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.
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.
A: Like cars, knife sharpeners run the gamut from basic to luxury and like cars the price can vary from extremely affordable to more than some people might want to spend. You can get a high quality sharpener that will put your knives through a 2 or 3-stage process which will result in an incredibly sharp edge for less than $20. Or you can buy a mechanical sharpener that will produce a virtually flawless edge for $200+.
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.
In addition, the most prized of the natural Japanese Water Stones are quarried in the Narutaki District north of Kyoto, Japan and are commonly available as either bench stones or pocket stones in grits ranging from 120 to 12,000. On the other hand, synthetic water stones are made from Aluminum Oxide and commonly available as either bench stones or pocket stones as well in grits ranging from 220 to 8,000 and, although this is the same abrasive material used to make India Oil Stones, the difference between the two is that the binder that holds the abrasive together enables Water Stones to be much softer than India Oil Stones which, in turn, promotes faster cutting because the worn abrasive material breaks away more quickly and is replaced with fresh, sharp, abrasive material more quickly. In addition, because water stones do not become glazed or loaded with swarf like oil stones can, new abrasive particles are constantly exposed as the stone wears so it continues to cut consistently. Plus, they can be lubricated effectively with water (rather than oil which can ruin some water stones) which combines with the fine particles of abrasive from the surface of the stone to form a slurry which polishes the bevel as the stone cuts. However, it should also be noted that Water Stones do become uneven significantly faster than other types of whetstones although, their softness does make them easier to true again.
Functionality – If you have experience with the stick or sharpening stone you likely don’t want or need anything else. If, however, you are in search of an electric-powered sharpener you’ll want to consider how many “stages” you need in your sharpener. In a typical 3-stage sharpener the first stage is the coarsest and does most of the heavy lifting required to turn the edge from dull to sharp. The second stage will have finer grain sharpening wheels. These are used to hone the edge, that is, to smooth out the burrs left by the coarse first stage. A third stage will refine the edge even further and remove any debris left over from the sharpening process.
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.
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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.
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.
Understanding Grit: You’ll see a bunch of numbers being thrown around when discussing the grit of a sharpening stone. The number refers to the size of the grit. The larger the number, the finer the grit. A good beginner stone would be a two-sided stone with #400 and #1000 grit. The #400 grit is the courser stone for working out the nicks and imperfections, the #1000 grit is for refining.
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.
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!
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.