How to Sharpen a Fillet Knife (with video)

Fillet Knife on a Table
Fillet Knife on a Table

To fillet a fish, you need a sharp fillet knife. A dull knife can make the task difficult and even dangerous. Sharpening your fillet knife is essential to ensure that it can make clean, precise cuts through the fish’s flesh. In this article, we will guide you through the steps to sharpen your fillet knife correctly.

The first step in sharpening your fillet knife is to choose the right sharpening tool. You can use a sharpening stone, a honing rod, or an electric knife sharpener. Each tool has its advantages and disadvantages, and you should choose the one that works best for you. Once you have your sharpening tool, you need to know the correct technique to use it. We will show you how to sharpen your fillet knife using each of these tools, so you can choose the one that suits you best.

Understanding Fillet Knives

When it comes to filleting fish, having the right knife is crucial. Fillet knives come in different shapes and sizes, and each type is designed to work best with a specific type of fish. Here are some things you should know about fillet knives:

Blade Shape

The shape of the blade is the most important factor to consider when choosing a fillet knife. The most common blade shapes are:

  • Straight: This type of blade is best for filleting flatfish, such as flounder or sole.
  • Curved: A curved blade is ideal for filleting round fish, such as salmon or trout.
  • Flexible: A flexible blade is perfect for filleting fish with delicate flesh, such as tilapia or catfish.

Blade Size

The size of the blade depends on the size of the fish you will be filleting. A larger blade is better for larger fish, while a smaller blade is ideal for smaller fish. However, keep in mind that a longer blade may be more difficult to control, especially if you are a beginner.


The handle of a fillet knife is also an important factor to consider. Look for a handle that is comfortable to hold and provides a good grip, even when it is wet. Some fillet knives have a guard that prevents your fingers from slipping onto the blade while you’re filleting fish. This is a great safety feature, especially if you are new to filleting.


Fillet knives are made from different materials, including stainless steel, carbon steel, and ceramic. Stainless steel is the most common material used for fillet knives because it is durable and easy to maintain. Carbon steel is also a good option, but it requires more maintenance than stainless steel. Ceramic blades are very sharp and stay sharp for a long time, but they are brittle and can break easily if dropped.

By understanding the different types of fillet knives and their features, you can choose the right one for your needs. Remember, a good fillet knife is an investment that will make your fish filleting tasks easier and more enjoyable.

Essential Materials for Sharpening

To sharpen your fillet knife properly, you need to have the right materials. Here are the essential materials that you will need:

Sharpening Stone

The sharpening stone is the most important tool you will need for sharpening your fillet knife. It is a flat stone that comes in different grits. The grit determines how rough or smooth the stone is. A coarse grit stone is used to remove nicks and chips, while a fine grit stone is used for honing the edge.

Honing Rod

A honing rod is a long, thin rod made of steel or ceramic. It is used to realign the edge of the blade and keep it sharp. It does not remove metal from the blade like a sharpening stone does.


Lubricant is used to keep the sharpening stone and honing rod clean and free of metal shavings. It also helps to reduce friction and prevent the blade from overheating. Water or oil can be used as a lubricant, depending on the type of sharpening stone you have.

Cleaning Cloth

A cleaning cloth is used to wipe down the blade after sharpening. It removes any metal shavings and lubricant residue from the blade. A microfiber cloth is a good choice because it is soft and will not scratch the blade.

Angle Guide

An angle guide is a tool that helps you maintain the correct angle when sharpening your fillet knife. It attaches to the blade and guides the sharpening stone or honing rod at the correct angle.

With these essential materials, you will be well on your way to sharpening your fillet knife like a pro.

Safety Measures

When sharpening your fillet knife, safety should be your top priority. Here are some safety measures to keep in mind:

  • Wear protective gear: Always wear protective gear such as gloves and goggles to protect your hands and eyes from any potential harm.
  • Secure the knife: Make sure the knife is securely fastened to the sharpening surface to prevent it from moving around while you sharpen it.
  • Use the right sharpening tool: Use the appropriate sharpening tool for your knife. A sharpening stone is the most common tool used for sharpening fillet knives, but there are other options available as well.
  • Maintain a consistent angle: Maintain a consistent angle while sharpening your knife. A 20-degree angle is the most common angle used for fillet knives.
  • Use light pressure: Use light pressure when sharpening your knife. Too much pressure can damage the knife and make it harder to sharpen.
  • Keep your fingers away from the blade: Keep your fingers away from the blade while sharpening it. A slip could lead to a serious injury.

By following these safety measures, you can ensure that you sharpen your fillet knife safely and effectively.

Step-by-Step Guide to Sharpening Fillet Knives


Before you start sharpening your fillet knife, you need to gather the necessary tools. You will need a sharpening stone or honing rod, a lubricant such as water or oil, and a towel to wipe the blade clean.

Make sure your work area is clean and well-lit. You don’t want any distractions or obstacles that could cause an accident.


  1. Choose the right angle: The angle you use will depend on the type of knife you have. Fillet knives typically have a thinner blade and require a sharper angle. A good starting point is 20 degrees.
  2. Wet the sharpening stone or honing rod: Use water or oil to lubricate the surface of the stone or rod. This will help prevent the blade from overheating and damaging the edge.
  3. Hold the knife correctly: Grip the handle firmly with your dominant hand and place your other hand on the flat part of the blade. Keep your fingers away from the edge.
  4. Sharpen the blade: Starting at the heel of the blade, run the knife along the stone or rod in a sweeping motion. Use light pressure and maintain a consistent angle. Repeat on the other side of the blade.
  5. Test the sharpness: Once you’ve sharpened both sides, test the blade’s sharpness by slicing through a piece of paper or cardboard. If the blade cuts cleanly, it’s sharp.

