How to Sharpen Knife With Stone? Step by Step Guide
Keeping your kitchen knives sharpened is not only essential for safety but also for results. It prevents from adding the extra strength when cutting, which is super dangerous. But it also prevents you from wasting time in the kitchen with a dull knife.
Best way to fix this? Simple – learn how to sharpen a knife with a stone. Not more than a few minutes to do every week – and that will be enough to get superb results.
You won’t have to worry about a dull yet dangerous knife anymore. And your meats and vegetables will be cut neatly every time.
But you’ll have to learn how to do it correctly – here we’re going to show you that.
What Is a Sharpening Stone?
First and foremost – let’s explain what type of stone we’re talking about.
It is called a sharpening stone, but it’s officially known as “whetstone.” The “whet” refers to “to sharpen a blade,” which gives perfect sense to whetstone for knife-sharpening stone.
Usually, a whetstone is a sturdy fine-grain stone that has enough strength to get rid of small particles of steel in blades. And these particles are generally the dull ones that make a blade less-edgy.
But whetstone can come in different types of shapes, sizes, and even materials. And sure enough, they all offer different results accordingly.
Most offer a grit size, referring to the number of abrasive particles on the surface. The more particles it has, the better the sharpening capacity. Overall, this grit size number can go from 220 up to 4000.
A medium-range sharpening stone has about 1,500 particles. High-end models can go up to 30,000 with fine particles. And the coarser ones are around 300 grit size.
The materials are usually quarried material or man-made materials. For the sizes, you may find some going up to 8 inches in total length, others way bigger, and some way smaller than that. And for shape, most of them are usually squared, but they can be flat, others cylindrical, and so on.
Overall, a whetstone helps to keep the knife sharp. That’s what you need to know.
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Types of Sharpening Stones
Learning about their concept may not be enough – especially with so many options available out there.
Remember that we said that you might find whetstones made of different materials? Well, these materials can differ enormously – so they become different types of sharpening stones altogether.
Here are some of these types, their uses, constructions, and advantages:
First thing you may be thinking: why are they called oil stones?
Well, that’s easy. They need to be oiled before you can use them for sharpening. Yes, a small layer of oil is necessary, so the friction is not too strong, and the blade doesn’t end up over-sharpened. Apart from that, the oil attracts the metal particles that separate from the edge – so it helps to clean as well.
The primary material of oil stones is usually novaculite. That’s a natural material, also called Arkansas Stone, super useful at sharpening with fine-grain construction.
Yet, you may also find artificial types, usually made of silicon carbide or aluminum oxide. These ones are also effective, yet they come with different levels of grit – going from fine to coarse and medium.
Their primary use is kitchen knives, yet you can use them for almost anything. It is essential to know that they are not as fast as other stones, yet their results are excellent and are often cheaper than others.
This type of whetstones, similarly to oil stones, get their name because they need to be soaked before being used. They have small pores in the surface where the water goes into and gets rid of the internal air. Once this happens, the water stone is ready for sharpening a blade.
The soaking process allows the stone to sharpen more effectively and smoothly. Yet, it also delivers a softer surface than oil stones, for example. Usually, the process takes between 2 to 5 minutes. Luckily, some water stones are splash-and-go, so you can sharpen fast.
Most of these blades are made of aluminum oxide. But of course, you may also find them in natural materials that come from Japan, usually more expensive and difficult to find.
The advantage of water stones is how fast they sharpen blades. But this comes at a disadvantage: the material is super soft and often wears down quickly.
But with the chance of sharpening almost anything with one of these, and do it fast at the same time – they’re totally worth considering. A synthetic water stone is usually priced similarly to a fine-grit oil stone.
Even though they are called stones – it actually refers to a metal plate with diamond embedding. So you won’t find natural alternatives of diamond stones – they’re all synthetic.
This type of stone has the sole purpose of increasing the coarse level of the surface. The rougher the surface, the more metal that’s taken from the blade – so they work super effectively.
It is essential to mention that you may find them with different types of diamonds. Sometimes you will discover monocrystalline diamonds. Other models will offer polycrystalline ones. Here, the poly alternative tends to be more effective due to the coarser surface. Yet, monocrystalline tend to last longer.
There are still two types of diamond stones in terms of design: the perforated and the non–perforated. The perforated comes with holes where the diamonds are, that capture metal dust and particles coming off the blades. Non-perforated don’t have this advantage but sharpen up knives faster.
You can find diamonds tones being extra-fine, fine, medium, coarse, and extra-coarse. And they work for practically any type of sharpening – but they’re costly.
How to Sharpen Your Knife with a Whetstone?
It is not enough to learn about whetstones if you don’t know how to use them. The following guides will teach you how to sharpen your knives with one in just 7 steps:
1. Inspect your Knives
Before you start sharpening, it is essential to check your blades beforehand. This will let you know which types of stones you will be better off with.
Here’s a small set of tips to consider:
- Determine how dull the knives are. If they can’t cut through a banana/tomato – then you need something coarse. But if they go through fruit smoothly but struggle with meat – then a medium/fine stone will do.
