When you’re in the field, there are few tools as handy as Leatherman knives.
However, like every knife, these are only as good as how sharp their edge is. If your Leatherman is dull, it won’t be able to do much.
So just sharpen it… right?
Unfortunately, this is trickier than you may think. You can’t sharpen Leatherman knives the same way you would ordinary knives because of their serrations.
The good news is that it isn’t all that difficult. Today, I’m going to teach you the proper way to get razor-sharp edges on all your Leatherman knives. I’ll also give you a cheat sheet to make things even easier for you.
So let’s get started.
What are Leatherman Knives?
Before we begin, let’s take some time to look at Leatherman knives first.
Leatherman knives are not your ordinary knives. They are the most portable and versatile tool that you can get your hands on.
Because leatherman was built to be this way. Instead of featuring one big blade, Leatherman knives come in a bundle of smaller blades. They are the ultimate multi-tool.
Whether you need a knife, a saw, or a hook, your Leatherman knife has you covered. They even have other useful tools such as pliers, picks, and pry bars.
Leatherman was founded in 1983 by Tim Leatherman. He found that the multitools available at that time (made exclusively by Victorinox and Wenger) didn’t fit his needs. So instead of settling for them, he went and built his own.
Since then, Leatherman has exploded with popularity. Nowadays, they are up there with the best of the best.
Whenever you get your hands on a Leatherman knife, you know you are getting top-quality.
Advantages of Leatherman Knives
That one word is what separates Leatherman knives from all other types of knives. It’s what makes these knives so special.
Think of it this way:
If you brought a knife, a saw, utensils, pliers, a can opener, and a hook to your camping trip, your pack would be loaded. It would be super heavy and extremely hassle to bring along. And that’s just for camping, imagine bringing all of this day-to-day.
Leatherman takes all of these tools (and more) and compacts it into one pocket-sized tool. This way, it’s super easy to bring along wherever you go.
Sure, this isn’t a complete replacement for the big tools. You can’t fell a tree with the saw in Leatherman knives. But you’ll find that in most cases, these miniature tools are more than enough.
So instead of hauling all your tools along, all you need is one Leatherman. It’s a toolbox in your pocket, ready for anything that comes your way.
However, I’ll say this again, your Leatherman is no good if it isn’t sharp. It’s already small, can you imagine how little you can do if it’s dull too?
The Sharpening Problem
There are a couple of things that make Leatherman knives tricky to sharpen.
For one, as I’ve already said, these knives have serrations. These serrations make them more versatile, but they also make it impossible to sharpen the ordinary way. I’ve seen too many people damage their serrated blades by improper sharpening methods.
Another problem you’ll run into is that these are field knives. These knives are most useful when you’re away from home for a number of days. So you won’t have access to your everyday sharpening equipment.
Finally, Leatherman knives come in a number of different blades. Some are long, while others are short – some are serrated, but some are smooth. Each blade in your Leatherman knife will have a different way of sharpening.
However, there is a way to tackle all of these problems. So allow me to share it with you.
How to Sharpen a Leatherman Knife
Here’s my method of sharpening Leatherman knives.
What You Need
This is where I usually say that all you need is a good old fashioned sharpening stone. Not this time.
While you can sharpen the smooth edges with a stone, it’s impossible to work on the serrated edges.
What you need is a sharpening rod.
And not any sharpening rod either. You need a sharpening rod that tapers towards the tip. This way, you’ll be able to work on even the thinnest serrations in your Leatherman knife.
There are several portable tapered sharpening rods you can get on Amazon. These will work perfectly for your Leatherman knife.
You also want to have a leather strop around. If you’re out in the woods, your leather belt will be enough for this.
With those two things, you’re ready to bring your Leatherman knife to top cutting condition.
How to Sharpen the Smooth Edges
Let’s start with the easy part.
To sharpen the smooth edges of your Leatherman blades, all you have to do is run the sharpening rod against them. Do this at a 16-degree angle on both sides (most Leatherman’s are double beveled, but always check before sharpening).
After a few passes, feel for a burr. When you feel it, you know that that side is sharp enough already. Flip the blade over and work on the other side.
Once that side is done, you can move on to stropping.
It works best if you have a leather strop around. If not, you can also use your belt.
All you have to do is run the blade across the strop a few times. This will remove the burr and polish the edge, making it even sharper then it already is.
By the time you’re finished, you should have a knife that is razor-sharp.
How to Sharpen the Serrated Edges
Now for the tricky part.
If you’ve seen my article on how to sharpen micro-serrated edges, you may think that sharpening the flat side of the serrations is the way to go.
If you do this, you can damage your serrated edge a lot. Serrated edges and micro-serrated edges are not the same.
Serrated edges have a much bigger scallop. If you sharpen the flat side of the blade, you’ll chip the tips of these scallops and destroy the knife.
That’s why instead, you’ll want to work on the scallop side using a tapered sharpening rod. Remember, tapered sharpening rod, not regular sharpening rod. This is the proper way to get your serrated edges sharp.
Firmly grasp your knife in one hand, and face the serrated side upwards and away from you. For more stability, hold it down on a stump or log, with the edge sticking out.
Then take your tapered sharpening rod on the other hand, and gently rub it against each scallop. Make sure you find the correct angle to work with first. You can do this by resting the rod evenly on the scallop.
Then starting with the thin tip, push downwards to sharpen. Keep pushing until it gets to the part that matches the scallop’s width. Then stop, and repeat the process.
You don’t want to go wider than the scallop’s width. If you do, you will damage the blade. Also, always remember to push downwards, you never want to pull upwards when sharpening a serrated blade.
Work on all the scallops one by one. As always, feel for a burr to know when you should stop.
Once you’re finished, it’s time to strop.
Take your leather strop (or belt, if that’s all you have) and lay it down on a smooth surface. Then rest your serrated blade face down on the leather, and gently rub it. Pull the blade against the strop, don’t push it as this will bite into the leather.
This will remove the unwanted debris and make your serrations ready to cut into anything in your way.
How to Sharpen the Gut Hook Edges
Another mini-tool that comes in a lot of Leatherman knives is a gut hook. And, just like everything else, you want this to be as sharp as possible.
Gut hooks, like serrated edges, can’t be sharpened using a sharpening stone. That’s why when it comes to Leatherman knives, a tapered sharpening rod is the best to have.
With a sharpening rod, you can rub the full edge of the hook easily. Always make sure that you’re doing this at the right angle, though.
When you’re done, hone it, and your gut hook is good to go.
Tips for Sharpening Leatherman Knives
Now it’s time for my cheat sheet. To sharpen Leatherman knives, you want to:
• Use a tapered sharpening rod (keyword: tapered)
• Sharpen smooth edges at a 16-degree angle
• Rest your knife on a stump to stabilize it
• For serrated edges, work on scallop side of the blade (DO NOT WORK ON THE FLAT SIDE)
• Push your sharpening rod against the scallops (DO NOT PULL)
• Start with the thin tip and stop when you reach the scallop’s width (DO NOT GO OVER)
• Slow and steady wins the race! Don’t rush
• Feel for a burr to know when your knife is sharp
• Always remember to strop once you’re finished sharpening
• Use gloves to avoid injuries
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Last update on 2020-10-21 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
You won’t find a more versatile, portable, and convenient tool like the Leatherman knife. The only problem is the sharpening.
But now that you know the proper way to sharpen your Leatherman, this problem is never going to bother you anymore.