We get asked regularly to recommend stones for the beginning sharpener. Everyone wants to get stones that will be of the most practical use. No one wants to waste money on something they will have to replace later. The goal is to get stones that can be used as a foundation for your future needs. But the number of options available can be bewildering to the inexperienced sharpener, leaving many wondering where to start.
You want sharpening stones that will be useful for the majority of your edges now, and that will remain useful as you expand both your tools and your sharpening toolkit in the future. Ending up with duplicate stones or ones that are no longer useful as you gain new knives or tools is a waste of money. The goal is to start with something that will stay with you as your needs develop.
Diamond hones are made from very small, industrial grade, diamonds adhered to the face of a metal or plastic plate. Also, because Diamonds are so much harder than any of the other sharpening materials, they tend to cut very fast and last much longer than the other whetstone materials. But, they are also often more expensive to purchase. In addition, Diamond Stones generally consist of three different styles consisting of a solid metal plate coated with an adhesive and diamond dust with holes in the plate to allow the swarf to escape, a solid plate without holes for sharpening tools with corners that might catch in the holes, and a plastic plate with islands of exposed plastic interspersed with the adhesive and diamond dust to act as a lubricant.
When attempting to choose a whetstone for sharpening your favorite knife, the number of choices can be mind boggling. In fact, sharpening stones are divided into four distinct categories consisting of natural whetstones and manufactured whetstones which, in turn, are divided into two other categories consisting of oil stones and water stones. Then, there are numerous different varieties of natural whetstones consisting of several different materials that are quarried from different places around the world as well as several different types of man-made whetstones!
After sharpening properly with a medium grit stone, your knife will be very sharp! If you want an extra sharp razor edge, we recommend finishing with a higher grit stone. The sharpening process is the same, but the stone will remove much less steel, and form a less noticeable burr. Be sure to clean your knife and stone thoroughly after using to wash away all the steel you removed from the blade. Lastly, be sure to let your stones dry completely after use before storage.
A single stone of 120 grit and a combination stone of 1000 and 3000 grits come along with a stone holder all for a price of less than many other individual stones. The stones are 6 7/8" long and 2 1/8" wide. A flattening stone of some kind would be needed, but with economical options available in those, the overall price of this kit would still be low. This entry level set is a good budget minded option.
A shinkansen is a Japanese-style pull-through sharpener named after the famous bullet train. It features two sets of ceramic wheels set at the right angle for sharpening a Japanese blade, which takes out the guesswork of the waterstone. Simply hold the handle with your left hand, then saw back and forth gently through the coarser wheel to sharpen, before switching to the finer wheel to polish.
This set of two Norton combination waterstones provides four grits and also includes a flattening stone as an added value. The 220, 1000, 4000 and 8000 grit sides will handle everything from aggressive shaping to final polishing. They are 8" long by 3" wide, big enough to handle most knives and tools easily. Our most popular waterstone kit, this has everything you need to both sharpen with waterstones and maintain the stones themselves. A great starter set.