How To Sharpen A Knife With A Whetstone [knife sharpening for beginners]

A dull knife is as dangerous as it is frustrating to use. Am sure you finally are feeling the senselessness of carrying it around. All that effort, and it can’t slice that rope? What a waste!

But, do away with that thought of disposing of it as I am about to show you how to give it a new lease of sharpness. And many tools are available for you to sharpen your knife. From manual tools to electric sharpeners, but none gives you more control and satisfaction than a whetstone.

Sharpening a knife with a whetstone is very engaging. Be sure your concentration will be on top gear. And that engagement helps you whet to your preferred sharpness while avoiding removing too much burr. Let’s get down to sharpening that knife.

What is a whetstone?

A whetstone is a tool used for sharpening knives and other cutting tools. It is a natural or synthetic stone made of abrasive materials such as aluminum oxide, silicon carbide, or diamond grit.

The whetstone is designed to remove excess metal from the blade of a knife, creating a sharp edge. Before using a whetstone, it is important to soak it in water for a few minutes to improve its performance. There are different types of whetstones available, each with a specific level of grit for sharpening and polishing.

Using a whetstone correctly requires using the full surface of the stone and sharpening both sides of the blade. A steel bar can also be used for sharpening and should be done after using the whetstone. Knowing how to use a whetstone is an essential skill for anyone who regularly uses knives, and can help prolong the life of the blade.

What You Need

  • A dull knife
  • Double-sided whetstone (1000/6000)
  • Ample space and lighting
  • Stone holder or just a wet kitchen towel
  • Bowl of water
  • Leather strop and chromium oxide compound

Choosing A Whetstone

Whetstones typically have two sides of varying coarseness. And depending on how dull your blade is, several whetstones may be necessary for a fine-tuned edge. If there is no whetstone lying around, you will have to buy one.

Popular choices include Sharp Pebble Premium Whetstone 1000/6000 and KING KW65 1000/6000(with Nagura stone), but the selection is vast.

The numbers indicated to show the coarseness and fineness of the grit on the sides. Grits vary from low (1000) to medium (3000) to fine or ultra-fine (6000). But for a start, one 1000/6000-sided whetstone will suffice.

Read also: How To Sharpen a Pocket Knife

How To Sharpen A Knife Using Whetstone

Whetstones come in various grit levels, allowing you to repair, refine, and polish your knife’s edge to perfection. By following a few simple steps, you can easily transform a dull knife into a precise cutting tool, making your cooking experience more enjoyable and efficient. Now, let’s dive into the first step of the sharpening process: wetting the stone.

Step 1: Wetting the Stone

Before you begin sharpening your knife, it’s important to wet the whetstone. Soak the stone in water for at least 10 minutes until it’s fully saturated. This helps to lubricate the stone and minimize any damage while sharpening it. Once soaked, place the whetstone securely on a non-slip surface, such as a damp cloth or a rubber mat, to prevent it from moving during the sharpening process.

Step 2: Finding the Angle

To sharpen your knife effectively, you’ll need to find the correct angle. Most knives should be sharpened at an angle between 15-20 degrees. If you’re unsure of the correct angle, consult the manufacturer’s guidelines for your specific knife. Hold the knife at the desired angle, applying light pressure with your fingertips on the blade.

Step 3: (Re-)Defining the Edge

Start by using a coarse grit whetstone to redefine the edge of your dull knife. With the knife at the correct angle, move it across the whetstone in a sweeping motion from the heel to the tip of the blade. Maintain consistent pressure and angle throughout this process. Sharpen one side of the knife before moving on to the other side, and continue sharpening until you’ve achieved a burr – a slight, rough edge that forms as you sharpen the blade.

Step 4: Polishing the Edge

Once you’ve redefined the edge with a coarse grit whetstone, switch to a finer grit to polish the edge. Repeat the sharpening process using the finer grit, maintaining the same angle and pressure as before. The finer grit will smooth out any roughness from the coarser grit and give your knife a razor-sharp edge.

Step 5: Honing the Edge

After sharpening your knife, it’s essential to hone the edge to maintain its sharpness between sharpening sessions. Use a honing rod to realign the knife’s edge, holding it at the same angle as you did while sharpening. With a few strokes on the honing rod, your knife will be ready for use.

Diamond stone. The procedure of sharpening is similar to that of using a whetstone.

The three-stone types are harder and more durable than a whetstone. And they will give a sharp edge faster. Besides, they are also pricier. The diamond sharpening stone is the best among all sharpening stones but the most expensive.

What’s the Difference Between a Whetstone and a Waterstone?

The terms “whetstone” and “waterstone” are often used interchangeably to refer to sharpening stones used for knives and other cutting tools. However, there is a subtle distinction between the two.

Whetstone: A whetstone is a general term for any sharpening stone used to hone and sharpen the edges of cutting tools. Whetstones can be natural or synthetic and may require oil or water as a lubricant during the sharpening process. The term “whet” comes from the Old English word “hwettan,” which means “to sharpen.”

Waterstone: A waterstone specifically refers to a type of whetstone that uses water as a lubricant during the sharpening process. Waterstones are typically synthetic and made from abrasive materials such as aluminum oxide, silicon carbide, or ceramic particles. Soaking the waterstone in water before use helps to create a slurry that aids in the sharpening process and prevents the stone from clogging with metal particles.

