Last week, we discussed how to choose a Whetstone and the differences in Part One: Choosing a Whetstone. We can’t stress enough that the best thing you can do to maintain peak performance of your knives is to keep them constantly sharp. An alternative sharpening method to the sharpening steel is a whetstone (sometimes referred to as a sharpening stone). A whetstone is a sharpening method that uses natural stone or synthetic materials to sharpen a knife using friction.
It takes practice to use a whetstone correctly. Below are some things to do every time:
- Make sure the stone is on a slip resistant surface and stable before using. You can use a wet towel, or a Silpat® underneath the stone.
- Use your middle three fingers to stabilize the knife blade against the stone.
- Do not press down on the knife blade; let the weight of the knife do the work.
- Maintain the same angle every time the knife is sharpened.
- When using a sharpening steel a bow in the blade can happen. Using a sharpening stone will help to remove the bow. So make sure to sharpen the entire knife, from heel to point, doing this will bring back the blade shape and remove the bow.
- When finished sharpening, rinse the stone and clean off any residue. Clean your knives by hand in hot water and dry completely.Remember, practice makes perfect!
Two Well Known Methods to Use:
There are several ways to use any type of whetstone with no one way being the best. Two of the better known methods are the “Eastern” and “Western” methods.
Using the Eastern method: the knife is sharpened in three segments; the tip, the middle and the heel.
Using the Western method: the knife is moved diagonally across the stoned, sharpening from the tip to the heel in one motion.
Professional Chefs in Japanese restaurants will often sharpen their knives several times a day (they follow the mantra: Little and Often). For this reason, they typically use fine-grit stones. For maintaining the knife edge the lowest grit would not dip below 3,000; for polishing the edge up to 10,000 grit might be used.
For those who do not practice “Little and Often”, a knife blade edge can become very dull and need intensive repair. A stone with a 250 grit may be needed. For simple maintenance start with a grit of 1,000 and work up to the highest grit available.
To test the sharpness of your knife, try to cut a piece of paper. A dull knife will make a jagged cut, as if tearing through the paper. A sharp knife will make a clean straight cut.
Typically, the lower the grit number, the more coarse the stone. A coarse stone will sharpen a knife more effectively. Higher grit stones are best used for finishing and polishing.
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.