Aluminum-Oxide oil stones are very popular man-made sharpening stones produced by an abrasives company called Norton and which are commonly called India Stones. Generally less expensive than Arkansas stones (aka Novaculite), these stones are graded coarse, medium, and fine and are designed for fast cutting. Yet, when the fine grit is used, they can also produce a relatively fine edge. Also, because India Oil Stones are both softer and coarser than Arkansas Stones, they are commonly used in conjunction with Novaculite to cut the initial edge bevels or, repair extremely dull or damaged edges before refining and polishing the bevel with an Arkansas Stone.
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.
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.
In summary: Peter Nowlan is a professional knife sharpener based in Halifax (Canada) and he recommends the KnifePlanet Sharpening Stone Set, a beginners and intermediate kit that includes 4 sharpening grits: 400/1000, 3000/8000, a bamboo base and the KnifePlanet Flattening Stone. The Japanese Naniwa 3-stone combination is also a great (and more expensive) choice, ideal for professionals and more advanced sharpeners: the Naniwa stones are slightly bigger compared to KnifePlanet’s. In both cases, a coarse, medium and fine grit combination is very effective to sharpen and refine the edge:
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.
Clamp-style sharpening tools use a clamp with several holes with predefined angles. The stone is mounted on a rod and is pulled through these holes, so that the angle remains consistent. Another system is the crock stick setup, where two sticks are put into a plastic or wooden base to form a V shape. When the knife is pulled up the V, the angle is held so long as the blade is held perpendicular to the base. Several cutlery manufacturers now offer electric knife sharpeners with multiple stages with at least one grinding stage. These electric sharpeners are typically used in the kitchen but have the ability to sharpen blades such as pocket or tactical knives. The main benefit of using an electric sharpener is speed with many models that can complete the sharpening process in one to two minutes. The disadvantage is that the sharpening angle is fixed so some specialized knives, like a Japanese style Santoku, may need additional attention to sharpen to the ideal angle.
I purchased this set together with the 400/1000 grit stone assuming that some of my knives were quite dull and would need work on a coarse grit stone. Premium Whetstone Sharpening Stone 2 Side Grit 400/1000 | Knife Sharpener Waterstone with NonSlip Rubber Base & Flattening Stone. This is my first wetstone. First off I tried to sharpen my Chicago Cutlery boning knife. This knife is nearly thirty years old, has been abused in may ways and was quite dull. It was very difficult for me to get a burr on this blade, which I attribute to poor technique. Next I moved on to my Henckels Professional S paring and chef's knives. The paring knife was moderately sharp and was modestly improved after working over all three grits of stone. It would cut paper but again it was difficult to develop a burr with this blade. Undaunted I switched to the chef's knife. This knife is twenty years old and has never been professionally re-sharpened. I have sharpened it twice with a Lanksey sharpening system which marred the finish but did put a good edge on the blade. Lansky Standard Coarse Sharpening System with Fine Hones. The chef's knife was moderately dull and had several pits visible on the cutting surface. I modified my technique for passing the knife over the stone and worked the chef's knife over the 400 grit stone aggressively and eventually I was able to get a burr to form from the tip of the knife all the way to the handle. From there it was a simple process of reforming the burr on the 1000 grit stone and then finishing on the 6000. After sharpening, the chef's knife easily and cleanly slices a tomato with very light pressure and is in my opinion very sharp. Not sushi knife sharp but more than enough for the chopping and slicing I expect of it. I'm looking forward to going back and working both the boning knife and the paring knife over again. Don't expect a good result from this product the first time you use it. Watch videos on using a wetstone, expect to spend at least twenty minutes per knife at first, and practice forming a burr. If you can form a burr, you will be able to successfully sharpen your knife.