The speed and polishing ability of waterstones attract many sharpeners. Waterstones sharpen quickly and are available in fine polishing grits not found in other stone types. The ability to flatten the stones is a necessity when sharpening with waterstones, so a starting set should include a flattening stone of some kind. Our article, How to Flatten a Waterstone, has more information about keeping waterstones flat.
An important but often confusing area of sharpening is knowing when you're done with one stone and ready for the next finer grit. On coarse stones it is very easy. When you sharpen one side you will notice a burr forming on the opposite side of the edge. This burr is hard to see but is easy to feel. Very carefully feel for the burr by gently running your hand from the spine to the edge. (Do not run your finger along the knife edge from heel to tip, that's only asking for trouble!) A burr is formed when your stone removes material directly at the edge. The burr will move from one side of your knife to another as you alternate sharpening sides. Make sure you have felt the burr jump between both sides before you move on to the next finer stone. That will ensure that you have sharpened both sides effectively. The finer grits are done the same way but the burr is much smaller. On the finest grits you may not be able to notice the burr at all. Testing the knife sharpness will tell you when you're done. (Learn how you can test to see if your knife is sharp.)
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.
The stone – With a sharpening stone, the process is essentially the same as with the stick sharpener. The only difference is that you don’t hold the stone, you place it into its own holder (If it comes with one. If it doesn’t you’ll need to improvise) on a flat surface. Push the knife down the stone several times while holding it at a shallow angle and then flip it and pull it toward you several times to get the other side of the blade.
Heres why I wasn't impressed at first. I only used it for a few minutes on each side, which resulted in nothing. I watched a video online with a master chef using his stone, and he sharpened his knife for 10 minutes on each stone before moving up to a finer grit. I took this hint, and used sharpened my knife on each side of this stone for 10 minutes, which led to perfection.
At this point, I can flip the stone over and use the fine course side. Most Whetstones come with a nice wooden base that do a good job to hold the stone in place while sharpening. Before starting, you might need to add a bit more water to the surface. Now with the fine course stone, finish the sharpening process like before at the same blade angle and nice consistent passes along the stone. About 10 to 12 passes is good before switching to the other side of the blade. At this point, the blade should be extremely sharp. I’ll just give a quick paper test here. I can now slice paper quite easily with my knife.
The DuoSharp Plus stones are nicely sized at 8” long by 2 5/8” wide and have two grits on each stone to maximize value. The Plus in the name refers to an area of continuous grit in the otherwise interrupted grit surface of the stone. This area is for sharpening edges with fine points that might be difficult on the interrupted surface. A coarse/fine DuoSharp Plus stone is a good single stone to start a sharpening toolkit.
Our second entry from Chef’s Choice is the 463 Pronto Santoku. This manual sharpener is super-simple to use and delivers fast, high quality results every time. While this is a “2-stage” system there’s nothing complicated about it. One slot is for sharpening and the other for honing. Both stages utilize diamond abrasive surfaces so your blades will retain its edge for a good long time.
Different knives are sharpened differently according to grind (edge geometry) and application. For example, surgical scalpels are extremely sharp but fragile, and are generally disposed of, rather than sharpened, after use. Straight razors used for shaving must cut with minimal pressure, and thus must be very sharp with a small angle and often a hollow grind. Typically these are stropped daily or more often. Kitchen knives are less sharp, and generally cut by slicing rather than just pressing, and are steeled daily. At the other extreme, an axe for chopping wood will be less sharp still, and is primarily used to split wood by chopping, not by slicing, and may be reground but will not be sharpened daily. In general, but not always, the harder the material to be cut, the higher (duller) the angle of the edge.
Once you've sharpened one side, you need to flip over, but don't swap the hand gripping the blade – think of it a bit like going backhand with a tennis racket (see above). Lead with the heel this time, rather then with the blade, but repeat the process in three parts. After five strokes on each third of the blade, it's time to check your knife. It's not an exact science, and it all depends on how blunt your blade was to start with (mine was very blunt indeed). But if you sharpen fairly regularly, it should just take a few strokes.