A sharpening stone is made of particles of abrasive material that are sintered or bonded together. The blade is moved across the stone and the steel is worn away, which creates the edge. However, at the same time, the stone is also worn away to reveal new, coarse particles. As a general rule, the softer the stone, the more rapidly it will wear and will be more aggressive in use. Harder stones don’t wear as quickly.
Begin with your lower-grit stone. Place the heel of your knife on the far edge of the stone, holding the blade gently but firmly with both hands at a 15- to 20-degree angle. Using even pressure, slowly drag the knife over the stone toward you down the length of the stone while simultaneously moving the knife such that the contact point moves toward the tip of the blade.
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Speaking of building muscle memory, here is a good exercise for you, a confidence builder: Paint the edge of your knife and bevel with a Sharpie and sharpen the knife at an angle that results in the removal of that Sharpie. In many cases it will be close to the 20 deg angle anyway. When you have achieved success, repeat the process and do that ten times. Now flip the blade over and do it on the other side, you don’t need to use much pressure here, just a little. You want to get to the point where you can place the knife at the SRA “Sharpie Removal Angle” the first time, every time.
Selecting the proper coarseness for your sharpening stone is an important first step in sharpening your knife. Not every knife needs to start at the coarsest stone you have, on the other hand a very dull knife can not be sharpened on only your finest stone. Starting with the proper coarseness will ensure that you achieve the edge you need quickly. If your knife is very dull or has a nicked blade, start with your coarsest stone. The coarse stone removes material quickly so a poor edge can be refined quickly. However, the coarse stone must be followed up with your finer stone to refine the edge. If your knife is only slightly dull and just needs a quick touch up, starting at a medium or fine stone can save you time. Starting on a fine stone requires fewer steps but must only be used on an edge requiring little work.
Stropping a knife is a finishing step. This is often done with a leather strap, either clean or impregnated with abrasive compounds (e.g. chromium(III) oxide or diamond), but can be done on paper, cardstock, cloth, or even bare skin in a pinch. It removes little or no metal material, but produces a very sharp edge by either straightening or very slightly reshaping the edge. Stropping may bring a somewhat sharp blade to "like new" condition.
This is great combination but you don’t need them all to get started. As your budget allows, start with one stone and although I like to start with a coarse stone, the 400 Chosera is a little coarse to start the learning process with and you would need another stone in a higher grit to finish. So if you want to start with one water stone, and that is perfectly okay, select the 1,000 grit stone, it will deliver an edge that will startle you, with practice of course. Also, just having a water stone in your possession is going to motivate you, trust me.
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Once you've sharpened one side, you need to flip over, but don't swap the hand gripping the blade – think of it a bit like going backhand with a tennis racket (see above). Lead with the heel this time, rather then with the blade, but repeat the process in three parts. After five strokes on each third of the blade, it's time to check your knife. It's not an exact science, and it all depends on how blunt your blade was to start with (mine was very blunt indeed). But if you sharpen fairly regularly, it should just take a few strokes.
Practice holding the knife at a 20 degree angle. Most straight blades need to be sharpened at a 20 degree angle. To find the angle, hold the directly in front of you so it's straight up and down. This is 90 degrees. Tilt the knife halfway towards the table so it's at a 45 degree angle. Tilt the knife halfway again so it's about an inch (2.5 cm) above the table. This should be a 20 degree angle.
Unfortunately, the arrays of modern whetstone can be bewildering to the inexperienced sharpeners that so often times many of them end up with a crap or wrong decision on stone type for their utensils. The most difficult to determine is whether the whetstone is fake or fabricated with low quality of materials. To avoid this you can only go for the reliable brand of a whetstone.
For woodworking tools like chisels and plane blades, you will need stones that are at least as wide as the blades themselves. Length is helpful but not always critically important. The one exception is when you're using a guide for sharpening tools. The guide often rides on the stone and longer stones permit you to use a much larger portion of the stone as both the guide and the edge need to simultaneously touch the stones.
Your stroke can be straight or circular, from "hilt to tip" OR "tip to hilt," whichever is more comfortable. If you're using a small portable sharpener, stroke the blade in nearly a straight direction. Remember to always cut into the stone and never pull or drag your edge backwards. The blade edge should face in the same direction as your stroke. So, you're essentially moving the metal away from the edge. We recommend the circular stroke as it helps you maintain your angle instead of having to find it every time you lift the knife from the stone.
A diamond plate is a steel plate, sometimes mounted on a plastic or resin base, coated with diamond grit, an abrasive that will grind metal. When they are mounted they are sometimes known as diamond stones. The plate may have a series of holes cut in it that capture the swarf cast off as grinding takes place, and cuts costs by reducing the amount of abrasive surface area on each plate. Diamond plates can serve many purposes including sharpening steel tools, and for maintaining the flatness of man-made waterstones, which can become grooved or hollowed in use. Truing (flattening a stone whose shape has been changed as it wears away) is widely considered essential to the sharpening process but some hand sharpening techniques utilise the high points of a non-true stone. As the only part of a diamond plate to wear away is a very thin coating of grit and adhesive, and in a good diamond plate this wear is minimal due to diamond's hardness, a diamond plate retains its flatness. Rubbing the diamond plate on a whetstone to true (flatten) the whetstone is a modern alternative to more traditional truing methods.
Grit choices should fall in line with the steel used to make the knives you plan to sharpen. If your knives are all European, relatively soft steel knives, then you could finish off your knives at the 1,000 – 2,000 grit level. There is a lengthy explanation regarding this topic but suffice it to say that at 2,000 grit, these knives can be made extremely sharp.
Therefore, the first step to choosing a whetstone is to determine your intended purpose and then choose your whetstone accordingly. For instance, when sharpening tools that do not require a fine edge, you should choose a relatively soft, coarse, stone such as a Norton Crystolon water stone. However, for sharpening tools that do require a fine edge, a somewhat harder Norton India oil stone would be a good choice. But, for sharpening hunting knives where an exceptionally fine edge is required, a Novaculite or Coticule oil stone would be the best but, most expensive, choice. So, the process of choosing the correct whetstone for any given purpose is to first determine how fast you would like for the stone to cut and how fine an edge you need, and then choose either a soft, coarse, stone or, a hard, fine, stone of the appropriate type and grit.
The goal in sharpening a serration is to maintain the ramp of the serration right to the edge. You do not want to create an edge bevel. Therefore we once again recommend the trusty felt pen trick. Paint the serration to be sharpened and follow your process. Evaluate if you are removing all the black. It should not take more than 5-8 strokes to resharpen if your angle was correct. Rotate or spin the sharpener as you go for the most even, consistent sharpening.
I am just starting out sharpening with whet stones. I have found these stones to be very nice and the instructional videos that come along with the set on knifeplanet are extremely helpful to anyone starting out. The cost of the set was very reasonable and seems to be a great value. The customer service is amazing, I lost the site for the videos and sent an email to get the information and immediately there was a reply with all of the links that I needed. I appreciate their attention to their customers!!