Irrespective of what type of blade you carry, a dull blade is of little use in the field. In our articles on folding knives, survival multitools and Swiss Army Knives, we saw how having a reliable blade in the wilderness is an absolute necessity. However, after repeated use, the blade may become dull and need some quick sharpening or polishing and you cannot expect to have a sharpening system handy while camping or backpacking.
So how can you keep your knife or multi-tool sharp and honed in the wilderness or while on the move? The short answer is to carry a portable pocket knife sharpener.
In this article, we look at some of the best pocket knife sharpeners available in the market. We will primarily look at easy-to-use pull-through sharpening systems and sharpening plates and rods which are lightweight and compact enough to carry with you in your pocket or bag. So, buckle up and read on to check out our top picks!!
Best pull-through knife sharpeners listSome of the best pull-through pocket knife sharpening systems available in the market are listed below:
|Smith's PP1 Pocket Pal Multifunction Sharpener||3.5” x 1.2” x 0.25”|
Weight: 1.0 oz.
|- Ultralight multifunction sharpener with ceramic and carbide blades for 2-stage superfine sharpening and a diamond tapered rod for maintenance and quick finish.|
- Abrasion ratings of 400 grit for diamond rod and 600 grit for ceramic, with a 23-degree pre-set angle.
- Works with both serrated and plain knives.
- Plastic body with reversible and replaceable sharpening slots.
- Also, has a Pocket Pal II version with a Firestarter, compass, whistle and small flashlight.
- Backed by a one-year manufacturer warranty.
|Lansky PS-MED01 BladeMedic||4.0” x 3.2” x 0.3”|
Weight: 4 oz.
|- A multi-purposes, heavy duty knife sharpener with four sharpening mediums – Tungsten Carbide to sharpen, Ceramic to finish and polish, Serrated Ceramic for serrated edges and Diamond Tapered rod for quick maintenance and finishing.|
- High quality 600 grit for diamond and 1000 grit for ceramic, with a standard 22.5-degree angle.
- Works for both Serrated and Plain blade fixed blade and folding knives.
- Heavier than other knife sharpeners because of a full-metal body instead of plastic.
- Backed by a one-year manufacturer warranty.
|Lansky QuadSharp Multi Angle Knife Sharpener||4.2” x 0.5” x 2.2”|
Weight: 3.2 oz.
|- Multi-angle sharpener with 4 pre-set angle carbide sharpeners and a ceramic polishing bench stone for a fine finish.|
- Features a 17, 20, 25 and 30 -degree sharpening angle.
- Abrasion rating of 800 grit for ceramic, works well with all camping knives.
- Works best with straight edged blades, though the ceramic bench stone can be used to finish up the serrations as well.
- A full-metal body makes it more durable but heavier than other sharpeners.
- Backed by a one-year manufacturer warranty.
|Wüsthof Keychain Picnic Sharpener||3” x 2” x 1”|
Weight: 1.6 oz.
|- A smartly designed compact pocket knife sharpener with a carbide V-slot for sharpening and a ceramic V-slot for fine, professional finish.|
- Works with straight edge knives only.
- Features Non-slip rubber inserts on top and bottom for stability
- Also, has a key-chain for carrying around.
|Sharpal 101N 6-In-1 Knife Sharpener||3.5” x 1.5” x 0.5”|
Weight: 1.4 oz.
|- A smartly designed sharpener with a set of Tungsten Carbide blades for sharpening and Ceramic blades for fine honing, along with a tapered diamond rod for serrations and quick maintenance.|
- Coarseness rating of around 1000 grit for ceramic and 400 grit for diamond.
- Works with both serrated and plain knives. Can also be used for fish-hooks and gut-hooks.
- More than just a sharpener- comes integrated with a fire starter
and an emergency whistle.
|Accusharp Diamond Pro Two Step Knife Sharpener||6” x 4” x 1”|
Weight: 0.8 oz.
|- A smartly designed, field sharpener with a diamond coated ceramic blade slot for coarse sharpening and a fine ceramic blade slot for finishing.|
- Best suited for finish-ups and honing without scrapping off metal from the knife.
- Work for straight/plain edge knives only.
- Feature a rubber molded grip and rubber feet for safety. Comes with a small carrying case and a keychain.
Best knife sharpening pocket plates and rodsSome of the best portable sharpening plates and rods are listed below:
|DMT Diamond Mini-Sharp Plates||3.5” x 0.2” x 1”|
Weight: 1.6 oz.
|- Made in the US, ultra-portable sharpening keychain with a monocrystalline diamond coated surface.|
- Features a 70-mm sharpening surface with a protective plastic cover with a keychain.
