Skinning a deer: sharpening your knife

Skinning: A sharp knife

First, this is a good time for you to have a good edge on your skinning knife. And later when you are cutting the meat into usable pieces it will make the job so much easier. I use a French pocketknife called an Opinel. The metal is relatively soft and takes a great edge. See my review of Opinel knives here. You can’t do that with a kitchen knife. You need a comfortable knife with a short, sharp, curved blade. Mine is about 3 1/2″ from the haft to the tip. Learning to put an edge on a knife is not too difficult, but my father is obsessive about it so I had to practice secretly. He’s the sort of person who watches for two seconds before he explodes with “Let me do it!!!” For a small blade like this you want a sharpening stone. Often one side of the stone is a little rougher than the other. Do that side first. Spit on the blade, or ok, you can use some edible quality oil. Lay the blade at about a 30 degree angle on the stone, with edge flush against the stone. Lifting it away from this flush position would make a blunter edge. Rub the blade against the stone in a circular pattern. It’s as if you are trying to shave the stone. Do this for several minutes. It takes a while. You can check an see if you can see a bright shiny area right by the edge which shows you have removed some metal. Try the edge by cutting a hair off your forearm. I have tried it slicing of a few hairs on the end of my braid as well.  Just the split ends…. If you maintain your edge it doesn’t take as long the next time.

People do horrible things to knives. When I taught high school in New York City I took a drop knife away from a kid.  I think I only got it away from him because it never occurred to him that I would try to take it. I was amazed to see the horrible deep gouges along the blade. It had been sharpened on a street curb. I gave it to my father for a conversation piece and he put a nice edge on it. Sort of a rescue dog knife, if you know what I mean.

2 thoughts on “Skinning a deer: sharpening your knife

  1. I think that a good skinning knife should not need to be sharpenned too often during the skinning process. You don’t want to be pausing every few minutes to sharpen it. My personal favorite is the Buck Knives 120 General, but there are so many great ones out there.

    • Yes, I always asked my father to get all the knives ready. It was a great way to give him something to do and he was really the best knife sharpener I ever knew. I like a good oil stone. All our knives are Opinels, but I know everybody loves those old Buck knives.

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