What’s the Best Way to Sharpen Stainless Steel Knives? [RQ#2]

John’s Knife Sharpening Question

Well, I have one question. It’s a timeless one, so there must be lots of good answers.

Is there a best way to sharpen most any (non-serrated blade) stainless steel knife?

Carbon steel blades seem easy to sharpen. I once had a 440 stainless knife what would take an edge in an instant … and keep it for a while. But otherwise, for me, it’s pure guess work at whether 5, 10 or 15 minutes will produce a decent blade on any stainless knife (high dollar or cheap).

I have a nice set of 3 stones. I’ve tried various oils. The most effective technique seems to depend on pressure – LOTS OF IT! But still, after scores of years, I’m a complete novice at putting an edge on a stainless blade.

Our Response: Stainless Steel Knife Sharpening Tips

Howdy John! Excellent question. It really can be quite tricky to go from sharpening carbon steel to sharpening newer stainless steels like CPM S110V. While carbon steels are easily sharpened on standard Arkansas stones, newer stainless steels frequently have high carbide forming allies like vanadium thrown in the mix, making them much more difficult to sharpen.

The trick is actually not in the technique you use, but rather it’s with the abrasive that’s being used to sharpen. Softer abrasives, like aluminium oxide stones or Arkansas stones, are simply not abrasive enough to remove material and form an edge on modern stainless steels.

Ultimately, you have four options for sharpening when it comes to modern stainless steels:

survival blog article knife sharpening stainless steel blade

Option 1: Sharpening Stainless Steel with Diamond Based Stones

Sticking to stones is fine so long as you go with diamond based ones like DMT. They will sharpen pretty much any steel around, as no steel is as hard as diamonds. With diamond stones, use very light pressure, as heavy pressure will cause the diamond layer to strip away (ask me how I know!). Diamond stones can be quite expensive, but it’s is a method that you will be very familiar with going from sharpening carbon steel to stainless steel. It takes roughly 5-10 minutes to sharpen a stainless steel blade using this method.

how to sharpen stainless steel knives

Option 2: Sharpening Stainless Steel with Manual Systems

Your second option is to purchase a manual system that has preset angles, and offers diamond abrasives as an option. These manual sharpening systems range from (relatively) inexpensive Spyderco Sharpmakers, to fully loaded Wicked Edge/Edge Pro systems. The Spyderco Sharpmaker is a classic for a reason, and in my opinion, a very intuitive system. Wicked Edge/Edge Pro style systems are much more finicky, since they have so many more adjustments and parts. Of course, Wicked Edge/Edge Pro sharpeners are frequently used by knife aficionados to put really sick mirror edges on their customs, so keep them in mind if you’re looking for something like that. The level of sharpness and how clean the edge will look won’t be rivaled by much. That being said, the financial investment is pretty high, and it does take a while to put an edge on using those systems (about 20 minutes). The learning curve isn’t steep, though, you can definitely manage to put on a nice edge, even without much experience, though it will take a lot more of a time investment than if you were using a Sharpmaker (which would only take about 5-10 minutes).

learn how to sharpen knives stainless steel

Option 3: Sharpening Stainless Steel with Sandpaper

The budget option. Go to your local hardware store, purchase a bunch of silicon carbide sandpaper sheets, ranging from 60 to 1200 grit, and lay them on a very flat surface, a slab of marble will do. Whilst most sandpaper is aluminium oxide based, if you go for silicon carbide, the abrasive is hard enough to grind away even the hardest stainless steel. Obviously, an extreme low grit like 60 will form an edge much quicker than the standard 220/400 grit stones. Be aware that the initial edge will be very rough, and you will have to graduate to finer grits to get an acceptable, non-toothy edge. Of course, if you like a toothy edge for cutting material like cardboard, then just take the edge up to 200 grit and leave it at that! Expect around 5-10 minutes of work using low grit.

knife sharpening technique stainless steel blades

Option 4: Sharpening Stainless Steel with Mechanized Systems

Your last choice is to take the nuclear option and go with a mechanized system for sharpening. Personally, I use a full sized belt grinder, running 3M trizact belts, which will put an edge on Wolverine’s claws in 20 seconds flat. You don’t need to go for a full 2×72 belt grinder, which can often be damn expensive. Instead, go for a 1×30 set up. Belts are easily available and cheap, and will last a good long time. The speed at which you can sharpen a knife will really astound you, and if you’re interested, you may also be able to make your money back on the grinder by sharpening knives professionally on the side.

survival blog tutorial sharpen stainless steel knives

If you have any more questions, let me know in the comments and I’ll clear things up further!