- Consider the amount of use you give them. If you use the knives every day, they will dull out faster, so you’ll need to sharpen them consistently. You won’t like a stone that wears down quickly.
- Don’t overlook the quality of the knives. The higher the quality (materials, blade type, etc.), the higher the quality of the sharpener you need. If you have a chef-level knife, you won’t like to sharpen it with a cheap artificial oil stone, for example.
This will give you an overall idea of what you need to consider in the next step (the most vital one).
2. Choose the Ideal Stone
There’s probably nothing more important than choosing the right stone. If you don’t pick the ideal one, you may end up with something you either don’t like using or eventually doesn’t work.
- Pick the Right Type
When picking the stones, you will first need to choose the perfect type. As we explained before, you will have oil stones, water stones, and diamond stones.
Here’s a small guide to follow:
- If you want a long-lasting stone for sharpening, then go for an oil stone. Be aware that they are messier to use and often demand a lot of preparation (oiling) before using.
- If you prefer something fast and effective, then a water stone is your way to go. But these wear down fast, so they won’t last too long.
- If you want the best combination between speed and durability – a diamond stone is your best bet. However, they’re super expensive.
All of them work amazingly well. So it all comes down to durability, speed, and price. Choose wisely.
- Get the Right Size and Shape
Getting the perfect type won’t make it an ideal sharpening stone. You will also need to pick something large enough and with the right shape for you.
This is all about comfort when sharpening. If you’re doing so on small knives, then a tiny and flat stone will do the job. But if you need to sharpen large knives as well, then you will need to pick something larger.
For the best experience at first, we recommend whetstones with at least 8 inches in length and 2 inches in width. That will be enough to get most knives sharpened. Yet, you may go for something smaller or larger, depending on your desires.
- Pick the Grit
As we explained before, whetstones have different types of grit. Some grits are coarse (around 350), others are medium (about 1000-3000), and some of them are fine-grit (over 4000 to 30000).
For us, the best thing you can do is pick something with two sides. If you can get a super-coarse side with about 350 grit size and the other with over 1000 – that will be enough.
In case you want to achieve unbeatable sharpening levels, then choose something over 3,000 grit size. That will often deliver top-notch results.
3. Prepare the Stone
Once you’ve picked the ideal stone for your demands, then you need to start preparing it for sharpening.
This depends heavily on what you picked. We usually recommend everyone to follow the instructions of the whetstone they bought.
But you can always proceed this way:
- Soak Water Stones
If you chose a water stone, then you need to soak it in water. This usually takes a few minutes. But you may need to leave it about 45 minutes in some cases.
Make sure no bubbles are coming off the stone after soaking it. Then, check that it is soft enough to not nick, scratch, or over-sharpen your blades.
- Lubricate Oil Stones
For those who picked an oil stone, the process is slightly different.
Instead of soaking the stone in water, here you will need to spray or pour some oil over the stone. The oil should go directly into the stone and spread around. Use your fingers if necessary.
We usually recommend sharpening or honing oil for the best results. Yet, you may use any mineral oil you have around. If it has metal-protecting additives, then that’s even better.
Do not use water on the oil stone or cooking oils. This will cause damage to the stone and prevent it from sharpening correctly.
- Dry or Wet Diamond Stone
In case you’re not using a water stone or an oil stone but a diamond stone, then you need to choose between using it dry or wet.
The difference is that dry diamond stones tend to get stuck with dust. But if you’re not doing too much sharpening, then a dry stone may work – as you won’t get that much dust off anyway.
Otherwise, a wet diamond stone is the best way to go. It gets rid of dust & metal particles faster, so you can sharpen for long without losing effectiveness.
- Place the Stone on a Sturdy Surface
Finish the preparation of the stone by placing it on a cutting board, countertop, or kitchen table – it should be sturdy and reliable.
Then, you can place a washcloth below. Make sure this cloth is damp and has a proper grip on the surface, so it doesn’t move when you’re sharpening. Also, make sure it is an old piece of cloth – as you will probably cover it all in dust and metal particles.
Once you prepare the stone, then you’re almost ready to start.
4. Learn to Hold the Knife
Before you start sharpening, make sure you know how to hold the knife. This is an essential step by itself because it will tell what’s the perfect way to do so without damaging the knife and/or wasting time.
Here are a few tips to consider:
- Grab the knife softly but firmly. It’s not necessary to grab it too tightly, as your hand may end up sliding and cause an accident.
- Focus on the angle over anything else. All knives will let you know the perfect angle – some need to be handled at 20-degrees, others at 90-degrees, and some of them at 45-degrees. Use a protractor to find the right angle.
- Coarse stones usually take more metal from the blade than fine ones. So consider lowering the angle if you’re using a coarse stone.
To learn the right way to hold the knife, you need to go over the instructions or technical data it offers. This will help you grab it safely and effectively to start the sharpening.
5. Sharpening the Knife
Once you learn how to hold the blade, then you can proceed to start sharpening. Here, you will have to follow a few steps.