- Comes in four grit levels for different needs – Fine, Extra fine, Coarse and Extra Coarse.
- Can be used with straight-edge blades, fish-hooks and gut-hooks, but not with serrated-edge blades.
- Backed by DMT replacement warranty for manufacturing defects.
|SOG SH03-CP Multi-purpose sharpener||4” x 0.9” x 0.2”|
Weight: 0.8 oz.
|- Multi-purpose sharpener with a small diamond coated sharpening surface and cylindrical ceramic rod for finishing and serrations.|
- Works with straight-edge and serrated knives and fish-hooks.
- The Ferro-rod can act as an emergency fire-starter.
- The plastic cover may need to be re-glued for stronger reinforcement.
- Backed by a limited lifetime warranty.
|Corona AC 8300 Sharpening Tool||4.3” x 0.8” x 0.3”|
Weight: 1.6 oz.
|- A smartly-designed, portable sharpener with a 5-inch carbide file.|
- Works with all straight blade knives and scissors.
- Can also work as a Ferro-rod striker for creating sparks.
- Features a no-slip plastic cover with a cap to keep the sharpening file safe. Also, has a lanyard hole for carrying around.
|BlizeTec 3-in-1 Portable Knife Sharpener||5” pen|
Weight: 1.46 oz.
|- A truly multi-purpose, ultralight|
- Features a monocrystalline diamond-coated sharpening rod with a flat edge, a serrated edge and a groove edge. Has a rating of 400 grits.
- Can be used with straight as well as serrated edge knives, gut hooks, fish-hooks, even kitchen knives.
- Durable aluminum metal casing with a pen clip for easy carry.
- Backed by a 100% risk-free lifetime manufacturer warranty.
|Buck Knives Retractable Pocket Knife Sharpener||5.12” pen|
Weight: 1.6 oz.
|- An excellent, multi-purpose pen sharpener which features a 400-grit diamond coated sharpening rod with tapered ends.|
- Works well with both straight-edge and serrated-edge blades.
- Also, features a fish hook groove and supports hook-blades, fish hooks and gut hooks
- Slightly bigger than other pen sharpeners, but features a deep pocket clip for easy carry.
- Backed by the popular Buck Forever lifetime warranty.
|Victorinox Pocket Knife Sharpener||5” pen|
Weight: 1.8 oz.
|- Made in Germany, portable sharpening pen with two-stage sharpeners – honing stone for pre-sharpening and oval shaped ceramic discs for fine edges.|
- Designed specifically for Multi-tool and SAK blades, it also works well with straight edge knives.
- Features a pen clip for easy carry in the pocket.
- Backed by a limited lifetime warranty.
An overview of pocket knife sharpeners
Before we look at the factors to consider while picking the best pocket knife sharpeners, let us look at some of the different types of in-the-field knife sharpeners that are out there:
- Pull-through sharpeners: Pull through sharpeners are the most popular portable knife sharpeners out there. They generally have two or more V-shaped slots set at a pre-defined angle. One section or slot is a carbide section and primarily meant for coarse, heavier sharpening. The other slot is made of diamond coated ceramic and is meant for polishing and finishing off the edge. The carbide section has a lower abrasion rating (200-600 grit) and would take off more metal from the blade, while the ceramic section has a finer abrasion rating (700-1000 grit). Some pull-through sharpeners even have foldable tapered rods for use with serrated edges. Pull-through sharpeners are perfect for outdoors and every-day-carry (EDC) because they are lightweight to carry, sharpen the blade quickly and are inexpensive to own.
- Pucks and Whetstones: Whetstones or pucks are natural (Arkansas stone) or man-made (silicon carbide or aluminum oxide) with one-sided or two-sided sharpening surfaces. They work well with straight-edged knives, fish-hooks, gut-hooks, even axes, and hatchets. Some sharpening stones come with a carrying pouch and are compact enough to be carried in the pocket. Lansky Puck and Falkniven Whetstone are two popular examples of portable whetstones. However, sharpening with whetstones requires more skill than pull-through sharpeners.
- Diamond plates: Diamond plates are composite or metal based plates with micron-sized synthetic diamonds bonded to the surface through electroplating treatment. These plates come in different grits and can be used wet or dry (wet sharpening reduces the metal wear from the blade). These types of sharpeners require some skill to use and like whetstones, require more time to sharpen the blade. They, however, are equally convenient to carry.
