Whetstones are often considered to be one of the best ways to sharpen a knife because the user has the most control over the angle and grit used. Once this method of sharpening is mastered, it can be both very effective and gentle. A whetstone is a sharpening method that uses natural stone or synthetic materials to sharpen a knife using friction. The first thing you have to do is choose the type of whetstone you want to use.
Choosing a Whetstone
There is a wide range of whetstones on the market, which can make the process of choosing one quite confusing. The four (4) most common types of whetstones are ceramic stones, diamond stones, oil stones and water stones.
The four types of stones are different.
Oil stones require oil (mineral oil is a good choice) and usually come in one grit. Oil stones are composed of natural stone or synthetic materials. Professional users will often have a tri-stone, which has three grits, coarse, medium and fine. These can be rotated depending on the sharpening job required.
Water stones need to be soaked in water for at least 10 minutes before use which can make them somewhat inconvenient. They are typically made of fairly soft, compressed materials that can wear down quickly. Water stones often have a finer grit so sharpness can usually be restored quickly.
Diamond stones are not a stone at all. Rather, they are made of metal that is embedded with bits of diamond. These stones are made with varying amounts and sizes of diamonds to control the grit of the stone. A high quality diamond stone will last a long time, so expect to pay more for a quality investment.
Ceramic stones require water for lubrication, but unlike water stones, need only a light coating of water and they are ready to use. These stones typically come in one or two grits, which can be quite fine. A high quality ceramic stone will be hard, which ensures that it will last a long time. The investment in quality is worth the cost.
Stay tuned to The Discriminating Chef next week for Part 2: How to Use a Whetstone
Ideas for this blog post came from the following publication:
Elliot, Jeffrey nd James P DeWan. Complete Book Of Knife Skills. Toronto: R. Rose, 2010. Print.