The Swiss Army Knife has been around since 1897. It is a trusted tool of adventurers around the globe. The Swiss Army Knife is a companion you can count on when it comes to adventures and even every day activities. It’s a multipurpose tool to have handy at all times.
It’s interesting to note that the name “Swiss Army knife” was coined by American soldiers just after World War II. The American soldiers had difficulty pronouncing the word “Offiziersmesser”, this difficulty in pronouncing the original name in German led to the coining of the now popular name Swiss Army Knife (SAK)
In the 1880s, the Swiss Army leadership saw the need to provide foldable pocket knife for its soldiers that would also serve as a multipurpose tool, which would help the soldiers maintain their rifle and also for opening of canned foods, so the decision to purchase the SAK was made and the new pocket knives, SAK was distributed to the soldiers.
At that time there was hardly a Swiss company with production capacity to produce the required number of knives, so a German company, Wester & Co located in Solingen, Germany was contracted to produce 15, 000 pieces of the Swiss Army Knife. The knife received the official designation Modell 1890 in January 1891. Wester & Co wrapped up production and delivered the knives in October of 1891.
To fulfil its intended purposes the knife was carefully designed and consist of the following parts: a blade, reamer, can opener, screwdriver, and grips which is made out of dark oak wood which was subsequently partly replaced with ebony wood and modern material of SAK scales – red cellulosic thermoplastic material
The Swiss Army knife has various models, which is largely due to the different tool combinations. The choice of a specific model thus depends on individual preference and intended purposes of use.
Before moving on to the subject of sharpening the Swiss Army knife, it’s important to know whether or not the Swiss army knife can be sharpened after use or it simply needs to be replaced when it gets blunt.
I’ll like you to know that the SAK is not disposed when it gets blunt, but can actually be sharpened and reused over and over. It can be sharpened with grinding wheel, a whetstone and an appropriately designed knife sharpener. The knife sharpener has the advantage of precision, ease, safety and time management.
Now to the key discuss / subject matter “How to sharpen a Swiss Army Knife”. It is common that tools must be appropriately maintained to retain their functionality, and the Swiss army knife is no different. An important aspect of maintaining the functionality of any blade and the Swiss army knife inclusive is sharpening.
The SAK can be sharpened by various means and methodologies. They include:
• Sharpening Steels
• Sharpening Stones
• Manual Knife Sharpeners
• Electric Knife Sharpeners
• Sharpening systems
• Victorinox Knife Sharpener Small
• Victorinox Dual-Knife Sharpener
We shall carefully look into each of these methodologies, addressing their pros and cons, affordability, compatibility and ease of mobility, complexity and ease of sharpening, required skills and experience.
It’s necessary to take the aforementioned into consideration and they are pertinent to guide your choices and decision making on what tool will be most suitable for your purpose, engagements and tasks.
So we’ll begin thus:
A sharpening steel is a rod of steel, ceramic honing steel or diamond-coated steel used to restore keenness to dulled blade edges, sometimes referred to as a butcher’s steel, whet steel, honing steel, sharpening rod, sharpening stick, and chef’s steel.
They assume the following shapes: round, oval, round in cross-section or flat. They measure an approximately 30 centimeters. Diamond coated steels are smooth and have abrasive diamond particles embedded, while ceramic honing steels have longitudinal ridges.
Sharpening steel price ranges from $10 – 40.
Convenient to carry
They are easy to set up
Easy to learn and use
Doesn’t take off too much material from the blade.
Can be used quickly.
Its has a fixed angle
It can be slower than other available options
Angles can’t be customized.
Not an ideal option for re-profiling
Sharpening stone, is sometimes referred to as a whetstone, or a Bench stone, they are usually flat block of dense material measuring between 2 to 14 inches in length, Sharpening stones are not only useful for sharpening SAK and other knives, but also for sharpening other metal tools.
Sharpening stones can be made from materials such as natural stone, man-made stone, alumina ceramic, diamonds embedded on a block, and a variety of other materials.
The price of sharpening stones ranges from $10 – $ 45
Flexibility: It can sharpen many different tools as previously mentioned, has the advantage of sharpening at different angles, owing to it being a free hand sharpening instrument.
One of the best options for sharpening variety of tools.
It’s also fast and very efficient in sharpening.
Requires a steady hand.
Some stones may be very expensive
It takes time to master the skill
Manual knife sharpener always comes in as a handy tool; its design is targeted at reviving the edge of SAK and other knives. A manual knife sharpener is cost effective and saves time as well as effort.
Generally, sharpening stones are more difficult to use than manual knife sharpeners. They come in versatile forms and are quick to use, not requiring special skills on the part of the user.
When using a manual knife sharpener, the user need not worry about a messy cleanup after use. The diamond abrasive manual knife sharpeners provides fast result and most drabble blade possible. Manual knife sharpeners usually come in a portable and compact form. They are sure a perfect choice for SAK and domestic purposes like kitchen or other private workspaces. Various brands and grades of manual knife sharpeners are available and can be easily purchased in online and physical shops
Manual Knife Sharpeners costs approximately $10 – $30
Suitable for sharpening various knives.
