How to Sharpen a Sword

I often get asked how to sharpen a sword.

Whether it is because the sword is unsharpened (or not sharp enough) to begin with (some manufacturers make their blades unsharpened by default) or it becomes blunted with usage, knowing how to sharpen a sword is a skill that EVERY serious sword collector should have.

In this section of the site we will be looking at three main methods to sharpen a sword:

  1. The Old Fashioned way (with a file and whetstone)
  2. With powertools
  3. And with a tool known as the 'accusharp'

However, one important caveat - BEFORE you decide to sharpen your sword, there is one very important thing you need to consider..

Does this sword really NEED sharpening?

There are several reasons why you might not actually want to sharpen your sword at all.

The first is, if the sword is going to be used for training purposes it is MUCH better off if it is not sharpened.. The reasons should be quite obvious, if the sword is unsharpened the chances of an accidental life threatening injury are GREATLY reduced..

But the second reason comes into play when you receive a cutting sword that does not feel sharp to casual observation..

This is much more common on Japanese Katana than any other style of blade. For one reason or another, many people think that a Japanese sword should be RAZOR sharp. But a sword can be too sharp - and you might be surprised to learn that a sword that feels razor sharp, if used in a battle would chip on the opponents bone, while one that feels unsharp would take their arm off at the shoulder..

This is due to the fact that the best made Japanese swords have what is called 'Niku' - which is basically the Japanese word for 'meat'. A quick look at the diagram demonstrates the difference between a Katana with niku and one without.

In cases where the sword does not FEEL sharp, but has Niku, the best way to know if it is sharp enough is by actually cutting with it (using correct technique, not just hacking but SLICING - Japanese sword techniques are described in detail here).

Taking a Katana with Niku and applying the wrong sharpening technique is not a very good idea. However, if you do wish to just touch up the edge a little you can do so with a small square of fine steel grade abrasive paper, a little water and CAREFULLY run it at a 30 degree angle slowly along the blade's length one way and then again on the other side to clean up any microscopic burrs.

But I am getting ahead of myself here - this is actually step 3 of the most basic 3 step sharpening process, so let's take a look at how to sharpen a sword using this basic, tried and true method.

How to Sharpen a Sword - Method 1

One of the most basic ways to sharpen a sword is what I call the 'file and whetstone' method. While it can be time consuming, it is also of the safest methods that can produce an extremely good result.

Naturally enough, as it is entirely done by hand, you need to spend some time practicing before you get it down pat. Sharpening sword is as much an art as it is a science, so we do recommend that you practice first on a cheap machete, knife or (heavens forbid) a stainless steel el-cheapo wallhanger.

How to Sharpen a Sword - Method 2

The second method to sharpen swords is using power tools.

Now generally, it is not recommended to use power tools in a casual manner as the friction will heat up the blade, ruining the temper. However, there are some tools and techniques you can use to minimize the chance of any tempering interference.

In this section we have two video tutorials by senior SBG member Tom Kinder, who developed his own methods to sharpen swords to a frighteningly sharp level without causing any damage to the temper - one using a belt sander and the other a block of wood and some abrasive paper..

How to Sharpen a Sword - Method 3

The third technique is considered by many to be 'cheating' because it is simple, fast and creates a secondary bevel from a cheap hand held tool called the "accusharp".

Now normally a secondary bevel is considered an inferior cutting angle for a sword. However, if the steel is good quality and you are looking for 'shortcut' - this method is the easiest of them all.

Of course, there are many, many other techniques you can use to sharpen a sword, and of course a given technique that may work well on one type of sword may not work as well on another.

To read more methods of sword sharpening or share your own techniques or tools that work for you have a look below.

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Razor Edge Systems 
I have request sharpening of a cold steel light cavalry saber by this professional, but he declined on the grounds of it being too dangerous. https://www.razoredgesystem …

Learning from the Ladies - Part 2 
In my last post (“Learning from the ladies” under the sword sharpening guide section of this site) I wrote of my experiments in blade sharpening using …

Sharpening stone/wetstone 
Simply use the course side of the stone to create the edge of your liking then finish with the fine side until you achieve the edge you choose. Of course …

Learning from the ladies 
I recently purchased a Chinese made wakisashi with a folded steel blade and more or less common fittings. This was my first foray into Chinese Japanese …

Nothing special really... About how to prevent too much rust on your blades... Using before some grinding and sharpening stones of different sizes, …

Window Sharp? 
Before I explain I have never actually used this technique beacause my preffered method is a whetstone and oil but have friends that swear by it in a pinch. …

Take your time!!! 
I have an Accusharp Knife Sharpener (as listed on your website). Without a doubt this thing works INCREDIBLY WELL!!! Its pretty cheap and it doesnt take …

tried attempt with power tool that worked 
well, first of all, don't worry, I didn't use any big grinder of any sort. I tried a flap wheel (like this one). Mounted on a press drill (so …

a whetstone substitute 
I rubbed my machete on a brick, like a whetstone, and it gave my machete a crude, yet razor edge. If you cannot afford a whetstone, I recommend using a …

The best way to sharpen 
The best way to get a edge on any sort of blade is to use a wet stone, the only trick is getting the angle right. Insted of using watter use oil, simply …

"stay sharp sword sheath" 
Well this is an idea i have had for a while now and is intended for custom or home made swords but the whole concept is a sheath that whenever you draw …

I hate to say it.... 
I really hate to say it, but I've tried to find different ways to sharpen my swords and knives, and BELIEVE IT, or most likely not, The Samurai Shark, …

My way of sharpening katana (as seen on SFI) 
I'd just like to highlight a post on SFI (which can be difficult to search), describing the method I use to sharpen my katana-blades: …

Avoiding Cuts 
When polishing a sword, knife or any sharp implement, there is always a high risk of cutting fingers of limbs. To avoid this, here are a few tips: - …

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