The thumbnail test (not recommended for novices) - With this test you take your newly sharpened blade and run it oh-so-delicately over your thumbnail. If you feel it digging in even a tiny bit, it’s likely sharp enough. If on the other hand it just slips and slides across the surface of your nail it’s not sharp yet. Again, this test is only recommended for people with lots of experience handling knives and even then they’d probably be better off just grabbing a tomato or a piece of paper.

I am just starting out sharpening with whet stones. I have found these stones to be very nice and the instructional videos that come along with the set on knifeplanet are extremely helpful to anyone starting out. The cost of the set was very reasonable and seems to be a great value. The customer service is amazing, I lost the site for the videos and sent an email to get the information and immediately there was a reply with all of the links that I needed. I appreciate their attention to their customers!!
To summarize, Shapton Glass 500, 1,000 and 2,000 is a good combination and if you would like to throw in the 4,000 grit stone in lieu of the 2,000 that is good as well. If your knives are very hard, ZDP 189 for example, this is a fantastic choice. (They are also excellent for tools, chisels etc. and they are the premier choice for many Straight Razor honers).
The basic concept of sharpening is simple – you're using an abrasive edge to remove metal – but the knife you buy may alter the method you should use. A general rule of thumb is that a waterstone can be used for both Japanese- and Western-style blades, but you should avoid pull-through sharpeners for Japanese knives (or any knife with very brittle blades).
Medium Grit Stones: The number range here is from 1000 to 3000, with the latter being the basic, go-to sharpening stone. If your knives have lost their edge and need a good sharpen, then this is the grit you should start with. Don’t use it too often or the knife wears down rapidly. If you like to sharpen regularly, then the 2000 and 3000 grit are the ideal choice as they are less coarse, but please remember they are designed for sharpening and not maintaining the edge.

Whichever method you choose, be it a waterstone (also known as a whetstone), or a pull-through (either V-shaped or ceramic wheels) it's important to regularly hone your knife with a honing steel, which we'll also cover below. You'll be pleased to hear that you won't have to reach for the stones too regularly – once every two or three months should suffice. 
Aluminum-Oxide oil stones are very popular man-made sharpening stones produced by an abrasives company called Norton and which are commonly called India Stones. Generally less expensive than Arkansas stones (aka Novaculite), these stones are graded coarse, medium, and fine and are designed for fast cutting. Yet, when the fine grit is used, they can also produce a relatively fine edge. Also, because India Oil Stones are both softer and coarser than Arkansas Stones, they are commonly used in conjunction with Novaculite to cut the initial edge bevels or, repair extremely dull or damaged edges before refining and polishing the bevel with an Arkansas Stone.
It is better to understand the difference in sharpening stone materials before you are going to make any decision. Among the available options in the market today, Waterstone, oilstone and diamond stone are the most common type of sharpening stone. Each of stones comes with advantages and disadvantages. Waterstone and oilstone are available in natural and synthetic models. Synthetic are the most common and easy to find as man makes them. As the use of natural stones (e.g. original Arkansas or Japanese natural whetstones) is has diminished in popularity, they are beginning to rare in the market. Artificial stones have a more consistent particle size and controlled with a tight mechanism in providing high-quality sharpening stone.
This set of two Norton combination waterstones provides four grits and also includes a flattening stone as an added value. The 220, 1000, 4000 and 8000 grit sides will handle everything from aggressive shaping to final polishing. They are 8" long by 3" wide, big enough to handle most knives and tools easily. Our most popular waterstone kit, this has everything you need to both sharpen with waterstones and maintain the stones themselves. A great starter set.
Furthermore, Novaculite consists of several different layers of stone of different densities, grit sizes, and colors. Thus, the red Novaculite layer (aka Washita Stone) is the both the softest and most coarse while, the next most coarse/hard grade is the grey/white Soft Arkansas stone; both of which cut relatively fast for a hard whetstone material and thus, they are an excellent choice for refining a bevel. Then, the next grade of coarseness/hardness is the hard Arkansas stone which is used to polish the bevel rather than define it and, last there are the grades of Hard Black and Hard Translucent Arkansas stones which are used for extremely fine honing and polishing of a cutting edge. Plus, it’s also the primary material in “Charnley Forest” (English) and “Turkey” oilstones.

