When using cutting tools, you will be forced to sharpen them after some time when they get dull. There are three ways you can sharpen your tools namely; the Use of a Pull-through Sharpener, Power sharpening, and Whetstone.
I will focus on whetstones and share with you some of the best sharpening stones you can use that will leave your tools sharp and ready to use. But before that, let me share with you what to check for when you are looking for a good whetstone.
The overall best whetstone to invest in is the diamond stone containing diamonds bonded to a metal surface. This combination gives a very hard abrasive material that will sharpen your tools.
What Sharpening Stone Do I Get?
People often mistake all whetstones have to do with water but that is not the case. Whetstone comes from the word “whet”, which means to sharpen.
Whetstones come in different types which are; Oil Stones, Diamond stones, Water stones, and Ceramic stones. They also have a range of grit levels from coarse at the lower end to fine at the high end and they are used in different levels when sharpening.
Different Types Of Whet Stones
Are Diamond Sharpening Stones Good
Diamond stones are the overall best sharpening stones to use.
The sharpening stones contain industrial diamonds which are the hardest abrasive material designed for sharpening stones bonded to a metal surface.
The sharpening stones are available in a variety of sizes, shapes, and grits to help you in the different levels and also different tool blades.
There are two main types of diamond stones; One contains holes in the diamond surface to capture the fillings the tool will leave when sharpening.
The holes on the stone surface also give it another name which is the interrupted diamond surface and an example of this type of sharpening stone is the DMT Duo-Sharp. It cuts very fast making them very economical.
These special service holes prevent the filling from building up. It is also fast-acting and very effective.
The second one contains a continuous diamond surface and it is the most preferred when sharpening tools that might break interrupted by the diamond surface. An example of this sharpening stone is the DMT Dia-Sharp
Diamond stones are available in mono-crystalline and this type is of high quality and cannot be fractured making them last for a long time
It is also available in poly-crystalline and this sharpener is made of diamond micro-powder and metal catalyst in high temperature and high-pressure environments giving it an excellent wear resistance and hardness.
Diamond stones can be used wet or dry and when using it when wet, use water or water-based honing oil. Do not use petroleum-based oil
Ceramic stones are famous for their durability and the very good edge they give in finer grit.
It is ideal for carvers who do sharpening freehand and quick-wear grooves in water stones.
Ceramic stones have a dark stone which is about 800 grit and is used for edge sharpening, and a white stone which is about 8000 grit and is used for final honing.
Water stones are often made of Aluminum Oxide abrasive material and you will also find this material in the oil stones the difference between these two is the binder that holds the abrasive together.
Water stones are softer than the oil stones and the softer binder promotes a faster cutting because the old abrasive material breaks away and is replaced by fresh sharp material.
Another advantage of water stones is that it is available in a much wider range of grits than most sharpening stones types.
In addition, water stones are easy to clean and water is readily available compared to oil.
The only downside is that although it will leave your tools sharp and ready to use, it won’t last long compared to diamond sharpening stones.
It forms a downward slope after use for some time and this will bring the need for the stone to be flattened periodically.
Oil stones are from way back, and this was the best sharpening stone used in the traditional days. Until now it has been one of the best sharpening stones.
Oil stones have been available for many years more than water stones in the U.S.A.
The original oil stones were quarried in Arkansas and processed to make Arkansas Stones.
The oil stones can produce a polished edge but are cut more slowly than man-made stones.
Hard Black Arkansas and Hard Translucent are more expensive because they are very rare to find.
Another type of oil stone is the Norton Indian Stones and this man-made stone is very popular. These stones cut very fast and produce a fine edge on the tools you are sharpening.
The Norton Indian Stones are often brown or orange and when it is compared with the Arkansas Stones, the Indian Stone is more course.
The Indian Stones are made from Aluminum Oxide. When it comes to the fastest cutting oil stones, stones made from silicone carbide
What Oil To use In sharpening Stones
When most are looking for sharpening oil, it’s not to sharpen with it but rather hone. What is the difference between honing and sharpening?
When honing, you are taking an already sharp knife and straightening the edges but when you are sharpening, you are grinding down the metal of the blade to create a new edge.
Oil sharpening stones are one of the best sharpening stones you can buy they can be used for woodcarving and you can also sharpen your dull knives at home.
If you don’t have to hone oil at your disposal, oils like vegetable oil, mineral oil, industrial cleaner, window cleaner, and also water can be used as honing liquids. This liquid will serve as an alternative for honing oil because the doesn’t harden when poured on the sharpening stone.
