Sharpening a Bowie knife is much the same as sharpening any other knife. However, you will need to know how to go about the process in order to achieve optimal results. What process should you follow? Actually, you will have some choices to make before you even get started with the sharpening process. What is your first decision? First, you will need to determine what sort of sharpening system you want to use. Do you want to use a system that offers you edge guides? On the other hand, you might prefer to use a simple whetstone and control the angle of the edge yourself. This is an important consideration and should not be rushed.
However, because Bowie knives are quite large, you might find that many of the all-in-one sharpening systems are not ideal for use. In fact, your knife might not even fit the slots of these gadgets. That said, you can find all-in-one solutions for larger blades, you just have to look a little harder.
Next, you will need to find an angle guide, if your knife sharpening kit does not include one. If you are unable to do this, you will need to know how to control the angle of the blade on your own. This will require a firm hand and a good eye. If the angle of the knife blade changes during sharpening, the edge will not be suitable for much. You should also have a high quality whetstone for the sharpening process, as well as the proper lubricant (some stones come with oil, or you can purchase the oil at your local sporting goods store). Never sharpen a knife if the whetstone has not been lubricated.
Once you have your sharpening system purchased, you will need to know how to sharpen that bade. Bowie knives are quite large, so the best way to sharpen your blade is actually to grind it in circles, down the length of the blade (heel to toe). Make sure that you are able to hold the blade at the correct angle while doing this, or your knife will not take a good edge. The angle is quite important; the entire reason for purchasing an all-in-one sharpening system is so that you don’t have to guess at the angle of the blade to the whetstone.
Once you have a solid burr along the blade, you’ll need to switch to a finer stone. You can even use a strop here. The purpose of the second grinding is just to remove the burr and polish the edges of the blade a bit. This will ensure a clean cut each time (as the burr will catch during the cutting process, leaving ragged cuts). When removing the burr, it’s best to go heel to tip on the knife.