The humble sharpener tends to elicit more divergent opinions than just about any other type of kitchen tech. Everyone, it turns out, has their own take on which type of sharpener works best and why and most serious chefs aren’t shy about voicing their opinion. As you can imagine then there are a number of things most chefs – both professional and amateur – look for in a sharpener in order to ensure they get the one that’s right for them. These considerations include:
Whichever method you choose, be it a waterstone (also known as a whetstone), or a pull-through (either V-shaped or ceramic wheels) it's important to regularly hone your knife with a honing steel, which we'll also cover below. You'll be pleased to hear that you won't have to reach for the stones too regularly – once every two or three months should suffice.
There is no dominant standard for the relationship between "grit size" and particle diameter. Part of the difficulty is that "grit size" is used to refer to the smoothness of the finish produced by a sharpening stone, and not just the actual size of the grit particles. Other factors apart from particle diameter that affect the finish (and thus the "grit size" rating) are:
In recent years, some whetstone manufacturers have started producing ceramic whetstones made from hard, ceramic, powders that are mixed with Aluminum Oxide and then sintered to form a solid. But, rather than using oil or water to lubricate the whetstone, ceramic whetstones are meant to be used without lubrication and thus, they provide a significant advantage for chefs who need to keep their knives sharp but, who do not have either the room or time for using a bench water stone. Thus, they are commonly available as either bench stones, pocket stones, round rods, or triangular rods.
Cerax and Suehiro stones from Suehiro are a little harder, and as such do not wear down as quickly as the classic Japanese water stones. The 8000 grit stone will perhaps give you the best cutting edge with a mirror polish on chisels and similar blades. Suehiro also makes a small combination stone for those who do not sharpen tools all that often and are reluctant to spend extra for a Cerax stone.
The following are my personal favourites and they are all synthetic stones, I do have experience with natural what stones but lets keep it simple, lets stick to synthetic water stones. Believe me, some of the world sharpest knives are sharpened solely on synthetic stones. Here are my personal favourites, I use these water stones every day and the order is not necessarily in priority, they are all good.
Removing the burr is fairly simple. You'll need a leather strop or block (this sort of thing), which is designed to catch the metal fibres from the knife. You could do it with a fibrous tea towel or some newspaper if you like, but I'd suggest going with leather to begin with. The motion is fairly similar to sharpening. Draw the knife over the leather, going away from the edge at roughly the same angle as when you sharpened.