So, you find yourself in a situation where your survival depends upon, among other things, your survival knife. the survival knife may be your most important survival tool and it is important that you care for it. Of course, it is imperative that the knife can perform it’s most valuable function effectively and that is to be able to cut.
Often, knives that are supplied in survival packs or similar will have the standard factory edge upon it, which is probably sufficient for your needs. But, once you start using that knife then you risk removing the fine edge that the knife possesses. It is important that you realise this from the outset, and build regular maintenance into the knife edge from first use. The duller the blade becomes due to use, the harder it will be to maintain sharpness while out in the field unless you have already prepared for this, so, keep the blade sharp and it will take less work to keep that edge.
One regular edge maintainance exercise you can easily carry out is called stropping. This is very similar to how the owners of straight razors keep their fine edges sharp and I am sure we have all seen this exercise carried out in the movies. Leather is best for this, say a belt or similar, but even a piece of cardboard will suffice if there is no leather around.
It is unlikely that you will have any abrasive paste available to assist in stropping your blade, but even a dry strop will help with that edge. It is very easy to do. Simply stroke the blade edge over the leather or cardboard while the blade is held at an angle. The angle should be about 20 degrees to the horizontal. However a quick guide for those not able to guess the degree angle is to hold the blade so that the back of the blade is about its own thickness away from the stropping surface while the edge is still touching the stropping surface.
You then ‘slide’ the knife blade across the stropping surface using the back of the blade as the leading edge. Strop both sides equally. After doing this for some time you will see that the edge has gained a polished look and this tells you that you are stropping successfully.
Although in normal cases you would strop your blade after some use, in a survival situation where you may not have the means to deal with a very blunt blade, it is recommended that you strop the blade more frequently, even after every use.
It may be that you have been fortunate, and a small sharpening stone is stored in the sheath of your survival knife. if this is the case you have the means to restore a blunted blade or even a chipped one. Use the stone in the same way you would strop the knife. However when using a stone you are actually removing metal and this will require some lubricant. If you are fortunate to have some oil handy, from a wrecked vehicle for instance then use this, otherwise even saliva will do the job for you.
The idea is to hone the blade until a small burr can be felt on the edge of the blade. You then turn the blade and hone the other side until the burr is removed. Once this is done, then strop the blade as above. This will restore your cutting edge.
Please take care when handling your knife, they are designed to cut but it is preferable that you do not cut yourself. In a survival situation this could be catastrophic.