The Cutting Edge

The official blog of Knife Depot

How Do You Sharpen a Knife Without a Sharpener? Using These 10 Everyday Items

Knife On Ceramic Mug

Whether you’re out in the wilderness with only a few pieces of gear or can’t find a sharp knife to save your life, a knife sharpener isn’t always there when you need it the most. Fortunately, knowing the basics of how to sharpen a knife and using a little quick thinking and ingenuity, you can use a variety of household tools to sharpen your knives.

Before we delve into things, we must make it clear what we’re talking about when we say sharpening. The general term for “sharpen” is to give something a keen edge. The knife term for “sharpen” is a bit more specific. It means making a knife sharp by actually removing metal from the blade to form an edge.

Not all of these objects will sharpen a knife in the truest sense of the word like a traditional knife sharpener. Some of them will merely hone or strop the edge. While honing and stropping will indeed sharpen a knife by realigning an edge, it’s not what knife experts typically deem as sharpen.

With all that being said, here are 10 everyday items you can use to sharpen your knife.

Coffee Mug

Coffee Mug

We’ll start off with something that actually sharpens a knife by removing material from the blade. Ceramic coffee cups are readily available in most houses. Simply turn the mug upside down, search for the raw part of the cup (which is the rougher part of the bottom that prevents the cup from sliding around), and run the knife across the mug until you get your desired edge.

If it’s working well, you’ll see some discoloration on the mug, which indicates the ceramic is removing steel and sharpening the blade.

Leather Belt

Leather Belt for Sharpening a Knife

Although stropping does not technically sharpen a blade, it does make a blade keener by realigning the edge. A leather belt, which is something you might be wearing right now, is a quick and easy item for stropping a blade. In fact, many professionals use leather straps for stropping.

Make sure the belt doesn’t have any stitching. Run the knife away from the cutting edge to realign the blade.


Sandpaper for knife sharpening

Sandpaper is not necessarily an everyday item, but it’s so inexpensive and versatile that it’s an easy item to have around.

The best grit will depend on the knife and how much you want to sharpen. If possible, start with a coarser grit and work your way up to a finer grit for maximum sharpness.

Nail File

Nail File

When sandpaper isn’t readily available, the next best thing is a nail file or emery board. These usually come in survival kits. They’re basically used the same way as sandpaper. Run the cutting edge of the blade against the emery board.

Nylon Strap

Nylon Strap

After using something like a nail file, stropping will take a blade to the next level. If you don’t have a belt, a nylon strap will also do the trick. Something like the strap on a backpack is more than enough to take your knife from sharp to sharper. Run the knife against the nylon strap away from the cutting edge.



Don’t even have nylon straps? If you’re anything like me, you’ve got cardboard boxes from Amazon and Knife Depot lying around the house. Cardboard isn’t as effective as leather belts or nylon straps, but it will work for stropping a blade.

Car Window

rolled down car window to sharpen a knife

If The Walking Dead is anything like reality, there’ll be a lot of abandoned cars with windows halfway open when things hit the fan. That’s perfect for the knife wielders out there. Car windows make surprisingly great honing devices. The rough, rounded edge of a car window is fantastic for softer steel.

Slide it along toward the blade 8 to 10 times on both sides, and your knife will become even sharper.

Spine of Another Knife

spine of another knife

A honing device that’s easy to find is the thick spine of a second knife. (Yet another reason why you should carry two knives.) The same way you run the knife along honing steel is the same way you’d run it along the unsharpened spine of a blade.

This works best when the knife you’re sharpening the steel on has a different hardness level.

Smooth Stone

smooth stone as knife sharpener

When you don’t have a sharpening stone, use a smooth and flat stone. Rocks in or along rivers work perfectly, but you could also make one by grinding two rocks together. You would use the stone you find exactly the same way you’d use your sharpening stone at home.


concrete driveway

In a pinch, a knife can be sharpened on concrete. The good thing about concrete is that it’s everywhere. The bad thing is that it can damage your knife and the conditions have to be just right. Find a piece of concrete that’s extremely smooth and run the knife the same way you would a sharpening stone. Stropping afterward will help make things a little smoother.

Not sure if your prized knife can be salvaged? Knife Depot has over 10,000 knives for sale in our store catalog so you won’t have any issues finding a replacement.


  1. I did some stropping on neoprene…It really worked well, I was surprised at how sharp in made my blade….I used the neoprene from a mouse pad…and viola it worked like a charm….just thought that I would bring that up.

  2. Actually o have a question for ya guys Do you know of this will be able to be used for the pencil sharpners blades if i used used the nail files

  3. My grandfather used nothing but a China plate and does anyone know where I can see these objects in use I want to make sure do it right.

    • Alisa Brooke Guy

      July 17, 2018 at 2:51 am

      I second this request.
      Would be wonderfully informative if we had a youtube tutorial of these methods, we could link it back to this article. Not really practical for one person to have so many knives lying around and to be able to test them all but if anyone is willing to demonstrate any of them and email them to me I could put the clips together and put it on youtube…. just a thought. In the meantime im going to give this mug trick a try. Wish me luck 🙂

      • Tim

        July 25, 2018 at 1:23 pm

        That’s a good idea. When I get some time, maybe I’ll try to get a video going.

      • Yes that s a good point, whereas I ve sharpened knives countless times using a plate or mug, I cut myself very seriously twice at the start. It works, but I highly recommend plates over mugs and always, always, away from you. The force that you need to exert on the mug makes it easier for the blade to slip on its small surface. And always place the item that you are using on a stable surface! Avoid holding it up with your other hand! Sounds pretty stupid now but when moving fast I hadn’t thought it through and slashed right into my palm with a just sharpened knife… not great

      • I think that should work because it’s a kid of a sharping rock

    • I used a plate or coffee mug before it does work.