- Sharpening/Honing Rods: Honing rods (most pen rods) are primarily meant for quick touch-up honing and not full-fledged sharpening. They are made of steel or ceramic with a diamond coating. Pocket sharpening rods are designed in form of pens with retractable rods and pen-clips for easy carry. Such rods have multiple sharpening surfaces and tapering for different hooks and blade types. Another advantage of such sharpeners is that most of them can be used as Ferro-rods to create sparks with firestarters.
In this article, we would primarily focus on pull-through, diamond plates, and retractable rod type pocket sharpeners as they are most convenient to carry and use. It is also worthwhile to mention that these pocket sharpeners are not an alternative to the sharpening benches and professional at-home honing systems such as KME Precision Knife Sharpener System and Wicked Edge Precision Knife Sharpener System.
How to pick the best pocket knife sharpener?
With so many options available in the market and so many technical terms sprinkled in the mix, picking the best pocket knife sharpener for your needs can be a challenging task unless you are a subject matter expert with considerable experience and a collection of knives. Still, you can consider the following major factors while picking the best sharpener for your needs.
- Building material of the sharpener
- Design of the sharpener
- Size and weight of the sharpener
- Warranty and Accessories
Building material of the sharpener
The building material of the sharpening surfaces and the sharpener body are probably the most important criteria to consider while picking up a pocket knife sharpener. After all, you need an in-the-field sharpener that can help in sharpening your blade easily and quickly
The most common types of material used in sharpening surfaces are summarized below:
- Carbide or Tungsten Carbide: Carbide or Tungsten Carbide sharpening surfaces provide a relatively coarse surface to sharpen your blade efficiently and quickly. With a grit rating of around 400-500, carbide surfaces are generally used for blades which are more-dull and blunt. Needless to say, these sharpening surfaces also tend to take more metal from the blade surface than ceramic surfaces.
- Ceramic: Known for its fine-hone, toughness and durability ceramic surfaces are the best options for polishing and finishing a blade. Ceramic surfaces have a finer grit rating of 800-1000 and work extremely well for polishing or quick honing with or without wet soaking. Ceramic is also a popular option for honing rods which are often also diamond coated for a quick in-the-field dry honing.
- Diamond: As we all know, diamond is the toughest material in the industry. Diamond sharpening rods or surfaces typically composite or metal plates with clusters or micron-sized diamonds bonded on the surface through chemical treatment. Diamond surfaces are generally more aggressive in taking the metal off the blade and hence are more popular in plates and honing rods.
- Steel/Metal: Steel and metal rods are also sometimes used for honing. However, because of performance and weight considerations they are not that popular nowadays. That space has been taken up by diamond-coated ceramic or metal rods.
The pull-through sharpeners such as Smith’s PP1 Pocket Pal Multifunction Sharpener provides best of the world pocket sharpening experience by offering multi-stage sharpening by providing carbide surface for coarse sharpening, ceramic for polishing and tapered diamond rods for quick maintenance.
Closely associated with the building material for the sharpening surface is the building material for the sharpener body. Among pull-through sharpeners, most have plastic bodies, which make them lightweight. The exception to this is the Lansky PS-MED01 BladeMedic which has a full-metal body, making it heavier but more durable than other pocket sharpeners (the BladeMedic weighs 4 oz. as opposed to 1.0 oz. for Smith’s Pocket Pal).
Similarly, sharpening plates and rods have plastic or aluminum/composite metal casings and are designed to be compact and lightweight.
In summary, check out the sharpening material of the sharpener before picking up the best option for your needs.
Design of the sharpener
There are a few design considerations to keep in mind before picking the best option:
- Supported blade types: The type of blades supported by the sharpener is an important consideration. Pull-through sharpening systems such as Smith’s Pocket Pal and Lansky Blademedic support straight as well as serrated blades, because they have a tapered rod for serrations. However, two-stage sharpeners such as the Accusharp Diamond Pro knife sharpener do not have support for serrated blades. Similarly, almost all pen-type sharpening rods have tapering to support serrations. They even have grooves to be used with gut and fish hooks. Sharpening plates also support sharpening such hooks across the edges.
Depending upon the type of blade that you carry, check out the sharpening support before picking the best sharpener.
- Sharpening Stages: The best pocket sharpeners support multi-stage sharpening: coarse sharpening for rough/dull edges and a ceramic-surface finishing for polishing and super-fine edge. Most pull-through and sharpening rods provide these multi-stage sharpening.
In case of sharpening plates, you may have to get a couple of them to get a similar type of sharpening experience.
