When attempting to choose a whetstone for sharpening your favorite knife, the number of choices can be mind boggling. In fact, sharpening stones are divided into four distinct categories consisting of natural whetstones and manufactured whetstones which, in turn, are divided into two other categories consisting of oil stones and water stones. Then, there are numerous different varieties of natural whetstones consisting of several different materials that are quarried from different places around the world as well as several different types of man-made whetstones!
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.
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.
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.
4. Start sharpening the first side of the blade. With your blade set at the prefect angle, you’re ready to start sharpening. Imagine you’re carving off a slim piece of the stone’s surface. Personally, I bring the blade into the stone. Other people stroke the blade away from the stone. Both ways work, so just use whatever technique you prefer. If the knife blade is curved or if it’s longer than the stone, you’ll need to sweep the blade sideways as you work, so the entire edge is sharpened evenly. Apply moderate pressure as you sharpen. No need to bear down hard on the blade. After you make one stroke, start back at the beginning and repeat. Do this about 6-12 times.
Vielsalm Coticule on the other hand generally occurs in much more narrow layers sandwiched between the slate layer and the Belgian Blue layer and thus, it is both less plentiful and more expensive than Belgian Blue stone. Also, Coticule is divided into different grades and sometimes displays blemishes on the surface due to its proximity to the slate layer. Furthermore, it is somewhat harder than Belgium Blue stone and, due to its brittleness, it is bonded to a substrate layer of hard slate prior to sale to prevent the stone from breaking during use.
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.
In recent years, some whetstone manufacturers have started producing ceramic whetstones made from hard, ceramic, powders that are mixed with Aluminum Oxide and then sintered to form a solid. But, rather than using oil or water to lubricate the whetstone, ceramic whetstones are meant to be used without lubrication and thus, they provide a significant advantage for chefs who need to keep their knives sharp but, who do not have either the room or time for using a bench water stone. Thus, they are commonly available as either bench stones, pocket stones, round rods, or triangular rods.
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!)