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.
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.
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The purpose of this article is just to get you started on the right path and please note that this is just the way I do it, there are many gifted sharpeners out there who are eager to share their knowledge. (I am not calling myself a gifted sharpener by the way, I just have so much respect for many sharpeners so I’m calling them gifted, they call me Peter).
You will be given access to our useful online learning material: a set of videos and articles to help you improve your sharpening technique. These resources were made by professional knife sharpeners, specifically for beginners and intermediate sharpeners. The articles and videos will guide you and teach you knife sharpening from scratch, also covering more advanced techniques. You can also get in touch with us anytime if you have any questions concerning sharpening specific types knives.
Diamond hones are made from very small, industrial grade, diamonds adhered to the face of a metal or plastic plate. Also, because Diamonds are so much harder than any of the other sharpening materials, they tend to cut very fast and last much longer than the other whetstone materials. But, they are also often more expensive to purchase. In addition, Diamond Stones generally consist of three different styles consisting of a solid metal plate coated with an adhesive and diamond dust with holes in the plate to allow the swarf to escape, a solid plate without holes for sharpening tools with corners that might catch in the holes, and a plastic plate with islands of exposed plastic interspersed with the adhesive and diamond dust to act as a lubricant.
The Whetstone 2-Sided Sharpening Stone is made from professional grade corundum and will sharpen everything from a razor blade to a cleaver and even a machete, should you happen to have a machete lying about that needs sharpening. This is the simplest type of sharpener it’s true but the company have obviously put a great deal of thought into the product.
I've used ceramic rods, diamond plates, and leather strops for our sharpening needs. And, like most, I've tried a dozen little gimmicky sharpeners that, while some work, those that do often remove way too much material from the edge, making your blade wear down faster. I've also used oil stones, grinders and buffers for less meticulous sharpening of axes and such. These two stones from Unimi (600/1000 and 2000/6000) served as my introduction to whetstone sharpening. And I must say I like it. Though, I'm not sure of the need for investing in more expensive stones.
If your dull knives are no longer getting the job done or you're worried you'll cut yourself, you should sharpen your knives with a stone. Sharpening stones, also called whetstones, are made of natural or synthetic materials and they can be used dry, with oil, or with water. Once you've chosen a stone, simply run your dull blades over the stone until they're sharp again. If you've used an even hand, your knives will feel like new!
At this point, I can flip the stone over and use the fine course side. Most Whetstones come with a nice wooden base that do a good job to hold the stone in place while sharpening. Before starting, you might need to add a bit more water to the surface. Now with the fine course stone, finish the sharpening process like before at the same blade angle and nice consistent passes along the stone. About 10 to 12 passes is good before switching to the other side of the blade. At this point, the blade should be extremely sharp. I’ll just give a quick paper test here. I can now slice paper quite easily with my knife.
All stones require either water or oil as a lubricant to sharpen the knife. We prefer water stones because they’re easier to use, less messy and don’t have the possibility to go rancid like oil does. If you choose a water stone, all you have to do is either add water to the stone before placing the knife on the surface, or soak the stone in water for 10 minutes before use. You’ll want to read the instruction for the stone you purchase to find out how to use it properly.
Sharpening is really two processes: Grinding and honing. Grinding is simply the removal of metal. Honing is a precision abrasion process in which a relatively small amount of material is removed from the surface by the means of abrasive stones. Once you have the right shape, usually using a more aggressive grit, you then switch to a finer grit to hone the edge.
Different knives are sharpened differently according to grind (edge geometry) and application. For example, surgical scalpels are extremely sharp but fragile, and are generally disposed of, rather than sharpened, after use. Straight razors used for shaving must cut with minimal pressure, and thus must be very sharp with a small angle and often a hollow grind. Typically these are stropped daily or more often. Kitchen knives are less sharp, and generally cut by slicing rather than just pressing, and are steeled daily. At the other extreme, an axe for chopping wood will be less sharp still, and is primarily used to split wood by chopping, not by slicing, and may be reground but will not be sharpened daily. In general, but not always, the harder the material to be cut, the higher (duller) the angle of the edge.
Selecting the right sharpening angle is the next step in sharpening. For more detailed instructions on selecting the right angle, try reading this article. Regardless of the method of sharpening, a appropriate angle should be selected. This angle doesn't need to be exact but following some general guidelines is a good idea. Most knife manufacturers recommend a roughly 20 degree angle. Depending on the use of your knife, you can move up or down from that angle. A fillet or slicing knife is never used on anything hard so an angle a few degrees less will produce a sharper edge. On the other hand, a survival knife with various uses can benefit from a more durable edge a few degrees larger.