The video above, from the How To You YouTube channel, explains everything you need to sharpen with a whetstone at home, and the best methods for doing so. Obviously, you’ll need a whetstone (as well as a few other things), and you’ll want to work near your sink or a bucket so you have easy access to water. Fill a container with water, then soak the whetstone in it until it stops bubbling. Inspect your blades for any trouble spots, and get to sharpening using the methods and motions described in the video; making sure to check your progress as you go. We’ve talked about sharpening knives with whetstones before, but this guide is a bit more thorough and the old video has since been removed.
If in doubt or just learning, a safe bet is a set of quality synthetic stones. They’re the easiest to use, require the least maintenance and are the most forgiving. If you’re just starting out we highly recommend the Naniwa Sharpening Stones. They’re excellent quality, reliable, durable and no soaking time is required. For advanced users we recommend the Naniwa Pro sharpening stones or Kaiden Ceramics.
When the stone is intended for use on a flat surface, it is called a Bench Stone. On the other hand, small, portable, hand-held stones are referred to as Pocket Stones. Also, because Pocket Stones are smaller than Bench Stones, they are more easily transported but, they also present difficulty in maintaining a consistent angle and even pressure when attempting to sharpen longer blades. Consequently, Bench Stones are commonly used at home or in camp whereas, Pocket Stones are generally reserved for honing an edge in the field.
All stones require either water or oil as a lubricant to sharpen the knife. We prefer water stones because they’re easier to use, less messy and don’t have the possibility to go rancid like oil does. If you choose a water stone, all you have to do is either add water to the stone before placing the knife on the surface, or soak the stone in water for 10 minutes before use. You’ll want to read the instruction for the stone you purchase to find out how to use it properly.

Push the point you want to sharpen with your fingers. While keeping the angle and pushing the point with your fingers, stroke the blade until it reaches the other edge of the whetstone, then pull the blade back until it reaches the edge of the whetstone. This back and forth is counted as one stroke. Repeat it for about five strokes until you can see or feel some small burrs (edge curvatures) Then move the position of your fingers to where you have not sharpened yet, and repeat this five strokes of sharpening processed from the tip to the base of the blade.
This wedge ends up short of a "point" to a much larger degree than the picture would indicate. The metal stops short, but then there is black non-slide "tape" applied to one side, and white "slide" tape applied to the other side, which makes the wedge even thicker than it appears in the photo, which means that in practice the end of wedge is even more truncated. So I have a hard time supporting my knives accurately on this wedge while sliding them down into contact with my stones. Prior to buying this wedge I just used a wooden wedge I cut off of a 3" by 3" post using a miter saw, said wedgewhich has a much less truncated end. That wooden wedge unfortunately absorbs water from my Japanese Waterstones. But I will try spraying polyurethane on that wooden wedge to help waterproof itand try again. If that doesn't work I will try to find a 3" by 3" plastic trim board somewhere and cut a wedge off the end of that. Note that you can buy 20 degree plastic wedges, but this is the first one I have found that does 15 degrees (nominal.) Note that Amazon also has the Blue AngleGuide set of wedges, but they are very small
You need to adjust your fingers as you move the knife back and forth. Because sharpening takes place under your fingers, start with them at the tip and, as you pull the knife back toward you, release pressure completely and pause. Then, shift your fingers just a little down the blade toward the heel. This finger dance is critical and takes time getting used to.
Our large selection of stones from many well-known manufacturers will allow connoisseurs to find the ideal stone for their needs. Because all manufacturers formulate their stones to emphasize a different mix of qualities, and because these qualities can vary widely between different stones, most woodworkers choose stones from several manufacturers to build up an optimal set of sharpening stones. Then again, once you get to know the characteristics of certain types of stone, you may find one supplier who will provide all the stones you need. Sometimes this can be an advantage. But there is no one size that fits all; each stone must fit your needs and work style.