Water stones can also be made out of natural or synthetic materials and they are fast becoming the most popular type of whetstone as they only require the use of water to lubricate the stone. They are not as messy to work with as an oil stone and deliver fast sharpening results but for even better results, soak the stone in water for 5 or 10 minutes.
To use Al's method, take a black felt pen and shade in the bevel of the knife. Then take two strokes on the stone and examine the edge. If you have maintained the proper angle then all the black will be gone. If you see black on the top of the edge it means you are holding the back of the knife too far from the stone. If there is black on the bottom of the edge but the top is clean then you are laying the knife too flat on the stone and you need to raise it a bit. Repaint the edge and try it again. Once you discover what the right angle looks like then just maintain that.
The double sided 400 and 1000-grit Water Stone Sharpening Block by Whetstone enables you to safely and easily sharpen and polish your kitchen cutlery, hunting or pocket knives, blades and razors. You can even use it for your gardening tools! This stone only requires water, no oil needed! Made with durable green silicon carbide, this honing tool will last for years to come.
Like all DMT® products, DMT sharpening stones are proudly made in the USA and will produce excellent, consistent results time after time, year after year. DMT's diamond sharpening stones feature the most diamond per square inch in the industry and a proprietary process that ensures near-perfect consistency in grit size, engineered to be the flattest sharpeners on the market. Simply put, DMT’s premium sharpening stones are best-in-class products with undeniable long-lasting value.

When a whetstone is used to cut metal, it acts like sandpaper by removing small particles of metal (aka “swarf”) with each pass of the blade over the stone. Therefore, whetstones with more coarse grits cut faster than those with finer grits and, at the same time, soft whetstones cut faster than hard whetstones because each pass of the blade over both types of whetstones not only removes fine particles of metal from the blade, it also removes fine particles from the surface of the whetstone (aka “slurry”) which continuously exposes new cutting crystals. However, if the swarf is allowed to build up on the surface of the whetstone during sharpening, it will clog the stone and drastically diminish its effectiveness. Therefore, some whetstones require water to lubricate the stone and suspend the swarf whereas, other whetstones require oil to lubricate the stone and suspend the swarf.
In terms of feedback, in the eyes, and in the hands of many sharpeners, the feedback on this particular brand of stones is not to their liking and often it is enough to stop them from using them. These are thinner than other stones as well so you may get the impression that you are not getting your moneys worth. They are very hard stones, there is no soft, creamy sensation as you sharpen, there is not much feedback at all in fact.
You need to adjust your fingers as you move the knife back and forth. Because sharpening takes place under your fingers, start with them at the tip and, as you pull the knife back toward you, release pressure completely and pause. Then, shift your fingers just a little down the blade toward the heel. This finger dance is critical and takes time getting used to.

Therefore, the first step to choosing a whetstone is to determine your intended purpose and then choose your whetstone accordingly. For instance, when sharpening tools that do not require a fine edge, you should choose a relatively soft, coarse, stone such as a Norton Crystolon water stone. However, for sharpening tools that do require a fine edge, a somewhat harder Norton India oil stone would be a good choice. But, for sharpening hunting knives where an exceptionally fine edge is required, a Novaculite or Coticule oil stone would be the best but, most expensive, choice. So, the process of choosing the correct whetstone for any given purpose is to first determine how fast you would like for the stone to cut and how fine an edge you need, and then choose either a soft, coarse, stone or, a hard, fine, stone of the appropriate type and grit.

If you do not remove enough metal to create a new edge, you will leave some of the dull edge in place. A dull blade (or a blade with dull spots or nicks) will reflect light from the very edge of the blade. A razor sharp knife edge will not show "bright spots" when you hold it blade up under a bright light. You will need to remove enough material from the sides of the bevel so that the edge stops reflecting light.

