Sharpening stone/whetstones. Just as there are dozens of different ways to sharpen a knife, there are dozens of different sharpening stones. There are Japanese water stones, stones with diamond encrusted surfaces, and stones with different grades of grit. Again, choosing a stone is a matter of function and preference. Play around with different kinds of stones to find the one that gives you the results you’re looking for.
Begin with your lower-grit stone. Place the heel of your knife on the far edge of the stone, holding the blade gently but firmly with both hands at a 15- to 20-degree angle. Using even pressure, slowly drag the knife over the stone toward you down the length of the stone while simultaneously moving the knife such that the contact point moves toward the tip of the blade.
Sharpening is really two processes: Grinding and honing. Grinding is simply the removal of metal. Honing is a precision abrasion process in which a relatively small amount of material is removed from the surface by the means of abrasive stones. Once you have the right shape, usually using a more aggressive grit, you then switch to a finer grit to hone the edge.
Siliciclastic stone is a clastic, noncarbonate, sedimentary stone that is almost exclusively silica-bearing and exists as either a form of quartz or, another silicate mineral. In addition, hardened clay is also a sedimentary stone but, it is formed from organic materials such as plant and animal matter and thus, it is much softer than Siliciclastic However, when silicon sediment is suspended in a clay matrix and then naturally hardened over thousands of years, it forms an excellent whetstone material; although, it is somewhat softer than Novaculite. Thus, because the geology of Japan once held large deposits of this type of stone it has been used for hundreds of years for sharpening tools, knives, and swords. However, unlike Novaculite, Belgian Blue, and Coticule, both natural and synthetic Japanese whetstones use water for lubrication and thus, they are commonly known as “Japanese Water Stones” because this type of stone is very porous. Thus, natural Japanese Water Stones must be soaked in water for up to twenty-four hours prior to use whereas, synthetic Japanese Water Stones can be soaked for only a few moments.
If you’re sharpening high quality knives, you probably don’t want to use a cheapo sharpening stone. But if you’re just getting started with sharpening your pocket knife, there’s no need to get too fancy right off the bat. You can find a sharpening stone at most hardware stores for about $10. This one is very similar to the one I use. Nothing fancy. Most basic sharpening stones come with two sides: a rough grit and a fine grit. The finer the grit, the finer or sharper you can get your blade. You usually start off sharpening on the rough grit and then finish sharpening it on the finer grit.
Removing the burr is fairly simple. You'll need a leather strop or block (this sort of thing), which is designed to catch the metal fibres from the knife. You could do it with a fibrous tea towel or some newspaper if you like, but I'd suggest going with leather to begin with. The motion is fairly similar to sharpening. Draw the knife over the leather, going away from the edge at roughly the same angle as when you sharpened.
A: That depends almost entirely on how often you use them. If you are a professional chef who uses his or her knives every day then you should hone them every time you use your knives. But honing has its limits and over time your edge is going to become dull no matter what. Therefore your knives will need to be sharpened at least several times a year. Some chefs, in fact, will use a whetstone on an almost daily basis in order to ensure their knives are always razor sharp. Most of us, however, are not professional chefs and may not even touch our kitchen knives for days at a time. In that case, it’s probably a good idea to hone the edge after every couple of uses and have your knives sharpened once a year.
The company is to be commended for including links to instructional videos in the package. Those videos lay out clearly how to get the most from your Whetstone sharpener stone. Once you get up to speed you’ll likely enjoy the process and at the same time achieve professional quality results time and again. Sure, it’s not fancy and doesn’t have a sleek, chrome plated design but it works.
A: People often make the mistake of assuming that just because a mechanical knife sharpener will sharpen the edge of a knife that means it will sharpen any type of cutting edge, including scissors. This is a mistake and can wind up being a costly mistake when you have to replace both your scissors and the knife sharpener. There are sharpening devices specifically designed to handle scissors. Or you can bring your scissors to a sharpening pro who will usually have the right equipment on hand to also sharpen scissors. Another thing to keep in mind about trying to use a sharpener to sharpen scissors is that by using the device in this fashion you are likely voiding the warranty. As such if you damage the device trying to sharpen scissors you’ll need to pay to have it repaired or replaced as the warranty won’t cover it. Also, certain types of high end scissors also come with a warranty. And, just as with the sharpener itself, if you try to sharpen them using a mechanical sharpener you can say goodbye to the warranty protection. The bottom line is to always use the appropriate tool for the job at hand. That way you’re assured of the best possible result and any warranty remains in effect.
The sharpener has come a long way in the past couple of thousand years and yet it hasn’t. That is, while there have been incredible advances in the development of mechanical knife sharpeners the classic and very ancient sharpening stone is still with us and very much in use as you read this. The best knife sharpener for you will be one that meets the needs of your cuisine and your temperament but which, first and foremost, reliably produces the sharp knives (look after your knife!) you need with the least hassle.
Some recommended products may use affiliate links. ProHuntingKnife.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. Amazon and the Amazon logo are trademarks of Amazon.com, Inc or its affiliates.
J. Kenji López-Alt is the Chief Culinary Advisor of Serious Eats, and author of the James Beard Award-nominated column The Food Lab, where he unravels the science of home cooking. A restaurant-trained chef and former Editor at Cook's Illustrated magazine, his first book, The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science is a New York Times Best-Seller, the recipient of a James Beard Award, and was named Cookbook of the Year in 2015 by the International Association of Culinary Professionals.
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.
When you apply a sharp knife to the surface of a tomato, cucumber, carrot or other food item it should - if you are holding it firmly and applying minimal pressure - sink into the particular item without effort. As such all you really need to work on is your technique and making sure you keep your fingers out of the way. With a dull knife however things aren’t quite so simple. When you apply a dull blade to, say, a tomato it’s not going to slice into the skin. Instead the skin will be able to push back meaning you’ll need to apply ever more pressure to get the knife to penetrate. Increasing the pressure on the knife increases the likelihood of the knife slipping off the offending food item to one side or another. And if it slips to the side where your hand is attempting to hold the vegetable steady you could be in store for a very nasty cut. Because even a dull knife will cause injury if there’s enough force behind it.
Once you’ve decided to start sharpening your kitchen knives with a sharpening stone, you’ll need to take the necessary steps to actually get going. These steps include finding and buying the best sharpening stone for use at home, learning the basic technique involved in doing the sharpening, and then practicing enough times to get it right. (For the sake of the knives, we don’t recommend using your best kitchen knives for practice!)