If no metal is being removed from the edge of the blade, it’s considered honing. Whereas if metal is being removed from the blade edge this is considered sharpening. Certainly, even honing will result in some microscopic amounts of metal being removed from the blade edge but not enough to be visible to the human eye, so the above definition is basically a solid one.
Technically, the name whetstone can be applied to any form of sharpening stone, regardless of what cutting fluid is typically used with it. However because whet sounds like wet, many hear the word and assume that it refers to a stone that is used wet with water. Actually, water stones, oil stones diamond stones and ceramic stones are all forms of whetstones. So, while all water stones are whetstones, not all whetstones are water stones.
You’ve probably seen a number – say 1000 – on the side or top of the Whetstone you just bought and are at a loss as to what it all means, or even worse the person who sold it to you, didn’t know or forgot to mention it. Which ever of these scenarios sounds about right, you are left with a stone and no idea how you should be using it, well let me enlighten you dear reader.
When a whetstone is used to cut metal, it acts like sandpaper by removing small particles of metal (aka “swarf”) with each pass of the blade over the stone. Therefore, whetstones with more coarse grits cut faster than those with finer grits and, at the same time, soft whetstones cut faster than hard whetstones because each pass of the blade over both types of whetstones not only removes fine particles of metal from the blade, it also removes fine particles from the surface of the whetstone (aka “slurry”) which continuously exposes new cutting crystals. However, if the swarf is allowed to build up on the surface of the whetstone during sharpening, it will clog the stone and drastically diminish its effectiveness. Therefore, some whetstones require water to lubricate the stone and suspend the swarf whereas, other whetstones require oil to lubricate the stone and suspend the swarf.
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Your stroke can be straight or circular, from "hilt to tip" OR "tip to hilt," whichever is more comfortable. If you're using a small portable sharpener, stroke the blade in nearly a straight direction. Remember to always cut into the stone and never pull or drag your edge backwards. The blade edge should face in the same direction as your stroke. So, you're essentially moving the metal away from the edge. We recommend the circular stroke as it helps you maintain your angle instead of having to find it every time you lift the knife from the stone.
Select the grit of the stone. Sharpening stones are available with different grit sizes. For example, you can choose fine, medium and coarse stones. You should use a coarse stone followed by a fine grit if your knives are dull. If your knives have been sharpened recently or they aren't too dull, consider using a medium grit. Try to use a grit level ranging from 325 (for coarse) to 1200 (for extra fine).
I've been using this stone for months and have started to find that, while the fine side does provide a nice sharp edge, the 400gr side is wearing my knives unevenly, which causes me to be unable to finely sharpen the entire length of the blade when moving to the fine side. The logo that is put in the middle of the 400gr side of the knife is causing more material to be removed than the rest of the blade when I'm sweeping across. I even verified this by going straight down the length of the fine side and watching the wear pattern come from the material coming off of the knife onto the stone.
I bought this and Unimi's 600/1000 whetstone at the same time. Curiously, reviews are currently blocked for their 600/1000 model, as amazon wouldn't let me leave one for it. Considering the conspicuous absence of reviews in the other stone's listing, one can only assume they're being censored for everyone. So, maybe I should be more critical of these stones, and use them a while longer before giving them any praise? But I've had a very positive experience with them so far, and the 600/1000 stone was the one I found most useful.
Although there are many ways to sharpen your kitchen knives, we believe that using a sharpening stone is the absolute best way to go about it. Not only will you get the best results, you won’t assume as much risk of damaging the blade as you would using a manual or electric knife sharpener. The problem for most home cooks, however, is finding the best sharpening stone and learning how to use it. I’m not going to pretend it’s as easy as purchasing a stone and digging right in.
The Sharpening and Specialty lines of waterstones from Naniwa are available in several packages of three to five stones. The Specialty line is the same as the Sharpening line, but half the thickness and therefore less expensive. Both the Sharpening and the Specialty stones are 8 1/4" long by 2 3/4" wide, amply sized for most knives and tools. These are a higher grade stone that do not require soaking before use. While you would need a flattening stone in addition, these kits are a good way to enter into premium grade waterstones.
Grinding is generally done with some type of sharpening stone. Sharpening stones come in coarse and fine grits and can be described as hard or soft based on whether the grit comes free of the stone with use. Many sources of naturally occurring stones exist around the world; some types known to the ancient world are no longer used, due to exhaustion of former resources or the ready availability of superior alternatives. Arkansas, USA is one source for honing stones, which are traditionally used with water or honing oil. India is another traditional source for stones. Ceramic hones are also common, especially for fine grit size. Japanese water stones (both artificial and natural) come in very fine grits. Before use, they are soaked in water, then flushed with water occasionally to expose new stone material to the knife blade. The mixture of water and abraded stone and knife material is known as slurry, which can assist with the polishing of the knife edge and help sharpen the blade. Generally, these are more costly than oilstones. Coated hones, which have an abrasive, sometimes diamonds, on a base of plastic or metal, are also available.
This is great combination but you don’t need them all to get started. As your budget allows, start with one stone and although I like to start with a coarse stone, the 400 Chosera is a little coarse to start the learning process with and you would need another stone in a higher grit to finish. So if you want to start with one water stone, and that is perfectly okay, select the 1,000 grit stone, it will deliver an edge that will startle you, with practice of course. Also, just having a water stone in your possession is going to motivate you, trust me.
An important but often confusing area of sharpening is knowing when you're done with one stone and ready for the next finer grit. On coarse stones it is very easy. When you sharpen one side you will notice a burr forming on the opposite side of the edge. This burr is hard to see but is easy to feel. Very carefully feel for the burr by gently running your hand from the spine to the edge. (Do not run your finger along the knife edge from heel to tip, that's only asking for trouble!) A burr is formed when your stone removes material directly at the edge. The burr will move from one side of your knife to another as you alternate sharpening sides. Make sure you have felt the burr jump between both sides before you move on to the next finer stone. That will ensure that you have sharpened both sides effectively. The finer grits are done the same way but the burr is much smaller. On the finest grits you may not be able to notice the burr at all. Testing the knife sharpness will tell you when you're done. (Learn how you can test to see if your knife is sharp.)