One of the very crucial aspects of caring for your knives is sharpening them. It is the only way you ensure the blades that have lost their edge stay sharp and prevent them from becoming dull, which often leads to accidents and poor work. Whetstones are one of the best tools in this role.
A whetstone is another name of a sharpening stone. The word whet means to sharpen, and thus while most people associate whetstone to indicate a water stone, it is a term that generally refers to all kinds of sharpening stones, water stones included.
Types of Whetstones
There are different kinds of whetstones. As a chef or cooking enthusiast, the type of whetstone you choose comes down to your general preference. There are four main types of whetstones, and these are;
An oil stone gets its name because this whetstone needs oil for lubrication before you can use it for sharpening kitchen knives or other items. Oil stones are not naturally occurring but are man-made using a bonding agent to bind together abrasive materials. Two common materials make oil stones.
First, aluminum oxide has a hardness rating of 9 on the Mohs Hardness Scale, making it an extremely hard abrasive excellent for sharpening. It is usually brown or orange, and a whetstone from this material cuts fast and delivers perfect edges on the kitchen knives. They have grits ranging from coarse, medium to fine.
The second material is silicon carbide which produces the fastest cutting oil whetstone. They have a Mohs hardness rating of 9-10 and usually come in a coarser grit, so they will not create a sharp edge like aluminum oxide stones. They are preferred for their fast-cutting action, making them excellent for initial sharpening before finishing off with a finer stone.
Arkansas stones are naturally occurring whetstones found from bedrock deposits in the Ouachita Mountains in Arkansas. They have been in use since the 1800s, and the makers cut the mined deposits into rectangular shapes creating a whetstone that can sharpen kitchen and outdoor tools. This type of whetstone can use both oil and water as a lubricant.
Arkansas stones are present in four grades; Soft, Hard, Black, and Translucent.
- Soft Arkansas is the coarsest whetstone of all four with a grit of 400 to 600. It has a marbled hue with colors including grey, white, black, pink, or orange.
- Hard Arkansas has a finer grit ranging from 800 to 1000. Its color is usually white to off-white and also has orange and reddish hues.
- Black Arkansas is the second finest stone of the four and has a grit equivalent of 2000. It is black or blue-black.
- Translucent Arkansas: this is the finest Arkansas whetstone with a grit ranging from 3500 to 4000. Its color ranges from light grey to white, and it could have pink shades running through.
Water stones are the more popular whetstones and get their name because they use water for lubrication. There are two types of water stones; synthetic water stones and natural water stones. Belgium and Japan have been the primary sources of natural water stones since ancient times. Belgium, for instance, has exported natural water stones as early as the Roman conquest times. There are two main types, the Belgium Bluestone and the Coticule. The coticule has a grit of 8000, while the Belgium Blue has 4000 grit.
The Japanese whetstone has grit from 400 to 10,000 though years of mining have made it scarce. Its primary source is near Kyoto, Japan, and the cost ranges from $25 to $500 for larger stones.
Synthetic water stones are man-made and common among chefs and woodworkers. They work faster than oil stones or Arkansas stones but not as fast as diamond stones. They also wear out much quicker compared to other stoners and require frequent lapping to maintain their flatness. They come with a grit ranging from 120 to 3000 and cost anywhere from $30 to $160.
Any chef or cooking professional will appreciate the fast working and high durability of diamond stones. They are more abrasive than any other kind making them suitable to sharpen any type of cutting edge. These include ceramic knives, stainless steel blades, and high-carbon kitchen knives. To make diamond stones, manufacturers electroplate man-made diamonds onto metal plates.
Diamond stones are increasingly becoming a popular option even though they can be an expensive option. Their price starts at $20 to over $100. Diamond stones have a grit range from 120 to 8000.
How to Use a Whetstone
- Depending on your whetstone, you may have to lubricate it. Check on the manual to find out the proper lubricant to use with the whetstone.
- Place the stone on top of a damp towel on a cutting board or countertop. The wet towel will prevent the stone from moving as you use it.
- Use one hand to hold the knife firmly and angle it at a 20-degree angle for western knives or a 15-degree angle for Asian knives. (Again, your knife manual or online research will let you know the angle to use.
- Apply light to moderate pressure on the blade and move it forwards and backward against the whetstone. Be sure the movement covers the whole length of the blade. Do it a few times depending on how dull the knife is, then turning the knife over and repeat the process on the other side again.
- You can then test the blade's sharpness using fruit and not your finger to avoid cutting yourself.
- If the blade is of the required sharpness, turn the whetstone to use the finer grain side or get a finishing grit whetstone. Repeat the process from step 4 above until you achieve the right sharpness edge.
- Once you are done, rid the whetstone and your blade of any metal particles by rinsing them with water. Then allow the whetstone to dry completely before storing it to prevent bacteria from building up on a moist surface.
What to Consider When choosing a Whetstone
There are plenty of whetstones on the market, and it may be challenging to find the best for your kitchen knives. It is also essential to know what serves your circumstances, and the type of knives will determine which whetstone best suits you. Here are the various factors to consider when choosing the best whetstone for your knives and other cutting tools.
The right whetstone should have the correct width and length to fit your cutting tools. A small whetstone will not work with bigger knives and make the sharpening process unsafe, and it is frustrating trying to cover the length of the whole blade. For kitchen knives, the size should be around 6 to 8 inches long.
Grit refers to the coarseness of a whetstone, and a number marking on the whetstone denotes its grit. The lower the number, the grittier the stone is. There are three categories of whetstones, depending on their grit. These are coarse, medium, and finishing.
Coarse sharpening stones have a grit number less than 1000 and serve to repair chipped and badly damaged knives. They do not leave an excellent finish, so you should only use them for incredibly dull or damaged knives.
Medium sharpening stones have a grit number from 1000 to 3000. Experts consider the 1000 grit to be the primary or standard grit, so if you have a dull but undamaged knife, this should be the knife you start with. However, you do not want to keep using the 1000 grit regularly as it can wear down your knife. If you sharpen your knives regularly, you may want to stick to the 2000 to 3000 grits as they are less coarse.
The finishing stones start from 4000 to 8000 grit and serve to provide a highly refined edge. 4000 to 5000 grit is regarded as a bridge between the sharpening stones and superfine finishing. Usually, 5000 grit may be as high as you need to go. However, you can go as far as 8000 if you desire. For meat knives, you should not go past 5000 to retain strength in the edge. However, for cutting vegetables and soft fruits, you can go all the way to 8000 grits.
Value for money
To get the best value for money, you should consider the product's durability, the quality you are getting, and the price. The best whetstone will give you more for your buck. Depending on the material, look at the quality and other aspects like double-sided stones with different grits on each side.
Where to find the best whetstones
It is hard to find one marketplace that specializes in all the quality whetstones. That is why House of Knives exists to fill that gap. We bring together all the best products from the top manufacturers globally in one place.
You can pick the best whetstone from various brands, and our sale promotions guarantee you bargain deals. We also provide a seamless shopping experience and access to plenty more quality knives and knife accessories.
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