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August 24, 2020

Why choose stone sharpening ?

Sharpening stone is certainly the best choice to maintain the edge of your knives. Halfway between a sharpening stone that only straightens a cutting edge - useless if the knife no longer cuts - and a grindstone that removes a lot of material and does little damage, the whetstone is an ideal compromise.

Choosing your whetstone

There are a multitude of whetstones on the market with a large number of grains. Here is their use:

  • Grit 200/400 : The coarse grains allow you to regain an edge on rough scratches and pre-sharpen your blade. You can repair a blade that has a small chip on its edge, or a small damage. This kind of stone will remove enough material to make up for it. It is mandatory to continue sharpening with a finer stone, 1000 grit for example. If we stop on a 200 or 400 stone, the edge will remain very "rough".
  • Grit 600-800 : A little halfway between 200-400 and 1000. The 600 stone makes it possible to make up for many defects without removing too much material.
  • Grit 1000 : The stone par excellence. Abrasive enough to recover shallow blades, but fine enough to finish sharpening and enjoy a very good edge. Do not exceed 1000 for low grade steels, it is useless.
  • Grit 2000-3000-4000 : Very useful finishing stone for most steels, European and Japanese. It allows to polish the edge well and to have an even finer and smoother cut.
  • Grit 5000 and +: Reserved for steels that will take advantage of it: very hard steels will have a razor sharp edge that they will keep for a while. Using such a stone on "soft" 58 HRC steel is useless: after only a few cuts the edge will return to normal because the steel is not hard enough to keep such a fine edge.

If only one stone was to be used for japanese knives, it would be a 1000 grit stone or a double sided 1000/6000 stone. Beware, do not wait until the knives no longer cut or are damaged before using them. The frequency of sharpening will depend on your use and the steel of your knives. If you maintain them regularly with a good sharpening gun, you can be satisfied with a stone-cut every 3 or 6 months.

Preparation before sharpening

Sharpening stones must be soaked in water before use. Count about 10-15min. Some people even suggest keeping their whetstone permanently in water!

On the attack !

For the novices, practice first on knives that have no value. Don't ruin your beautiful Japanese knives!

If your knife is in good condition, start with the 1000 stone, then 6000. If it doesn't cut at all, or if it has small impacts (test the edge on your nail, if you feel teeth it's not good) then it's better to start with a 200/400 stone.  If you have a stone with two different grains, first use the side with the coarse grains, and then the side with the fine grains.

  1. Take the stone out of the water and put it on its base. If you have the possibility, try to slightly raise the side of the stone that is closest to you. This will allow the water to drain off and remove dirt when sharpening.
  2. Keep a container of water nearby because the stone needs to be wetted frequently. Grasp the knife in this way : Thumb and index finger positioned on the blade to be stable, and three fingers of the other hand on the blade, near the edge to distribute the pressure well.
  3. The angle should be about 15°, i.e. there should be the equivalent of a coin in height between the back of the blade and the stone, no more. Position the knife at 45° in relation to the stone (the stone aims in front, the front knife to the left, 45°).
  4. In this direction (sharp towards you) you have to apply more pressure when pushing the knife than when bringing it back. Hold your knife at an angle of 15 to 30 degrees to the stone and move back and forth. The whetstone should always be kept wet while sharpening your kitchen knife because water mixes with the abrasion residue (this is called sharpening mud) and improves the final sharpening result. Remember to clean the edge of the knife often enough. At the beginning, start very slowly to get your marks. There is no point in going fast if you are constantly changing the angle or it is not good. To sharpen the tip, you need to raise the handle a little more to give more angle.
  5. To know if this side is sharp enough, you should test with your finger the other side of the edge: from the blade to the outside (especially not along the edge at the risk of cutting your finger!). If you feel it is raspy, it is time to move to the other side. If some areas are rough and others are not, continue sharpening a little more on the smooth areas.
  6. For the other side, this time apply more pressure by bringing the knife back towards you. Proceed in the same way, and check the sharpening with your finger. When it is rough, it is better to finish with one or two passes on each side to finish sharpening with the stone.
  7. We strongly recommend that you finish sharpening by passing a sharpening shot (fine carving) on the blade. The sharpness of your knife will be even more effective even if you have just finished on a 6000 grit stone.

Once finished, all that remains is to clean your knife well and test it on a sheet of paper. Do not feel any snags.

Try to use the whole surface of the stone so that you don't dig it in a particular place. The surface of your sharpening stone must always remain flat to achieve a satisfactory result. Over time, it is likely that a small hollow will form on the surface of your stone. At this point, rub your whetstone on a hard, flat surface (concrete floor for example) or use a flattening stone.

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