- Sharpening Angles: Most camping and survival knives have a bevel angle of less than 25degrees. Sharpening at an aggressive angle of more than 25-26 degrees can cause your knife harm the blade. That is why most pull-through sharpeners are preset at an angle of less than 25-degrees. The Lansky QuadSharp Multi Angle Knife Sharpener offers 4 pre-set angles from 17 to 30 degrees.
In addition to the major design factors mentioned above, check out the product details and reviews to see how sturdy the body or casing of the sharpener is designed. Many cheap knockoffs have this issue of the sharpener not fit properly and you are forced to apply some type of super-glue to fit things properly. The SOG SH03-CP Multi-purpose sharpener is especially notorious for this issue with some of their pieces.
Size and weight of the sharpener
Considering that you are looking for a portable sharpener that you can carry comfortably in your pocket or keychain, you need a compact and lightweight option. Among pull-through sharpeners, almost all the options that we listed are compact and lightweight at less than 2 ounces, with the exception of Lansky ones because of a full-metal body construction. In our view, the Smith’s PP1 Pocket Pal Sharpener is the best option if you are looking for something ultralight.
Similarly, the DMT Diamond plates are an excellent option as they weight not more than 1.6 ounces. Moreover, almost all pen rods are around 5-inch-long and weigh less than 1.8 ounces, making them easy to carry in the shirt or pant pocket like a pen, though some of them may feel a little clunky at times.
Warranty and Accessories
In addition to the major criteria discussed above, there are some other factors that may make a particular knife sharpener more suitable than the others. Two of these considerations are the warranty support provided by the manufacturer and the accessories that come with the sharpener.
Most pull-through sharpeners are backed by a limited time warranty ranging from 6 months to one year. Smith’s and Lansky products are backed by a one-year warranty. Among diamond plates and retractable rod sharpeners, you get the backing of a limited lifetime warranty. We especially love the forever warranty support (it is a personal bias!!) provided by the Buck Knives Retractable Pocket Knife Sharpener.
While almost all sharpeners either have a lanyard-hole or a pocket clip (for retractable rods), some sharpeners even come with a keychain. Similarly, some sharpeners also have additional features such as fire-starters and whistles to make them more useful. These are excellent accessories, but just remember to keep the focus on the sharpening abilities as that is why you are looking for such a gear.
How to use a pull-through sharpener?
If you are looking for a portable pull-through knife sharpener, you would probably already have a good idea of how you can use such a sharpener to sharpen the blades.
Still, for the sake of completeness, here are the basic steps you would need to follow to sharpen a blade. Before following the steps, you need to ensure that you are comfortable handling the sharpener and knife without hurting yourself.
- Start with the rough grit (carbide or diamond surface), angle the blade if required and run one side of the blade through 3-4 slicing motions. Most camping, hunting, and bushcraft knives have a blade angle of 22-25 degrees, so you would find the sharpening surfaces preset at these angles.
- Repeat the process for the other side.
- In case of a two-stage sharpener, use the ceramic surface to polish and finish off the edges and tips.
- For serrated edges, you can use the tapered rod to sharpen the serrations. Just be gentle with serrations to avoid uneven surfaces.
In case you still need some help, check out the videos and instructions shared by manufacturers on how to put their sharpeners to best use.
Which are the best pocket knife sharpeners and what our picks are?
Smith’s PP1 Pocket Pal Multifunction Sharpener review – Editor’s choice for the best pull-through knife sharpener
If you are looking for a sharpening tool that can sharpen any type of knife blade in no time and without needing a lot of prior experience, then you need a pull-through sharpener by Smith’s sharpeners. The Smith’s Pocket Pal PP1 is a perfect multi-functional sharpener that is compact, lightweight and provides excellent quick sharpening in the field.
It features a set of carbide edges setup at a bevel angle of 23-degrees, a set of ceramic blades and a tapered diamond rod for use with serrations, gut-hooks and fish-hooks. The coarse carbide and diamond rod are rated at 400 grit, while the ceramic blades are rated at a decent 600 grits. You can easily replace or reverse the carbide and ceramic blades for a longer life for the sharpener.
The Pocket Pal 1 measures a mere 1 ounces and is only 3.5 inches long. You may feel that the plastic body is less durable than the heavy metal body, but believe us, it is still pretty well built and durable. The sharpener also has a cord/lanyard hole to attach it to a keychain.
This sharpener is truly multifunctional. It can be used with all types of knife blades – straight and serrated. It also works well with hook-blades, gut-hooks and fish-hooks.
