How to Use a Whetstone Properly (Our Guide)

How To Use A Whetstone Properly

Everyone needs to sharpen their knives from time to time. Cutting, slicing, and chopping with a sharp knife is easier and much safer than attempting these tasks with a dull knife. There are many ways to go about sharpening a knife, from an electric tool to sending it off to a professional knife sharpener. 

Many home cooks perceive using a whetstone to sharpen their knives as intimidating. Still, this unassuming tool is one of the most effective ways to keep your blades sharp and extend their lifespans. With the proper knowledge, anyone can use a whetstone to sharpen their kitchen knives.

This article will guide you through everything you need to know about whetstones and how to use one. You will learn about the different types of whetstones, the precise steps to using one, and the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about knife sharpening. 

Read on to the first section to learn about this unique tool!

What Is A Whetstone?

Whetstones come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes, and materials. Professional and home chefs use them to sharpen knives. Most stones have two sides that offer different levels of grit. The coarse side is for sharpening and removing any nicks on the blade. The finer side is for polishing.

How To Use A Whetstone: Step By Step

This section will guide you through each step of using a whetstone to sharpen your knives. Always refer to the manufacturer’s instructions for using a specific stone – these steps are just a general guide.

Step 1: Wet Your Stone

Whetstones have to be physically damp to function properly. You can achieve this by soaking your stone in water for 5-10 minutes. Some types of sharpening stones, called oilstones, are soaked in mineral oil instead of water. Others are not moistened at all, which is why it is essential to follow the specific manufacturer’s instructions.

Step 2: Position Your Stone

Once your stone is sufficiently damp, you will secure it on the table or countertop in front of you. Some whetstones come with a rubber grip that fits around the perimeter. Alternatively, a mat or towel will work to hold it in place. You do not want the stone moving around while trying to sharpen a knife. You will start with the coarser side facing up if the stone has multiple sides.

Step 3: Sharpen The First Side

To sharpen the first side of the knife, you will position your knife at a 15 or 20-degree angle on the stone. Using even pressure, pull the knife over the stone. Your motion should be slow and smooth and should be in an arc shape so that the entire blade (from heel to tip) has contact with the stone through each pass.

Repeat this motion between 10 and 20 times before switching to the other side.

Step 4: Sharpen The Second Side

To sharpen the other side, flip the knife over. Keeping the same angle and pressure, push the blade away from you along the length of the stone. Drag the knife over the stone between 10 and 20 times in this manner. 

The amount of time you spend on steps 3 and 4 is dependent on how dull the knife is, to begin with.

Step 5: Move To The Finer Grit

Once you have sharpened both sides of the knife with the coarse grit stone, you will turn it upside down and repeat the same process (steps 3 and 4) on both sides with the finer grit. 

Step 6: Clean Your Knife And Stone

Throughout the sharpening process, you will notice some grey or black sludge start to appear on your knife and stone. This is a sign that the sharpening process is working. The buildup is little bits of the knife that are being scraped off to make the blade sharper. 

When you are finished with the whetstone, you will wash off this debris with warm soapy water. To ensure the longevity of these tools, do not put whetstones or kitchen knives in the dishwasher. Be sure that your sharpening stone fully dries before storing it away. 

Step 7: Test Your Knife

After you spend time sharpening your knife to perfection, it’s time to test it out and see your blade in action. There are a few common ways of testing how sharp a knife is. The quickest method, which is fantastic if you don’t want to dirty the knife, is to hold up a sheet of printer paper and slowly pull the blade through it. If it cuts cleanly, you are holding a well-sharpened knife. 

Other popular ways of testing out a knife are by slicing a tomato or dicing an onion. If these tasks are easy and don’t require you to put excess downward pressure on the blade, then you have done a sufficient job with the whetstone. 

Final Thoughts

There you have it! Now you know everything you need to know to sharpen a knife with a whetstone properly. Remember that a sharp knife is a safe knife, and take it slowly when you are first getting familiar with a whetstone. With this step-by-step guide, you are only minutes away from having a fleet of razor-sharp knives in your kitchen.

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This section will cover the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about how to use whetstone knife sharpeners!

Do you need to soak a whetstone?

Yes, most types of whetstones need to soak in water or oil before being used to sharpen.

Do you sharpen into the blade or away?

You can pull the blade toward you or push it away. Both ways are effective at sharpening, but most people have a preference based on what feels more natural for their grip.

How long does it take to sharpen a dull knife with a whetstone?

Exactly how long it takes will depend on the initial quality of the blade and the experience of the person using the whetstone. Generally, you can expect to spend between 10 and 20 minutes sharpening a dull knife.

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