A sharpening stone is an often overlooked yet important tool, whether at home or in industry. The use of scissors, razors, blades, and especially knives will be improved if its main users, normally chefs, homemakers, and campers, know how to keep them sharp and do it well.
Professionals recommend Japanese whetstones for sharpening knives. After all, oil stones cut the slowest, while ceramic stones are too hard and need greater maintenance.
Water stones are easy to use and available in different grit levels, making them a great choice. They also come in synthetic and natural forms, albeit some natural stones are costly.
Steps in Sharpening Knife with a Water Stone
Below are the steps to follow when sharpening knives with a water stone.
Step 1: Soak Your Stones in Water
It is recommended to submerge your stones for at least 45 minutes before putting them into action. Both stone fixers and stones should be soaked.
This is a crucial step because if your porous stones miss this, they tend to dry out during sharpening. That will give edge dings and nicks for the knife blade.
Step 2: Set up the Station Properly Before Beginning the First Stroke
Once the stones have been submerged in water, place them over a cutting board. Always keep a container of water near you so that you can moisten your stone constantly during the entire sharpening process.
The stone’s orientation should be the short end parallel to the counter’s edge. Once done, you can begin by placing the kneel of your knife on the stone’s far edge, holding it firmly and gently at a 15 to 20-degree angle.
Note that you should maintain the said angle at all times.
Step 3: Finish Your Strokes and Repeat
All of your strokes should finish with your knife’s tip on the stone’s bottom. You also need to lift the knife, reset the heel each time at the top of the stone, and repeat.
Some duller knives may require up to 40 to 50 strokes.
Step 4: Watch Out for Silty Water and Check for Burr
The repetition of strokes might lead to a thin film of silty water collecting on the blade and top of the stone. Note that this will take material off the edge of your knife and, in turn, sharpen it.
Burr, on the other hand, will form on the other side of the blade as strokes are repeated. You will feel this on the edge of the knife.
The same steps apply to the second side and when switching and fixing stones as needed. Then, cleaning up with a dedicated towel follows, with anticipated grit from the stone.
Allow your stone to dry out on a rack for at least 24 hours, after which you can test and hone your blade.
Tips in Sharpening Knife With a Water Stone
Other than knowing the step-by-step process of sharpening a knife with a water stone, below are tips that can help.
Apply the Right Amount of Pressure.
Considering that there are different levels of sharpening pressure, it might be good to view it on a scale of one to five, with five being the highest and one as very light.
Starting the process at almost maximum or level four helps. A pressure level of two or three will then work in using the stone with your fingertips; then, you can go back to level four pressure as soon as your knife is already gliding over the whetstone.
Overall, visualizing the process with this scale ensures the execution of proper steps with adequate pressure.
Consider the Right Size of Water Stone
Since water stones are available in different grit sizes, it is best to note that the lower the number, the coarser the grit. That said, it will take more material off of your knife.
Thus, a large water stone, at least an inch thick and 2 1/2 inches by 8 inches in length, works better.
Have Two Stones Ready in Your Kit
Combine your types of water stones to come up with the best output. A medium grit can work well for major sharpening, while edge tuning is done best with fine-grit ones.
When Doing All the Steps, Consistency Is Key
It is useless to worry whether you’re doing the steps quickly enough. What’s important is how constant pressure and angle are maintained.
Working your way in one-inch sections will also work, especially if it’s your first time. Having at least 10 to 15 back and forth motions is a rule of thumb and a reasonable estimate.
The Bottom Line
Remember, learning to sharpen a knife with a water stone or any whetstone requires a greater learning curve. Still, it will pay off more in the end, knowing that it gives you more control and precision regarding how sharp your knives are.
Also, beginners have it right by starting with synthetic water stones. Choose wisely and avoid having the inappropriate stone that can only end up damaging your chef knife’s blade.