Considering the quality of today’s steel, the knife or camp axe that’s been stored in the backpack over the winter probably has an edge as sharp as when you stowed it away. In the back country where it’s actually used, the lifetime of that edge can often be measured in hours. There’s dirt and grit to deal with in the wider world, where a mistake or a bad swing can instantly wreck a blade you spent hours refining.
Until recently, fixing that edge in camp meant an evening by the campfire working the blade over a whetstone that was too small and too heavy all at the same time. The words “white Arkansas novaculite” sound pretty, but if you have to carry a full sized Quachita stone in your pack it’s just a heavy rock. A Quachita stone puts a great edge on a knife, but a slip small enough to take along comfortably wouldn’t handle anything bigger than a pen knife.
Today we do have better options. Diamond stones cut well enough to actually shape heavy steel, not just polish it. For the workbench, where carborundum and novaculite once ruled, there’s competition from modern ceramics as well as diamond matrix benchstones. In camp or on the trail, small diamond slips weighing only ounces actually can maintain a blade. The only complaint is that diamond matrix is a little rough until it wears down, so you may want that Quachita slip for the final touch.
For major work at home — setting the bevel and grinding back nicks — you’ll need something as good as the DMT Coarse Diamond Whetstone.
The three ounce, four inch long DMT Fine Diamond Whetstone includes a leather sheath and will handle anything short of major disaster.
Gerber’s Diamond Pocket Knife Sharpener hones belt knives too — and includes an abrasive groove for sharpening fish hooks.