For many people, sharpening knives isn’t necessarily a top priority. However, anyone who spends time in a kitchen can benefit from a well sharpened knife for a number of reasons.
If you’ve invested – or are considering investing in – a set of high quality kitchen knives, it’s critically important to know how to keep them sharp. Even the best knife can be rendered useless by a dull or damaged blade.
Experts agree that the best way to sharpen your knives is with a whetstone, also called a knife sharpening stone. Made of natural rock or artificial materials, these stones help keep your knives in top shape. However, using a whetstone takes a bit more skill and know-how than the more common pull-through knife sharpeners you may be used to.
- Why You Should Buy A knife Sharpening Stone
- Types of Knife Sharpening Stones
- How to Use a Knife Sharpening Stone
- Wet Sharpening Stones vs. Dry Sharpening Stones
- The Difference in Grit for Sharpening Stones
- Knife Sharpening Stone Recommendations
- Dalstrong Knife Sharpening Services
- Frequently Asked Questions
1. Why You Should Buy A knife Sharpening Stone
Just starting to get into cutlery? Your collection won’t be complete without a whetstone. All knives will need to be sharpened eventually, and if you’ve invested in a high-quality knife, you’ll want a quality sharpening system to match.
If knives are important to you, you should understand the benefits of a well-sharpened blade. Perhaps the most obvious benefit is efficiency. You know how professional chefs can chop up a pile of vegetables in a matter of minutes? That kind of speed is only possible with a knife sharpened to its fullest potential. Plus, sharp knives simply make for a more enjoyable cutting experience overall.
You’ve probably heard that sharp knives are safer than dull ones. While it may seem counterintuitive, it’s very true. Dull knives are less precise and require more force to use, meaning that they are more likely to slip and cause accidents. While you should still be careful when using a well-sharpened knife, keeping your knives razor sharp will significantly reduce your chances of hurting yourself.
Sharpen to improve the taste
Well-sharpened knives can even improve the taste of your food. Sharp knives cause less damage to cells, helping food stay fresh longer. Fruits, vegetables and herbs cut with a dull knife are more likely to wither and wilt than those cut with a well-sharpened blade. It might not seem like something that would make a big difference, but for delicate foods like herbs, keeping your knives sharp can actually be very beneficial.
The importance of learning how to sharpen your knives
However, sharpening knives yourself can be downright scary if you’ve never done it before. What if you mess up and accidentally damage the blade? While it’s true that sharpening knives does take skill – people make entire careers out of it – learning the basics required to keep your knives in top shape isn’t actually that hard.
If your knives aren’t well maintained, you’ll eventually have to repair them. However, repairing dull knives means you’ll have to remove a significant amount of metal from the blade. Keeping your knives sharp by regularly touching them up with a fine-grit sharpener will help prolong the life of the blade.
However, the wrong sharpener is worse than no sharpener at all – if used incorrectly, low-quality knife sharpeners can actually damage your knives. To keep from accidentally damaging your knives, it’s worthwhile to take the time to research different types of knife sharpeners and whetstones so you can figure out which one is best for you.
Dalstrong offers a variety of options for all your knife sharpening needs, from repairing damaged knives to polishing your blades to a mirror-like shine. All Dalstrong whetstones are made out of high quality Corundum (also known as aluminum oxide), and meant to be used wet.
2. Types of Knife Sharpening Stones
It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the wide variety of knife sharpeners available. Traditional whetstones were made out of naturally formed rock, like Novaculite, also called Arkansas Stone. However, most modern whetstones are made out of man-made materials. Corundum, also called aluminum oxide, is the most widely available option. Ceramic stones are another option, and diamond stones are popular among professionals.
While pull-through or electric knife sharpeners are popular and easy to use, you’ll want to steer clear of them if you want to keep your knives in pristine condition for as long as possible. These gadgets can deteriorate a knife over time and aren’t universally suited to all knives.
Sure, using an electric knife sharpener might be less intimidating, but it’s not hard to learn how to sharpen a knife with a whetstone. A knife sharpening stone allows greater control over the blade and can be used to sharpen all knives – from a Japanese-style knife to Western chef’s knife, or even your trusty pocket knife.
While smaller whetstones knife sharpeners are fine for sharpening a pocket knife, you’ll want more surface area if you’re planning on sharpening full-sized kitchen knives.
If you’re just looking to touch up spots of rust on your blade, consider investing in a rust eraser. No, rust erasers aren’t made of rubber – they’re essentially miniature whetstones that help remove rust from the surface of knives. Like whetstones, they should be soaked before use.