If you have a survival, preparedness, or gear related question you’d like us to answer, don’t hesitate to let us know! Find out how to reach us via the contact page. Although we don’t publish every question we’re asked on the blog, we try our best to respond to each and every one we receive.

In case you’re interested, you can also view our past responses to reader questions here.

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Nite Ize Doohickey Key Tool Review

After reviewing the Gerber Shard I found myself getting really into small multi tools and widgets as a viable concept for everyday carry. The Nite Ize Doohickey is the latest addition to my widget roster, but there are definitely more to come. I primarily was fascinated by the Doohickey because of its incredibly sleek appearance, and the fact that it brags quite a few different functions for such a small key tool. Lets see how it holds up as a working tool.

doohickey keychai tool review more than just survivingNite Ize Doohickey Keychain Multitool – Amazon

The first thing to note about the Nite Ize Doohickey is how well finished it really is. Nice machining with no visible burrs or defects paired with clean laser engraving really bring home that this is a well conceived tool, at least in appearance.

edc keychain tool nite ize doohickey

The most obvious tool besides the pry tip and bottle opener are those 3 hex bolt cut outs. Their sizes are 1/4th , 5/16th and 3/8th of an inch. I didn’t have any hex bolts on hand in those sizes so I didn’t get to test these out myself, but to be real honest, I think that with the size of the Doohickey, you are going to be faced with a real lack of leverage to screw or unscrew anything sizable. This is clearly and emergency-only kind of tool, and I have never been faced with a hex bolt emergency, so I can’t really comment on how useful it is.

That being said it’s nicely integrated as extra space for the carabiner, and a mediocre tool is better than no tool, so +1 for the Doohickey there.

nite ize doohickey review keychain muliti-tool edc

The Doohickey features a laser engraved ruler, both metric and imperial, on its front. I am not sure how handy 2 inches/40 mm of measuring area is, but it’s a nice touch that adds no extra weight.

everyday carry multi-tool review edc nite ize doohickey

It has a somewhat (ok, barely) sharpened area, towards the corner of the prying section. I can’t say I am a huge fan of having any cutting implement exposed, especially on an object that’s supposed to dangle freely inside my pockets, but in real world use I didn’t notice any discomfort, and since the box cutter section is by no means sharp enough to ever become a safety risk, this feature seems fine to me.

survival blog review nite ize doohickey key tool

To put it bluntly (heh) it doesn’t cut: it tears. Pretty useless. I’d imagine a credit card would have the same result. I will say that with some later testing, I did find it useful for scoring pine wood and drywall.

keychain multi-tool edc niteize doohickey review

Small Phillips screw heads were just too small for the Nite Ize Doohickey, and using the box cutter area to attempt to tighten/loosen these screws proved completely unsuccessful.

more than just surviving nite ize doohickey reviewKershaw Emerson CQC-6K Folding EDC Knife – Amazon

However, with flat head screws, like the ones featured on all Emerson knives (including the CQC-6K, which is the knife being used in these photographs) the Doohickey sorta worked for adjustments.

everyday carry small mulititool nite ize doohickey review

more than just surviving nite ize doohickey review

I say sorta worked because it did leave pretty heavy marks on the pivot/screw head. Not impressed, but in a pinch/emergency, it does work.

testing on kershaw emerson cqc-6k folding knife

Since the Nite Ize Doohickey proved pretty much average at most tasks, I was really hoping it could easily open a bottle.

doohickey bottle opener nite ize gadget test

And finally, some success!  Better “performance” than the Gerber Shard at this particular task.

bottle opener nite ize doohickey edc keychain tool

everyday carry bottle opener keychain tool nite ize doohickey

The Nite Ize Doohickey does mangle the cap quite a bit, but with my experience, it seems most of these tiny tools do. Of course there’s just no way a widget multi tool will match up to the real thing.

keychain edc nite ize doohickey review

When I received the Nite Ize Doohickey, I was shocked by how tiny it is. Definitely was expecting it to be a lot bigger, but I was pleasantly impressed by its smallness. The Doohickey is actually pretty much the same size as the Shard. It measures a miniscule 64.8 mm (2.6 inches) long and 17.2 mm (0.7 inches) wide.

