I've always wanted to sharpen knives on water stones, and this set gave me the motivation to finally give it a shot. The price is amazing for the quality and content of the set. It comes with all the grits you need to sharpen anything... I usually start on the 400 grit if the knife is very dull, or directly on the 1000 grit if it's not too dull. The 3000 and 8000 grit stones are softer and ideal after the coarser stones. The online learning section is truly amazing, much better than I expected. A convenient place with instructional videos and many articles about knife sharpening. Only downside is that the knives are now so sharp I need to be very careful using them... but that's a good thing! I feel like I fell in love with knife sharpening again.
In addition, the most prized of the natural Japanese Water Stones are quarried in the Narutaki District north of Kyoto, Japan and are commonly available as either bench stones or pocket stones in grits ranging from 120 to 12,000. On the other hand, synthetic water stones are made from Aluminum Oxide and commonly available as either bench stones or pocket stones as well in grits ranging from 220 to 8,000 and, although this is the same abrasive material used to make India Oil Stones, the difference between the two is that the binder that holds the abrasive together enables Water Stones to be much softer than India Oil Stones which, in turn, promotes faster cutting because the worn abrasive material breaks away more quickly and is replaced with fresh, sharp, abrasive material more quickly. In addition, because water stones do not become glazed or loaded with swarf like oil stones can, new abrasive particles are constantly exposed as the stone wears so it continues to cut consistently. Plus, they can be lubricated effectively with water (rather than oil which can ruin some water stones) which combines with the fine particles of abrasive from the surface of the stone to form a slurry which polishes the bevel as the stone cuts. However, it should also be noted that Water Stones do become uneven significantly faster than other types of whetstones although, their softness does make them easier to true again.
Prior to using any kind of sharpening stone, it is advised that individuals soak the sharpening stone in light machine oil or household oil for at least 12 hours before being used. Before being used, it is advisable to wipe the surface of the sharpening stone to get rid of grime, grit or dirt that may have accumulated overtime during the time of storage.
Just keep at it and concentrate, visualize that edge and bevel as you sharpen and keep in mind what you are trying to achieve. You need to do this on both sides, for me, I found that the hardest part, getting the other side of the knife to match the side I started on. I start on the right side of the blade at the tip and work my way towards the heel. When I do the “back” of the knife, I start at the heel and work towards the tip.
The purpose of this article is just to get you started on the right path and please note that this is just the way I do it, there are many gifted sharpeners out there who are eager to share their knowledge. (I am not calling myself a gifted sharpener by the way, I just have so much respect for many sharpeners so I’m calling them gifted, they call me Peter).
Meanwhile, if you want something that you can use to sharpen a variety of knives and edges, including small and pointed tools, you might want to consider the DMT WM8CX-WB 8-Inch Duo Sharp Plus Bench Stone – Coarse/Extra Coarse with Base. For less than a hundred bucks, you can even use it to repair a damaged edge because of its extra-coarse diamonds.
In most cases, the sharper, the better. The sharpness of your edge is determined by the angle (the lower the angle, the sharper the edge) and how fine of a grit you choose for your final honing. Since you have already determined your angle many steps earlier, now you just need to know which grit you can stop at. This again depends on the use of the knife. In most cases, go all the way to the finest stone that you own as this will give you your best edge. The only exception would be a knife used to cut soft vegetables like tomatoes, as a slightly more coarse edge will provide more of a tooth pattern for easier cutting.
To summarize, Shapton Glass 500, 1,000 and 2,000 is a good combination and if you would like to throw in the 4,000 grit stone in lieu of the 2,000 that is good as well. If your knives are very hard, ZDP 189 for example, this is a fantastic choice. (They are also excellent for tools, chisels etc. and they are the premier choice for many Straight Razor honers).
The following are my personal favourites and they are all synthetic stones, I do have experience with natural what stones but lets keep it simple, lets stick to synthetic water stones. Believe me, some of the world sharpest knives are sharpened solely on synthetic stones. Here are my personal favourites, I use these water stones every day and the order is not necessarily in priority, they are all good.
Your immediate goal is to raise a burr on the side of knife opposite to the side you are sharpening and depending on the steel, the grit of stone and how you are doing, it will be either a very quick process or it will seem like it takes an eternity. Patience here will reward you, believe me. The sharpening process is incomplete with no burr creation on your first stone. (Yes, it is possible to stop at that magic moment without the burr forming but we are not there yet, we don’t even need to go there, ever, I am just mentioning it so those gifted sharpeners will be happy) . Think of the burr as the debris that is making the knife dull being forced down the blade towards the edge and over to the other side of the by your sharpening prowess. You form the burr, that knife will get sharp, no burr, you just need to look at your work. A Loupe is handy here, an inexpensive magnifying device with a light that allows you to see the edge very well, if you are not forming a burr, you are not reaching the edge. (Having a loupe also makes you look cool and scientific, like a Sharpologist).
Cutting angle – With a manual stick or sharpening stone you set the angle yourself so this does not factor into the equation when choosing that type of sharpener. When shopping for an electric sharpener however it does. You’ll want to decide if you want your knives to have the 15 degree “Asian” style angle so that you can make precise cuts or the Western standard 20 degrees or 22-degree sharpening angle. Most people will opt for the 20 or 22-degree angle simply because their cuisine doesn’t call for a lot of finesse from their knives and those knives are probably of a heavier Western variety anyway.
I do have to question the grit ratings of these stones. I didn't notice anything before using them, but after a day, the 2000 grit actually felt courser than the 1000 grit side of the other stone. Whether that could be a byproduct of other factors or an indication of the more obvious, being that the grit ratings aren't accurate, I don't know. But that seemed to be the main criticism of cheaper whetstones, that their grit ratings often aren't accurate. Or maybe it's less a problem with accuracy and more a difference that most synthetic stones might have in common when being compared to much pricier natural stones?