How To Sharpen A Knife With A Whetstone [Beginners’ Guide]

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 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 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

Steps:

  1. Clean and inspect the blade: Clean the knife thoroughly to remove any food remains. Make sure the handle is free of oil or grime. A clean knife is easy to grip tightly, and a clean edge easy to inspect. Check for chipping or extreme damages on the blade edge before putting metal to stone. If no chipping is visible, a medium grit should be fine to start with. Else, a low-grit may be necessary to smoothen the chippings.
  2. Lubricate the whetstone: Check if the manufacturer recommends a need for soaking it in warm, clean water for several minutes. But generally, soaking for 5-10 minutes is a good practice. Then, use mineral oils or just water to lubricate the stone, starting with the coarse side.
  3. Setting your whetstone: Place your lubricated stone firmly in a stone holder or simply on a wet kitchen towel to prevent it from sliding. Ensure you have enough space to run the full knife length over the stone uninterrupted.
  4. Master the grip: Holding the knife with your dominant hand, lay your knife flat on the whetstone, and raise the spine to an angle of 15-20 degrees to the stone. The exact number is not as significant as maintaining it throughout the sharpening.

Maintaining the sharpening angle becomes easier with practice. Or else, use a visual guide cut of a piece of a wine cork to estimate the sharpening angle. Another way is to color the bevel with a marker and check if the color is coming off as you sharpen; if not, adjust your angle accordingly.

  1. Sharpening motions: Use your other hand to apply moderate pressure on the blade, and draw the knife away from you over the stone. Maintain the sharpening angle and move the knife in semi-circular motions, from the close side of the whetstone to the farthest. Repeat severally.
  2. Check for burr: Burr are thin metal strips that form on the opposite bevel edge as you sharpen. Run your thumb carefully on the blade to feel the burr. Keep sharpening until burr forms uniformly.
  3. Sharpen the opposite side: Flip your knife and sharpen the unsharpened side. Pull the blade towards you while maintaining the previous sharpening angle. Use semi-circular motions as before and run the knife over the entire length of the whetstone. Stroke until the burr peels off completely.
  4. Use the fine grit side: Once you are satisfied with sharpening on the coarse side of the whetstone, flip the whetstone to have the fine side face up. Lubricate as necessary. Repeat the sharpening motions above while flipping the knife to sharpen both sides evenly. Stroke until you are satisfied with the sharpness.
  5. Finish with the strop: For a razor-sharp edge, make a few strokes on a leather strop impregnated with chromium oxide. Use similar motions as you did with the whetstone, using very light pressure. Your knife should be ready for use after several strokes but should be cleaned before you descend on those herbs.
  6. You can also use a whetstone to remove the burr on already sharpened serrated knives, using the fine grit side. Be careful with the sharpening angle, though, for serrated knives are very sensitive. Always clean your blade after sharpening before use.

Using a whetstone has the following pros and cons:

Pros:

  • Whetstones are very versatile and can sharpen many blade types
  • With spacious working space, whetstones can be used on blades with long lengths
  • The two sides of varying coarseness offer several levels of sharpening to a fine-tuned result
  • Relatively cheap and readily available in your local store
  • Very easy to use

Cons:

  • Setting and maintaining the sharpening angle is challenging
  • It May take longer and more effort to restore a very dull blade

Other sharpening stone alternatives to whetstone include natural sharpening stone, Ceramic stone, and Diamond stone. The procedure of sharpening is similar to that of using a whetstone.

The three-stone types are harder and 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.

Testing For Sharpness

Test the sharpness of your blade using the paper test. It’s fun but be careful not to slice a finger. Run a piece of paper over the edge under light pressure. Ensure the paper has no creases.

For a more secure process, fold the paper once along the center. Then run the knife on the folded edge while you hold the side where the two paper edges meet. An instant slicing shows you’re already a sharpening pro.

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 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 before storage.

Conclusion

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 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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