survival blog comparison nite ize doohickey gerber shard

Around a keyring, I found the Doohickey to be superior to the Gerber Shard based purely on its perfect flatness. It takes up roughly the same amount of room as a key. The trade off is that the Shard’s curve does offer it better leverage for prying.

doohickey vs shard more than just surviving comparison

As a carabiner its pretty terrible. Far too small to be useful.

nite ize doohickey survival blog edc tool review

It is a very good looking mini tool, however. So far, it’s the most handsome widget I have. That being said, I’m not altogether impressed by how it functions in a practical sense, so I’m not sure it will see very much use with me.

everyday carry nite ize doohickey key tool review

nite ize doohickey survival blog review small keychain multitool

The Nite Ize Doohickey is pretty mediocre keychain widget all around. Its sleek design is definitely one of it’s most compelling features, but the Doohickey is ultimately a bit of a let down in terms of function. Tools on the Doohickey don’t work anywhere near optimally. Ultimately, it feels like Nite Ize designed the Doohickey with form over function in mind. Yes, it’s actually hit the perfect mark with me aesthetically, it’s got a very sober industrial look that I really do fancy, but that’s just not enough for me to feel compelled to carry it everyday.

As far as keychain tools go, I would pick the Gerber Shard over the Nite Ize Doohickey in pretty much every situation. Unless I had a regular need of hex bolt adjustment tools, that is, but even then I would get a dedicated tool instead of fiddling with a tiny little slab of steel.

Sorry Nite Ize, just not doing it for me this time.

View Price of Nite Ize Doohickey Keychain Multitool on Amazon

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Knife Drop: “Zen Spydercos” Yin and Yang

zen spydercos yin and yang

knife drop spydercos zen yin and yang

I take so many pictures of knives that I thought it’d be nice to have a feature where I exclusively showcase knife photography. I’ll of course be listing which knives were used in the photographs below the image(s), in case you’re curious.

This first knife drop showcases my two all time favourite EDC knives: the Sage 1 and the Lum Chinese Folder. They’re both extremely comfortable, easy for me to open/close with one hand, and are ultimately the perfect size and shape for me. Great knives for sure.

Spyderco Sage 1Review.
Spyderco Lum Chinese FolderReview.

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CRKT Hissatsu Tactical Folding Knife Review

There’s something about the aesthetics about the CRKT Hissatsu Folder that just drew me in initially. In my humble opinion, it’s one of the most badass tactical knives still in production. Whether or not it’s a viable tool is a different story, but in terms of aesthetics alone, this knife is a jackpot winner.

crkt hissatsu folder tactical knife review

crkt hissatsu folder review more than just survivingCRKT Hissatsu Folder Tactical Knife Review – Amazon

The first thing I noticed when I held the CRKT Hissatsu Folder, even before I paid attention to its wicked tanto blade, is its overall feeling of heft when it’s in your hands. From a distance, you might be inclined to think this a regular folding knife. In hand, however, its presence sure is felt.

tactical folding knife crkt hissatsu folder review

If I had to sum up the Hissatsu in one word, I’d choose: “operator.” The folder is very tool-like in appearance, with a gorgeous oversized pivot, molded glass filled nylon handles, and a very nicely textured tacky-rubbery finish. Tactical is an understatement. This knife screams bad intent before you even deploy the blade.

survival blog crkt hissatsu folder knife review

With the blade deployed, CRKT’s Folding Hissatsu really takes on a life of its own. This knife is truly defined by its very aesthetics. In no shape or form will anyone ever confuse this knife with anything other than a tactical tool: I mean look at it. Who could take one glance and think this was an everyday carry? Impossible.

The hissatsu is 22.2 cm (8.75 inches) of mean. Period.

folding crkt hissatsu tactical knife review mtjs

The blade to handle ratio is not quite balanced on the CRKT Hissatsu Folder, as it has oversized scales. In the hand, however, this doesn’t feel unnatural.

more than just surviving blog review crkt hissatsu folder

The CRKT Hissatsu Folder actually reminds me of an old school tactical knife, even though it’s quite a modern one. The reason why is there’s just no pretense here – it’s essentially pure vicious lines on a clean James Williams design. Now, his designs have always stood out to me as having a very definite old Japanese and American tactical influence. That’s really clearly seen in the Hissatsu Folder.