Portable and easy to store
Less expensive than electric sharpeners
Allows the creation of a specific edge angle
Can be used to sharpen serrated knives
Grooves or channels guide the knife, so the user does not have to worry about maintenance unlike electric sharpeners
Gives the user greater control over angle and consistency
For a consistent edge requires more skill and practice
They don’t sharpen as good as electric sharpeners.
For some people, this can be difficult to use.
When sharpening a large quantity of knives, the process can be tedious
Can take longer to sharpen a knife than an electric sharpener
Not convenient to carry about.
Mostly in a stationary position
May not sharpen as fast as electric models or whetstones.
Electric knife sharpeners are easier to use than sharpening stones, as they are quick and versatile.
An electric knife sharpener should be compact. It shouldn’t take up excessive counter space. The small size allows to store the electric knife sharpener in a drawer or cabinet.
For instance, a person who cooks occasionally and doesn’t have many knives to maintain can stick with the option of an electric knife sharpener. Electric knives sharpeners are highly recommended for people who only have need to sharpen their SAK and other knives a few times. The best manual knives sharpeners won’t perform to the level of electric knife sharpeners.
Electric Knife Sharpeners price ranges from as little as $15 – $200
Quick and easy to use
Can sharpen both straight and serrated knives
Can sharpen a large quantity of knives quickly
Consistently sharpens the knife to a specific edge angle
Can be less precise than manual sharpeners
Can damage the knife if not used properly
More expensive than manual sharpeners
Not all models are suitable for sharpening certain knives such as SAK and Asian knives
It can take up more counter space, being quite bulky.
Sharpening Systems or Guided Sharpening Systems are very similar in exercise to sharpening stones. Sharpening system encapsulates many of the benefits of sharpening stones; it has learning time reduction over sharpening stone. The angles of sharpening systems are already pre-set on purchase. This system guides the knife at the appropriate angle along the stone. So the knives is fixed and gliding commences.
Sharpening systems are sold for $25 – $100 (prices for high class sharpening systems are $500-$700)
The system comes ready to use with all the grits needed
Easy to learn
Its angle options gives this instrument flexibility
A very efficient and handy tool
Still requires a level of skills for effective usage
Not as flexible as hands free
Difficulty to sharpen larger tools like axes, chisels and large knives.
Victorinox have specially designed the small knife sharpener for sharpening small pocket knives and kitchen knives. Having a length of just about 7.1cm, which is approximately an equivalent an adult large thumb!
The key advantage of this knife is that it can always be taken about, since it’ll only take up a tiny amount of space when needed to be stored.
This sharpener has an enhancement made up of two small carbide sheets fixed in a V-shape. The V-shape keeps the sharpener in a constant angle, hence no need for adjustments by the user.
Another striking advantage of the Victorinox Knife Sharpener Small is only the V-shape carbide sheets requires replacement when the sharpener loses effectiveness after repeated use. Thus providing the user the advantage of using the sharpener for a longer time period before the thought and need of replacement. It’s a good choice to sharpen the SAK and other small as well as domestic knives.
The average price of the Victorinox small knife sharpener is $18.99
Very small, which make it compact and portable
Multiple sharpening techniques,
Easiest to carry in your pocket
Enclosed sharpening system
Requires good technique to achieve very sharp edge
Cannot sharpen serrations.
Victorinox Dual Knife Sharpener takes the approximate shape and size of a ballpoint pen. Its design comes with a pocket clip, just like a ballpoint pen, which makes it slip and fits into a shirt pocket perfectly. Just as it name implies “dual”, it’s really a two in one sharpener.
It has a ceramic V-notch behind and ceramic rod in front and is made in the shape and size of a pen. It has small dimensions, which are 5 x 0.7 x 0.7, and the weight is 1.41 ounces.
Great effort was put in, in designing the Victorinox Dual-Knife Sharpener. Its pocket fit size comes as an added advantage.
Need to remove the bottom plastic case and expose the sharpening stone (about 3.25 inches length) to use the sharpener. When sharpening be meticulous to maintain the sharpening angles. This sharpener is also designed with a groove in each side of the stone for the sharpening pointed objects like awls, darts and fishhooks.
Two ceramic discs crisscross to form a “V” angle. This ceramic sharpener is easy to use and does not require special skills to maintain a uniform angle when sharpening. This is a good choice when you need to quickly touch up an edge that doesn’t require a lot of work, or just as a finishing touch after sharpening a SAK.
Another fascinating aspect of this sharpener is that it was made in Germany, but Victorinox is a Swiss company, you know since its Victorinox, it’s easy to know that this special piece was designed with Swiss Army Knife (SAK) in mind. Having a SAK and this sharpener is a win-win combination.
Multiple sharpening techniques
Compact and sturdy
Ideal choice for portable sharpening of any straight blades.
Supplied as a set with a honing stone for pre-sharpening and ceramic discs for fine sharpening.
Not able to sharpen the serrations
Without good technique, it is impossible to achieve a very sharp edge.
