With its premium series Select II, the whetstone manufacturer Sigma Power Corporation from Tokyo addresses users of high-alloy steels such as HSS. These stones, too, are obviously intended to engender a grinding experience similar to that of natural stones. The special production process is expensive, but the Sigma Select II probably has no equal when it comes to demolishing steel.
Steeling helps maintain sharpness. This process realigns the edge, correcting for dulling causes such as a rolled edge. A sharpening steel is a type of hardened cylindrical rod used similarly to honing stones. For example, a butcher steel is a round file with the teeth running the long way, while a packer steel (used in the meat packer's industry) is a smooth, polished steel rod designed for straightening the turned edge of a knife, and is also useful for burnishing a newly finished edge. Because steels have a small diameter they exert high local pressure, and therefore affect the knife metal when used with very little force. They are intended for mild steel knives that are steeled several times a day, but are not well suited for today's tougher and harder blade steels. Diamond steels are now available that have an industrial diamond coating and can remove blade metal as well as straighten, therefore used correctly they can re-profile a knife instead of just honing.
Today, however, there is a whole new generation of mechanical sharpeners that are far more forgiving for those who may not use perfect technique. At the same time many more people have become accustomed to sharpening their knives this way and the average novice of 10 years ago is now the seasoned pro. It is still possible to damage knives with an electric sharpener, but you would have to either be trying to damage the knife or have some type of accident in order to do so.
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.
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.
When you apply a sharp knife to the surface of a tomato, cucumber, carrot or other food item it should - if you are holding it firmly and applying minimal pressure - sink into the particular item without effort. As such all you really need to work on is your technique and making sure you keep your fingers out of the way. With a dull knife however things aren’t quite so simple. When you apply a dull blade to, say, a tomato it’s not going to slice into the skin. Instead the skin will be able to push back meaning you’ll need to apply ever more pressure to get the knife to penetrate. Increasing the pressure on the knife increases the likelihood of the knife slipping off the offending food item to one side or another. And if it slips to the side where your hand is attempting to hold the vegetable steady you could be in store for a very nasty cut. Because even a dull knife will cause injury if there’s enough force behind it.
Cutting angle – With a manual stick or sharpening stone you set the angle yourself so this does not factor into the equation when choosing that type of sharpener. When shopping for an electric sharpener however it does. You’ll want to decide if you want your knives to have the 15 degree “Asian” style angle so that you can make precise cuts or the Western standard 20 degrees or 22-degree sharpening angle. Most people will opt for the 20 or 22-degree angle simply because their cuisine doesn’t call for a lot of finesse from their knives and those knives are probably of a heavier Western variety anyway.
Ease of use – Most people in search of a mechanical sharpener want one because they don’t want to be bothered with trying to achieve a perfect edge themselves using a stick or sharpening stone. They want predictable, first class results every time. In that case it’s important that the electric powered device is easy to use, achieves results quickly and with little effort and is designed with user safety in mind. Keep in mind too that it’s easy to apply too much pressure when using a mechanical sharpener and when that happens you’re likely to see unsatisfactory results. In addition there are subtle differences between mechanical devices designed for Asian-style knives and those designed for Western-style knives. This has to do with the sharpening angle discussed above. Don’t get an Asian sharpener if you don’t need precise control over your cuts.
Choose the style of stone. You'll need to choose a natural or synthetic stone that can be used wet (soaked in water), with oil, or dry. There are also diamond stones that are actually very small diamonds attached to a metal surface. Stones that are soaked in water are softer stones which means you can quickly sharpen your knives. Unfortunately, these stones will wear down faster than the others. Oil stones are the least expensive and they're made of a harder material.
The smaller the angle between the blade and stone, the sharper the knife will be, but the less side force is needed to bend the edge over or chip it off. The angle between the blade and the stone is the edge angle – the angle from the vertical to one of the knife edges, and equals the angle at which the blade is held. The total angle from one side to the other is called the included angle – on a symmetric double-ground edge (a wedge shape), the angle from one edge to the other is thus twice the edge angle. Typical edge angles are about 20° (making the included angle 40° on a double-ground edge). The edge angle for very sharp knives can be as little as 10 degrees (for a 20° included angle). Knives that require a tough edge (such as those that chop) may sharpen at 25° or more.
If you do not remove enough metal to create a new edge, you will leave some of the dull edge in place. A dull blade (or a blade with dull spots or nicks) will reflect light from the very edge of the blade. A razor sharp knife edge will not show "bright spots" when you hold it blade up under a bright light. You will need to remove enough material from the sides of the bevel so that the edge stops reflecting light.