review-columbia-river-knife-and-tool-hissatsu-folding-tactical-knife

The thickness of the blade is 4 mm (0.16 inches), and for a 9.8 cm (3.8 inches) overall length, that’s pretty meaty. The grind tapers to a very acute, yet strongly supported tip. I would say that this knife is the ideal for piercing cuts, and I wouldn’t change much about it.

tactical knife review crkt hissatsu folder

The lock on the CRKT Hissatsu Folder is a relatively thin stainless steel liner lock by modern standards. I do wish it was thicker, and that it engaged with more authority, but functionally the knife feels sturdy. If I notice any blade play later on down the road, I will update this review, but for now it’s perfectly functional.

columbia river knife and tool hissatsu folder tactical knife

The pocket clip is not discreet in the slightest. Objectively, it works, but the knife is heavy, bulky and screams, “Look at me. I am a scary knife.” Doesn’t bother me too much, but be advised that this is not a discreet carry in the slightest.

The pocket clip is a single screw construction with a recess in the scales to stop the clip from moving around. Nicely designed and implemented, with the option for left or right carry, but in both cases, tip down only.

columbia river knife and tool review crkt hissatsu folder

The CRKT Hissatsu Folder hilariously dwarfs my Fenix LD20. I cannot emphasize how much pocket space this baby takes up.

crkt-hissatsu-tactical-folder-knife-survival-blog-review

Fit and finish is above average. The centering is perfect, and the knife screams quality with its fully blacked out everything. Nothing on this knife looks out of place.

more than just surviving crkt hissatsu folder review

folding tactical knife crkt hissatus folder review

The CRKT Outburst assisted knife technology is similar to the Kershaw Speedsafe system, like in Kershaw’s Tremor or Volt SS knives that I reviewed a while back. When you nudge the blade past 30 degrees using the thumb stud, the built up tension from the torsion bar takes over and whips out the knife like a demon out of hell.

It works. I don’t like assisted knives very much in general, but I can’t complain about the ridiculous speed. I will say that I found the tension to be a bit hard to overcome at times, but after opening and closing the knife a few hundred times, it has broken in quite nicely.

Helpfully, CRKT does give you a guide on the Outburst system, which includes detailed photographs on the optimal way to deploy this knife. The pressure on the thumb disc has to be straight forwards for the blade to overcome the tension. It takes a few tries to get used to.

not hard to open crkt hissatsu folder review

Based on photographs you might be inclined to think the folding CRKT Hissatsu is a pretty light knife. However, at 164 grams (5.8 ounces) there is no way you will forget this blade is in your pocket.

The bulk of the weight comes from the recessed stainless steel liners that go across the whole scales on both sides. This makes the knife extremely rigid, and no matter where I push, I cannot sense any flex whatsoever. Good for a tactical knife but not so ideal for an EDC. I do wish they skeletonized the liners, as I think it would have really helped the balance and made the knife far more flexible in terms of application, but in a lot of ways James Williams really did design a mean vintage tactical folder in his trademark aggressive style with no regards for any everyday carry applications.

The CRKT Hissatsu Folder is completely unapologetic, and just like the Buck 110, I kinda like that about it.

hissatsu folding knife columbia river knife and tool tactical blade

The Outburst assisted system is pretty simple both in design and implementation. I can’t see the basic torsion bar ever failing or binding up due to dirt or sand.

survival blog review crkt hissatsu folder tactical knife

You can remove the torsion bar by simply unscrewing one screw. The choice to effectively have an assisted opening or fully manual knife is awesome. Really well implemented, too.

tactical folding knife review crkt hissatsu folder

The torsion bar does stick out of the butt of the handle. I originally thought that they should have sharpened the bar to be used as a glass breaker, but upon further reflection, I realized it’s not a good idea for the opening mechanism to be used as a striking surface. So no complaints here either.

stabbing knife crkt hissatsu tactical folder

The Auto-Lawks system is both genius and very very annoying (for me). I am used to standard liner locks, and my muscle memory is so used to simply pushing a liner to unlock a knife that when faced with 2 stage locks, like CRKT’s AutoLawks system, I must admit that drives me nuts at times. That being said, the Hissatsu has no choil, so should the liner slip I would find myself eternally grateful to have this other safety feature.

