Japanese water stones – both natural and synthetic – are known for their superior sharpening performance, not only for Japanese tools, but also on their Western equivalents. The loosely bonded abrasive grit is washed out very quickly, as it blunts during the sharpening process; this exposes new, sharp, particles that can get to work on the blade. Water stones are lubricated only with water! Never use oil!
There will be a drawer that extends into the mechanism under the abrasives. Any detritus from the sharpening process drops into this drawer. Exactly where the drawer is located will differ from sharpener to sharpener but it shouldn’t be hard to find. Remove the drawer flick any material into the wastebasket and then wipe out the drawer with a damp cloth or tissue. You may want to use work gloves and goggles to protect your hands and eyes from any loose metal shavings. Once the drawer is clean and dry replace it. The exact means by which the sharpening mechanism itself is cleaned will vary from manufacturer to manufacturer. Consult your owners guide for specific details. Make sure you don’t introduce any grease or other lubricants into the sharpener unless specifically directed to do so by the owner’s manual. Also, the outside of the sharpener should come perfectly clean with just a damp cloth. Avoid using commercial cleaners or abrasives of any kind.
About a year ago, we wrote an article on why every man should carry a pocket knife. A lot of you out there agreed that the pocket knife deserves a permanent place in every man’s pocket. After we wrote the post, we started getting emails from men who were first time pocket knife owners asking how to sharpen their new prized possession. Well today we’re going to answer that question.
One of the most well-regarded natural whetstones is the yellow-gray "Belgian Coticule", which has been legendary for the edge it can give to blades since Roman times, and has been quarried for centuries from the Ardennes. The slightly coarser and more plentiful "Belgian Blue" whetstone is found naturally with the yellow coticule in adjacent strata; hence two-sided whetstones are available, with a naturally occurring seam between the yellow and blue layers. These are highly prized for their natural elegance and beauty, and for providing both a fast-cutting surface for establishing a bevel and a finer surface for refining it. This stone is considered one of the finest for sharpening straight razors.
Steeling helps maintain sharpness. This process realigns the edge, correcting for dulling causes such as a rolled edge. A sharpening steel is a type of hardened cylindrical rod used similarly to honing stones. For example, a butcher steel is a round file with the teeth running the long way, while a packer steel (used in the meat packer's industry) is a smooth, polished steel rod designed for straightening the turned edge of a knife, and is also useful for burnishing a newly finished edge. Because steels have a small diameter they exert high local pressure, and therefore affect the knife metal when used with very little force. They are intended for mild steel knives that are steeled several times a day, but are not well suited for today's tougher and harder blade steels. Diamond steels are now available that have an industrial diamond coating and can remove blade metal as well as straighten, therefore used correctly they can re-profile a knife instead of just honing.