- Place the Knife in the Stone
When you hold the knife in the start position, it means you have it exactly on top of the stone ready to do some sharpening. Here are a few tips to think about:
- Make sure you’re grabbing it at the right angle and in a safe way before starting. Your fingertips control the pressure when handling, so use them.
- Place the edge of the blade facing away from your body. Ideally, it starts with the bottom part (heel) that’s close to the handle.
- Grab the blade with one hand and the handle with the other. You should grab the blade from the dull part, softly.
This is the start position of the process.
- Sweep the Blade on the Stone
Once you achieve the ideal knife position on the stone according to the knife’s needs, your comfort, and safety – then you’re ready to start sweeping.
Here’s how to do it:
- Start by gliding the blade down. Remember to start from the bottom (heel) of the knife where the blade begins. Then make an arc-like movement to make sure the tip of the blade also sharpens up. Guide the movement with the hand on the blade.
- Use moderate pressure. Do not push the blade too hard on the surface as not to cause damage to the knife. Guide the pressure with the hand on the handle.
- Repeat the sweeping process 10 times at least per side. Then you can turn the knife over and repeat the process on the other side of the blade.
- Be super careful when touching the blade, especially with fingertips. Use a kitchen or protective gloves if possible. This will prevent any potential accident when sharpening.
This is the most critical process when sharpening – so try to do it right.
- Change the Stone Side (Optional)
In case you picked a two-sided whetstone, then you can always use both sides in the process. Once you sharpened the two-blade sides on a coarse stone, then you can use a finer one to give the perfect edge.
- Turn the whetstone over if it is a two-sided model. Otherwise, place the finer stone in the same place the coarse one was.
- Prepare the side as needed. Pour some oil if it is an oil stone. Or pour some water if it is a water stone or diamond stone. Do as you require.
- Start sharpening the knife following the previous steps. Try to be even more careful this time because the edge will be super sharp this time (even more so than before).
- Sharpen up both sides. Try to be precise with the number of sweeps in the fine grit (if you swept one side 5 times, then do the same with the other side).
Now, you should have an already super fine edge on your knife – ready to be used for almost anything.
6. Test the Sharpness
Before you get on to cut some meat or vegetables, verify first.
Wash the knife a little, getting rid of the dust and/or particles on it. Then dry it up with a soft cloth.
To test it, use a slice of paper. That will be enough to know whether it is cutting sharply or not.
When trying to cut the paper, it should go through with no problem. Otherwise, you may need to keep sharpening.
7. Clean and Store
After sharpening the knives, you’ll notice that there’s fine dust on the stones as well as the in the knife’s blade and handle. You should clean it all.
We recommend doing the following:
- Start by brushing the blade and handle off with a paper or cloth towel. Make sure not to cut yourself in the process.
- Then wash the same towel off dust and/or particles. While wet, use it to clean the blade and stone further.
- If the sharpening stone came with specific instructions as to how to clean it – then follow these instructions.
- Once you’ve cleaned the knives up – then you can store them. We recommend dry places with nothing that could damage the edges. Knife blocks, individual-slot drawers, moisture-free hooks, magnetic strips, and knife-guard covers are all worth considering.
- For the stone, you need to place it inside the box and/or inside a dry cloth. Then store it in a dry place as well. A drawer is always an excellent idea.
That’s it – you’ve already sharpened a knife or several ones with ease. This process shouldn’t take more than 30 minutes. In some cases, 15 minutes is more than enough to sharpen up about 10-15 knives at the same time. Do it correctly, and you won’t be disappointed.
General Knife Sharpening Tips
Before you start sharpening your knives with a whetstone, we recommend following general advice. This will help you sharpen up any blade you have safely and effectively at all times.
So, here you have some general tips to sharpen knives with a stone like a pro:
- When sharpening, always do so in the same direction. Once you start from bottom-to-top or vice versa, then you need to stick with it. Do the same movement with both sides of the blades.
- Never test the edge of a knife with skin and/or metal objects. You may end up damaging yourself or irreversibly dulling out the knife.
- Only sharpen metal knives (carbide, carbon, steel, aluminum, titanium, etc.). Ceramic knives are too fragile to be sharpened, so you may end up breaking/dulling them forever.
- Always remember that instead of spending time and money doing it yourself, you can always hire a professional. These expert sharpeners will do a better job than you and also prevent the accidents and/or mistakes beginners often fall into.
- After sharpening the knife, there’s nothing more important than keeping the edge for long. So treat it with care and ensure it is always safeguarded from moisture and damaging objects.
Follow all these tips, and you won’t have any problem sharpening your knives. Don’t ever forget your safety is always the most important thing.
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Start Sharpening Your Knife With Stone Now!
So, did you learn how to sharpen a knife with a stone? As you see, it is not as difficult as it seems; you just need to be always careful.
Once you start doing it yourself, you won’t like using a dull knife anymore. So I’m sure you’ll never regret starting.
What are you waiting for then? Get the perfect edge in your knives and start cutting like a professional chef. Come back to the guide for the best results. So don’t waste more of your time and start now!