  4. I have used my seat belts for a strop.

  5. Bailey Embrick

    March 29, 2018 at 8:34 pm

    Well aren’t you the green bean? It’s all about the curvature of the window and the texture which will strip away the steel until you have a nice sharp blade.

  6. Alisa Brooke Guy

    July 17, 2018 at 2:36 am

    I found it quite useful. The oddest part of the piece doesnt make the whole thing “ABSOLUTELY USELESS”. Next time you offer criticism how about making it constructive and specific because otherwise your just a hater with nothing better to do.

  7. This was extremely helpful! The coffee mug idea especially got my knives about as sharp as I could get them with a whetstone anyways. I just used my jeans leg for stropping.

  8. Yes all of you got whooshed

  9. I’ve used the car window for years, you roll your window down until you can swipe your blade across the top rounded edge in equal strokes from heal to tip. Same concept as a sharpening rod.

  10. So I’m underage, and often have to walk to Walmart after work. Sometimes I don’t get off until after midnight, and my job isn’t exactly on the safset part of town. I found a knice which I can use to defend myself, but the blade on this pocket knife was absolutely destroyed! It was dull and the blade was chipped. I tried the nail file method, and it actually worked to sharpen and smooth the blade! Thanks for the info!

    • Tim

      March 22, 2019 at 9:19 am

      Glad to have helped. But don’t let carrying a knife give you overdue confidence for self-defense. Knives are awful for self-defense so always stay vigilant and don’t be afraid to run!

    • A walking stick would probably be better for defense or maybe a cane.

    • I agree with Tim. A knife is a last resort as a form of self defense. Fact is you have to get too close for it to be effective. On your your next trip to walmart spend 12 bucks on a can of pepper spray. It will keep you a safe distance from your threat. Carry that knife as a very valuable tool rather than a weapon.

  11. I believe that Tim’s answer to Midnight was perfect probably the best info in this article !!!!

  12. Many years ago I sprained my ankle and had to use a cane for awhile. Nothing fancy, just an adjustable one from the big box drugstore. It’s sturdy but doesn’t scream WEAPON to anyone. I’ve taken it through both airport and courtroom security checkpoints many times. I finally realized its self defense potential and started watching every video, YouTube tutorial, etc. I could find. Nowadays my ankle is fine, I’m an ORP (old retired person), and I still carry a cane or innocuous walking stick all the time. And, yes, I have a CCW and often carry both gun and knife where legal, but my cane can go ANYWHERE.

  13. Thank you:)

  14. The Little Engine That Could:)

    July 8, 2020 at 8:10 am

    Well, I’m going to try the sandpaper one first with 150-grit. I think I need something coarse from the research I’ve done. I purchased an Ontario Rat II with D2 steel about 3-weeks ago, and on arrival it was sharp but since using it at my job I’ve dulled the blade. I have a 6″ Smith’s Arkansas stone that I’ve attempted to use, to no avail. I see videos on knife sharpening and see people slicing hair off their arms, as well as the paper slicing thing and think. Wow! There’s no way I can do that in fact my knife seems duller after I sharpen it. I even did the 4-quarters stacked on top of one another to get the right 20-degree angle and still no luck. The Arkansas stone is very smooth and I’ve heard some say to try a coarser stone, the sandpaper might do the trick. Unfortunately, there’s no “Master Sharpener” in my area that I know of, or I would pay someone to sharpen it for me. However, I really think I would like sharpening knives and other tools if I could do it:) Nice read and thanks for posting. Peace…

  15. You can use the filament from light bulbs like from hi pressure sodium or metal halide light bulbs. They are tempered and very hard and work great like a steel to keep a knife honed. Epoxy a couple inches of the filament into a hole drilled into your handle material.

  16. Another item that will help produce a great edge is a standard note card! By stropping it on a card while on a smooth surface like a counter top, you can feel the burr dragging on the card. When the dragging stops, watch yourself! You will have a SHARP blade….

  17. imadepressedbitch

    April 8, 2021 at 10:55 pm

    same dude, same

  18. I have used my seat belts for a strop.

  19. I have used my seat belts for a strop

  20. I have used my seat belts for a strop.

  21. The smooth rock works great for utility knifes

  22. This is very informative. Thanks for sharing!

  23. Steel wool and oil anyone? (Fine steel wool)
    Rest your steel wool on a hard surface and run your blade on it….
    Surprised no one mentioned that.

  24. Very informative. I didn’t know that it was possible to sharpen knives using the things I could find in my house! Just a quick question, is it safe to use car windows as a honing device? Will it not damage it over time?

  25. Great article! This is very informative. I didn’t know that you can use some of these objects to sharpening a knife. Is using cardboard really effective? Wouldn’t the cardboard break?

  26. Interesting and helpful information is provided in this article.

  27. The underside of the lid of a toilet tank works well. Not the seat, the lid. It is bigger than a coffee cup and easier to use.

  28. Hm..alot of us are here for sharpening pencil sharpener blades..

  29. Depth by sharpie

    October 13, 2022 at 7:06 pm

    Hm..alot of us are here for sharpening pencil sharpener blades.. ♡♡ cough cough sameness

  30. I got just the results I wanted, thank you! :]

  31. You can useceramicfoor tile to sharpen also.worked for me

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

© 2024 The Cutting Edge

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