While all waterstones are whetstones, not all whetstones are waterstones. The main difference between the two lies in the type of lubricant used during the sharpening process. Waterstones specifically use water, while other whetstones might use oil or another lubricant. However, in everyday conversation, the terms are often used interchangeably to describe sharpening stones.

How to Sharpen a Knife With an Electric Sharpener

  1. Plug in the electric sharpener and turn it on.
  2. Identify the sharpening stages on the device, typically marked by slots or guides.
  3. Start with the coarsest stage (usually stage 1) to remove material and create a new edge.
  4. Hold the knife securely by the handle, and insert the blade into the slot, making sure the heel of the blade is in contact with the sharpening surface.
  5. Gently pull the knife through the slot towards you, maintaining consistent pressure and keeping the blade parallel to the countertop.
  6. Repeat this process 3-5 times, depending on the manufacturer’s instructions and the dullness of the knife.
  7. Move on to the next stage with a finer grit for refining the edge, and repeat the same process as before.
  8. If the sharpener includes a polishing or stropping stage, proceed to that stage to achieve a razor-sharp edge.
  9. Once all stages are completed, the knife should be sharp and ready for use.
  10. Clean the knife after sharpening to remove any residue or metal particles.

Knife Sharpening Tips

Keeping your knives sharp is crucial for efficient and safe food preparation. Here are some essential knife sharpening tips to help you maintain your knives in top condition:

  1. Choose the right sharpening tool: Select a sharpening tool that suits your needs and preferences, such as a whetstone, honing rod, electric knife sharpener, or serrated knife sharpener. Each tool has its advantages, so consider factors like ease of use, control, and type of knives you own when making your choice.
  2. Know your knife’s angle: Most knives are sharpened at an angle between 15-20 degrees. Familiarize yourself with the recommended angle for your specific knife to ensure effective sharpening.
  3. Consistent pressure and angle: While sharpening, maintain consistent pressure and angle throughout the process. This will help create a uniform edge and minimize the risk of damaging your knife.
  4. Start with a coarse grit: If your knife is very dull or has minor damage, start with a coarse grit whetstone (200-800 grit) to repair and redefine the edge. Gradually move to finer grits (800-6000) to refine and polish the edge.
  5. Use the full length of the stone: When using a whetstone, make sure to use the entire surface of the stone to prevent uneven wear. This will also help you achieve a more consistent edge on your knife.
  6. Check for a burr: As you sharpen your knife, a burr will form on the opposite side of the edge. This rough, raised edge is an indicator that your knife is sharpened and ready for the next grit or honing. Feel for the burr with your fingertips or by gently sliding a fingernail along the edge.
  7. Honing is essential: Honing your knife with a honing rod between sharpening sessions helps maintain its sharpness and prolongs the time between sharpening. Hold the knife at the same angle as you did during the sharpening process and make a few strokes on the honing rod.
  8. Clean your knife after sharpening: After sharpening and honing, make sure to wash and dry your knife to remove any metal particles and residue from the sharpening process.
  9. Practice makes perfect: Sharpening knives is a skill that improves with practice. Be patient and consistent, and over time, you’ll become more confident in your ability to maintain sharp knives.

By following these essential knife sharpening tips, you’ll be well on your way to keeping your kitchen knives in optimal condition, ensuring a more enjoyable and efficient cooking experience.

Read also: How To Sharpen A Kitchen Knife

Lengthening The Edge Retention

Knives require frequent sharpening to reform the edge, but the frequency of sharpening depends on how you care for the blade. Remember, the more regular the sharpening, the shorter the life of your knife.

First, store your knife without resting it on its edge. If you keep your knife in a drawer with other cutlery, use a blade protector on it. And, finally, wash your knife before storing, and always dry it before storage.

Knife Sharpening Videos

Frequently Asked Questions

Do you push or pull when sharpening a knife with a whetstone?

When sharpening a knife with a whetstone, you should use a combination of pushing and pulling motions. Push the knife away from you as you move it across the stone and then pull it back towards you, maintaining the correct angle throughout.

Is whetstone sharpening difficult?

Whetstone sharpening can be challenging for beginners but becomes easier with practice. Learning the right technique and maintaining consistent pressure and angle are essential for successful sharpening.

Can I ruin my knife with a whetstone?

It’s possible to ruin your knife with a whetstone if you use improper technique, such as an incorrect angle or excessive force. However, with careful practice and by following guidelines, you can safely sharpen your knife.

How many passes does it take to sharpen a knife on a whetstone?

The number of passes it takes to sharpen a knife on a whetstone depends on the knife’s dullness and the grit of the stone. Generally, it takes around 5-10 passes per side on a coarse stone and fewer on finer stones to achieve a sharp edge.


Sharpening a knife with a whetstone is as rewarding as the final results. The process is cheap and easy to do at home. For pleasing results, use a high-quality whetstone.

Maintaining the sharpening angle is a crucial prerequisite to a razor-sharp edge. Don’t fret if you find it hard at first, as more practice makes it almost natural. To retain your edge for a long, take good care of your knife.

A sharp blade significantly reduces the effort you need while cutting. Besides, the resulting cuts and minces are clean and smooth.

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