with water or run the stone under water like a tap,