Like all other Smith’s products, the Pocket Pal sharpener is backed by a one-year manufacturer warranty against defects. And if you are looking for something more multi-functional, there is also a Pocket Pal II version with a firestarter, compass, whistle and a small flashlight. We found the firestarter in the Pocket Pal II pretty decent, though it wears down quickly.
DMT Diamond Mini-Sharp Plates review – Editor’s choice for the best plate-type knife sharpener
When it comes to sharpening plates, the DMT Diamond sharpening surfaces are one of the best in the world. So, if you are an experienced blade handler and are looking for a portable sharpening plate that you can carry to sharpen knives, hooks and other pointed tools, the DMT Diamond Mini-Sharp Plates should be your preferred choice.
The DMT Mini-sharp plate consists of a 70 mm (2.69-inch) long plate, which is reinforced with monocrystalline diamonds (25 micron/600 mesh for the fine plate) in the signature polka-dot pattern. The holes on the plate are slightly recessed in order to collect metal fines removed during sharpening. The DMT sharpening surface has more diamonds per surface area than other sharpening plates and hence is more effective and durable.
The Mini-sharp is available in different abrasive grits ranging from extra-coarse to extra-fine. You can check here for the exact details on grit rating of different plates. In case you are not sure, opt for the Fine (Red) grit plate. Moreover, you can use the sharpener for dry or wet sharpening, though we recommend moistening the plate with some water for frictionless sharpening.
A plastic groove keeps the sharpening surface secure. You also get a keychain to carry the sharpener comfortably.
The only drawback of the DMT Mini-plate is that because of the design and small-size, you may need to develop some skills before using such type of sharpening plates.
BlizeTec 3-in-1 Portable Knife Sharpener review – Editor’s choice for the best rod-shaped knife sharpener
If you are an avid outdoorsman who loves hunting and fishing and need an ultralight, portable yet fully functional sharpener for all your blades and fish hooks, then you should checkout the BlizeTec 3-in-1 Portable Knife Sharpener.
The BlizeTec Sharpening Pen features a sharpening rod, secured by an aluminum metal casing and a pen clip. The sharpener has a closed length of 5 inches (slightly bigger than a ball pen) and weighs only 1.46 ounces – lighter than most other rod-type pocket sharpeners.
The diamond-electroplated sharpening rod is coated with monocrystalline diamonds to provide a coarse sharpening surface of around 400 grits. The rod is designed smartly to provide a flat surface for straight edge knives and scissors, a tapered edge for serrations and a groove edge for hooks and pointed tools. Furthermore, the standard, non-slip thumb grip makes handling easy.
The sharpening surface performs pretty well, though a grit rating of around 400 (coarse) means that you may not get an extremely smooth edge. This is, however, the case with most portable sharpening rods. In fact, this sharpener worked perfectly even on to remove a few nicks on a hatchet.
What’s more, the BlizeTec Portable Knife Sharpener is backed by 100% risk-free lifetime manufacturer warranty.
Do it yourself options for knife sharpening
In case you do not have a pocket knife sharpener or want to try some ingenious ways to hone your knife, you can try out the following options:
- You can use the bottom of a ceramic mug. This is probably the most popular DIY knife honing technique. Simply setup your knife at an angle of blade grind (10-15 degrees) and drive it through the base 3-4 times for each side to polish/hone the blade.
- If car camping, you can use the surface of a car window to hone your knife. Follow the same process as that for ceramic mug.
- You can use a river-stone or a hard, smooth stone soaked in water as a makeshift whetstone to sharpen your knife. You should, however, be careful while picking one that does not harm the blade.
- Use a piece of cardboard or your leather belt and run your knife through the surface. This would give a nicer finish to your knife and help remove any grime or dirt from the edges of the blade.
For more details on these DIY options and hacks, check out the following video:
Final thoughts on the best pocket knife sharpeners to buy
In this article, we looked at some of the portable knife sharpeners available in the market that are compact enough to carry easily in your pocket. Such pocket knife sharpeners are especially handy for camping, backpacking and even every day carry (EDC). We looked at the most effective portable pull-through sharpening systems, plates and rod-pens that you can use without a lot of fuss.
While pocket knife sharpeners cannot replace the sharpening provided by a professional sharpening system, they are pretty useful for honing your blade in the field. Some of them are also useful for sharpening fish hooks and metal stakes as well.
We hope that you found this article useful in selecting the best pocket sharpener for your needs. Do let us if you would want us to consider anything else by commenting below. Till next time, happy exploration!