Since 1814, knives bearing the Wusthof name and the Trident logo have been crafted in the world's "Cutlery Capital" of Solingen, Germany. Today, in a state-of-the-art facility, that tradition of quality is ensured as old-world craftsmanship meets twenty first century production methods. Knives are amongst the most important kitchen implements and should therefore always be kept sharp. Yet even the sharpest blades will go blunt at some point! When this happens, the blade will need to be sharpened again quickly. Professional chefs swear by using a whetstone for sharpening. This particularly gentle and effective way of sharpening is becoming increasingly popular with knife connoisseurs and yet there is always the issue of achieving the correct angle. After all, when sharpening on a whetstone, the knife must always be held at precisely the right angle to the stone, otherwise you will get an uneven cutting edge. The new slider from Wusthof ensures this can no longer happen and is also exceptionally easy to handle. The knife is simply placed on the wedge-shaped slider with its structured silicone surface and then pulled gentle over the whetstone. The pre-set 14° angle ensures that the knife always maintains a consistent angle - from the tip to the end of the blade. The soft silicone surface prevents the blade from getting scratched. The underneath of the slider has two ceramic strips on the bottom to ensure it glides smoothly over the whetstone. The ergonomic shape of this practical sharpening aid fits nicely in the hand and will be much appreciated for its ease of use. Even for those without any experience, this new product is just the thing for effortless sharpening using a whetstone.
Furthermore, Novaculite consists of several different layers of stone of different densities, grit sizes, and colors. Thus, the red Novaculite layer (aka Washita Stone) is the both the softest and most coarse while, the next most coarse/hard grade is the grey/white Soft Arkansas stone; both of which cut relatively fast for a hard whetstone material and thus, they are an excellent choice for refining a bevel. Then, the next grade of coarseness/hardness is the hard Arkansas stone which is used to polish the bevel rather than define it and, last there are the grades of Hard Black and Hard Translucent Arkansas stones which are used for extremely fine honing and polishing of a cutting edge. Plus, it’s also the primary material in “Charnley Forest” (English) and “Turkey” oilstones.
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.
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.
Chefs will do this every day, and there's no reason you shouldn't too. Before cooking, or after you've done the washing up, honing your knife will help keep it in good condition. "When you're using a honing steel, you're not actually removing any metal at all, just re-straightening that edge, to get it back in line," says Authbert. Remember that you'll still need to sharpen it every two or three months.
High Grit Stones: These are also known as finishing stones with the number range going up to 8000, and give you a super refined edge. They work great with Western knives as they cutting edge resembles a “U” as opposed to a “V”. If you are using your knife to cut meat, then you can happily stop at 4000 or 6000 grit. If you are only using it for vegetables or fruit go all the way to the 8000.
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.
Diamond sharpening stones are becoming really popular because of their ability to cut fast. We tend not to recommend diamond sharpening stones/plates because a lot of damage can be done very quickly. Also diamonds are pretty sharp and at arato level they leave deep scratches in the blade that need to be polished out quite aggressively. Diamond stones can be used with and without lubricant.
Sharpening stones have been around since the dawn of civilization for a very good reason: they work. Yes, they’re more labor intensive than most electric sharpeners but they also allow you an unprecedented level of control. Once you get used to something like the Fallkniven DC3 Diamond/Ceramic Whetstone Sharpener you may never take out your electric sharpener again.
Last, it should be noted that dual-sided Coticule/Belgian Blue whetstones are also sometimes available which have a layer of Belgian Blue stone on one side and a layer of Coticule on the other. Thus, these whetstones provide a softer, more coarse, grit on one side and a harder, finer, grit on the other. Plus, due to the inherent toughness of the Belgian Blue stone, these dual-sided stones do not require a substrate layer.
Clean the knives and stone. As soon as you've finished sharpening your knives, wash and dry the blades. You should also clean the stone according to the manufacturer's instructions. For example, if you have an oil stone, you might need to scrub it occasionally with a stiff fiber brush and soak it in oil. For a water stone, wash off any of the residue and store it in a dry cloth until you need to use it again.
Table mounted device – Typically the manual powered table mounted sharpener looks virtually identical to the electric powered sharpener with a slot for each stage. Where they differ is that each slot in the manual powered sharpener has only one groove and you pull the blade through this groove toward you to sharpen the blade. Once the blade is sufficiently sharp you place it in the honing groove to refine the edge and pull it toward you again several times. If there is a third, cleaning, stage you repeat the process for that stage as well.
A: You can sharpen your knives by hand using a stone or you can use a manual powered 1-stage, 2-stage or 3-stage sharpener or you can use a multi-stage electric powered sharpener. The choice is yours. Many people prefer not just the affordability but the precise control they have with an oil or water stone. While others opt for the more predictable results they get from an electric powered sharpener. It’s really a matter of taste.
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.
I can personally verify that this will get your knives very sharp. I will spare you all the gory details, but the picture is of the instructions the ER sent me home with after stopping the bleeding and patching me up. I have to say, that’s not what I had in mind regarding “Thanksgiving tips”. So: not only will knives slide easily through spinach, but they will go through finger and fingernail like a hot knife through butter after being sharpened by this whetstone. Very clean, straight cut. Impressive, really. Just take it slow and don’t be a moron like me.