3. How to Use a Knife Sharpening Stone
How Often Should I Sharpen
There’s no hard rule as to how often you should sharpen your knives. Ultimately, it depends on a number of factors, like the material that they are made of and how often you use them.
However, you should be careful not to sharpen your knives too often. With standard use, most people choose to sharpen their knives every few months. Sharpening too often – or sharpening with a coarse stone or an inferior sharp pebble – can shave off too much metal, damaging your knife.
While sharpening your knives too often can quickly ware them down, you should hone them every few uses. Contrary to popular belief, honing is a completely different process from sharpening. Honing straightens the edge of the blade, while sharpening shaves it off to create a new edge. While you may see honing rods marketed as “sharpening steel,” they do not actually sharpen your knives.
How Do I Know When It Is Time To Sharpen
A well-sharpened knife should be able to slice through a sheet of paper or the skin of a tomato without resistance. Once you start to notice resistance, it’s time to sharpen your blade.
Which Grit Do I Use
Before getting started, you should know what grit size to use. If your blade is in particularly bad shape, you might want to opt for a lower grit, like #400. However, a grit around #1000 is generally a good choice for a regular tune-up.
The Importance Of Water
Once you’ve selected the whetstones you plan to use, fully submerge them in a bowl of water. You’ll want to make sure that sharpening stones are fully saturated before putting them to use.
Fine grit water stones absorb water quickly, so they only need to soak for a few minutes. Coarser whetstones, on the other hand, need to soak for at least 15 minutes. If you’re using a finishing stone to refine and polish your blade, remember to soak that, too.
When you first submerge the stone, you’ll notice bubbles rising to the surface. Keep it submerged until it stops bubbling, so you know it’s soaked through. Once you’ve saturated the stone, place it on a flat surface where it’s secure and in no danger of slipping around.
Sharpening Your Knife
Next, it’s time to sharpen your blade. Depending on the style of sharpening you plan to use, the blade of the knife can either face toward your body or away. When sharpening knives in the traditional Asian style, hold the blade away from your body. To sharpen knives in the Western style, hold the blade facing towards you.
Grip the knife with your dominant hand, resting your thumb on the spine. WIth your other hand, apply pressure with two or three fingers near the edge of the blade. Next, adjust the knife to the appropriate angle.
Different types of knives should be sharpened at different angles. Western knives are typically thicker than Japanese knives, so when sharpening Western knives, hold the blade at a higher angle. You should be able to get a feel for the angle you should be using based on the angle of the bevel. The bevel is the part of the blade that has been ground away to form the edge of the knife.
Once you’ve decided on the correct angle, you can start sharpening your knife. To sharpen in the Asian style, push the knife away from you, working in sections allong the blade. To sharpen your knife in the Western style, pull it towards you in a sweeping motion so that the entire length of the blade connects with the whetstone.
After sharpening for a few minutes, feel the blade. Once you feel a burr, or thin, wiry edge along the entire length of the blade, you’ll know you’ve sharpened it enough. The burr forms where the thin metal edge starts to fold over on itself during the sharpening process. Don’t worry, though – it won’t stay there forever. You’ll buff out the burr when you move on to your finishing stone.
Be careful to avoid sharpening one side more than the other. It’s helpful to count the strokes while sharpening your knife to make sure that both sides are evenly sharpened.
Polishing Your Knife
Once you’ve sharpened both sides of your knife, it’s time to polish the blade with your finishing stone. You should use the same technique that you used to sharpen the blade to polish it. However, at this step, apply less pressure. After a few minutes, your knife should be ready. Test to make sure your knife has a sharp edge.
Some people like to use a leather strop after sharpening and polishing knives. Strops are long, thin pieces of leather that help buff the blade and remove any remaining burr. However, if you’ve done a good job sharpening your knife with a whetstone, a strop isn’t strictly necessary.
Sharpening Serrated Knives
Sharpening a serrated knife is a whole other task. Fortunately, serrated knives do not need to be sharpened as regularly as other kitchen knives. Since the edges of a serrated knife don’t come in contact with the cutting board, they rarely go dull. However, if you want to spruce up your serrated knife after years of use, it’s best to use a honing rod or sharpening rod rather than a whetstone.
Storing Your Knife
Once you’ve sharpened your knife, store it in a safe place. Properly storing your knives will help ensure that they stay sharp for as long as possible. You should avoid storing your knives in drawers where they can easily get knocked around. Instead, consider purchasing a knife holder. Knife rolls make it easy to travel with your collection, while magnetic knife holders offer a hygienic alternative to traditional knife blocks.
