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Choosing the right whetstone for your needs

Ditch the leather strop in favour of a whetstone; a stone with a gritty surface, usually in a rectangular block, used for sharpening and honing knives and metal tools. While it can be fiddly until you develop the knack for it, it’s one of the most favoured methods of knife sharpening used by professionals because it provides more control and precision.

Finding the right whetstone for your needs depends on a few factors, which we’ll explore in more detail below.

What grit do I go for when sharpening?

To really be able to make an informed decision, it’s important to understand what the term ‘grit’ means in relation to whetstones and the different types of grit size available. In a nutshell, grit refers to the abrasive particles on the surface and, in a similar way to selecting sandpaper, there are different sized particles or ‘grits’ to choose from.

The lower the number on the grit whetstone, the rougher the surface. The higher the number on the grit stone, the smoother the surface. A lower grit is a better choice for restoring chipped or damaged knife blades whereas a higher grit is best for a more polished finish and general maintenance.

You can get a whetstone and sharpening stone that has a fine grit grade of 4000, which is enough to bridge the gap perfectly between sharpening and polishing. Whereas you’d be looking at a grit grade of 5000 for finishing, increasing to 8000 for a super-fine finishing stone. However, a whetstone 1000 or lower is best for extremely dull knives that need more restoration.

Types of whetstones to choose from

  • Natural stone. Natural whetstones are usually made of quartz such as novaculite. Water stones, diamond stones and oil stones are the most common types of natural whetstones.

  • Synthetic water stone. Water stones are known for their sharpening performance and have a loosely bonded abrasive grit that is washed out very quickly, exposing new particles that can get to work on the blade.

  • Carborundum stone. These whetstones are made from minerals that are mined and separated into soft, medium or hard grade stones with fine, medium and coarse surfaces. These stones enable the easy removal of residual enamel.

The importance of knife sharpening

Regularly sharpening knives so they’re razor sharp will keep them in perfect condition so your favourite knives last longer. Ensuring the knife blade keeps its sharp edge can take some work, but it’s worth it rather than attempting to slice and dice with a dull knife.

Why make life harder than it needs to be? Make prepwork, carving and serving up food safer and easier by sharpening your stainless steel or carbon steel knives as soon as you feel them losing their impact.

Deluxe Japanese knives to go with your sharpening stone

Japanese knives are famous for being light and lithe. The deluxe blades are finer and extra sharp, making them ideal for cooks who are passionate about their food prep. Especially developed to suit Japanese cuisine such as the preparation of sashimi and delicate sushi rolls, the thinner blade profile ensures a quick and precise cut.

They also tend to include a more specialist variety of knives that go beyond your standard chef’s knife, paring knife, boning knife or bread knife, adding knife types such as nakiri, kiritsuke and santoku into the mix.

Where brands like Wusthof are loved among Western knife enthusiasts, Japanese knife sets from brands like Shun or Yaxell are very popular at Kitchen Warehouse. If you want to pick up Japanese whetstones to go with your Asian knife block, then the Kasumi Combination Whetstone is the one to go for! Alternatively, Edge Master is an excellent knife sharpening brand.

More kitchen knives to add to your collection:

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What is whetstone used for?
A whetstone is used to sharpen, hone and polish knives so they maintain their cutting abilities.

How long should a whetstone last?
A whetstone should last at least six months, but this type of sharpener could last anywhere between five and 10 years before it needs replacing. Over time they wear more in the middle than along the edges but you can remove the high sides by flattening the whetstone so it maintains its effectiveness.

What is the difference between a whetstone and a sharpening stone?
Both a whetstone and sharpening stone mean the same thing and are often interchangeable depending on preference.