The Swiss Army Knife (SAK) is a great tool cause of its multifunction, the blades of the knife becomes blunt after repeated usage this diminishes its usage and effectiveness.
The good news is sharpening a Swiss Army Knife, or any other pocket knife is not expensive and very easy.
The how to sharpen the knife is as important as sharpening the knife itself. Sharpening in an improper manner can lead a defect, reduced functionality or even damage. So we take a ride on the steps employed in sharpening an SAK.
Below is a step-by-step approach to sharpen your Swiss Army Knife blade to be as good as new.
• Thorough Cleaning
For an even sharpening result, grease and any form of dirt must be clean up from the blade by washing or with a wet material. If sticky, blade can be dipped in warm water before cleaning begins.
• Decide a sharpening tool
Various types of files (Diamond Sharpening Stone Files) and sharpeners can be found in the market, the whetstone, grinding wheel and other sharpeners. They all have different grades and grit. They also give different end results of sharpening. A specific knife sharpener for Swiss Army Knife is also available in the market and can be ordered from online stores too.
• Lubricate Stone, if Whetstone is preferred method
While some sort of disagreement arise with respect to lubricating the stone, a number of lubricants are available if one eventually decides to lubricate the stone before sharpening.
Lubricating does the following: Prevention of heat produced due to friction between the knife and stone, and prevention of clogging on the whetstone cause of metal shaving. Lubricating the whetstone makes for a smooth sharpening process.
• Sharpening features
We need an angle of 30°-40° to begin sharpening. This angle should be maintained throughout as the knife undergoes sharpening. This consistency makes for a good result. For anyone having difficulty knowing how to estimate a proper angle, a sharpening guide booklet will come in handy.
Sharpening should be done one side first and the other next, the sharpening mimics an attempt to cut a thin piece of the stone repeatedly. The whetstone has a rough part, its advisable to begin sharpening from the rough part, for a knife that is very blunt.
This process requires more of technique, not pressure. The stone done the work of sharpening, applying pressure doesn’t necessarily make for a sharper knife. When a lubricant is in use, it should be applied on the stone after a couple of strokes, approximately after 12-15 strokes. This helps reduce friction and gets rid of metal shavings that would ordinarily clog the spores of the whetstone.
It’s possible to have longer blades and shorter stones, in this case, for an even and complete sharpening, the blade is sharpened sideways until every inch and edge of the blade is thoroughly sharpened.
Sharpening can begin from a rough stone or rough part of the whetstone for really blunt blades. After a couple of repeated strokes, sharpening should move to the finer surface for a perfect and finer finishing touch. The blade gets thinner as it undergoes sharpening. This also indicates a well-sharpened knife. Remember to turn to the other side or the blade and repeat the sharpening process. Switching to the finer stone gives the knife a razor-shape edge and removes burr along the length of the blade.
• Final Touches
When stropping, the blade is moved in the opposite direction used at sharpening. Run the blade over the leather with the “spine” of the blade at the front and the sharp edge behind.
One advantage of stropping the blade when sharpening is that it keeps the blade sharper for a longer time period.
The kind of edge applied to a blade, determines the sharpness and durability of the blade. The recommended sharpening angle is 30-40°, which is 15-20 degrees on each side. To ensure that the blade retains its edges and sharpening angles when re-sharpening with a grinding wheel, using plenty of water will prevent the blade from overheating and burning.
There are various ways and sharpeners available to sharpen the SAK and other knives, both small and large. The choice of which sharpener to procure will thus depend on a number of factors: will the sharpener be mostly used indoors or outdoors; is the sharpener needed for just an SAK and other small knives or for large knives and other tools as well; the experience of the user would also determine which tool to purchase, since it wouldn’t be a wise decision to purchase a sharpener tool the user cannot use effectively. Cost and affordability is another important factor to put into consideration before making a decision on which knife sharpener to get, as well as the sharpening skills of the intended user. Out of the reviewed sharpening products it can be concluded that the Victorinox Dual-Knife Sharpener is the best sharpener overall, since the Swiss Army Knife (SAK) is the subject matter of discuss. With the shape and size of a pen with ceramic V notch behind and ceramic rod in front, it provides everything you need. Its dimensions are 5 x 0.7 x 0.7 and it weighs 1.41 ounces and its pocket friendly and compact.
Dr. Braide Honest,
author, knife enthusiast
What Does Steeling Do? Part 1 – science of sharp. 2018-08-22. Retrieved 2022-02-22.
Bryan Miller (April 20, 2005). Kitchen Equipment Secrets. National Public Radio. Retrieved 2010-11-17.
Verhoeven, J. D. 2004, September. Experiments on Knife Sharpening, Department of Materials Science and Engineering, Iowa State University, p. 9
Airhart, T. 2012. Elk Hunting Guide: Skills, Gear, and Insight, Stackpole Books, p. 202
Jake Broce, advised by A.G. Russell III. Updated 12/31/2019
Tim Hefferna Marguerite Preston. The Wirecutter 12/2022
Knives Illustrated 2018