Too intimidated to try sharpening your precious knives on your own? Dalstrong offers a mail-in knife sharpening service for customers in the United States.
4. Wet Sharpening Stones vs. Dry Sharpening Stones
Most knife sharpening stones are meant to be soaked in water or oil before use. While some stones – like those made of diamond or ceramic – can be used dry, they still usually benefit from a little water.
Soaking the whetstone is important because it helps protect the stone from damage and wear. Sharpening your knives with a dry stone won’t hurt the knife, but it will damage the stone over time. If you use your sharpening stone dry too often, it could get so clogged with metal particles that it becomes dull and useless. Using water or oil lubricates the stone and prevents the tiny bits of metal shaved from the knife from clogging its surface.
While you might assume that the “whet” in “whetstone” comes from the fact that the stones are supposed to be used with water, the word actually originally meant “to sharpen.” This means that, despite common misconception, all knife sharpening stones are “whetstones,” even the ones that are meant to be used dry or soaked in oil.
Whether you use oil or water to soak your knife sharpening stone largely depends on personal choice and the stone itself. When you purchase a knife sharpening stone, it may be sold specifically as either an oil stone or a water stone.
Both oil and water have their advantages and disadvantages: water sharpens your knives more efficiently and creates less mess. Oil, on the other hand, is a superior lubricant and helps the stone last longer. Once you’ve made your choice, stick to it.
Before you soak your stone, double-check to make sure you’re using the right lubricant. Never use oil to soak a natural whetstone. However, synthetic sharpening stones, like those made of Aluminum oxide, can typically be used with either oil or water. When in doubt, check the manufacturer’s instructions.
Even if you always wet your knife sharpening stone before use, it will inevitably degrade over time. That’s why it’s a good idea to rub down the surface of your sharpening stone with a Nagura flattening stone before and after use. Nagura stones help prime the whetstone, flatten the surface, and remove the metal particles that clog the surface.
To use a Nagura stone, thoroughly soak both your sharpening stone and Nagura stone. Then, rub the entire surface of the sharpening stone in circular motions. Once you’ve evenly scrubbed, rinse away any residue and feel the stone to make sure that the surface is smooth.
5. The Difference in Grit for Sharpening Stones
Knife sharpening stones are labeled by numbers that correspond to the grit of the stone. Each grit comes with its advantages and disadvantages: lower numbers correspond to a coarser stone, while higher numbers correspond to finer ones.
Different grit levels have different uses. That’s why it’s a good idea to buy a combination whetstone or whetstone set that includes multiple grits.
A low grit stone, like #400, can help restore chipped or exceptionally dull blades by quickly shaving away the damaged metal. However, you should avoid using such coarse stones for regular knife maintenance, since repeated use will wear down the blade.
When working with a low grit knife sharpening stone, keep in mind that the stone can cause additional damage to your knife if not used correctly. A low grit stone will remove a lot of metal from your knife, potentially leaving a jagged edge. Proceed with caution, and make sure to go in with a finer grit afterward to polish and refine the edges.
While whetstones with grit less than #1000 are used to fix knives with chipped or damaged edges, #1000 to #3000 stones are best for routine maintenance.
Knife sharpening stones over #3000 are used for polishing the blade. These stones are sometimes referred to as “finishing stones,” since they should be used as the last step when sharpening your knife.
The highest grit levels, like #6000 and above, are meant for polishing knives to a mirror-like shine. It’ll take time to shine and sharpen your knives at this grit, but the beautiful, reflective surface will be worth it.
When using ultra-fine sharpening stones like #6000 and above, remember that you may not want your knife to be too sharp if you regularly use it to cut through tough meats. Since high grit whetstones sharpen knives to such a fine point, heavy-duty use can cause the edge of the blade to warp. However, #6000 to #8000 grit sharpening stones are perfect for sharpening knives used to cut softer materials, like fruits or vegetables.
While you can buy whetstones at #10,000 and above, most experts say that you’ll have diminishing returns from such fine grit stones.
6. Knife Sharpening Stone Recommendations
Looking for a deluxe knife sharpening experience? Check out the #1000 / #6000 Grit set, which comes with a Nagura Stone and Rust Eraser. The premium corundum stones sit perched atop a no-slip silicone holder and elegant, hand-crafted Acacia wood base to help keep the stones firmly in place while you sharpen your knives.
- The additional Nagura flattening stone and rust eraser ensure that this set includes everything you need to keep both your knives and whetstone in top shape.
