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How to Sharpen A Knife With A Whetstone: A Comprehensive Guide

by Tristan Lauder 23 Aug 2023

When it comes to the art of cooking, having a well-sharpened knife is essential for precision and efficiency in the kitchen. A sharp knife is also much safer than a dull one, protecting your most important cooking assets, your fingers! In this comprehensive guide, we will walk you through the steps of how to sharpen a knife with a whetstone, ensuring that your culinary tools are in top-notch condition for every meal preparation.

Understanding the Basics of Knife Sharpening

The Importance of Proper Knife Maintenance

Maintaining the sharpness of your knives is a fundamental aspect of culinary expertise. A dull knife not only hampers your ability to execute precise cuts but also increases the risk of accidents. Regular sharpening not only enhances the performance of your knives but also prolongs their lifespan. Saving you money in the long run, and preventing accidents in the kitchen! 

The Whetstone Advantage

A whetstone, also known as a sharpening stone, is a versatile tool used to sharpen knives and other cutting implements. It offers a level of control and precision that other sharpening methods may lack. The two-sided nature of a whetstone, with varying levels of grit, allows you to achieve both a coarse edge for initial sharpening and a finer edge for polishing. If you are unsure what type of whetstone to get, we recommend Shapton Sharpening Stones, which are affordable,easy to use and don’t require prolonged water submersion before sharpening! 

Knife Sharpening Vs Knife Honing

While these are often confused they are quite different, but equally necessary. Honing straightens the blade's edge to maintain sharpness using a honing rod, while sharpening involves removing metal to create a new edge when the blade is dull, typically done with sharpening stones.

knife honing

Step-by-Step Guide to Sharpening with a Whetstone

What You'll Need for Sharpening

Before diving into the sharpening process, gather the following tools:
 

  1. A double-sided whetstone (with coarse and fine grit)
  2. A container of water for soaking the whetstone
  3. A damp cloth or paper towel
  4. Your dull knife


 

Preparing the Whetstone

orange knife sharpening whetstone

Step 1. Soak the Whetstone: Every whetstone is different and they often come with manufacturer recommendations on how to prepare the whetstone, the following is a general guide but please refer to the manufacturers instructions. Place the whetstone in a container of water and let it soak for about 10-15 minutes. This ensures that the stone is properly saturated and ready for sharpening. If you are using Shapton Whetstones, they only need to be soaked a single time before being used, submerge the stone for around 5 minutes before using.


 

Step 2. Secure the Whetstone: Place the whetstone on a stable surface, ensuring it won't move around during sharpening. You can use a rubberized base or a damp cloth to prevent slippage.

The Sharpening Process

Step 3. Setting the Angle: Hold your knife at a consistent angle against the whetstone. For most knives, a 20-degree angle is recommended. This angle ensures a balanced edge while maintaining the blade's integrity.

Step 4. Starting with Coarse Grit: Begin with the coarse side of the whetstone. Using light pressure, glide the knife across the stone in a sweeping motion. Maintain a steady angle and repeat this process several times on each side of the blade.

Step 5. Checking The Burrs: After a few passes, you may notice a slight burr along the edge. This indicates that the blade is being properly sharpened. To check for burrs, lightly run your finger over the edge in a perpendicular motion.

Step 6. Switching to Fine Grit: Once a burr has formed, flip the whetstone to the fine grit side. Repeat the same sweeping motion on each side of the blade, gradually refining the edge and removing any remaining burrs.

Step 7. Testing the Sharpness: To test the sharpness, carefully slice through a piece of paper or a tomato. A well-sharpened knife should glide effortlessly through the material

Step 8. Honing the Blade: After sharpening, use a honing rod to realign the blade's edge. Hold the rod vertically and run the knife down its length, alternating sides.

Cleaning and Maintenance

Step 9. Wipe the Knife Clean: Use a damp cloth or paper towel to wipe off any metal shavings or residue from the sharpening process.


 

Step 10. Clean the Whetstone: Rinse the whetstone thoroughly and allow it to air dry before storing it.


 

If you are a visual learner and would like to watch a video, here are some of our favourite youtubers! 

Conclusion: Whetstone sharpening

Congratulations, you've mastered the art of sharpening a knife with a whetstone! Regular practice of this technique will ensure that your knives remain sharp, making your culinary experiences more enjoyable and efficient. Remember, a well-sharpened knife is a chef's best friend in the kitchen. Enjoy the precision and control that a sharp knife brings to your culinary endeavours!


 

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