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by Bob Banfelder

Undoubtedly, one of the most important tools outdoor folks can carry afield is not a knife, per se, but rather a very sharp knife. Whether you are an angler or a hunter, the importance of a sharp blade is of paramount importance. From filleting a fish to field dressing, skinning, and butchering a deer, a sharp knife is essential to performing those tasks, including keen kitchen cutlery that will make the grade from counter to serving plate. Carried forward to the dinner table, a sharp knife will make quick work for guests enjoying fish, fowl, and assorted meats. In short, a dull knife doesn't quite cut it.

But what is a truly sharp knife, and how does one achieve such a cutting edge? Some folks equate a genuinely sharp knife as one that can easily cut through a sheet of paper held up before them or, more precisely, effortlessly slice through the thinness of a phone book page held in the same fashion. There are folks who insist that a veritably sharp blade can readily shave the hair from one's arm, while others insist that the hairs should pop off one's arm in a single stroke. Then there are those who demand that a doubtlessly sharp blade should be able to whittle a single hair held in the air. Different strokes (pun intended) for different folks.

If the blades of your knives do not meet the criteria given in at least the first example presented above, you do not have what is considered to be a sharp knife, period. What to do?

There are a plethora of knife sharpeners out there, but there are only a few angle-controlled knife-sharpening systems on the market that meet the benchmark of cutting-edge blade technology. Some systems do it better than others. In general, knife sharpeners are comprised of a number of honing materials: aluminum (alumina) oxide, silicon carbide, diamond, ceramic, Arkansas stones, polishing stones and/or tapes. To add to the confusion, some honing stones use water for lubrication while others require honing oil. Then there are honing stones that are to be used dry. Within a sharpening system, there are honing stones of various grits—generally ranging from extra-coarse to ultra-fine. A blade's condition will determine what honing stone to select for openers. Perhaps a blade only needs a bit of touching up. Possibly it needs a new beveled edge (referred to as re-profiling), and to be sharpened at a specified degree of angle. The last word in that last sentence—angle—is the key to a knife's sharpness.

What many a knife-sharpening system fails to address up front, if at all, is that it requires—more often than not—time and patience to execute a near perfect edge. I'll qualify the phrase, near perfect, because perfection personified requires skill that only comes after considerable practice. Initially, there is a learning curve; nothing dramatic. After that, to do the job right, you will need a good degree of patience. A diamond honing stone will make a sharpening job go a bit faster, but by the same token, the stone will wear far quicker than an aluminum oxide honing stone.

Note: Diamond honing stones should only be used on hard blades such as tungsten carbide and ceramic—not steel.

Keep in mind, too, that you will be moving from one grit level to another. If your knife is extremely dull and/or damaged, you may likely start with an extra-coarse stone followed by coarse, medium, fine, and ultra-fine grit stones until you reach near perfection. The satisfaction you will receive when obtaining a very sharp edge will prove rewarding. Again, patience and practice are your watchwords.

With the right honing and polishing stones, including stropping compound(s), you can achieve a super-sharp mirror edge—sharper than even a quality factory-edged blade produced from a manufacturer. This is not hyperbole; this is a fact. I'll continue in tomorrow's Part II report, covering in detail a knife-sharpening system kit that won't break the bank—costing considerably less than systems out there charging several hundred dollars. You'll be pleased to learn about a particular Lansky Controlled-Angle Sharpening System Kit that will not only sharpen traditional blades, but also serrated blades and fishing hooks as well.

Top to bottom: Knives of Alaska-Alaskan Brown Bear Skinner/Cleaver & Cub Bear Caping Knife Combo Set ~ 4 Dexter Russell Fishing Knives ~ Leatherman Multi-Blade Tool ~ Popper Lure ~ Lansky Serrated Knife/Hook-Sharpening Hone ~ Lansky Controlled-Angle Sharpening Clamp/ Base and Post, Gerber Muskie Fillet Knife

Stay tuned.

Bob Banfelder

Award-Winning Crime-Thriller Novelist & Outdoors Writer
Member: Outdoor Writers Association of America
New York State Outdoor Writers Association
Long Island Outdoor Communicators Network

Recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award for fiction and nonfiction from Who's Who in America

Several of My Award-Winning Crime Fiction Novels Incorporate The Great Outdoors

The Richard Geist Three-Book Series ~ Trilogy

Dicky, Richard, and I. A story of madness in the making. A curious mix of a mother's care and cruelty concerning her young son, Dicky Geist, and the precocious boy's metamorphosis into that of a multiple murderer.

The Signing. An account of a clandestine murderous cult monikered the Inner Circle of Friends, led by Richard Geist. Geist and cult members are hellbent on creating chaos and bringing about the eventual collapse of our government.

The Triumvirate. A tale of Neo-Nazism. Three most powerful men covertly control governments around the globe. Fifty-year-old secrets begin to surface referencing Hitler's progeny, the Manhattan Project, and Nazi gold in this mystery within a mystery. It is the genesis of the Fourth Reich.

The Justin Barnes Four-Book Series ~ Tetralogy

The Author. A prolific serial killer is the author and architect of a covert operation whose job it is to place government operatives within the ranks of worldwide extremist groups. Justin Barnes, a street savvy Afro-American maverick, searches unrelentingly for the madman who viciously murdered Justin's female cousin.

The Teacher. Justin Barnes, working clandestinely with Suffolk County homicide detectives on Long Island, is assigned to help track down Malcolm Columba's associate, serial killer Professor Clarence Emery. The pair had worked in concert, and Justin is out to stop Emery before he strikes again. A terrifying tale of evil and what it takes to stop it in its tracks.

Knots. Kalvin Matheson, an out-of-work insurance salesman obsessed with immortality and hero worship regarding two notorious serial killers, follows in the footsteps of his two diabolical pals, but with a subtle signature twist, utilizing intricate knots.

The Good Samaritans. In this final four-part series, Justin Barnes, once again, assists Suffolk County homicide detectives as part of a covert operation in tracking down Sep Cramer, a politically well-connected, ruthless serial killer.


Trace Evidence. Inspired by the Robert Shulman Serial Killer Trial in Riverhead, N.Y., Robert Banfelder spent every day for 15 months as a spectator to obtain fodder for this novel.

Battered. Based on a true story of an abused woman who murdered her husband, Robert Banfelder communicated with abused women, one of whom spent 15 years in prison for her crime.


The Fishing Smart Anywhere Handbook for Salt Water & Fresh Water. A concise yet comprehensive angling and on-the-water activities handbook covering spin, bait, fly-fishing, fly tying, clamming, crabbing, kayaking, canoeing, seafood recipes and much more. For novice through experienced anglers. Endorsed by Left Kreh and Angelo Peluso. [black & white photos]

The North American Hunting Smart Handbook: Bonus Feature: Hunting Africa's & Australia's Most Dangerous Game. A concise yet comprehensive small and big game hunting handbook covering guns and bows. Includes upland bird hunting, land management, whitetail tactics and much more. Special bonus feature includes stories of big game hunting in Africa and Australia by seasoned hunters. [color photos]

The Essential Guide to Writing Well and Getting Published. A must-have guide for both novice and veteran writers. This handbook includes tips on how to make money and gain rewards from outdoors writings. Color-coded lessons for easy comprehension

Bull's-Eye! Sage Advice on Crossbows, Compound Bows, Broadheads, Targets, Clothing & Gear with Bonus Feature: Bowfishing on a Budget
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