You probably asking yourself how is water on the list. Honing oil in this scenario does not necessarily mean oil only and that’s why other liquids that are not oil-based can still be used as substitutes for honing.
But oil is your best bet if you want to make proper use of your sharpening stone.
The reason why vegetable oils are on the top of my list is that most households use them for cooking and therefore, it is easily accessible.
Not all vegetable oils are good for honing because some after being poured into the sharpening stone, it goes rancid and it might be irritating to your ear.
To avoid that, you can use vegetable oils such as soy oil, corn oil, peanut oil, and rapeseed oil.
Some vegetable oils like almond oil and macadamia oil are too expensive and using the as honing oil substitute, will seem like wasting and that’s why you may want to use mineral water instead.
The reason for mineral use instead, is that it doesn’t come with any fumes and toxic odors considering certain brands of mineral oil are used for babies.
It is light enough to use on a honing stone and it will not end up setting making it good for substituting honing oil. Another advantage of this oil is that it won’t go rancid.
The industrial cleaner is not oil-based but it can work as honing oil substitute. A good example is the simple green cleaner to use because it does not contain toxic or harmful chemicals that may end up making things worse for the stone and the tools you are honing.
Industrial cleaners work as degreasers and so, they will not end up clogging the pores of the honing stone but rather help you get rid of any grease that has built up in the pores of the stone.
Glass cleaners are great at getting into the tiny pores of the glass removing anything that may have been set there and this quality makes it a good substitute for honing oil.
A good example is Windex glass cleaner and they are safe for honing because they don’t contain any toxic chemicals that may harm your health.
Water can also be used as honing oil substitute and works well to mimic the properties of honing oil. The reason why water works well is that honing stones are best used dry (using oil lubricants) or completely wet.
Water is great at providing some lubrication while it fills in the pores of the stone to prevent any small shavings from getting into them.
Water will save you money and it is easily accessible.
Which Sharpening Stone To use
Different types of whetstones depending on their range are used for different purposes.
When the knife has chipped edges, you will need to create a new cutting edge and you will need to start with 1000 grit or less. If you are sharpening a dull knife and the cutting edge is still okay, start with 2000-3000 grit.
4000-8000 grit is used for refining the edge of a knife which is the finishing process. If the knife is for cutting meat, don’t go above 6000 grit, but if the knife is for cutting vegetables you can go above 6000 grit.
What Grit Sharpening Stones Do I Need?
Grit is the smoothness or the coarseness of the sharpening stone. The grit size is shown through the indication of a grit number on the side of the sharpening that will show the smoothness or the coarseness.
Using the wrong grit will only damage your tools so make sure you use the right grit in the different levels of sharpening.
A lower number on the sharpening stone shows a lower density meaning the particles will be spaced apart and this will give a rougher surface. The lowest number is mainly used for a very dull blade that cant cut anything and the highest number is used in the last process of finishing to sharpen your tool.
There are 4 main stages of grit and each is categorized to pass on your tools differently. The main stages are;
Course Whetstones: 1000 or less Grit
The sharpening stones in this stage have a low density making it the stage with the roughest stones. This stage is recommended for tools that have damaged blades, the blades have nicks or chips or are extremely dull and have completely lost their edge.
Due to the low density of these stones, avoid using general sharpening because they won’t give a good finish to your tools.
The low grit also damages your tools if too much pressure is applied, and it takes a lot of material off the tools and that’s why it is not advisable for general sharpening.
Medium Stones: 1000 – 3000 Grit
This is the stage where the grit density is not too low nor too high and it is your go-to sharpening stone that will sharpen your tools just right to regain their edge.
By saying this is your go-to sharpening stone when you need to sharpen your tools, it doesn’t mean that it is the only grit you will need to use in sharpening your tools if you are looking for a super fine edge.
It is the starting point grit that will help regain the tool’s edge and those who sharpen their knives regularly can even avoid the 1000 grit and start with a 2000 or a 3000 grit sharpening stone.
This is because they are less coarse than 1000 grit.
Some are contented with the sharpness of this stage and find no reason to sharpen further but if you want extra sharp what do you use?
Finishing Stones: 4000-8000 Grit
This stage is called the finishing point for this is for those who want a super sharp edge.
If you are sharpening the tool for carving purposes, it’s better to stop the sharpening at 5000 grit to avoid bending.
If you are sharpening a knife to cut the meat you can go up to 6000 grit and it is the highest you can go.
