J. Kenji López-Alt is the Chief Culinary Advisor of Serious Eats, and author of the James Beard Award-nominated column The Food Lab, where he unravels the science of home cooking. A restaurant-trained chef and former Editor at Cook's Illustrated magazine, his first book, The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science is a New York Times Best-Seller, the recipient of a James Beard Award, and was named Cookbook of the Year in 2015 by the International Association of Culinary Professionals.
You’ll know you’re reached a stopping point when you can feel the slight catch of the bevel on the edge of the blade, by carefully running your finger in the direction of the blade, or by cutting through a sheet of paper. When the knife cuts cleanly through the paper, it’s time to hone the blade. Read our guide for more information about honing vs sharpening.
Start off on the rough grit side of the stone. Check the grit on your stone, or the packaging that came with the stone, to identify which is which. In general, whetstones and diamond stones each have different grits on either side. The rough grit side is used to grind the steel down, while the fine grit side is used to sharpen or hone the knife. The grinding process comes first, so you start on the rough grit side.

This set of two Norton combination waterstones provides four grits and also includes a flattening stone as an added value. The 220, 1000, 4000 and 8000 grit sides will handle everything from aggressive shaping to final polishing. They are 8" long by 3" wide, big enough to handle most knives and tools easily. Our most popular waterstone kit, this has everything you need to both sharpen with waterstones and maintain the stones themselves. A great starter set.

You want sharpening stones that will be useful for the majority of your edges now, and that will remain useful as you expand both your tools and your sharpening toolkit in the future. Ending up with duplicate stones or ones that are no longer useful as you gain new knives or tools is a waste of money. The goal is to start with something that will stay with you as your needs develop.


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An extremely well written and informative article on sharpening. Overtime we all get to love certain stones for our sharpening needs. I am a huge coticule fan, and although i have used all the others, i always come back to this natural stone above all others. Still trying to figure if i chose it or it chose me! NEver the less there are so many options out there it is not hard with a little time and effort to find the right combination for your needs.
For instance, American Novaculite (aka Washita and Arkansas Stones) is a form of metamorphic Chert that produces some of the best known and best loved natural whetstones in existence. Then, there is a form of Belgian Coticule which has been known for providing extra-keen edges since Roman times and, there is a Japanese Siliciclastic sedimentary stone (aka Japanese Water Stones) which consist of a fine silicate particles suspended in a clay matrix. Plus, there are also various types of man-made whetstones available such as Silicon Carbide (aka Crystalon) stones and Aluminum Oxide (aka India Stones) as well as a synthetic Corundum (aka Ruby) rod and Aluminum Oxide impregnated ceramic rods as well as several different types of diamond hones.
Ceramic sharpening stones were the early replacement for natural stones. Unfortunately there are huge differences in the quality of ceramic stones so be wary. Some are extremely soft and dish out very quickly and at the other end of the spectrum some are so hard they tend to glaze over in a hurry. Ceramic stones need a good soaking for about 10 or more minutes to saturate the pores of the stone prior to use. As all knife steels are different we tend to find that ceramic stones tend to work better with some knives over others. There are no hard and fast rules but we like ceramic for Ao-ko and single edged knives. The Kaiden Ceramic stones are the fastest cutting Japanese stones in Australia and are recommended for advanced users.
Your task as a sharpener is to remove that fatigued metal and expose the steel underneath, the fresh strong steel and bring side A and B of the knife together at the Apex precisely, sounds easy doesn’t it? Like peeling a layer off and having a fresh start, over and over. Of course there is much more to it than this but in very basic terms, you want the abrasive properties of the water stone to abrade the fatigued metal away, like an eraser.
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One of the combinations of stones that I was introduced to several years ago is a unique one, it is a 500, 2,000 and 16,000 grit combination. I was apprehensive when I first tried this, that was thousands of knives ago, it works, it is fantastic combination. It is unique because the traditional way of thinking is that we should be doubling the grit sizes as we sharpen, for example, a 500 grit stone should be followed by a 1,000 grit, then 2,000 grit. This line of thought is meant to be flexible, it is a general rule only, I have broken it countless times.
The most important aspect of a sharpening stone is the grit. If you have knives that have taken a beating and are either nicked up or really dull, you’ll need a courser stone to get it back into shape. And in order to put an exceptionally sharp edge on an already sharp knife, you’ll need a finer grit stone. If your knives are already in pretty good shape and just need a touch up, buying just a finer grit stone might be enough, but don’t think you can get away without a courser stone for knives that need more TLC. It is possible to buy a combination, or two-sided sharpening stone.

However, due to limited natural deposits and extensive quarrying over the centuries, true, high quality, Japanese water stones are now few and far between and are very expensive. Thus, various companies are now producing synthetic Japanese Water Stones which generally have a more consistent composition and grit size than natural stones as well as often begin somewhat harder and thus, lasting a bit longer; not to mention being cheaper to purchase.
Method 1: Use an Electric Sharpener. Quality electric sharpeners are an option, but I strongly discourage their use. First off, they remove a tremendous amount of material from your edge. Sharpen your knife a dozen times, and you've lost a good half-centimeter of width, throwing it off balance, and rendering any blade with a bolster (i.e. most high-end forged blades) useless. Secondly, even the best models provide only an adequate edge. If you don't mind replacing your knives every few years and are happy with the edge they give you, they'll do the trick. But a much better choice is to...
Low Grit Stones: A sharpening stone with grit number less than a 1000 is generally used for knives and tools that are damaged. If your blade has any nicks or chips in the blade, the stones will take care of them in a jiffy! They usually have a coarse side for nicks and chips, with the other side for general sharpening. Even if the knife’s edge has become totally blunt, the stone will re-sharpen it perfectly.
This 600/1,000 grit is my second Unimi knife sharpener, the first is 2,000/6,000 grit and I love them both. Both stones together produce very sharp and well polished knives that reduce the cutting effort and save time in the kitchen. I particularly appreciate that the manufacture printed the grit number on the side of each stone - that helps use the different grits in the proper sequence from the coarser to the finer. The stone comes with a non-slip silicone/rubber base which is very handy.
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