Sharpening stones and other accessories

Sharpening stones


Every blade needs regular maintenance and care and you can either: trust a professional to sharpen your knives or take charge of your knives and do your own sharpening. If you decide to sharpen your knives regularly at home, you need to kit yourself out with the right sharpening tools. 

To start, let’s briefly explain the terminology: sharpening stones and whetstones mean exactly the same, “whet” being a dated term for “sharpening”. Water stones are a sub-category of these stones and usually, but not always, come from Japan. In general, they should be used in combination with water as this produces a slushy surface on top of the stone as the abrasive particles are released – this “slurry” is saturated with sharp particles, making sharpening easier and faster, while the removed metal particles immediately drain away. This means they can’t get caught in the stone and scratch the knife. It is therefore not surprising that Japanese sharpening stones are often called water stones and are considered a superior choice for home use.

How to choose the right sharpening stone?

When choosing your preferred whetstone, you should know what is the purpose of your sharpening and how often you intend to sharpen your knives. There are a multitude of sharpening stones available on the market and they do not vary only in the coarseness of their surface but also in the manner in which they are used and how quickly they wear out. Stones are available in various grades which refer to the grit size of the abrasive particles in the stone. Grit size is given as a number which indicates the density of grit particles, their size, smoothness of the finish etc.

Water sharpening stones are made from abrasive particles bonded together with different artificial resins. The bonding material in the stones has a great impact on the manner of sharpening and how quickly the stone wears away.

For basic sharpening you need at least two grit sizes, whereas if you want to take your sharpening to the next level and also tackle serious damage or broken tips, you should look into expanding the collection of sharpening stones. A basic set thus consists of a coarse stone, which can remove enough material to prepare a knife for sharpening, and a fine stone, which is used to polish the knife and again create a smooth cutting surface.

In addition to knowing the right angle of various blades, knowing which grit size to choose and when to change the stone are among the most important skills in knife sharpening. If you are new to knife sharpening, then don't skip on our Beginner's Guide to Knife Sharpening. We cover all the basics and teach you how to properly sharpen a kitchen knife. >>

Home sharpening set

The ideal solution for home use is the combination of stones with grit sizes 1000 and 3000. These two can be complemented with one, coarse-grit stone, such as 220, to remove chips and repair broken tips, and one stone with fine grit size of 6000-8000. An indispensable tool is also a diamond plate which can be used for sharpening and maintaining water stones (flattening stones whose shape has been changed). Your home sharpening set would also not be complete without a leather strop for the final smoothing and removing the burr. 


Sharpening Stones

The grit size

The grit size of the stone should be chosen taking into account the type of knife and the purpose of its use. The rule is simple: the higher the number, the higher the density, the smaller the particles, and the finer the finish of the sharpened surface. You should always start the sharpening process with a rough stone and then, depending on the desired sharpness, progress to ever finer grit sizes. 

220-400

The first step of sharpening. To roughly sharpen very blunt knives. To remove chips from a damaged blade. To change the geometry of the blade. To flatten the stones with grit size higher than #1000.

1000

This grit size leaves microscopic serrations in the blade or a very toothy edge which is especially good for butchering knives and cutting meat. To smooth a rough edge into a medium edge.

2000

Ideal grit size for anyone who sharpens their knives regularly but prefers to own only one whetstone.

3000-6000

Sharpening smooths the edge nicely, yet still leaves a lot of bite for cutting vegetables. To smooth a medium edge into a sharp edge.

8000

This grit size leaves the edge very sharp and smooth, thus the blade does not damage the cells of food and is very suitable for cutting raw fish (sashimi) and meat. It is also ideal for sharpening fine edges of razors. To further smooth a sharp edge.

10,000-12,000

These fine grit sizes should be used by experienced sharpeners who strive for perfection – the true sharpness specialists. They are suitable for sharpening the best Japanese knives made of traditional Japanese steel and razors. To polish an edge to a mirror-smooth finish.

 

View our collection of Sharpening Stones 



How to choose a stone for different steps in the sharpening process? 

Rough sharpening

Rough sharpening is reserved for knives that bear visible signs of damage. For repairing chips, broken tips or thinning, we recommend a very coarse, 220-grit sharpening stone. For the first step in sharpening a very blunt knife, we recommend a coarse, 400-grit stone.

Sharpening

For the first step in sharpening undamaged and regularly maintained knives, stones with 800-2000 grit are a good choice. For basic sharpening, it is best to use a 1000-grit sharpening stone.

