How to Sharpen a Knife with a Whetstone (or Sharpening Stone or Waterstone)

How to Sharpen a Knife with a Whetstone (or Sharpening Stone or Waterstone)

If you're like most people, you’ll probably want to use a whetstone to sharpen and care for your knives. But how do you use one? Here's some information on what a whetstone is and how to use a whetstone the right way.


A whetstone is a sharpening tool that is made of different types of materials: a coarse grit on one side and a fine grit on the other. The coarse grit is used to sharpen the blade, while the fine grit is used to polish the blade. Stones come in a range of grits depending on how coarse they are. The lower the grit, the coarser the stone. The higher the grit, the finer the stone. Keep the following grit grades in mind when determining which stone to use when sharpening your knife:


      • Under 1000: These coarse stones should only be used to sharpen damaged knives with chipped or nicked edges.


      • 1000 to 3000: Stones of moderate coarseness can be used for general knife sharpening. Any stone you use to regularly sharpen a blade should be at least 2000 grit.


      • 4000 to 8000: Very fine stones are reserved for refining or “finishing” the edge of a blade.


Once you’ve chosen the right grit for your needs, you can begin sharpening. Be sure to place the whetstone on a chopping block or flat surface. Individual methods may vary, but you can follow these general steps with a stone:


  1. Before using a whetstone, it is important to soak the stone in water for at least five minutes. This will help create air bubbles that will make the sharpening process easier. The stone has absorbed the optimum amount of water when no air bubbles appear. Some coarser grits could soak for up to 15 to 20 minutes. Applying water while sharpening, allows the combining of small particles released from the stone to form an abrasive substance, allowing sharpening to take place.


  1. Placing the stone on a slip-resistant base such as the center of a kitchen towel. Start using the correct grit of the stone based on the current state of your knife. Keep a container of water nearby to keep your stone constantly moistened during the sharpening process.


  1. Maintaining an angle of 15-20 degrees, move the blade back and forth - towards and away from the body, across the entire stone using light pressure. (You can place two fingers at the tip to help you hold your knife at a 15 to 20-degree angle but please exercise caution as always when handling knives.)


  1. Starting at the tip, pull the blade over the stone through to the middle and down the base of the blade. After a short time, a fine edge will have developed.


  1. Turn the knife over and repeat this process several times as necessary. Be sure to switch sides often so that both sides of the blade are equally sharpened.


  1. Test the sharpness of the blade by slicing a piece of paper. If the knife isn’t sharp enough, continue sharpening the blade by repeating the above steps.


  1. To finish, pull the blade twice at an angle to the cutting edge to remove the last burrs. Your knife should now be really sharp.


  1. Clean your knife and whetstone, then store them properly so they don’t dull too quickly.



Did you follow all the steps and now can slice a ripe tomato thin enough to read through it? Yes? Then you're done! 


It takes practice to be able to use a whetstone properly and you should follow a tutorial (like the one above) when learning how to use a whetstone, or you might end up damaging your knives. However, if you want to take knife care seriously it's well worth investing in a whetstone setup.


And finally, remember to hone your knife on a steel every time you use it. While this process won't actually take any material off the blade, it will help keep the blade aligned, making slicing and dicing much easier.

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