If you are sharpening your knife to cut vegetables then you can use 8000 grit and above. A trick my partner shared with me is, that you can’t shed tears cutting onions with a super sharp knife.
Which Side Of Sharpening Stone Is Coarse?
Do Sharpening Stones Wear Out?
Regardless of the material used any sharpening stone, all sharpening tones wear out the difference is how long each type will serve you.
Diamond stones will last a very long time if they are kept in clean condition and stored in a dry area.
If used regularly, it can serve you for 10 to 20 years.
Water stones wear out the fastest because they use the principle of fracturing surfaces that create new cutting particles to abrade your steel cutting tool.
This creates a hollow surface down the length of the stone and this will force you to flatten the stone. To flatten the stone, you will require another stone to rework the surface and flatten it.
There is a method that works well and you will never need to flatten your stone again, although the stone still wears out,
How Do You Clean a Sharpen Stone
Cleaning will last your sharpening stone for a longer time. So after you are done using the stone, simply use a damp towel to wipe away any metal shavings and excess oil.
There is no need of washing and rinse your stone after use and after you are done wiping you can return it to its box or where you store it. Make sure that the place is dry to avoid your stone growing molds.
Do Serrated Knives Need Sharpening?
Serrated knives are sharp-edged blades with saw-like notches or teeth formed on one side of the blade surface that make it possible to slice through foods cleanly without damaging the delicate or soft texture.
Serrated knives need sharpening and this kind of knife needs a different technique and different style sharpener.
You only sharpen the side with the serrations only because serrated knives have a grind on one side only.
When sharpening serrated knives, hold the sharpener at the angle that matches the original edge angle.
Put the pointed, narrow end of the sharpener up against the serration and stroke the sharpener into the serration, away from the edge of the blade, towards the spine.
The knives should be sharpened until the width of the taper sharpener gets to the same width as the serration. Always maintain the width of the serration, do not enlarge it.
A serrated knife functions like a sharpener and the serrations are sharpened separately. When sharpening a serrated knife, a sharpening stone won’t help you. so what is used instead is a serrated knife sharpener because it is designed to fit the serrations.
This type of knife uses a different technique, so how do you go about it?
How To Sharpen Serrated Knives
Before picking a sharpener and the tool you want to sharpen, clean your workplace to remove the clutter that still settling at the workshop.
Serrated knives are perfect for cutting bread, tomatoes, and even meat. And when sharpening, carry some vegetables to test whether the knife is sharp to your liking.
Choosing The Right Equipment
Determine how wide the serration is to determine the size of the sharpening steel you will need. Some knives come with serrations of different sizes and in this case, you will need multiple rods.
Note that flat files, sharpening stones as well as edge sharpeners will not work on serrated knives.
Find The Beveled Edge
The bevel edges are on the side where you can see the scalloped edges most prominently. The backside of it should be flat and you will barely see the scalloped edges looking through that side.
The backside should never be sharpened because that will be damaging your knife.
Pull the sharpening iron across the serrations to achieve the bevel to your liking.
Look For The Correct Angle To Sharpen
Change Tools For Different Sized Gullets or Straight Edges
If your serrated knife has different serration sizes, change the sharpening tools to avoid expanding the serrations because they should retain their normal size.
If you increase the width of the serrations, you are only damaging your knife.
File Away The Burrs
As you sharpen your knife, the burrs which are the small pieces of metals will collect on the flat side of the knife.
These pieces are removed by running the flat end of the knife along a whetstone or a piece of fine-grit sandpaper and your knife will have a clean edge.
When thinking of the best sharpening knife, what is the best way for you to keep it in good condition?
Before using the various stages of the sharpening stones avoid soaking water stones above 3000 grit and if water is needed just splash it.
If you are working with oil stones, you can use denatured alcohol to remove the oil on the stone after you are done sharpening.
Before returning a sharpening stone to its box, make sure that it dries thoroughly to prevent molding on the surface of stones like water stones.
Some will lower their quality over time and that’s why drying is important to give you a longer service when sharpening tools.
Never wash your knife in the dishwasher because it deteriorates the serrations or the flat edges over time creating a dull, worthless edge.
The high heat level of the dishwasher can crack any organic material on your knife, so if the handle is made of wood, it will crack.
Remember sharpening uses the reduction method, so if you file too much, you cant go back. With that in mind, check your progress often to avoid removing too much metal.
Check by running your finger along the non-beveled side of the blade. When working with metal, you will have a lot of room to work with before reaching the point of filling too much.