Testing Sharpness

If the blade isn’t as sharp as you’d like, you can repeat the sharpening process, using a finer grit stone or rod.


To keep your fillet knife in top condition, you should clean and sharpen it regularly. After each use, wipe the blade clean with a damp cloth and dry it thoroughly. Store the knife in a sheath or protective cover to prevent damage.

Remember, a sharp fillet knife is essential for clean, precise cuts. With the right tools and technique, you can keep your knife in top shape and enjoy years of successful fishing trips.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

When it comes to filleting fish, using a fillet knife is essential for achieving clean and precise cuts. However, even the most experienced fishermen can make mistakes that can ruin their fillet knife or affect the quality of their fillets. Here are some common mistakes to avoid when sharpening your fillet knife:

Using the Wrong Angle

One of the most common mistakes people make when sharpening their fillet knife is using the wrong angle. Remember to angle the blade properly and use consistent pressure while sharpening to avoid damaging the blade. A good rule of thumb is to sharpen the blade at a 20-degree angle.

Applying Too Much Pressure

Another common mistake is applying too much pressure when sharpening or honing your fillet knife. It is important to use light pressure when sharpening and honing to avoid damaging the blade. Applying too much pressure can cause the blade to become dull or even break.

Storing the Knife Improperly

Storing your fillet knife in a damp environment with other types of metals or leaving it soaking in a stainless-steel sink or aluminum pan can result in rusting and pitting of the blade. Using a knife roll, with other knives made of the same metal, is a good way to store a fillet knife.

Not Cleaning the Knife Properly

After using your fillet knife, it is important to clean it properly. If not cleaned properly, bacteria can grow on the blade, which can affect the quality of your fillets. Use warm water and soap to clean the blade, and dry it thoroughly before storing it.

Choosing the Wrong Size Knife

Choosing the wrong size knife can also affect the quality of your fillets. Make sure to choose a fillet knife that is appropriate for the size of the fish you are filleting. Using a knife that is too small can make it difficult to fillet the fish properly, while using a knife that is too large can result in wasted meat.

Additional Tips

Sharpening your fillet knife is an essential task to keep it in good working condition. Here are some additional tips to help you sharpen your fillet knife like a pro.

  • Use a honing rod: A honing rod is a great tool to keep your fillet knife sharp in between sharpenings. It helps to realign the edge of the blade and remove any burrs that may have formed during use. Hold the honing rod vertically and swipe the blade down the rod at a 20-degree angle. Do this on both sides of the blade for about 10-15 strokes.
  • Use a sharpening guide: A sharpening guide helps to maintain a consistent angle while sharpening. It attaches to the spine of the blade and guides the sharpening stone at the correct angle. This is especially useful for beginners who may not have experience with sharpening knives.
  • Don’t use too much pressure: When sharpening your fillet knife, use light pressure. Too much pressure can damage the blade and remove too much material, resulting in a shorter lifespan for your knife.
  • Use a lubricant: Using a lubricant like water or oil can help to reduce friction and heat while sharpening. This can help to prevent damage to the blade and make the sharpening process more efficient.
  • Keep your knife clean: After sharpening your fillet knife, make sure to clean it thoroughly. Use soap and water to remove any metal shavings or debris from the blade. Dry it completely and store it in a safe place to prevent damage.

By following these additional tips, you can keep your fillet knife sharp and in good working condition for years to come.


In conclusion, sharpening your fillet knife is an essential task that every angler should know how to do. With the right tools and techniques, you can maintain your fillet knife’s sharpness and ensure that it performs at its best every time you use it.

Remember to choose the right angle and sharpening stone or honing rod, hold your knife correctly, and test the sharpness before using it. You can use water stones, known as whetstones, or oil stones to sharpen your fillet knife.

Regular sharpening is necessary to maintain your fillet knife’s sharpness, and you can sharpen it once a year or more depending on how often you use it. Don’t forget to clean your blade after sharpening and store it properly to prevent rust and damage.

By following these tips and techniques, you can keep your fillet knife sharp and in excellent condition for years to come. Happy fishing!

Frequently Asked Questions

What’s the best angle to sharpen a fillet knife?

The best angle to sharpen a fillet knife is between 16 to 20 degrees. This angle ensures that the blade is sharp enough to cut through the fish easily. However, if you are not sure about the angle, you can check the manufacturer’s instructions.

How often do you need to sharpen a fillet knife?

You need to sharpen your fillet knife after every use to maintain its sharpness. However, if you use it frequently, you may need to sharpen it more often. You can tell if your knife needs sharpening by checking if it’s difficult to cut through the fish.

How can you tell if a fillet knife is sharp?

You can tell if a fillet knife is sharp by running your finger along the blade’s edge. If it feels smooth, the knife is dull. If it feels rough or jagged, the knife is sharp.

What is the best manual fillet knife sharpener?

The best manual fillet knife sharpener is a honing steel. It’s a long, cylindrical rod that you use to realign the blade’s edge. To use it, hold the honing steel vertically and run the blade along it at a 20-degree angle.

How to sharpen a Victorinox fillet knife?

To sharpen a Victorinox fillet knife, you can use a sharpening stone or a honing steel. If you’re using a sharpening stone, place it on a flat surface and lubricate it with water or oil. Then, hold the knife at a 20-degree angle and run it along the stone in a circular motion. If you’re using a honing steel, hold it vertically and run the blade along it at a 20-degree angle.

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