Great Lakes Angler Blog

Proper Sharpening is Key to Safe, Effective Filleting By Stan Watson

Wednesday, July 25, 2012
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The fisherman’s fillet knife is a truly specialized tool. Good fillet knives have strong, comfortable handles and thin, flexible blades. These thin blades tend to roll over more easily and dull more quickly than the thicker blades on chopping knives, so fillet knives require special treatment to keep them up to the task of quickly, efficiently and safely filleting a freshly caught fish. This special handling includes proper sharpening, preferably with precise diamond sharpening stones.

One of the keys to proper sharpening is ensuring that the knife blade meets the stone at a consistently correct angle. A guided sharpening system like the DMT Diamond Machining Technology Aligner Pro Kit helps to assure this. DMT’s Kit utilizes a seven-angle adjustable clamp to hold the blade at a pre-determined slant so there is no fluctuation in the angle at which the blade meets the stone during the sharpening process. It takes the guesswork out of sharpening and ensures the bevel on your fillet knife will return to the manufacturer’s specifications so you can continue to properly prepare your catch for grilling, frying or sautéing.

Guided sharpening guarantees success. It helps you avoid over-sharpening and wasting blade life, which improves performance and protects your investment. If you’re like most serious anglers, you take pride in using the best equipment. That means you likely have an $85 to $150 fillet knife in your tackle box—and a knife costing that much demands thorough, regular sharpening.

If you choose to use the guided sharpening system in the DMT Aligner Pro Kit, set the guide rods to the lowest possible angle and place the clamp in the center of the spine of the blade. You should always sharpen both sides of the blade using the same number of strokes. DMT’s Diamond Sharpening Stones do not need lubrication, but you can use water if you wish (do not use oil). One more piece of advice: Take your time. Diamond sharpening technology does make sharpening quicker (approximately 10 times faster than conventional abrasives), but you still need to be careful whenever you are working with knives.As long as you are sharpening regularly, you will only need two grits: fine and extra fine (diamond whetstones in both of these grits are included in DMT's Aligner Pro Kit). You should only use a coarse grit (also included in the Kit) if you’re attempting to salvage a damaged blade. Use light strokes with the fine grits, otherwise you run the risk of removing too much material and shortening your blade’s life.

There’s nothing like sitting down to enjoy a meal including fresh fish, especially if the fish just came off your hook. Next time you’re prepping the daily catch, take a few minutes to sharpen your fillet knife. You’ll be glad you did.

Stan Watson is the technical director for Diamond Machining Technology, manufacturer of a full line of Made in the USA diamond sharpening tools for use in woodworking, camping, fishing, hunting, outdoor and winter sports, culinary arts, gardening, police/security and industrial applications. He is the holder of 11 engineering patents in the sharpening industry. He can be reached at

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