How to Sharpen a Knife Properly with a Whetstone

Nobody Likes a Dull Knife

Using a dull knife can be very frustrating. You need to repeat the cutting or slicing action many times because your knife is inefficient.

When this happens you can either buy a new knife which can be a time consuming and expensive process or you can learn how to sharpen your knife. You would think that sharpening knife is easy, but there are ways to do it properly so that your knife remains sharp for a longer period of time. Here’s how to sharpen your knife properly.

sharpening a knife with a whetstone

What you need to get a sharp knife:

  • High quality sharpener preferably
  • diamond abrasive
  • Finishing surface made of hard stone or ceramic abrasive
  • Mineral Oil or Water depending on the stone.

First you need to know what angle to sharpen your knife. If you don’t know the angle to sharpen your knife, call your manufacturer or check the instruction manual. Knowing what angle to sharpen your knife will make the job faster and easier.

Most of the time, recommended angle for sharpening knife is between 10 to 30 degrees per side. You might be tempted to go for a shallower angle but the sharpness you get from shallow angles don’t last long. Therefore pick an angle between 17° – 20° as a compromise.

Lubricate your whetstone with mineral oil. You can skip this step but mineral oil or any light oil will make it easier for your blade to pass through the stone. It will also keep the shavings from clogging your whetstone’s surface.

Your whetstone usually comes with two surfaces: a rough side and a fine side. The rough side is used to grind the steel down while the fine side is for honing the steel. Start with the rough side first. Pull the knife up and down the whetstone. Flip the knife and continue to pull up and down until you create a new edge.

Flip you whetstone and repeat the process this time sharpening using the fine grit. Your goal here is to smoothen the knife so that the edge is transformed from a ground edge to a honed edge.

When sharpening a knife, there is no correct number of strokes to follow. You just need to check periodically with your thumb if the edge is sharp enough.

With practice sharpening your knife will be easier and faster. While knife sharpening is the hardest part of knife maintenance, using a sharp knife is worth the trouble.

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Ben started a twenty year commercial photography career after a blurry stint in the navy. He spent a lot of time losing and breaking knives and other EDC gear on location shoots before starting Nothing But Knives. He has reviewed and tested hundreds of both outdoor and kitchen knives over the course of the last six years, and he was mostly sober while testing and reviewing.

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