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Guest Article: Assorted Tool Sharpening, by C.J.

(Article transcribed from a CD sent in to SurvivalBlog)

I have been sharpening now for about 15 years. I started out small, because I didn’t want to get too much invested; so, I started out with small machines, mostly hand sharpening. Our emphasis is on hand tools for sharpening, if you consider we may not have any electricity to work with.

Steps for Getting Started:

  1. Decide what tools and blades you want to sharpen.
  2. Buy several books on sharpening and get some initial knowledge.
  3. Study the angles on the blades and tools you want to sharpen, make notes on these, studying the degrees of set for the blade clearance on these various blades and tools.
  4. Decide on the tools and jigs you want to purchase for your type of sharpening.

For my bug-out vehicle, which obviously has a limitation for weight and bulk, let’s get into the most popular things that need sharpening and what tools I would take with me.


For hand sharpening knives, I would find a coarse and fine sharpening stone and some WD-40 [1] spray lubricant for lube and cleaning of my stones and my sharpening. Also have a rag. Now, I would also take my hand-crank grinder. It’s very small and requires no electrical power, and this would be used for re-pointing knife blades; I would have a 100- to 120-grit wheel on this little grinder. As far as power-sharpening, I have a definite preference here. I picked up a Carver’s Friend, and this is a adjustable grinding machine for knives. It puts a good working edge on any knife I send through the machine. It’s quick, and it’s fast and it’s a real money-maker. I’m sure there are comparable machines out there, but this just happens to be the one I have.

Chainsaw Chains

This will be something that will be used a lot in survival situations. For hand-work sharpening, get a round file to fit your chain, and if you can find an aluminum file handle with the proper angles cast into the handle, this will allow you to sharpen your chain on your saw. If you have a vice that you can mount on a table or workbench, this is handy to grip the saw while you’re filing. Now, as far as power sharpening the chains, I like the Harbor Freight Chain Sharpening machines. They’re very inexpensive, and once you get them tuned up and set up right, they do a real nice job of saw sharpening. I use one of the older models in my shop and I am very happy with it. Another advantage of this little machine is it will work with a square-wave inverter, if your inverter’s about 650-700 watts.

Wood Handsaw

You will need a saw vice that clamps to the workbench. You will need the appropriate saw tooth setter. I have a Stanley, which works very nice. You will also need several 6-8 inch triangular metal files. I like the Nickolson brand [2]. There are other good ones. You will also need an adjustable guide to mount and position the file for the proper tooth angles. Count the file strokes, and remember, more set for soft woods. If you’ve got power, get a Foley or Foley-Belsaw power saw filer. This is a great machine and will save you a lot of work and a lot of headaches. I wouldn’t take one of these in your bug-out vehicle, though, since they are large and they’re heavy.

Circular Saw Blades

I use steel hand-sharpening for these. I use a AB Mech Bernie hand filer. Use a triangular file. It’s a triangular file guide made of steel and aluminum. It does a decent job but is slow for up to 12-inch blades. It is one of the best little hand saw filers I’ve found. For power, a Belsaw sharp-all works well. Also, you can use the motorized saw filer made by Foley-Belsaw for this type of blade. Now for carbide saw blades, and also on steel, Foley-Belsaw makes a machine that uses a diamond wheel to do an excellent job. For setting all circular saws, the Sharp-All has a setting attachment mounted on it, or I like to use the Sears-Roebuck hammer setter in a vice on my workbench, and you strike it with a hard rubber hammer, and you set your saw that way; it works very nice.

Assorted Tools

I also have other assorted tool sharpening devices, other than the tools that we’ve mentioned, including a small 110-Volt angle grinder and half a dozen metal disks to go on it that work very well for sharpening many kinds of tools, especially garden tools. You can even dress up a pick with that little tool. I’ve also seen picks sharpened in a blacksmith’s forge, and that’s quite an art to do that. Then, you have to re-quench the tip. Assorted files and handles are very handy in sharpening. I think we mentioned the 1- and 2-inch belt sanders. In a bug-out situation, I would probably take the little 1-inch belt sander with me, because it’s compact, small, and light. My 2-inch sander, which was made in LA in a school shop, is a very good machine. I like it because it doesn’t burn the steel, but it’s large and rather cumbersome. A machinist’s vice is another nice thing to have for sharpening. Vice grips come in handy when you have to hold something small, like a drill bit or other small blade that you’re sharpening. A drill-sharpener jig is very handy, and these are quite common at swap meets. A bench grinder with a wire wheel and about a 120-grit sharpening metal wheel [3] is handy. Now, how much can you make by doing sharpening? In 15 years, I have found that some things sharpen rather slowly and some things sharpen really quickly and are big money-makers, but your wages will run somewhere between 10 and 20 dollars per hour for your sharpening, which isn’t bad for an old fella or for a person that is out of work and needs something to do to fill his time. Keep prepping! That’s what it’s all about. Remember, this is copyrighted 6/12/14, but SurvivalBlog does have permission to use this.