If you’ve never sharpened a blade and you’re unsure how to use a whetstone, we’ll make it easy for you. It’s nothing to be nervous about and will extend the life of your knife! Today, we’re going to go over exactly how to use a whetstone, what the advantages are and some common mistakes to avoid.
Are a whetstone and a water stone the same thing? Do you have to soak all sharpening stones before use? We’ll cover these, along with frequently asked questions and helpful tips and tricks.
Why Use A Whetstone
In order to get the best performance and most longevity out of your knife, you’ll want to adhere to certain maintenance practices. And a big part of that maintenance is regularly sharpening your knife.
Regardless of what kind of steel your blades are, all steel eventually gets dull with use. If you want to keep your knives functional and in optional condition, you can adopt the habit of sharpening. A whetstone is probably the most popular way to do this.
Types Of Stones
Among sharpening stones, there are several variations to choose from. Below, we take a look at the most common types of stones. While people sometimes confuse a whetstone with a water stone, or wet stone, a whetstone does not need to be wet. A water stone is a type of sharpening stone that does need to be lubricated, as you’ll see below.
Oil stones are one of the most common in terms of sharpening knife blades. Although there are different kinds of oil stones, these were traditionally made from quartz. But the oil stones that are the fastest are made from silicon carbide. Among oil stones, you can find coarse, medium, and fine versions.
Water stones, or wet stones, are the stones that need to be soaked before use. Generally, 5 minutes will be enough. You can soak as long as 10 minutes for a coarser stone. These types of stones are synthetic and softer than oil stones. They are also tremendously popular for at-home knife-sharpening.
As the name suggests, diamond stones are generally considered to be the most high-end, high-quality sharpening stones. They are appreciated for quick, precise sharpening. The can be used either with lubricant or dry. Although they require a bit of a financial investment, these stones will last longer than the others.
High And Low Grit
Among those stones listed above, another variation is the range of grits. The grain/grit might be course, medium or fine. Small grit means a coarser stone. The different uses are typically as follows:
- 4000-8000 grit are used to refine your blade’s edge
- 1000-3000 grit are used to sharpen knives that are more dull
- Less than 1000 are used for repairing a chipped knife edge
How To Use A Whetstone
Though there are different kinds of stones, using them is pretty much the same across the board. You’ll start with a dry or lubricated stone, depending on which kind you have. Then:
- Make sure your stone is secure on the counter (damp paper towels work well)
- Face knife away from you
- Place the handle end on the whetstone (15-20 degree angle)
- Put your other hand in the middle of the flat side of the blade
- Holding the blade at that angle, draw it down the stone in a circular motion
- Repeat as necessary
- Flip knife and repeat the process
As with any technique, knife-sharpening takes a little practice. Here are a few common mistakes to avoid when using a whetstone:
- Not securing your stone properly
- Learning on a very dull blade (start with a knife that’s somewhat sharp)
- Using too steep an angle
- Learning on a very cheap knife (try a decent knife, but not your favorite)
- Believing you’ve bought a knife that “never needs sharpening”
Tips And Tricks
In addition to using your whetstone properly, here are some more tips and tricks:
- Rubber shelf liner works great to keep your stone in place
- Many manufacturers will specify sharpening angles in their manuals
- Start with the coarse side of the stone
- You can cut some paper to check your knife’s sharpness
- Use gloves
- Try to maintain the same pressure and angle the whole time
- Always keep your whetstone in a clean, dry place
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s)
Yes. A whetstone is not necessarily a wet stone. The word “whet” means to sharpen. While some whetstones are used wet, not all are. Just take a look at which kind of stone you’ve purchased and follow the accompanying instructions carefully.
A certain type of whetstone, called a water stone (confusing – we know) does need to be soaked.
If you have a wet stone, or water stone, it needs to be soaked 5-10 minutes before you sharpen your blade.
It depends on the grit, but you’re probable good using your whetstone once per month to sharpen your knife. To keep it in good condition between sharpenings, you can use a a ceramic sharpening rod between uses.
Regardless of how much you spend, a whetstone is a great investment. Knife maintenance, including regular sharpening, will keep your blades in great shape. Now that you know how to use a whetstone, it’s a good idea to start on a knife that’s not that important while you get the hang of it. Once you’re comfortable with the process, you can move on to your favorite blades!
David Clarke is one of the most active authors for KnivesExpert. He has been working as a professional chef for 8 years now. In his spare time he is always looking for new tastes which he can use in his restaurant. David is also a real knife enthousiast and he only wants to use the best of the best. The search for the best knife resulted in the start of Knivesexpert!