How to Sharpen Just About Anything

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There’s nothing worse than pulling out your knife only to find that the blade is dull — or even chipped. While this is a minor inconvenience, in a survival situation, it can be dangerous or even deadly. If you’re stuck with a dull blade, here are some tips and tricks to help you sharpen just about anything, no matter where you are.

What Do You Need to Sharpen?

What sort of things do you need to sharpen? That will depend on what tools you use regularly, but it could include:

  • Knives: Knives can run the gamut, from short to long to straight to curved. It doesn’t matter what your knife looks like or how long it is — it will eventually need to be sharpened.
  • Axes/Hatchets: These tools are useful for chopping wood, clearing brush or digging, in a pinch.
  • Machetes/Falchions/Kukri: Longer than standard knives, these can be used as weapons or for clearing brush.
  • Spears: If you’re in a survival situation, spears can be useful tools.
  • Saw Blades: It might be easier to replace the blades on a hacksaw or a sawmill, but if you can’t make it to the store, sharpening the blades could draw some more life out of those tools.

How to Sharpen at Home

Let’s start with how to sharpen your blades at home. Blades dull from everyday use — you don’t necessarily have to be in a survival situation to sharpen your knives.

You’ll need a whetstone or another sharpening stone and either a good grasp of geometry or a protractor. The angle you hold the blade will vary depending on what you are sharpening. Kitchen knives usually need to be held at around 20 degrees to be sharpened properly. Survival knives need a thicker edge — about 25 degrees — and machetes and other blades used for hacking need a 30-degree angle. Axes should also be filed at roughly 30 degrees.

Once you have your stone and your angle, you simply have to move the blade along the stone until you get a nice clean edge.

How to Sharpen in a Survival Situation

So how are you supposed to sharpen your blades if you’re stranded out in the wilderness and your whetstone is at home?

There are plenty of things that you can use as a DIY whetstone that you can find just about anywhere. Any rock with a flat surface can be used as a whetstone. Just pour a little bit of water on it and go to town.

If you’re wearing a leather belt, it can be used as a makeshift strop — similar to how a barber sharpens his razor. It won’t hone your blade to a razor’s edge, but it can make it a bit of sharper if you don’t have anything else.

If you find a discarded ceramic coffee mug with a rough bottom, you can use that to sharpen your knife, too.

There are plenty of things that you can use to sharpen your knife, even if you don’t have a whetstone with you. There are also wearable whetstones you can keep on your belt if you would prefer to carry a stone with you.

Sharpening your knife is a good way to make sure it will be usable no matter what you need it for. Learning how to sharpen your knife means you will be able to stay safe no matter what happens.

What to Look for in a Survival Knife

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If you haven’t bought a survival knife in a while, it can be hard to know where to start looking. With all the options available on the market today, it’s not as simple as just heading to your local Army/Navy surplus store for a KBar. If you’re in the market for a new survival knife, what should you be looking for?


There are literally hundreds of different survival knives on the market right now, but they aren’t all created equal. You’ll want to find a blade that’s made of a high-quality material such as stainless or carbon steel. Other materials won’t hold an edge as long and might be prone to chipping or even cracking during use.

Stainless steel is the most popular, but many people believe that it doesn’t hold an edge. Carbon steel is a great option, and while it can keep an edge longer than stainless steel, it is also susceptible to rust.


The next thing you need to think about is the blade shape – do you want a straight or a serrated one? Serrated knives are useful for things like sawing through rope, but they require a specialized tool to sharpen them once they lose their edge. To sharpen a straight blade, all you need is a whetstone and some elbow grease.

Make sure you keep the length and thickness of the blade in mind. Most survival knives are between six and 12 inches long and between 3/16 and ¼ inch thick. Too long or too thick and it becomes unwieldy. Too thin and it could break under pressure.


The tang of the blade is how much of the steel continues into the handle. Tangs that only connect to the top of the handle can break off, especially in a survival situation. These knives are cheaper but not terribly useful. Opt for a blade with a full tang – the steel of the blade continues all the way to the base of the handle. This makes the knife stronger and enables it to serve you well for years to come, whether you’re using it to cut rope or fight off a bear (though we wouldn’t recommend the latter if you can avoid it.)


There are nearly as many different handle types as there are blades, so it’s good to pick the handle that works best for you. Wood, polymer, rubber and even paracord are some of the most popular handle options. Avoid hollow handles at all costs though. If the handle is hollow, it means that your blade isn’t full-tang – even if the seller claims that it is.

There is no way that we can definitively pick out a ‘best’ survival knife. What works best for us might not work for you at all. Just look for a full tang blade in either carbon or stainless steel, and you’re halfway there. Everyone you ask will have their own favorite hunting knife, so start asking, and maybe you’ll find the perfect knife for you.

How to Survive in the Woods With Nothing

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For most people, getting lost in the woods without any tools or supplies to help them survive is something out of a nightmare. It freaks people out so much that Hollywood has gotten a handful of reality TV shows out of it — even if they’re a little bit scripted.

So — just in case you ever find yourself as a character on a real-life episode of Lost — how can you survive if you find yourself trapped in the woods with no supplies?

The Three Necessities

When it comes down to it, there are only three things you really need to survive in the wilderness: water, shelter and food. Warmth may qualify as a fourth item — but not if you’re lost in a hot climate. You can survive for a couple of weeks without food, but you can only survive for two to three days without water.

Let’s take a closer look at how you can find each of these three items that are so necessary for survival.

1.      Water

Your priority, assuming you’re not injured or unable to move, should be to find water. There are plenty of ways to do this, including the following:

  • Look for Natural Water Sources: Lakes, rivers and streams are your friends — they provide a source of water in a pinch. Remember to take steps to purify the water. Even water that looks clean can harbor bacteria that could get you sick and make survival more difficult. Thankfully, it’s possible to purify water even if you have no tools available.
  • Collect Dew: Early in the morning or late in the evening, you can use a cloth to collect enough dew to wring into your mouth.
  • Dig: If you find a dry stream bed, there may still be water under the surface. By digging down, you may be able to find some — though you’ll still need to purify it.

Once you’ve secured your water source, your next step is to find shelter.

2.      Shelter

The shelter you find or make will depend on where you’re stranded. Caves are a great option, as long as other animals do not already occupy them.

If you can’t find a cave, a fallen tree can provide proper shelter if it’s stable. Find a fallen tree you can take shelter beneath and use branches, palm fronds or large leaves to create a makeshift shelter. It won’t be perfectly weatherproof, but it will be enough to keep you out of the elements and help you stay warm at night.

3.      Food

Food can be tricky, especially if you’re out in the woods in the winter. In general, you’ve got three options:

  • Animals: If you’re wilderness savvy, you could try to make some snares for small game like rabbits or squirrels. Ideally, these snares would be made of wire. If you don’t have any wires handy you can use just about anything — your shoelaces, strong vines or the headphones in your pocket. Fishing is also an excellent way to get food if you’re stuck out in the wild.
  • Insects: In a pinch, you can also eat most bugs. It sounds gross — and it might taste gross, too, if you’re eating them raw — but it can keep you alive if you can’t manage to secure any other food sources. Just remember what Simba said in The Lion King: “Slimy, yet satisfying!”
  • Plants: Unless you’re absolutely sure the plant you’re thinking about eating is edible, don’t eat it. It could get you sick and make it harder for you to survive.

No one wants to think about getting stranded in the woods, but if it happens, it’s better to be prepared.  If this is something you’re terrified of, keep a multi-tool or pocket knife on you at all times. Even if you don’t use it for anything other than opening letters, it could mean the difference between life and death — or at least help you survive until help arrives.