This set of two Norton combination waterstones provides four grits and also includes a flattening stone as an added value. The 220, 1000, 4000 and 8000 grit sides will handle everything from aggressive shaping to final polishing. They are 8" long by 3" wide, big enough to handle most knives and tools easily. Our most popular waterstone kit, this has everything you need to both sharpen with waterstones and maintain the stones themselves. A great starter set.
In addition, the most prized of the natural Japanese Water Stones are quarried in the Narutaki District north of Kyoto, Japan and are commonly available as either bench stones or pocket stones in grits ranging from 120 to 12,000. On the other hand, synthetic water stones are made from Aluminum Oxide and commonly available as either bench stones or pocket stones as well in grits ranging from 220 to 8,000 and, although this is the same abrasive material used to make India Oil Stones, the difference between the two is that the binder that holds the abrasive together enables Water Stones to be much softer than India Oil Stones which, in turn, promotes faster cutting because the worn abrasive material breaks away more quickly and is replaced with fresh, sharp, abrasive material more quickly. In addition, because water stones do not become glazed or loaded with swarf like oil stones can, new abrasive particles are constantly exposed as the stone wears so it continues to cut consistently. Plus, they can be lubricated effectively with water (rather than oil which can ruin some water stones) which combines with the fine particles of abrasive from the surface of the stone to form a slurry which polishes the bevel as the stone cuts. However, it should also be noted that Water Stones do become uneven significantly faster than other types of whetstones although, their softness does make them easier to true again.
Modern synthetic stones are generally of equal quality to natural stones, and are often considered superior in sharpening performance due to consistency of particle size and control over the properties of the stones. For example, the proportional content of abrasive particles as opposed to base or "binder" materials can be controlled to make the stone cut faster or slower, as desired.[7] Natural stones are often prized for their natural beauty as stones and their rarity, adding value as collectors' items. Furthermore, each natural stone is different, and there are rare natural stones that contain abrasive particles in grit sizes finer than are currently available in artificial stones.[citation needed]

Clamp-style sharpening tools use a clamp with several holes with predefined angles. The stone is mounted on a rod and is pulled through these holes, so that the angle remains consistent. Another system is the crock stick setup, where two sticks are put into a plastic or wooden base to form a V shape. When the knife is pulled up the V, the angle is held so long as the blade is held perpendicular to the base. Several cutlery manufacturers now offer electric knife sharpeners with multiple stages with at least one grinding stage. These electric sharpeners are typically used in the kitchen but have the ability to sharpen blades such as pocket or tactical knives. The main benefit of using an electric sharpener is speed with many models that can complete the sharpening process in one to two minutes. The disadvantage is that the sharpening angle is fixed so some specialized knives, like a Japanese style Santoku, may need additional attention to sharpen to the ideal angle.
You will be given access to our useful online learning material: a set of videos and articles to help you improve your sharpening technique. These resources were made by professional knife sharpeners, specifically for beginners and intermediate sharpeners. The articles and videos will guide you and teach you knife sharpening from scratch, also covering more advanced techniques. You can also get in touch with us anytime if you have any questions concerning sharpening specific types knives.
Now you may wonder, if a finer stone produces a better cutting edge why do I need a coarse stone at all? The answer is that finer stones work much more slowly than coarse ones. The amount of metal a fine stone removes with each pass is much less than what a coarse stone removes. If you have an edge with a good shape to it from a coarse stone, this is not a problem because the fine stone doesn’t have to remove much metal to improve the edge. If the edge is dull, it will take many times longer to reshape it with a fine stone than it would with a coarse one.
This is a good size stone and has the two different grits needed for knife sharpening. No instructions were included, but there are many websites with written and video instructions, so this is not an issue for most people. A fair amount of dust is generated during the sharpening process, so protect the work surface and wash the knife after sharpening is completed.
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