- The knife is easy to sharpen—Find a knife that is easy to sharpen with a basic whetstone.
- The knife has a great grip—It doesn't matter if your knife handle is glass-reinforced nylon, Micarta, or a chunk of deer antler. It needs to offer you a solid and comfortable grip, wet or dry.
- The knife suits the task—Select your blade according to the jobs it needs to perform. A knife worthy of being someone's favorite must be able to accomplish the tasks of survival that your region requires. In the jungle, your favorite survival knife may be shaped more like a machete or kukri, and in the woodlands, it may be a wood carving bushcraft knife.
Step 1. Look for a fine-grained round stone in a nearby river. Select one that has a smooth section, and seems similar in texture to your sharpening stones. Or if you want to plan ahead, buy a set of coarse, medium and smooth sharpening stones.
Step 2. Survey the knife to see just how dull it really is. Look for nicks in the edge, and try cutting a piece of paper or rope to test the edge. If the knife won't cut well, or it has deep nicks in the edge, you have a lot of sharpening ahead of you.
Step 3. Apply some water to the stone, and sharpen you knife with little circular strokes—equal numbers for each side of the blade. You'll want to hold the blade at the correct angle. For the easiest visual, hold the knife at a 45-degree angle, and then lower it by half. In a perfect world, this would be 22.5 degrees, but for our purposes, close enough is good enough. For a 4-inch blade, I usually make about 30 little sharpening circles on each side, maintaining the described edge angle as best as I can. Rinse your stone often to keep its pores open so it keeps cutting steel. Make several rounds of sharpening to each side of the blade.
Step 4. Once you feel you've sharpened enough, remove burs and polish the edge by stropping the blade against a leather belt or log (or your pants if you're careful). Test the edge with a small carving or slicing task. If you're not satisfied, sharpen and strop again. Remember, you can perform all of these steps with modern store-bought sharpening supplies as well.