Field Sharpening Stone Holder
Author’s Forword: A few months ago, I received word from my friends at the Fiddleback Outpost a very interesting recommendation was sent to them by way of one of their customers. This customer, someone located over in the UK, was told to check out the website after attending a very prestigious bushcraft school over there. After checking out the website, this customer purchased the KE Bushie I designed with Andy Roy years ago. I was pretty excited to know Fiddleback was recognized overseas.
Spend enough time in the outdoors and you’ll find you will need to maintain your gear. Your clothes will develop wear marks, usually holes and tears, and your metal gear will stain and rust. Compact sharpening stones and hones are therefore the solution to backcountry carry. These small stones are compact enough to fit in your pocket but sometimes can be difficult to hold in your hand especially in the cold and when your hands are tired from working all day. A quick solution can be found in nature and literally grows on trees. The field-sharpening stone can be set inside a holder carved from a branch. The following step-by-step tutorial is inspired by a passage from the Ray Mears and Lars Falt book, Out on the Land. In my opinion, it is the finest bushcraft book on the market today.
Cut a Small Round
Look for a good hardwood round of wood you can easily cut with the saw on your Swiss Army Knife. This round of wood should be free of knots and rot. Make sure it has a straight and long section where the sharpening stone will fit. When I look for a log to use, I also consider selecting one that is tall enough that allows hand clearance as I pass the blade. Too small of a round and your hand will make contact with the ground. When you have your round cut to size, make sure to bevel the ends to round them out and provide strength.
Scribe and Cut
Place your sharpening stone on the round of wood and mark where it sits with your blade. For this particular setup, I used a Falkniven DC4 sharpening stone but any stone will work. Turn your scribe marks into stop cuts that cut down perpendicular to the grain of the wood. Cut into the first stop cut and then turn the round of wood the other direction and cut into the other side. When both stop cuts are an acceptable depth, make sure to flatten out the space between them so your sharpening stone will sit flat.
Flatten the Bottom
At this point, you could use your sharpening stone holder but there are a couple steps that will make the final product better to use. You have been working with a round of wood and the bottom is rounded, not flat. Take your knife and flatten the bottom parallel with the flat section where your stone sits. Make sure it is flat or sharpening will be difficult. I like to use a round of wood that has a slight bend in it where one end slightly raises from the center. This gives me an angled handle.
Make a Comfortable Handle
Speaking of handles, at this point you can reduce the diameter of the handle with your knife. This step isn’t necessary but if your round of wood is thick, a smaller diameter handle will make it easier to hold onto than a larger one. As I reduce the diameter of the handle, I try to leave some raised shoulders on it from my cuts. This gives my hand some grip.
Normally a sharpening stone is held in the hand or placed against a flat surface like a table. In the woods, using a sharpening stone in hand can be a risky proposition and “flat” is a luxury in a natural world of asymmetrical and bumpy surfaces. The field-sharpening stone holder is an example of doing more with less. It creates a common-sense solution with just a little bit of effort and creativity. If you are the occasional outdoorsman, you may never need to know how to create this type of sharpening setup but if you find yourself in the great outdoors frequently and for extended periods of time, this is a skill you should own. Your knives are sharp and your wit should be too. Looking for solutions like this in the woods is the essence of bushcraft.