A Knife Lover's Guide: How to Sharpen a Knife With a Whetstone

May 19, 2022

There's nothing quite like the satisfaction of using a sharp knife. Slicing and dicing are much easier—and safer—with a well-sharpened blade. But how exactly do you get your knives nice and sharp?

Using a whetstone is a good option. Whetstones are great for giving your knives a sharp, precise edge. You can find and purchase these sharpening knives in most hardware stores and online shops. 

So how do you go about this rather meticulous process? In this guide, we'll walk you through how to sharpen a knife with a whetstone in a way that is easy to follow and understand. This is to prepare you for any kitchen task. Let's get started!

The Importance of Sharpening Your Knives

Why is it important to sharpen your knives? For one, sharper knives are safer. A dull knife will make you more susceptible to injury because it is more likely to slip in your hands. Second, sharpening your knives will make them last longer. Third, when you use a blunt knife, you're more likely to put pressure on the blade, which can damage or break it over time. Finally, sharp knives simply work better and make prep work easier and faster.

So, how frequently should you sharpen your knives? If you're using your knives daily, you'll want to sharpen them every two weeks. If you don't frequently use them, though, once a month should suffice.

What is a Whetstone?

Sharpening stones, also known as whetstones, are flat, rectangular stones used to grind and sharpen the edges of steel tools and utensils such as knives, scissors, scythes, razors, even chisels, scrapers, and plane blades. Aluminum oxide or silicon carbide is the most used material in manufacturing whetstones.

Types of Whetstone

Choosing the correct whetstone for your needs is critical when using one. Whetstones have two main types: oil stones and water stones. Oil stones are best for sharpening coarse blades, while water stones are better for delicate blades. You can use either type of whetstone, depending on your needs and preferences.

Oil Stones

Oil stones are made from silicon carbide, oftentimes aluminum oxide, and soaked in oil. The oil helps to lubricate the sharpening stone and prevents the metal filings from clogging the stone.

Water Stones

Water stones have finer surfaces that don't require to be soaked in oil, but as the name suggests, you must soak them in water before use. This is often used for Japanese knives like the Santoku.

How to Use a Whetstone to Sharpen a Knife

Knife on a whetstone

Now that you know more about whetstones, let's see the steps to properly use them:

Step one: Choose your whetstone

As mentioned earlier, there are two main types of whetstones—oil stones and water stones. The first step is choosing the proper whetstone for your knife. Consult a professional if you're doubtful about which type of stone to use. After you've chosen the right stone, it's time to get started!

Step two: Soak your whetstone

If you're using an oil stone, skip this step. Before using a water stone, soak it in water for around 15 minutes. This will help to lubricate the stone's surface.

Step three: Place your whetstone on a non-slip surface

You don't want your whetstone moving around while you're trying to sharpen your knife, so make sure to place it on a non-slip surface like a cutting board or countertop.

Step four: Make a 20-degree angle with your knife

Place your knife blade on the whetstone at a 20° angle. If you're unsure how to do this, hold the knife's blade against the stone and visualize a line running from the top of the blade down to the tip. The angle should be about halfway between those two points.

Step five: Sharpen the blade on one side

Using even, consistent pressure, move the blade back and forth across the whetstone until you've sharpened one side of the blade. Remember to keep that 20-degree angle!

Step six: Turn over your knife and repeat

The next step is to polish up the other side of your blade. Turn your knife over so that the other side is facing down on the whetstone. Repeat steps four and five until both sides of your blade are sharpened.

Step seven: Test your knife

Once you've sharpened both sides of your blade, it's time to test it out! Cut into a piece of paper or fabric to see how well your knife is now cutting.

There you have it, seven easy steps on how to sharpen a knife with whetstone! With a little honing, you'll be slicing and dicing like a master chef. So now that you know all about whetstones, go forth and sharpen those knives! But don't forget to show your stones some love, too—they deserve it.

How to Care for Your Whetstone

We care for our knives and make sure that they are always surgically precise, but we shouldn't forget to show some love to the stones that make this possible.

Whetstones, like knives, require regular maintenance to perform at their optimum. So here are a few tips on how to keep your whetstone in tip-top shape:

  • After each use, rinse the stone with clean water and allow it to air dry.
  • If you're using an oil stone, make sure to clean it with mineral oil after each use.
  • If you're using a water stone, soak it in water for 15 minutes before each use and then rinse it with clean water afterward.
  • Never store your knife and whetstone together, as the moisture from the stone can rust your knife.
  • Cover your whetstone with a cloth when not in use to protect it from grime, dust, and debris.
  • If the stone starts to crack or break, don't hesitate to throw it in the trash and replace it with a new one.

With these simple tips, you can ensure that your whetstone will last for years, just like your knives!

Whetstones vs. Electric Sharpeners

If you're still not sure whether a whetstone or an electric sharpener is the right choice for you, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Whetstones require more effort, labor, and time than electric sharpeners.
  • Electric sharpeners are more convenient because you don't have to soak them before use.
  • Whetstones create a sharper knife edge.
  • Electric sharpeners are better for people who are new to sharpening knives.

Final Thoughts

Now that you know the different types of whetstones and how to sharpen a knife with one, it's time to put your skills to the test! Cooking is more fun when you're using sharp knives—trust us, you'll notice a difference.

Sharpening a knife with a whetstone is not as complicated as it might seem. Just choose the right sharpener for you, and be sure to follow these steps carefully, and you'll have a sharp knife in no time!

We hope this article was helpful and if you want more reads like this, be sure to explore our blogs and learn more about knives and sharpeners!

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