How to Sharpen a Fillet Knife

by Véronique Raymond
fillet knive shredding fish

No angler can deny that the fish course is always mouth-watering and makes you savour each bite until you nearly choke on a fishbone. It evokes fear and puts a damper on an otherwise wonderful experience.

For that reason, preparing fish with a good knife and proper deboning are necessary for safe and comfortable consumption. Here’s where a sharp fillet knife comes into play.

Chefs and those handling fish regularly must learn how to sharpen a fillet knife the right way. In this guide, we’ll walk you through the steps of getting the job done like a pro and cutting fillets with more precision.

How to Sharpen a Fillet Knife Using an Electric Knife Sharpener

It’s the easiest way to sharpen your fillet knife. Most electric sharpeners have two stages of sharpening, one for careful honing and the other for eliminating steel from the edge. Regardless of the model you opt for, the principle of sharpening a fillet knife is constant.  To get started:

  • Pass the edge of your knife through the thin slot of the sharpener until you acquire the desired sharpness
  • The honing stage comes in handy for the sole purpose of restoring the edge of your knife before it gets dull
  • As a preventative measure, hone the knife after each use. By doing so, you’ll be ready to slice away when you pull it from the block.

Knife Sharpening Using a Sharpening Stone

If you’re looking for more control when sharpening your knives than using an electric sharpener then a sharpening stone is right up your alley. If you’ve invested in high-end kitchen knives, buying a diamond stone or whetstone and getting acquainted with this archaic sharpening method is advisable. Nevertheless, the caveat is that you should test it out on cheaper knives because sharpening in the wrong direction can ruin the edge entirely.

Additionally, a fillet knife has an overly thin blade that can cause an extra sharp edge which means you should tread carefully when sharpening your tool. To get started:

  • Slice the cutting edge of the fillet knife over the stone in a way that mimics slicing butter
  • Position the back end of the knife above the stone for easy forward motions and to ensure the fillet knife blades become sharp
  • You can use a coin to position your knife at a 90-degree right angle
  • With your fingers above the knife, slowly slide the blade over the stone while ensuring you don’t sustain an injury
  • Repeat the process with each side until your knife is as sharp as you need it.

How to Sharpen a Knife Using the Accusharp

Picture the scenario of fishermen needing to sharpen their fillet knives while out on their boats. Using a whetstone or electric sharpener would be impractical. Here’s where the Accusharp comes into play. It’s an easy and fast way to sharpen your knives when you’re on the move and restore the knife’s edge to your preference. To get started:

  • Put your fillet knife on a flat workspace with the blade facing upwards
  • Position the V-shaped part of the Accusharp on the knife and slide it over the blade
  • Repeat the process until you achieve the desired sharpness.

How to Sharpen a Fillet Knife Using a Sharpening Rod

Once you sharpen your knife, you can use round metal steel to hone the edge by sliding it over the material. Do so at the same angle as using a whetstone. Furthermore, you may need to slide the knife in the direction facing away from you to avoid the risk of sustaining an injury.

You have free rein to use a filing tool with threads that allow you to sharpen your dull knife over them. A sharpening rod is a handy tool that’s most useful when your blade just requires a quick touch-up after slicing a boatload of fillets.

The Do’s When Knife Sharpening

  • Keep your knives as dry and clean as you can
  • Always slice your fillet on a wooden chopping board as it preserves the edge of your knife blade. The glass or steel counterparts dull the edge faster and may damage the blade prematurely
  • A Japanese whetstone is the most suitable way to achieve optimal sharpness
  • Although it may take some getting used to, especially if you’re a beginner, maintain a consistent angle with each stroke coupled with a low angle
  • Always complete the sharpening process on a fine grit stone to polish the edge and get a razor-sharp blade. Once you do so, use a leather strop to hone your knife blade and achieve the finest edge
  • Strop and polish your fillet knife regularly to maintain the edge each time you sharpen the blade.

The Don’ts When Sharpening Fillet Knives

  • Avoid passing your blade through a knife system. Doing so will unevenly chew up the edge, scratch the face of the blade, and won’t result in a sharp knife
  • Don’t sharpen your fillet knife using a belt grinder, as it’ll heat the blade and alter its molecular structure. Heat will soften the steel, and as a result, your knife won’t hold an edge for as long as it should. Additionally, the blade won’t be optimally sharp
  • When you hone a knife on a steel rod avoid slamming it as it’s an instrument that should maintain the edge of softer steel rather than a percussion tool. It’s also worth noting that you should use long and uniform strokes and a consistent angle. For sturdier steel, we recommend honing the edge of your fillet knife on a leather strop
  • Avoid hacking, chopping, or slicing foods with knives not designed to be used in that capacity. That means you should use a fillet knife solely for fish. The incorrect use of a knife which includes using it in place of a can opener or screwdriver can damage the overall structure.


Armed with insight into the different methods of how to sharpen a fillet knife, you can choose the one that works best for you, after which you can slice through your foods safely and efficiently.


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