The thumbnail test (not recommended for novices) - With this test you take your newly sharpened blade and run it oh-so-delicately over your thumbnail. If you feel it digging in even a tiny bit, it’s likely sharp enough. If on the other hand it just slips and slides across the surface of your nail it’s not sharp yet. Again, this test is only recommended for people with lots of experience handling knives and even then they’d probably be better off just grabbing a tomato or a piece of paper.
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.
The height of the spine of your knife off of the stone below it will determine the angle. A typical sharpening angle for a typical chef knife is 19 or 20 degrees per side. For the sake of removing confusing obstacles that could hinder your progress, let’s just sharpen your knife at 20 degrees per side. You can determine exactly how high off the stone that knife should be held by measuring the height of your blade at the heel and then dividing that number by 3 for a 20 deg angle.
The word “Novaculite” is derived from the Latin word “novacula”, which means “razor stone” and is essentially a metamorphic, recrystallized, variety of Chert composed mostly of microcrystalline quartz that is found in the found in the Ouachita Mountains of Arkansas and Oklahoma and in the Marathon Uplift of Deposited in the Devonian Period and the early Mississippian Subperiod some 410 to 325 million years ago and subjected to uplift and folding during the Ouachita orogeny of the Atokan Epoch (early Pennsylvanian Subperiod), Novaculite is a very tough stone that is resistant to erosion and thus, the various layers of Novaculite stand out as ridges in the Ouachita Mountains. Thus, due to both its availability and its composition, it has been mined since ancient times for use as arrowheads and spear heads as well as in more modern times for use as sharpening stones.
As you see in the pictures, it is always very important to keep same angle of about 10' to 15', which is about two coins height between the blade and the whetstone. Gently push the point you want to sharpen with your first, second and third fingers. While keeping the angle and pushing the point with your fingers, stroke the blade until it reaches the other edge of the whetstone. Then pull the blade back until it reaches the edge of the whetstone. This back and forth is counted as one stroke. Repeat it for about five strokes until you can see or feel some small burrs (edge curvatures). Then move the position of your fingers to where you have not sharpened yet, and repeat this five strokes of sharpening processed from the tip to the base of the blade.
The stick – With a stick sharpener hold the sharpener in front of you (facing away from you) with one hand and the handle in the other hand. Hold the base of the knife against the base of the tip at a slight angle and then push the blade along the stick pulling it across the stick at the same time. The tip of the blade should cross the end of the stick. To sharpen the other side of the blade place it under the stick and repeat the process making sure to reverse the angle at which you are holding the knife against the stick.
Now you may wonder, if a finer stone produces a better cutting edge why do I need a coarse stone at all? The answer is that finer stones work much more slowly than coarse ones. The amount of metal a fine stone removes with each pass is much less than what a coarse stone removes. If you have an edge with a good shape to it from a coarse stone, this is not a problem because the fine stone doesn’t have to remove much metal to improve the edge. If the edge is dull, it will take many times longer to reshape it with a fine stone than it would with a coarse one.
Medium Grit Stones: The number range here is from 1000 to 3000, with the latter being the basic, go-to sharpening stone. If your knives have lost their edge and need a good sharpen, then this is the grit you should start with. Don’t use it too often or the knife wears down rapidly. If you like to sharpen regularly, then the 2000 and 3000 grit are the ideal choice as they are less coarse, but please remember they are designed for sharpening and not maintaining the edge.
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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.
I recommend keeping two stones in your kit. One with a medium grit (around 800 or so) to perform major sharpening jobs, and one with a fine grit (at least 2,000) to tune the edge to a razor-sharp finish. For real pros, a stone with an ultra-fine grit (8,000 and above) will leave a mirror-like finish on your blade, but most cooks won't notice the difference in terms of cutting ability.
I love sharing information, please never hesitate to comment if you are stuck or need some advice on water stones. Speaking of that, if you have more than one stone, start with the coarse and end with the fine stones and repeat the process on each stone. However, you only need P4 pressure on that first stone, the the Raising of the Burr Pressure. After that, keep it moderate to light.
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.
I would say they are worth the money. Go for it. I took a blunted Pampered Chef kitchen knife from completely dull to razor sharp in about an hour (of bumbling and repairing mistakes LOL) heavy grinding. If you have a severely damaged blade, grab one of those cheesey two sided stones from Harbor Freight to do your heavy grinding. From there these stones will work very well.
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Beginning on the right side of the knife, move from tip to heel and heel to tip, then flip the knife and repeat. For the left side, it’s opposite—start at the top of the stone to reach the heel area completely. So, you will move from heel to tip and then tip to heel. Remember to apply and release pressure as you did earlier, exactly the same as in Step 2, but with light, refining pressure.
Very interesting. If you work flat, 45 degree is what I was taught. Love the wet stones, especially the oiled ones. The nice thing about the leather part, is the mirror finish on a razor sharp blade which is a must if doing fine wood working, carving etc. A rough blade simply does not have the fine detailed dexterity. I find that the oiled sandpaper can work great as well, but found that the refined clay bars (white refined fired clay rounds and flats etc) does a wonderful job of keeping those razor edges refined, smooth as possible and then one can high polish them for smooth cutting. Believe me, when working wood for a flute, one wants that refined edge.! Learning how to hone a blade on a flat surface teaches one to work outside without a table/wall handy too...:) But we all have to start somewhere!:) Anyway, great stuff and a great start for those who want more from their tools!:) Cheers!
The coarse stone will cut the metal off quicker but it is going to give you a rougher edge but that way the job gets done quicker, without the oil. It is not as messy. This is just a real simple set up. If you do wood work you can make a little wooden box and rout it out. In this particular case it is just a 2x4, stone traced out, finishing nails tapped down so they are deeper than the stone so when you drop the stone in, if you are at a workbench you can C-clamp it down in place or you can hold on to it.
The sharpener has come a long way in the past couple of thousand years and yet it hasn’t. That is, while there have been incredible advances in the development of mechanical knife sharpeners the classic and very ancient sharpening stone is still with us and very much in use as you read this. The best knife sharpener for you will be one that meets the needs of your cuisine and your temperament but which, first and foremost, reliably produces the sharp knives (look after your knife!) you need with the least hassle.