The way the Auto-Lawks system works is that the Autolawks pushes a tab out when the blade is deployed, which prevents the liner from travelling all the way to the other side unless the autolawks lever is disengaged. Very smart two-step procedure; unlock the lock to unlock the lock (good luck saying that five times fast!).

columbia river knife and tool hissatsu folding knife tactical

As I mentioned earlier, no choil whatsoever on the CRKT Hissatsu Folder.

black crkt hissatsu folder tactical knife review

In terms of quality control, I noticed two issues. First, the grind is uneven at the tang of the knife – functionality, though, the knife is not impaired. The other issue I spotted was at the apex of the tanto. As you can see in the picture below from the reflection of light in the middle of the tanto – it arrived dull from the factory. That being said, this problem is easily remedied. Overall, the CRKT Hissatsu is a very well made and well put together folder.

black crkt hissatsu tactical folding knife review

The blade profile is very obtuse. It’s not a great slicer, but for penetrative cuts, slashes, and stabbing, the wound diameter would be nasty. I keep saying, but it’s really true that the Hissatsu is a thoroughbred tactical knife. As such, discussing anything beyond tactical applications would do this knife a disservice.

The steel CRKT chose to use is the venerable Aus-8, and whilst it’s no supersteel, the corrosion resistance is above average. For its intended purpose (which I hope by now I don’t have to reiterate) it’s perfectly acceptable.

crkt hissatsu folder review black tactical knife

The bevels and tanto transition are flawlessly ground. The powder coating is uniform, and I really can’t spot any flaws. Very impressed.

survival blog review crkt hissatsu folder

Stylistically, as I”ve mentioned before, one of my favourite aspects of the CRKT Hissatsu Tactical Folder are the oversized pivots that are completely flush with the scales. I absolutely love them, and it really emphasizes the tool aspect of this knife.

designer james williams crkt hissatsu folder review tactical blade

Balance is handle-biased, not quite as significantly as on a Buck 110, but the bias is still strong enough to be noticeable for prolonged cutting tasks. This isn’t an everyday carry or a folding slicer, though, so I don’t find myself caring very much.

tactical folding knfie crkt hissatsu review

Saber grip on the CRKT Hissatsu Folder is neutral. The thickness of the scales and general mass of the knife makes me feel like I am holding a fixed blade instead of a folder, which is kind of nice. My grip is extremely secure, and no jimping is required.

folding tactical knife columbia river knife and tool hissatsu review

Choking up theoretically works, but is less than ideal. Not recommended for actual use, both due to ergonomics and the less-than-optimal blade grinds for detailed cuts.

more than just surviving crkt hissatsu folder review

Reverse grip on the CRKT Hissatsu Tactical Folder is fantastic. If I had to pick one knife to stab with, it would definitely be this one.

black knife folding tactical blade crkt hissatsu folder

Interestingly, a pinch grip would have been pretty comfortable if the thumb disc was removed, but once again this knife was designed with tactical applications in mind and so cutting performance is (rightly) sub par.

survival blog review crkt hissatsu folder tactical knife

hissatsu tactical knife crkt folder review

survival blog review columbia river knife and tool hissatsu folding knife black

Very few knives in my collection illicit such a visceral reaction based on style alone; the CRKT Hissatsu Tactical Folder definitely high up on the list as one of those. If nothing else, I can safely say that this knife really hits all the right notes for me in terms of aesthetics, and that’s no mean feat as I literally can’t find anything I dislike about it visually. It really is a wicked folder.

Is it good at anything besides stabbing? No, not really. But it isn’t meant to be. I would never recommend buying the Hissatsu to be your sole knife, and I certainly don’t see myself everyday carrying it frequently, even when I carry something else along with it. Yet as a tactical backup, or badass show piece – to show off/terrify your friends with? Hell yes. Realistically it’s unlikely I will ever use this knife for its given purpose, but I don’t see myself ever regretting buying it considering the giant grin it puts on my face, and that’s good enough for me.

As long as you understand what you’re getting here, go for it. Just don’t expect a tactical looking EDC. I’ve said it enough, this is a tactical folder with tactical applications. If you try using it as an EDC, you’re going to be disappointed.

View Price of CRKT Hissatsu Folding Tactical Knife on Amazon

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August 2014 EDC Pocket Dump

everyday carry pocket dump

1. Generic Czech Pipe Tool
2. Kershaw Emerson CQC-6K EDC Folding KnifeReview.
3. General Onyx Snus Tin – Used to hold pipe tobacco.
4. Ian Sinclair Cardsharp Credit Card Knife
5. Scarecrow Organic Golden Pale Ale
6. Missouri Meerschaum Corn Cob Pipe

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