What is a “whetstone” and how to use it?
Did you know?
Though it is sometimes mistaken as a reference to the water often used to lubricate such stones, the word “whetstone” is a compound word formed with the word “whet”, which means to sharpen a blade, not the word “wet”.
We will be talking about the best-in-class whetstones – Japanese Whetstones. They have been used for centuries and are still a primary tool for all professional, from blacksmiths to chefs.
Japanese whetstones (also called water stones) – both natural and synthetic – are known for their quick-working qualities, not only for Japanese blades but also for their Western equivalents. They are made of small particles suspended in a medium. The small particles that do the cutting are loosely bound together in the stone, and so during sharpening with the whetstone, the surface particles are quickly washed out, allowing new, sharp, particles to start working on the blade.
When running the knife’s sides back and forth across the surface of a whetstone, it will transform the dull edges, sharpen the knife or give it a nice, polished finish, depending on the type of the whetstone.
Sharpening a knife using a whetstone can look complicated but actually, it is not. All you need to do is to make sure that you’re holding the knife at the right angle when rubbing against a stone.
What to look out for when buying a whetstone?
There are so many whetstones available on the market that you’re probably confused and don’t know what properties to consider when buying. I hope that this section will make your choice easier.
When it comes to whetstones it’s all in the grit!
What is Grit?
Whetstones come in a range of grits:
- Less than 1000 grit is typically used to repair knives with chipped edges,
- 1000 to 3000 grit are used to sharpen dull knives,
- 4000 to 8000 grit is finishing stones and are used to refine your knife edge,
- Higher grit stones are used for ultra-sharp tools like straight razors.
If you are using your knife to cut meat it is best to stop at between #4000 and #6000 grit as you can bend your knife edge on the muscle.
Our King Japanese Grit 1000/6000 Combination Whetstone is the cornerstone (pun intended!) of efficient knife sharpening. It is the most widely used sharpening stone in Japan. Our Japanese blacksmiths swear by it.
If you’re going to buy only one whetstone. Buy the King 1000/6000 KW-65.
For professionals we also stock high-grit whetstones used for razor-sharp finishing. More towards the honing process rather than stock removal. Check out the King 8000.
Which water stone should I choose if I’m only starting?
If you’re just the beginner, we suggest getting combination whetstone, something between 1000 and 6000 grit. Like this King’s combination whetstone:
You get two stones for a price of one. Most people new to sharpening should stay away from stones coarser than #1000 until they develop proper technique. Besides, if you take care of your knife properly you will not need a coarser whetstone.