Sharp knives make the culinary world go round but finding the best knife sharpener isn’t as simple as walking into the store (do people still walk into stores?) and grabbing the first sharpener that presents itself. There are different types of electric sharpeners, some that are straightforward and some whose sharpening process involves as many as 3 or 4 stages. If you’re looking to keep things simple by using a sharpening stone well, there are 3 different types of them as well – oil, water and diamond – and they each have their pros and cons. So it can be confusing.
Technically, the name whetstone can be applied to any form of sharpening stone, regardless of what cutting fluid is typically used with it. However because whet sounds like wet, many hear the word and assume that it refers to a stone that is used wet with water. Actually, water stones, oil stones diamond stones and ceramic stones are all forms of whetstones. So, while all water stones are whetstones, not all whetstones are water stones.
Just to prove that we're not merely sharpening geeks, here's an interesting side note. The word whet pops up in some unexpected places. A small species of owl is called the saw-whet owl because the sound it makes reminded people of the sound made when sharpening a saw with a file. And the phrase "to whet your appetite" comes from the idea of your hunger growing sharper at the thought of food.
With its premium series Select II, the whetstone manufacturer Sigma Power Corporation from Tokyo addresses users of high-alloy steels such as HSS. These stones, too, are obviously intended to engender a grinding experience similar to that of natural stones. The special production process is expensive, but the Sigma Select II probably has no equal when it comes to demolishing steel.
The type of stone refers to the material it is made with. You can find many different types, including diamond, ceramic, natural stone, and synthetic. I would only suggest diamond if you’re planning to be sharpening only ceramic knives. Many of the stones you’ll find on Amazon or other retails are made of Corundum, which is a crystalline form of aluminium oxide. It’s a fine choice for a beginner sharpening stone.
We tend to recommend natural Japanese water stones only to experienced users who are thoroughly familiar with the synthetic Japanese sharpening stones. Natural stones are not to everybody’s taste and there are inevitably many uncertainties with regard to their grit grade, which cannot be determined exactly, their hardness and their suitability for certain types of steel.
As you probably have guessed, knives are easier to sharpen on longer stones. The width of the stone is less important than the length when sharpening knives. The longer stone allows for longer sharpening strokes and contributes to faster sharpening. The longer strokes mean fewer strokes across your stone, making it easier to maintain a consistent sharpening angle. As a rule of thumb, a small knife can easily be sharpened on a large stone, but a large knife cannot easily be sharpened on a small stone.
A: Another issue that comes up with electric knife sharpeners is how to clean them. Or if, in fact, they actually need cleaning at all. The answer to the second question is that yes, they do need to be cleaned occasionally. And by occasionally we mean once a year or so if you use them with any frequency. Obviously if you’ve only used the sharpener a few times then there’s no compelling reason to clean it, other than just wanting to keep things tidy (and there’s nothing wrong with that). So, having established that sharpeners do need to be cleaned occasionally you need to know how to do so in a safe and effective manner. It’s not complicated.
Honing steels are another story altogether. Honing steels are those instruments that look light a saber (light or otherwise) which you use to gussy up the edge of the blade periodically before using it. These do wear out every few years or less, depending on how often you use them. If you are unsure whether your honing steel is worn out run your finger around it. If it feels smooth all the way around then it’s time for a replacement. Not to worry though, they’re really affordable. One thing you may want to keep in mind about honing steels is that they typically won’t do much to hone the edge of some super hard knives, such as Japanese Global brand knives.
Now move the blade – with a little pressure – in regular movements up and down along the sharpening stone. Always maintain the angle between the blade and stone. You will notice a burr become visible after five or so movements. Mentally divide the blade into three sections if the knife has a large blade. Always start with the tip and work back towards the bolster.
So, as you can see, there are numerous different types and grades of whetstones on the market today and each has its advantages and disadvantages. Therefore, the right practice to choose the right sharpening stone for you is to choose a whetstone material based upon how fast you need to remove metal and how fine an edge you need. For instance, although they are often the most expensive type of whetstone, diamond hones generally cut the fastest even in their finer grits followed by Crystolon Stones and then India Stones which are then generally followed by Japanese Water Stones and then by Novaculite, Belgian Blue, and Coticule whetstones in terms of how fast they remove metal. However, it should also be noted that the rougher an edge is, the less sharp it is while, the more polished an edge is, the sharper it is and thus, rough edges are fine for some tools while other tools require a much finer edge and, hunting knives require the finest edge of all. Therefore, the trick to choosing the proper whetstone for any given sharpening purpose is to purchase multiple stones with varying grits to accomplish each given task from cutting an initial bevel or defining a damaged edge to refining an existing edge to polishing it. We hope this article helped you. Feel free to leave a comment below if you have questions.