How to Use a Whetstone
The most important kitchen tool is unarguably a sharpened chef’s knife. Sharpening a knife yourself will help you feel closer and connected in a better way to the process. However, how do you sharpen a knife’s blade? There are multiple methods to implement the action. However, the best remains to be using a whetstone.
Now if you’ve read our article on the best electric sharpener which you can read here, you’ll have chance to compare both methods.
What is a Whetstone
Whetstones of sharpening stones or water stones are fine-grained stones used to sharpen steel blades. Other than a chef’s knife, a whetstone can be used to sharpen tools such as chisels, razors, knives, scythes, etc. You must grind and hone a steel tool with a whetstone to sharpen its blade.
Whetstones come in several shapes, sizes, and variety. You can determine your whetstone’s quality through its grit number indicative of the stone’s spatial density. The higher the grit number, the smaller the resistance particles, the better the finish of the surfaces of the tools being sharpened.
Choosing a Whetstone
When professionals sharpen a knife, they prefer having an array of about ten different whetstones. The defining difference between all of their whetstone is the grit number. Having stones with various grit numbers allows the user to get into the nitty-gritty of blade sharpening.
If you’re a beginner, you’ll want to invest in a single stone, practice on it, and work your way upward if required. The best investment you’ll make is buying a double-sided whetstone with 6,0000- grit whetstone on one side and 1,000-grit whetstone on the other. Choose a reliable brand such as Sha Pu, Sharp Pebble or Tatara to name just 3.
You will have to use the coarser side, or the side with the lower grit number, for the initial sharpening. Once you’re done defining the edge, you can proceed using the whetstone with a higher grit number to fine-tune the edge.
How to Use a Whetstone
Before you start sharpening a knife using a whetstone, here’s a list of things you need to procure:
- A dull knife
- A double-sized whetstone
- A bowl of water
- A towel
Now that you have everything let’s get started with the process.
Step 1: Saturating the Whetstone
Most whetstones require saturation before working. Therefore, submerge the whetstone in a bowl of water and do not take out until bubbles stop coming out. The longer this process takes, the better the quality of the whetstone.
You will have to wet the whetstone periodically throughout the sharpening process. However, don’t dip the whetstone and wash away all the slurry after this first dip. Only allow a few drops of water to fall on places on the whetstone, and you’ll be good to go.
Place the whetstone on a towel to catch the extra water and allowing the stone not to slip off while you’re working on it.
Step 2: Finding an Angle
The angle you chose to sharpen your knife determines how sharp and pointy the knife will be. The smaller the angle, the sharper the blade. Even though sharper edges are perfect for cutting, they are generally not durable.
Most people prefer a 22.5o angle. It can be achieved by placing the knife’s edge on the stone and the blade’s spine halfway up your thumb. Maintaining a consistent angle between the whetstone and the knife’s back is crucial to maintain a good blade.
Step 3: Sharpening the Edge
You will want to set the knife on the whetstone on your preferred angle and run it back and forth away and towards you. This process will sharpen the knife only if you use the coarse side of your whetstone.
You must take as much time as required in this process since it defines the quality of the blade you’ll achieve. You will have to rub the blade at least 10-15 times before proceeding to the next section. However, you can do it many more times since you can hardly ever over sharpen a knife.
Ensure not applying pressure while going forward since that will damage the whetstone, ruin your angle, and distort the blade’s edge. You will have to apply a lot of pressure while moving the knife backwards. You might want to consider standing up to get the right pressure.
You will have to cover the entire blade’s length on both sides before proceeding to the next step.
Step 4: Polishing the Edge
The efficiency and the time required to conduct this step depends on your expertise and the number of whetstones you have. When professionals polish knives, they run the sharpening action on at least four to five finer whetstones. If you’ve used a 1000-grit whetstone to sharpen the knife, you will want to work your way up from 2000, 4000, 6000, 8000, and more as per the finish you want.
Repeat the forward and backward motion as many times as you want until you’re satisfied with the blade. Polish the entire length on both sides before proceeding to the next step.
Step 5: Honing the Edge
If you own a good quality chef’s knife, you must have received some honing steel with it. To finish sharpening your knife, you must run the knife’s blade 3-4 times through the honing steel to get a smooth, aligned, and fine finish. This step should remove most of the sharpening blur present on the knife.
Some Whetstone Tips
You can follow a few beginner tips to ease your learning curve.
- Use two taped coins: If you place two taped coins between your knife and the whetstone, you will achieve an approximately 20o You can use this trick at the beginning of your sharpening experience to ensure better sharpening.
- Rotate the stone: Since you will be sharpening the blade downward, the whetstone can sustain wear. You should rotate it now and then to maintain the whetstone’s quality.
- Protect your thumb: Most beginners ted to gauge the angle by allowing their thumb to rub against the whetstone at all times. Remember, this stone is sharpening your blade. It will surely hurt your skin even if it doesn’t hurt initially.
Using a whetstone to sharpen a knife does seem to be an intimidating affair. However, it isn’t rocket science as long as you have the patience and have enough practice.
The most critical practice requirement while sharpening a knife on a whetstone is determining and maintaining the right angle. Once you’re comfortable with the process, there is hardly any though you’ll have to put in the process.