Chefs and Boy Scouts know a sharp knife is a safe knife, besides being a knife that’s faster, more effective, and a joy to use. Carrying the best pocket knife sharpener for the job is clearly a must, but with so many types to choose from, which one is best for you?
Types and Styles of Pocket Knife Sharpeners
Choosing the right sharpener depends on the types of knives it's for, as well as a few personal preferences. For instance, fishermen need to keep knives sharp enough for cleaning and filleting. They need a sharpener that won't slip even in wet conditions. Additionally, sharpeners that feature a chain loop or other means to attach a cork or floater might save it if it accidentally goes overboard.
Campers may need a different tool altogether. Clearing a trail, skinning game, and whittling by the campfire call for a sharpening tool that can manage a variety of edges. A brightly colored casing would also be handy, in case it’s needed in the dark, or dropped into fallen leaves.
Once you’ve assessed your knives’ needs, consider your own. Do you prefer old school simplicity, or high-tech gadgetry? Think about how you'll carry it. Do you prefer something you can drop into your pocket, will it hang from a belt loop, or will you stow it in your backpack?
Regardless of where you keep it, find something that fits comfortably in a pocket without stabbing you when you bend over. Or, find a sharpener that features a clip or loop to hang from your belt.
Appropriate sharpening angle, most typically between 20 and 25 degrees. The lower the number, the finer and more delicate the edge.
Now that you know what you’re looking for in your best pocket knife sharpener, let’s look at the types available.
Types of Knife Sharpeners
This simple “stone” may be a mix of rock, concrete, and even diamond dust. Simple and old school, they have no moving parts to break, but take some skill to use. Stones are available in a variety of grits from coarse to fine, providing different levels of sharpness. Because you set the angle yourself, they are versatile and work with any knife or tool that needs sharpening.
On the flipside, even a pocket-sized whetstone can be heavy, and your fingers are at risk if the knife slips. Many also need water and/or lubricant, which can get messy.
Steel rods should be familiar to anyone who enjoys cooking and maintains the kitchen knives. These are simple, versatile, easy to use, and perfect for quick touch-ups. They’re not so ideal for bringing back a sharp edge to a dull or dinged blade.
These sharpeners come in all sizes. They are easy to use, and feature simple slots to draw your knives through a few times, for consistent sharpening. They're a great choice for beginners who aren’t sure what angle to hold their knives at when sharpening. They're not so good for blades with beveled edges, such as scissors.
Look for one that allows you to remove the blades and reset or replace them. This can double the life of your sharpener. Be especially sure to select sturdy construction for those made of plastic.
These portable tools don't just sharpen. They can have a small compass, flashlight, flint or other handy tools. These extras are usually basic quality. Still, an all in one tool, like this, will save space in your pocket or backpack.
Above all, choose a sharpener you like, and be sure to use it. Over a thousand knife injuries are treated daily in US hospitals. The overwhelming majority are lacerations to hands and fingers. Many of these were likely the result of too much force being used to compensate for dull blades. In other words, a dull blade did more damage than a clean sharp edge would have.
Finding the right sharpener for your pocket knife will not only ensure efficient and effective results while you work, it can save your fingers.
Best pocket Knife Sharpeners Reviewed
Now, let's get into the best and most popular pocket sharpeners available today.
DMT’s 3-inch Dia-Sharp Sharpener Set
Old school versatility meets modern technology and convenience in DMT’s sharpening set. Color-coded slipcases hold three credit-card sized stones with coarse, fine, and extra-fine grit for sharpening and polishing. Diamond Machining Technology’s monocrystalline diamond surface provides faster sharpening and requires no oil. The convenient size makes them easy to carry, and versatile enough for everything from knives to garden tools to fish hooks. DMT stones are made in the USA.
Victorinox Pocket Knife Sharpener
Victorinox created the original Swiss Army Knife. So, naturally, they provided a handy, stylish way to sharpen it for you. The five-inch pen-shaped clam shell features a clip for your pocket or belt, and opens to uncover a medium grit sharpening stone. First, use the stone to prepare your knife edge. Then, the simple pull-through ceramic sharpener hidden in the end provides the finished result. Don't forget the Victorinox lifetime guarantee.
Klein Tools 44151 Pocket-Sized Knife Sharpener
If you prefer steel rods, the Klein pocket-sized sharpener offers a traditional steel rod for a finer, sharper edge. At first glance it's only a simple steel sharpener. You will learn to appreciate its high-visibility orange, end clip for security, and the magnetized blade. The magnetized blade reduces the mess from metal shavings.
It starts at just over seven inches long when stored. But, the steel blade pulls from inside the handle and screws into place. Creating a longer tool for easier sharpening. Klein tools are well known for excellent quality and durability, and are made in the USA.
If you’re working with a variety of knives and tools, having many pre-set carbide sharpening blades is a big plus. The Landsky Quadsharp takes the guesswork out of providing the perfect edge, by offering slots set at 17, 20, 25, and 30 degrees.
Once your edge is set, you can use the built-in ceramic polishing stone to finish. At just over four inches long, it’s very portable, and its bright blue plastic makes it easy to find. A small handle at one end allows a clip or lanyard for more security.
Smith’s Pocket Pal X2 Sharpener & Outdoors Tool
Having trouble deciding between the ease and reliability of a pull-through sharpener, and the versatility of a sharpening rod? Smith’s Pocket Pal lets you have both and then some. Sharpen your knives with the pre-set carbide and ceramic sharpeners. For other tools, there's a tapered diamond rod that pulls out and folds back. Tied to one end is a button compass, and you'll also find a fire starter rod, a safety whistle, and an LED light.
If you have to choose one, the Klein Pocket-Sized Knife Sharpener is my favorite. It have fancy add-ons like the Pocket Pal. Isn't quite as stylish as the Victorinox. But, it does deliver on all the basic requirements of a quality knife sharpener: versatility, durability, ease of use, and the capacity to sharpen any edge at any angle.
While the Klein may be an ideal addition to your pocket knife sharpener collection, the Pocket Pal's accessory gadgets can be useful while out on the trail.
You could always choose them all! Who needs just one?