Select the grit of the stone. Sharpening stones are available with different grit sizes. For example, you can choose fine, medium and coarse stones. You should use a coarse stone followed by a fine grit if your knives are dull. If your knives have been sharpened recently or they aren't too dull, consider using a medium grit. Try to use a grit level ranging from 325 (for coarse) to 1200 (for extra fine).
The composition of the stone affects the sharpness of the blade (a finer grain, usually, though not always, produces sharper blades), as does the composition of the blade (some metals take and keep an edge better than others). For example, Western kitchen knives are usually made of softer steel and take an edge angle of 20–22°, while East Asian kitchen knives are traditionally of harder steel and take an edge angle of 15–18°. The Western-style kitchen knives are generally in the range of 52–58 on the Rockwell scale, which denotes the relative hardness of a material.
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For a quick jump, you can see on the chart below made by Steve Bottorff described on his popular book Sharpening Made Easy: A Primer on Sharpening Knives and Other Edged Tools. The book tells many things about knife sharpening, sharpening system and DIY guide how to sharpen razor-sharp edges. If you want to surf deeper into the world of the sharpener, then it is one of a must-read book for you. For you who dwell in the Mainland or around the United Kingdom, you can buy the book through the link below.
The toughest angle to master is the angle at which you'll sharpen the edge of the knife. For a Japanese knife, that should be around 12-15 degrees. Before you reach for the protractor, a good test is to get roughly half an index finger's gap between the spine of the knife and the stone (see above). Remember to remove your finger before you start sharpening. For a Western-style knife, you want an angle of about 20°, so raise it ever-so-slightly higher.
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.
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.
When attempting to choose a whetstone for sharpening your favorite knife, the number of choices can be mind boggling. In fact, sharpening stones are divided into four distinct categories consisting of natural whetstones and manufactured whetstones which, in turn, are divided into two other categories consisting of oil stones and water stones. Then, there are numerous different varieties of natural whetstones consisting of several different materials that are quarried from different places around the world as well as several different types of man-made whetstones!
Your primary goal is just to improve the edge, make it a little bit sharper. Manage you’re expectations and don’t worry about getting the knife ready for eye surgery on day one. Ignore all those YouTube videos where you see folks performing miracles with their knives, forget that completely. You just want to make the knife a little less dull and by doing so you will achieve what most people will never even attempt. You want to get a taste of sharpening success and it can happen quickly. If you are reading this, or any other cool sharpening tips, you’re on the right path.
Both Belgian Blue and Vielsalm Coticule are ancient stone layers found in the Belgian Ardenne Mountains with characteristics similar to both Novaculite and Siliciclastic sedimentary stone in that it is a metamorphic stone consisting of both gray and yellow volcanic ash mixed with tiny Spessartite Garnet crystals suspended in a clay matrix. However, due to its geology, both types of stone occur only in vertical seams sandwiched between two thick layers of bluish-purple slate and thus, they must be meticulously extracted mostly by hand. However, this type of extraction process is both very time-consuming and very labor-intensive and, quarrymen can only extract the stone for a few months each year due to inclement weather conditions. Consequently, both Belgium Blue and Coticule whetstones tend to be somewhat expensive.
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.
You've acquired a good chef's knife, you're using it almost daily to make tasty dinners for the family, and it's stored in a nice knife rack or a magnet for safekeeping. So why stop there? Keeping that knife's edge fine will make cooking not only safer but, let's face it, much more fun. Whether you've spent £150 on a high-end knife or under a tenner on a dinky paring knife, keeping it sharp is crucial.
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.
Japanese water stones – both natural and synthetic – are known for their superior sharpening performance, not only for Japanese tools, but also on their Western equivalents. The loosely bonded abrasive grit is washed out very quickly, as it blunts during the sharpening process; this exposes new, sharp, particles that can get to work on the blade. Water stones are lubricated only with water! Never use oil!
It helps you get the knack for a consistently correct angle BUT the idea falls apart a bit when it comes to the curve and taper part of the knife and if your knife has an excessively narrow (slicer/boner) or wide (cleaver) width. It will also mark up the sides of your knife which may bother some who are obsessed with the cosmetic appearance of their $150+ Japanese knives--I could care less.
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.
One of the most well-regarded natural whetstones is the yellow-gray "Belgian Coticule", which has been legendary for the edge it can give to blades since Roman times, and has been quarried for centuries from the Ardennes. The slightly coarser and more plentiful "Belgian Blue" whetstone is found naturally with the yellow coticule in adjacent strata; hence two-sided whetstones are available, with a naturally occurring seam between the yellow and blue layers. These are highly prized for their natural elegance and beauty, and for providing both a fast-cutting surface for establishing a bevel and a finer surface for refining it. This stone is considered one of the finest for sharpening straight razors.
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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 immediate goal is to raise a burr on the side of knife opposite to the side you are sharpening and depending on the steel, the grit of stone and how you are doing, it will be either a very quick process or it will seem like it takes an eternity. Patience here will reward you, believe me. The sharpening process is incomplete with no burr creation on your first stone. (Yes, it is possible to stop at that magic moment without the burr forming but we are not there yet, we don’t even need to go there, ever, I am just mentioning it so those gifted sharpeners will be happy) . Think of the burr as the debris that is making the knife dull being forced down the blade towards the edge and over to the other side of the by your sharpening prowess. You form the burr, that knife will get sharp, no burr, you just need to look at your work. A Loupe is handy here, an inexpensive magnifying device with a light that allows you to see the edge very well, if you are not forming a burr, you are not reaching the edge. (Having a loupe also makes you look cool and scientific, like a Sharpologist).
Naniwa also makes the Naniwa Traditional line of stones, these are less expensive than the Professional lineup and I believe were created to compete in terms of cost with some other brands such as King that are less expensive, more attractive to some who are just starting and may not want to invest a lot of money. I have tried the Naniwa Traditional 220, 1,000 and 2,000 grit stones and I thoroughly enjoyed them, so if you are considering a less expensive brand to get started, these are also good. I do not like them as much as the Professional line but I do like them, they work, they make the knives sharp.