The pull-through knife sharpener doesn’t get nearly the love it deserves in “knife nerd” circles — it’s a cheap and simple but legitimate option for average people who’d rather spend their limited prepper time and budget on other topics.
We recommend everyone keep at least one of these under-$10 tools somewhere in their emergency supplies. There’s no reason not to throw one in your bug out and get home bags, even if just as a backup option for people advanced enough to create a hair-popping edge with nothing but a stiff piece of cardboard as a strop. (Yes, that’s possible!)
If you’re not a knife enthusiast and don’t want to become one, just buy one of these pull-throughs, put in a few minutes of practice, throw it in your go-bags, and you’re done. These are also perfect for the bug out bags of children who are old enough for a knife.
More: Check out our review of the best field knives, the beginner’s guide to knife sharpening and maintenance, and tips for aftermarket sheaths and accessories.
Best for most people:
Smith's PP1 Pocket Pal
The best simple sharpener for everyone is the $9 Smith’s PP1 Pocket Pal. From a reputable brand known in the knife community, this little workhorse features a coarse carbide notch for basic edge re-profiling and sharpening plus a fine ceramic notch for finishing the edge or touching it up. There’s also a diamond-impregnated rod for sharpening blades that have serrations.
The teeth that go into the sharpening notch are replaceable — but if you’re using this gadget enough that you need to replace the teeth, then you should buy stropping materials and learn more advanced techniques.
Although we prefer sharpeners without the ‘survival kit’ bells and whistles (e.g. fire starters), if you want those extra features (like the groove for sharpening fishing hooks) or can’t find the Smith’s PP1 in stock, check out the comparable $9 SHARPAL 101N 6-in-1.
A cheap classic:
The best budget pull-through sharpener is undoubtedly the classic $4 Smith’s CCKS. Good enough for the basics, this is the first and only pull-through sharpener many people buy. It has the same two notches as the other sharpeners recommended here, but in a less expensive, stripped-down package. For all of the money and time people invest in putting a scary sharp edge on a blade, you can get to “good enough for basic field use” with this cheap little foolproof gadget.
Redi Edge 40 Tactical Pro
Our favorite high-end pull-through sharpener is the $18 Redi Edge 40 Tactical Pro. Designed for the US Army Rangers, it offers a great blend of durability and features. The 40-degree edge angle is right in the 40 to 50 degree sweet spot for a survival knife. The teeth are replaceable, but with the same caveats as the Pocket Pal.
Although similar to the Pocket Pal, the Redi Edge takes a different approach to edge honing and how it sharpens hooks and needles. Instead of a second ceramic notch like the other sharpeners have, the body of the sharpener itself can be used as a ceramic stone for fine finishing work on an edge.
You can go a step further and buy the $40 Redi Edge Tactical Pro Sharpener Set, which includes the 40-degree model above and additional 30- and 60-degree tools. A narrow angle is optimized for cutting flesh (i.e. self defense, game processing, or cooking), while a wider angle is better for thumpy chopping.
How to use a pull-through knife sharpener
This video from Redi Edge uses a different model and a kitchen knife, but the principles are the same:
The two most important things to remember:
- Hold the knife at a 90 degree angle to the sharpener, so that the sides of the edge are even and come to an apex directly below the knife’s spine. Don’t focus too much on the angles of the grinding surfaces, just keep the blade perpendicular to the ground.
- Don’t put any weight on the blade when you pull it through. Just let the weight of the blade itself do the work, and drag it through the notch slowly and deliberately. (If you press the blade into the notch, you’ll end up ripping off a bunch of metal and you’ll have a mess of an edge.)