Expert’s Guide to Sharpening a Knife with a Whetstone

A knifemaker shows you how to restore your blades to their most sharpest form.

You can sharpen knives with a variety of tools, whetstones They are highly recommended by experts as they allow for precise control. Using a whetstone — or a sharpening stone — removes the least amount of material from the knife blade, which extends its lifetime.

There are many types of whetstones, including oil and wet, and grits that range from 100 to 10,000. This number of variables may feel overwhelming initially, but it allows for customization at a level an electric or pull-through manual sharpener can’t match.

“A whetstone allows the user to carefully remove the steel off the cutting edge with the ability to adjust as you go through each pass,” says George Feder, a blacksmith and owner of Feder Knives An award-winning Hudson Valley knifemaker. “It can be intimidating to find the angle and confidently and slowly remove the material on the edge. If you do it frequently, it requires less work.“

How Whetstones work

Oil and water stones use a lubricant that reduces friction to sharpen their knives. This prevents stone damage. Because water is more efficient at knife sharpening than oil, many chefs prefer to use a waterstone over an oil stone.

As for grit, the larger the grit number, the sharper your knife’s edge will be, but the longer it will take to get the blade sharp. The higher the number the sharper and slower it will take to get the blade sharper. Conversely, the lower the number the sharper and faster the knife will become.

“To establish the edge, use finer grit stones to make the cutting edge of the bladeless resistant,” says Feder. “The finer the edge, the less resistance when cutting. The user can sharpen aggressively or gently with finesse.”

This is why having two stones is the best method to handle this variation. You can sharpen almost any knife, in any condition, with these stones. A medium grit (700-1000) is recommended to keep your knife in good working order. A fine grit (around 2000) will give you a razor-sharp edge.

Equipment You’ll Need

We love the King Whetstone Starter Set It is ideal for both beginners and more experienced users. It’s a really handy double-sided sharpener with two grit sizes, an angled holder, and a sturdy base.


How to sharpen knives with a Whetstone

RazoomGames/Getty Images

RazoomGames/Getty Images

  1. Immerse your stone(s), in water You can do it for one hour. 

  2. Place the stone on a towel, over a cutting board, or other stable surface. To sharpen knives, we recommend using a towel. The stones can be stored in the towel and you will not get any marks. You’ll also want to keep a dish of water nearby to keep the stone wet as your work. Start with the coarse side of your whetstone if it has a fine and coarse side. You can use two stones with different grit numbers. 

  3. You will hold the knife in your dominant hand. Hold the knife at the desired angle by placing your heel on the stone’s edge. angle guide If necessary, you can also use the knife to cut through the stone. Slowly pull the knife towards you by applying even pressure. The knife should glide smoothly across the stone. Then lift the knife and reset the heel at top of stone.

  4. Each pass must be counted. so you’re keeping each side of the knife even and not accidentally taking more material off one side than the other. Repeat this process as many times as you like, but not more than ten times. As you work, the water will turn cloudy. This helps your knife to become sharper with each stroke. Apply water every now and again; it should be runny.

  5. Now it’s time to move to the second side of the knife. Turn it over, and continue to make the same strokes on the second side. Keep the edge facing you. Move away from the knife and release when it is pulled back at you.   

  6. Continue the process. If you have a second or additional stone, use the higher grit. 

  7. Let your whetstone dry Place the towel and stones on a rack outside for at least 24 hours. Wrap the stones in a towel and place them somewhere safe.

Related:The Food & Wine Guide to Kitchen Knives

Our Expertise

Christa Glennie has been working as a freelancer and food editor for over 20 years. She is also the author two cookbooks. She specializes in food trends, agriculture, restaurant business, and regional foodways in Western New York. She is a strong believer in simplicity and clean counters in the kitchen, which has fueled her desire to own multi-purpose, top-of-the-line kitchen tools. An award-winning knifemaker was her expert advisor for this piece.

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