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whetstones? water stones? sharpening how now?

post #1 of 5
Thread Starter 
First timer, first post here. Let's cut to the chase: I dearly need advice on a good sharpening set. I would love to invest in a good set of water stones, but a couple days of preliminary research into the topic online has me feeling way over my head. There are way too many options to choose from, and besides knowing that I will probably need multiple stones of different types of grit, I don't know where to begin.

I am brand new. Never sharpened with stones before. Instead I was happily going through life assuming an electric sharpener would do me just fine forever, but lately I have been wanting to improve on my home knife set and buy much better quality knives that will last longer. When looking into higher quality options, I also found that apparently I am an idiot, and buying a better knife just to wear it down with an electric sharpener all too soon completely negates my original desire for longevity. Young and naiive, I tell you.

Anyway, before I drop a dime on a more expensive chef knife (and it kills me to have to wait, because ooh, shiny) I want to teach myself how to properly sharpen with the knives I already have. I don't have culinary education experience and my kitchen mentors are basically my grandma and the rudimentary kitchen experience I have gained from working in a corporate restaurant. Also you-tube videos and blog posts. This is mostly for my practice and enjoyment at home, because I love food and I love preparing it.

About me: I am a casual chef at home. I get to cook about twice a week. I currently have a small set of cutco knives (did I mention young and naiive?) and I tend to use my chef knife for pretty much everything. Other than that I use my paring knife and my bread knife the most (I bake, a lot). I am perfectly willing to dedicate time to proper sharpening and care of my knives, and to learn to do it right.

So 1)is this even feasible considering my resources and 2)help, please.
post #2 of 5



Just enter sharpening knives in the  the Forum Nav: and press GO and it will take you many, many, many past discussions on sharpening knives and discussions on  using wet stones. Also

has discussions and videos on sharpening knives.


JimA in Defiance MO

post #3 of 5



My  earlier direction won't get you where you need to go. Hit the Articles tab at the top of the page and then type in sharpening knives  in the Search Box and hit the Search button.


Sorry about that.


JimA in Defiance, MO

post #4 of 5

Any sharpening stone is a "whet stone."  To whet, means to sharpen. 


There are many kinds of sharpening stones.  The two most common kinds are "oil stones," and "water stones."  Most strong, hard knife alloys (strong and hard are terms of art) sharpen significantly more efficiently on water stones than oil stones.  Many tough, soft (also terms of art) alloys sharpen slightly better on oil stones.  If you're only going to buy one set of stones you're probably better buying water stones.


Water stones come in all sorts quality and price levels.  The rule of thumb is that you might not get what you pay for, but that you certainly won't get what you don't pay for.  There's enough knowledge on this forum to guide you to a good set of stones.


Water stones and oil stones work differently from one another.  The primary difference is not the kind of liquid either.  In fact, oil stones are almost as commonly used with water, soap, soapy water or dry as they are with oil.  I use two synthetic and two natural oil stones; almost always using them dry, and never with oil.


Whether oil or water, modern synthetic stones are made by mixing an abrasive and a substrate and baking them into a stone.  Water stones use water-soluble substrates, oil stone substrates are not soluble.  When water stones are wet, the a continuing supply of substrate and abrasives come off surface of the stone in the form of "mud;" and it is the mud which does the actual sharpening. 


Oil stones use textured and slightly porous surface of the stone.  Oil stones rely on liquid to "float away" the "swarf" and keep the stone's pores from "clogging.


A good set of oil stones costs less than an equally good set of water stones.  But, as I said, if you're only going to have one type you probably want water stones.      


Synthetic water stones come in a variety of different types.  Besides the coarseness of the grit (you'll need at least two, to begin with), the most obvious distinctions are the type of substrate (aka "binder"), the type of abrasive, and the density of the abrasive.  Clay is the cheapest substrate (the stones are often called "mud binders), then resin, and then magnesia; and as a general rule, the more abrasive in a stone, the better the stone.   


My water stone kit consists of two resin binders, and two magnesias. 


Sharpening Supplies is a fairly good retailer but they only stock a limited selection of water stones; and if you ask them for a recommendation they'll -- of course -- recommend their stock.  I happen to like the Naniwa SS stones they carry, but there are lots of other possibilities; some of which may be better for you.  Although you may end up purchasing from somewhere else, Chef Knives to Go has the best online selection of water stones on the web. 


But let's hold off on specific stone and retailer recommendations for now while you familiarize yourself with the range of possibilities and prices. 


Sharpening freehand on bench stones is one good way to sharpen, but it is not the only good way.  The best way for you will depend on what kind of person you are and on what kind of knives you'll be sharpening. 


For some people, electric sharpeners are indeed the best way to go; so it's a good thing that not all of them are not knife eaters.  Chef Choice electric sharpeners aren't perfect, but they aren't bad either as long as you use them properly.


For a lot of people though, a good "tool and jig" sharpening system such as an Edge Pro or Wicked Edge is the best combination of easy learning, convenience, and edge quality.  Unfortunately, good toll and jigs run expensive.  But if you can afford the initial outlay you should certainly consider using one.


At the end of the day sharpening is no more complicated than rubbing a piece of steel against a rock.  But there's an awful lot of minutiae to get out of the way before things get that simple.  There's a start.  Now it's up to you.  Ask lots of questions.



post #5 of 5
Thread Starter 

JimA-- Thank you; I have been looking through articles since putting up this post and I definitely have been gaining more knowledge.  When I first started researching, the amount of information was way too overwhelming and I had no idea where to begin, lol.


BDL-- You're a lifesaver.  That's exactly what I needed.  I have heard mention of EdgePro around the boards also-- a quick google search gives me something that looks a little bit like a medieval torture device, but that might be something worth looking into for me.  If that is something better for people with not the steadiest hands (I could never be a surgeon) I might want to invest in something like that instead.

My budget right now for a good sharpening set would be about $100 (maybe up to $150 if that's what I need for a set that's great and will last).  Eventually I want to invest in a good set of Japanese knives (I have gone into stores and tested out Shun classic and Kahi chef knives; I really like the very sharp edge and lighter weight) so any kind of stones or sharpening set I purchase will need to be geared towards those types of knives.  However I do have a cutco set that I was intending to practice with until I got very good at sharpening and maintaining-- but what you're saying is that I need the knife itself before I purchase sharpening equipment for it, right?  In which case I might have to hold off until I know for sure exactly what knives I intend on purchasing.


I don't cut a ton of bones or hard material when I cook at home.  It's mostly fruits and veggies, breads and baked goods, already de-boned meats.  I do enjoy making sushi at home too so eventually a good filet knife is going to be on order.  But as of right now I am still researching what knives would be best for me to invest in, so should I hold off purchasing good sharpening equipment and practicing until I know for sure what knives I intend to buy?

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