While these may scare amateur cooks, whetstones, also known as waterstones, are the best way for you to sharpen your knives.
Professional chefs often turn to whetstones when they sharpen their knives. Sharpening stones give you a razor-sharp edge, without removing too much material from the knife.
Besides being efficient, whetstones will keep the edge sharper for longer. It’ll take a bit of practice before you get the hang of them, though. Once you do, you will be surprised how easily and quickly you can sharpen your knife.
Whetstones aren’t all made naturally or from stones and minerals. There are two types of whetstones or sharpening stones – natural or synthetic stones. The first is usually made by quartz, such as novaculite. The latter is often made of bonded ceramic, corundum, among other materials.
While it’s true that the ancient Romans used naturally occurring stones to sharpen their weapons and tools, things have progressed, and now even professionals find artificial whetting stones equally efficient. I personally find synthetic stones more reliable in giving me quick and consistent results.
Although, natural whetstones have become a novelty for their beauty and rarity, so you can also consider it a collector’s item. If you’re new to knife sharpening, I recommend going for a synthetic one as these are much easier to work with.
Coarse stones that are less than 1,000 grit are for repairing chipped and damaged knives. Finishing stones range from 40,00 to 8,000 grit.
For regular polishing, 4,000 to 5,000 grit stones are more than enough. But if you’re slicing fruit and vegetables, or filleting fish, then the 8,000 comes into play. It’ll make your knife delicate - too delicate to force its way through red meat, actually - so don’t overdo it.
If you’re chopping away every day, pull out this medium stone about once a month. If you aren't often in the kitchen, then sharpen your knife once every three.
Let’s talk grit, as this is crucial to the result of your sharpening endeavor. It all boils down to what state your knife is in. If you have a damaged or blunt blade, go for 200-1,000 grit.
The value often refers to JIS (Japanese Industrial Standards) as many sharpening stones still come from Japan. If you need to sharpen for cutting meat, then a 4,000 JIS stone is advised. Lastly, an 8,000 JIS stone is for filleting fish and cutting fruits or vegetables.
I don’t recommend having multiple sharpening stones unless you’re a professional with multiple delicate knives. The bare minimum is 300 and 1,000 grit. You can also find stones with double grit on each side for extra convenience.
Besides whetstones, which are a little harder to use, pull-through or electric sharpeners that are more friendly for beginners are also an option. They tend to be more convenient and adjustable, too.
Also, it’s light and compact, so it’ll easily fit into your kitchen drawers. However, there are some sharpeners that aren’t suitable for single-edged blades, so make sure your sharpener is compatible with your knife.
Regularly realigning the blade will help maintain it, so not only do your slices slide like butter, but you also don’t need to pull out your sharpener as much. These are usually made of metal, and you can also find some that have been coated in diamond or ceramic.
There is often a misconception that the sharpening rod is for sharpening because you see someone use it right before cutting something like turkey. However, you should treat this tool as a quick fix. You cannot use this as a substitute for sharpening but for honing.
Whenever you feel resistance as you slice, that means your blade isn’t as aligned as before. A sharpening rod will put all of the microscopic parts of the blade’s edge back together like a nice haircut. When you don’t feel improvements after sanding, it’s time to sharpen.
So before purchasing, you need to consider some additional factors, such as the type of knife (European or Japanese), the type of blade (single-edged or double-edged), material (stainless steel, carbon steel, or ceramic), the shape of the blade (straight, curved, and so on), and the angle of the blade.
Note that European knives use a 20-degree angle and Asian knives use a 17-degree angle. You'll have to look at this when purchasing a sharpener, but electric ones that can adjust are the easier choice. Serrated blades don't work with all sharpeners either, so make sure to check the product descriptions.
My Japanese father-in-law, a chef of 40 years, passed down one of his treasured knives to our family. It was a beautiful double-edged hand-crafted chef’s knife that required careful sharpening. It had about 60 HRC or degrees Rockwell C (the hardness level of a knife). Due to its relatively high HRC, we needed a higher grit to match.
If you have a knife ranging from 52 to 56, a sharpening stone of up to 800 grit will do. Medium hardness between 53 and 59 will require about 1,000 to 3,000 grit. High hardness knives, 60 HRC and above, will need grit from 3,000 to 8,000.
Knowing the HRC of your existing knife allows you to pair it with the correct grit because using a 3,000 grit stone on 52 HRC will do nothing.
*Please note that these products were chosen after extensive research by mybest writers. The choices are not necessarily affiliated with or recommended by Danilo Specchiulli.
Pronto Pro Sharpener
Premium Knife Sharpening Stone
290 Angle Select Hybrid Sharpener
4-Stage Manual Knife Sharpener
Stainless Steel Sharpening Steel
Electric Knife Sharpener
2 Stage Sharpener
Electric Knife Sharpener
Sharpening Stone 3000/8000 Grit
Simple, Accessible, and Keeps Knives in Tiptop Shape
A Beginner-Friendly Way to Get a Professional Edge
An Electric and Manual Hybrid Machine
A Handy Sharpener That Works for Both Western- and Asian-Style Knives
Touch Up Your Knife's Edge With a Reliable Steel
Quick, Easy, and Versatile Machine for Japanese-Style Knives
Very Light, Compact Design for Easy Storage
Diamond Sharpening Steel to Keep Blade Edges Aligned
A Simple, Wallet Friendly Electric Knife Sharpener
Perfect Stone for a Mirror-Like Finish
|Material||Plastic, diamond||Aluminium oxide, bamboo base||Stainless steel, diamond||Stainless steel, diamond||Stainless steel||Diamond||Carbide||Diamond||Iron, plastic||Ceramic, aluminum oxide|
|Type||Pull-through||Whetstone||Pull-through, electric hybrid||Pull-through||Sharpening steel||Electric||Pull-through||Sharpening steel||Electric||Whetstone|
|Knives||Straight edge, serrated knives, sports and pocket knives||All blades||European/American 20-degree knives, Asian-style 15-degree knives, straight and serrated blades, sport and pocket knives||Standard knives, Asian-style knives||Any non-serrated, non-ceramic knife||Non-ceramic, Straight and serrated knives||Straight edge blades, serrated edge blades||Steel||Straight-edge knives|
|Knives||Straight edge, serrated knives, sports and pocket knives|
|Material||Aluminium oxide, bamboo base|
|Material||Stainless steel, diamond|
|Type||Pull-through, electric hybrid|
|Knives||European/American 20-degree knives, Asian-style 15-degree knives, straight and serrated blades, sport and pocket knives|
|Material||Stainless steel, diamond|
|Knives||Standard knives, Asian-style knives|
|Knives||Any non-serrated, non-ceramic knife|
|Knives||Non-ceramic, Straight and serrated knives|
|Knives||Straight edge blades, serrated edge blades|
|Material||Ceramic, aluminum oxide|
Danilo says, "If you’re new to sharpening using a whetstone, keep in mind that it’s all about the angle. Put the blade - sharp side inwards - at a 90 degree on the stone. Then, half this to get 45 degrees. Tilt once more in half to get about 20 degrees for European knives and a bit more to 17 degrees for Japanese knives.
I recommend choosing a sharpening stone with a surface area close to your blade's size and length. This way, with every swipe, you get a more even finish."
Not all knives are equal. Some are better suited for cutting bread, some for fish, and some for spreading jam. If you're looking for more specific types of blades, check out our other articles below.
This expert reviewed the contents of the buying guide for accuracy and provided factual corrections when necessary. They did not participate in the product selection process, nor are they affiliated with any of our choices unless explicitly stated so.
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