Polishing or edge refinement

Stones with grit sizes above 3000 are suitable for final, smooth sharpening and for removing the burr. The grit size should be chosen taking into account the type of knife and the purpose of its use. If you aspire to achieve absolute perfection, you can also go for very fine grit sizes, such as 10,000 and 12,000. They can also be used to sharpen razors and tools for precise work.

Removing the burr or stropping

For the last step in the sharpening process, we recommend using a leather strop. The use of leather strops is similar to stones – you choose the coarseness of the surface depending on the desired result, which is particularly important when it comes to precise, smooth finish on thin Japanese blades and various razors. For basic sharpening, a one-sided leather strop will do the job. If you, however, strive for a better result, you can also apply various polishing pastes that are used to remove a burr and polish the edge at the end of a sharpening process. The most widespread paste is the Koyo “Green Rouge” polishing compound that is used in the workshops all over Japan.


Sharpening stones

Sharpening accessories

Honing rods

A honing rod is the simplest tool to quickly renew and prolong the sharpness of kitchen knives. Which honing rod you are going to choose depends on the type of steel your knives are made of and its hardness. For European kitchen knives made of softer steel and butchering knives, we recommend using very fine honing rods, whereas for knives made of harder steel, honing rods with diamond or ceramic coating should be used. For home use, we recommend an inexpensive, ceramic honing rod with fine grit. In contrast with a widespread belief, honing rods are not used for sharpening – their purpose is rather to only straighten the blade. If you wish to have sharp knives, you can’t do without sharpening stones.

View our collection of Honing Rods 

Diamond stones

Diamond sharpening stones are suitable for initial sharpening as they are very abrasive and strip away material fast. In addition, they do not wear away or thin out and remain dead flat, even after sustained use. All this makes them a great choice for truing other, finer-grit stones. To anyone who needs a very reliable workhorse which can cut anything you throw at it, we recommend a diamond plate. Atoma diamond plate 140 grit is our favourite truing accessory.

 

Other sharpening accessories

There are a few other accessories that can aid your sharpening, such as stones used to build up a polishing slurry on the stone (Nagura), angle guide clips, polishing pastes and rust erasers. 

  • When sharpening with 3000-grit stones or finer, their surface can become smeared with steel particles, reducing the sharpening effect of the stone and flattening it into smooth surface. This is when you should use the Nagura dressing stone – it can be used either to build up a polishing slurry on the stone or to deglaze a used surface. We recommend that you use the dressing stone after every sharpening to always keep your stone in top condition for later use. 
  • If your sharpening stone set does not include a stand base or stone holder, we recommend getting some sort of a stand which will stop the stone from moving around. 
  • To maintain knives made of high-carbon steel, use the Ballistol knife maintenance oil that will clean and protect the blade.
  • To make the sharpening easier, keep a spray bottle with water at hand.

The service life of your sharpening tools and accessories also depends on how and where you store them, so make sure you give this a little thought and find a safe and dry place to keep them spick and span until the next sharpening session.

What is the difference between sharpening with a diamond or ceramic stone?

There are many sharpening stones available on the market and they vary in size and the quality of bonding material. Depending on the frequency of sharpening and the purpose for which the blade is used, you can choose among many types of sharpening stones. Besides ceramic and natural whetstones, there are also diamond stones. Diamond stones strip away material very fast, but, compared to ceramic stones, they leave deeper scratches on the surface and a larger burr on the edge of the blade. Therefore, they are not the best for the finishing stage. We do not recommend diamond stones for sharpening single-bevelled knives because the working surfaces are larger and it can be hard to remove the scratches later. Diamond stones are particularly good for rough sharpening, repairing the tips and chips and for truing ceramic stones. With ceramic stones, you can attain an evener and smoother edge and you can choose among a wider variety of grit sizes, but they wear away faster and demand more maintenance or flattening.

The maintenance: flattening your stones

Water stones should be properly maintained because they can become grooved or wear into a hollow during regular use. This is an often-overlooked step in sharpening, yet an essential one if you want to maintain the flatness of your stone. Before sharpening, you should always check if the stone you are going to use is flat. The process of sharpening can only be tackled with a flattening stone because a hollowed surface could damage the knife or reduce the efficiency of sharpening as it is very hard to maintain the correct angle of sharpening on an uneven surface. You have several options for flattening your stones – from different DIY aids to professional flattening stones.

All of the following work:

View all Sharpening Stones and Accesories

Sharpenin Stones

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