Why, then, do so many of us shy away from the task? To put it bluntly, it's because it's a rather daunting process for the beginner. Your image of knife sharpening may consist of a hyper-masculine chef slashing away violently at a steel rod (we're looking at you, Gordon). Conversely, you might have seen cooks meticulously and methodically stroking their blade up and down a Japanese waterstone with more intricate attention to detail than a Flemish landscape.
There are no lengthy explanations needed to describe the Lansky 8” Ceramic Sharp Stick sharpener. It’s an old-fashioned device comprised of a hardwood handle and ceramic sharpening rod. That’s it. Sure it’s not going to create an absolutely picture perfect edge down to the last micron but it will keep your knives really sharp and do so for next to nothing.
Now it's time to polish. This is when you'll swap over from the coarse grit to the finer grit (make sure this side is wet, too). I found the knife still had a bit of grime on it, so I gave it a wipe clean beforehand. The motion is exactly the same as with sharpening, but you can apply slightly less pressure, and limit to roughly 30 strokes on each side.
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This coarse grit whetstone is great for prepping old and dull knives that need to be sharpened with a fine grit stone. One of my good knives edge looked like someone had tried to chop barbed wire. After ten minutes on each side of the stone, the edge was smooth and free of imperfections. After it hit the knife with the fine grit stone, I was cutting onions and apples like hot butter! I would soak this stone for 12-24 hours before using. It sucks water like a sponge. The surface needs to be damp when you sharpen.
The speed and polishing ability of waterstones attract many sharpeners. Waterstones sharpen quickly and are available in fine polishing grits not found in other stone types. The ability to flatten the stones is a necessity when sharpening with waterstones, so a starting set should include a flattening stone of some kind. Our article, How to Flatten a Waterstone, has more information about keeping waterstones flat.
While it may still feel like there is a lot to choose from, you don’t need a lot of of stones, you just a several good varieties to choose from. To summarize I will indicate below what my favourite stones are in each grit. Yes you can mix up the brands when sharpening but my recommendation is to buy a combination of 2-3 stones of the same brand and go from there.
Hobby microscope view of a 220 grit diamond sharpening stone. Tiny diamonds are electroplated to a perforated metal carrier strip and bonded to a plastic backing. The feature identified with the red line across it measures about 0.08 mm across. The dark area at upper right is a void designed to allow for swarf created during sharpening to be cleared from the diamonds. This relatively coarse stone would be used to reshape a damaged blade edge which would be refined by finer grit stones.
Choose the style of stone. You'll need to choose a natural or synthetic stone that can be used wet (soaked in water), with oil, or dry. There are also diamond stones that are actually very small diamonds attached to a metal surface. Stones that are soaked in water are softer stones which means you can quickly sharpen your knives. Unfortunately, these stones will wear down faster than the others. Oil stones are the least expensive and they're made of a harder material.
A: That depends almost entirely on how often you use them. If you are a professional chef who uses his or her knives every day then you should hone them every time you use your knives. But honing has its limits and over time your edge is going to become dull no matter what. Therefore your knives will need to be sharpened at least several times a year. Some chefs, in fact, will use a whetstone on an almost daily basis in order to ensure their knives are always razor sharp. Most of us, however, are not professional chefs and may not even touch our kitchen knives for days at a time. In that case, it’s probably a good idea to hone the edge after every couple of uses and have your knives sharpened once a year.