When you’re roughing it out in the wilderness, it often comes down to survival of the sharpest. If you damage a knife’s edge and have no sharpener available, Mother Nature or even ordinary environments have all you need in a pinch. You just need a few tips to resharpen your knife.

Knives Illustrated contributor Kevin Estela reveals these 5 emergency knife sharpening hacks.

Rushing stream with stones

Photo by kazuend on Unsplash

1. Yeah, you know to look for river stones when you need an ad hoc knife sharpener, but not just any river stone. For the initial part of your sharpening session, look to the outer edges of the riverbed where the rocks are coarser. For more refined sharpening as you progress, look to the middle of the riverbed where the rocks are smoothest.

2. No river stones? No worries. Drop a smooth rock onto another rock surface to reveal the sharpening surface inside.

3. No rocks? No problem. Embed some sand into a wet log to create a large sharpening strop.

Log on beach

Photo by Osman Rana on Unsplash

4. Hone runs. If you don’t have honing steel, you can use a glass shard, a coffee mug, the edge of a car window, the inside of a toilet tank lid, the unfinished side of a leather belt. Just follow these stropping tips from Estela.

Leather belt

Photo by Asiya Kiev on Unsplash

5. Pro polishing tips. Clean blades perform better than dirty ones, so finish your sharpening session with some polish. Add water to your campfire remnants to make a slurry, or, if you don’t care about some minor scratches, use more abrasive sand. If you want to restore the knife’s patina while you’re still roughing it, expose your knife to sugar-containing liquids in some tree species. Alternatively, you can insert your knife into a potato overnight, slather it with mustard, or sink it in some vinegar.

For more of Kevin’s tips, plus in-depth how-to explanations for the razor-keen hacks explained above, go to this article on our sister site, American Survival Guide.

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