- This set is perfect for routine maintenance: the #1000 grit stone keeps your knives sharp, while the #6000 grit polishes your blades to bring them back to their original shine.
- This set is Dalstrong’s priciest option.
- With four separate pieces, this set is clumsy to move – if you want to bring your knife sharpening stones with you on the go, check out the portable kit instead.
Created as a portable option, the #1000 / #6000 Grit Combo portable whetstone lets you take your whetstone with you on any culinary adventure. The storage box, made of beautifully grained oak and inlaid with a large silver medallion bearing the Dalstrong logo, keeps the stones safe wherever you go. The stones sit on a silicone mat to prevent accidental slips.
- With its oak wood case, this set was designed for chefs on the go.
- The strikingly beautiful oak wood case both protects the stone and adds an air of sophistication.
- This set does not come with the Nagura flattening stone or rust eraser. While the Rust Eraser is available for purchase separately, the Nagura Stone is not.
- If you need to sharpen damaged knives, a coarser grit might be a better option.
Coarser than most sets from Dalstrong, the #400 grit stone is up to the task of sharpening any knife – no matter how damaged. While this set is best for knives in serious need of repair, the #1000 whetstone is versatile enough to be used for regular touch-ups, too.
- The #400 coarse grit stone included in this set is capable of bringing dull and damaged blades back to their former glory.
- This set is less expensive than the premium sets with wooden bases – but doesn’t sacrifice quality when it comes to the stones.
- Want a set that will shine your knives as well as sharpen them? Consider investing in a set with a finer grit, which will provide a better shine than the #1000 stone.
- This set does not come with a silicone stone holder to keep the sharpening stones in place, so you’ll have to be careful to keep the stones from slipping while you sharpen your knives.
Featuring Dalstrong’s finest grit, the #3000 / #8000 whetstone set is made for sharpening your blades to their fullest potential. This set is perfect for chefs who sharpen their knives on a regular basis and crave a mirrorlike shine.
- These stones will allow you to get the sharpest possible edge.
- If you want a set that will polish your stones as well as sharpen them, this is your best bet.
- While sharpening your knives with a fine-grit stone allows for greater control, it’ll take patience.
- Depending on what you plan to use your knives for, you may not want your knives to be too sharp. An ultra-thin edge means that your knife is more susceptible to damage.
Bonus : Honing Steel Recommendation
Once you’ve found the best whetstone for your needs, don’t forget to add a honing steel to your collection. Unlike sharpening, which shaves metal away from the knife, honing gives you a better cut by straightening the edge of the blade. As Dalstrong’s best-selling honing steel, this is an excellent option – or check out the other honing rods available for more options.
7. Dalstrong Knife Sharpening Service
All great chefs know: you’re only as good as your knives. Every Dalstrong knife is forged with premium materials and expert engineering to stay sharp for as long as possible. But with rigorous use in the kitchen, even the highest quality knives will lose their sharpness with time.
With our brand new knife-sharpening service, you can send in 5 or 7 knives at a time for sharpening. You’ll receive fully sharpened knives in just 4-7 days from the time we receive them.
8. Frequently Asked Questions
What grit stone is best for sharpening knives?
When sharpening knives, the best grit to use depends on the task at hand. Usually, #1000 grit is a great all-purpose stone. However, if you’re sharpening a seriously damaged knife, you’ll want a lower grit.
Is a sharpening stone better than a knife sharpener?
Yes, a traditional sharpening stone is a better choice than a pull-through knife sharpener. Sharpening stones allow you to have greater control when sharpening knives and run less risk of damaging your knife over time.
What rocks are good for sharpening knives?
Traditionally, materials like Novaculite, typically referred to as Arkansas Stone, or Coticule, which comes from Belgium. Now, most knife sharpening stones are made from manmade materials like Corundum, also known as aluminum oxide. Aluminum oxide sharpens knives quickly and effectively and is often cheaper and more accessible than natural alternatives.
Do you have to wet a knife sharpening stone?
While it won’t hurt your knives if you use a knife sharpening stone dry, it will hurt the stone itself. Wetting the stone helps prevent the metal particles that leave the knife from building up and dulling the stone over time.
Now that you understand the importance of sharpening knives, you’ll be able to properly care for them and make them last for years to come. Yes, knife sharpening can be tricky at first, but like anything, practice makes perfect. Keep it up, and soon you’ll be a knife sharpening master.
You can also check in with our Expert Knife Finder Quiz and get specific recommendations based on your needs.
Written by Cassie WomackBased in Richmond, Virginia, Cassie enjoys trying challenging new recipes with her cat for company.