How do whetstones sharpen knives? Why and how are they better than a regular 4$ knife sharpener?

How do whetstones sharpen knives? Why and how are they better than a regular 4$ knife sharpener?

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0 thoughts on “How do whetstones sharpen knives? Why and how are they better than a regular 4$ knife sharpener?”

  1. High quality whetstones shave off small amounts of steel on either side of the edge gradually. This is a process best taken slowly. The whetstone thins the edge a small bit at a time, leaving a finely honed, well sharpened knife(If you used the sharpener properly, that is.) The four dollar sharpener will generally have two small pieces of tungsten carbide inserted within. These two pieces shred away lots of material and completely reshape the edge. No precision or consistency is involved. Whetstones take much more work, but provide phenomenal results.
    I would definitely invest in a good set of sharpening stones. Make sure you learn to use the stones properly, or you’ll only hurt your knife(and your stones.)

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  2. Properly used, a sharpening stone, or a set of stones will produce a very smooth edge that greatly outlasts the edge made by most-sharpeners. I use Japanese style water stones, and need to sharpen my kitchen knives about four times per year. They are always quite sharp, capable of slicing ripe tomatoes.
    My neighbor bought some very expensive knives, and a sharpener that was said to produce an edge equal to the factory edge that he enjoyed when his knives were new. When his wife sent one of their knives to me to see if I could correct what their sharpener had done I found the edge of her knife to be rough. The demonstration was to gently run the edge of her blade over the tip of her thumbnail; the roughness was obvious. After a few minutes on my water stones the same test gave no evidence of roughness. The cutting edge was smooth, and capable of shaving hair off an arm. Of course, after this, their whole set of knives came to me for sharpening!
    Every sharpener that I have seen except the ceramic rods that fit into a wooden base will scrape metal away so that the rough edge can be seen with a good magnifying glass. Good stones, or wet-or-dry emery paper in graduated grits, adhered to a piece of glass, can produce a edge that will hold up.

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  3. A whetstone has a very hard porous surface that is harder than almost any knife steel. Most of the “$4.00” sharpeners are constructed of a couple of very brittle hardened (maybe?) pieces of steel that are crossed into a sharp “V”. They work by tearing away at the edge of the knife and can never attain as good an edge as a natural or quality whetstone. A whetstone is like a very fine grained sponge that is almost diamond hard. There are rough edges sticking up separated by spaces between the particles. Natural (and most man-made) whetstones come in different grades. The different “grades” you will encounter are determined by the size of the particles that make up the stone/abrasive and the space between the grains. Generally, in all stones, natural or man made, the finer the grade, the more it costs, and you get what you pay for. Man-made stones are similar in grading and price. They have the advantage of being available in special shapes for unique sharpening requirements, like sharpening gouges used in woodcarving. The lower the number, the coarser the grit.
    NEVER sharpen a knife by laying it flat on any sharpening device, no matter what Grandpa or the old guys sitting around the Court House square say. NEVER turn your knife over to one of them to get “razor sharp”.
    A quality stone should always be flooded in use. That means a heavy coat of either very light oil or water, whatever the maker specifies. The spaces between the particles (too small to be seen with the unaided eye) traps the honing oil. That oil not only carries the steel that the sharp-edged grains grind away, but it carries the steel particles out of the spaces and prevent it from clogging and glazing the surface that cuts into the knife edge. Ceramic rod sharpeners are excellent for the final honing and polish of the sharpened edge.
    A good cutting edge should have almost a mirror polish on the side of the sharpened edge and have no shiny spots visible when the edge is held facing you in natural sunlight. Any shiny places on the edge shows where the cutting edge is not sharpened. The $4.00 sharpener cannot attain this level of sharpness. (And I speak from experience!)

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  4. Whetstones don’t sharpen, a person skilled in using them does. Beginning with the coarsest (lower numbered) grit, perhaps a 400, the sharpener first lubricates the stone and determines the angle of the cutting edge. Holding the knife at this angle, they use a circular motion to grind a small amount of metal from each edge so that when looking at the cutting edge straight-on, there is no visible bright edge reflecting back. When this is done, the next higher grit is used. Properly done, a microscopic burr will form on the opposite edge, which is removed by the next honing with a higher grit only to be replaced by a finer j-shaped burr. At 1600 grit, this burr is so small that it is finally removed by a couple of passes over a leather strop. By this methodical step-by-step process, you will achieve a razor sharp edge.
    Note that scissors and shears are sharpened on one edge only on each blade.
    My grandfather u…

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  5. Whetstones are not used so much for “sharpening” which is basically grinding metal to shape the knife edge but for “honing” which involves fine tuning an already sharpened blade. Sharpening is something that need only be done as periodic upkeep but regular honing after use ensures that a fine edge is maintained.
    Honing effectively realigns the fine cutting edge without removing metal, a cheap sharpener will put an edge on a blade but the use of fine honing materials such as whetstones or strops makes the edge sharper and the blade last longer.

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  6. They cut tiny grooves in the steel, making the edge thinner and V-shaped instead of U-shaped. You use several grades for the same reason you need several grits of sandpaper.
    I’m not sure what you mean by “knife sharpener”. When I was young, can openers had a grindstone in the back. It removed a lot of metal. At least it didn’t overheat the blade, the way a bench grinder (3600 rpm or higher) would.

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  7. Not all knives have the same edge geometry out the box, some have a more acute edge than others, a whetstone gives you control to sharpen a knife to the right angle for its geometry. If you try to sharpen a knife with a more blunt edge in like a 15* knife sharpener, you’re gonna be at it for a long time regrinding it to a new edge. A whetstone gives you much more control to create a better edge for your knives

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  8. Whetstones are abrasive and work with water or oil as a lubricant. Generally, when a knife is really blunt you use a rougher whetstone, then a smoother one to get a clean finish on the blade (which prevents snagging). For most people cooking or using a knife outside for chores or wild camping, a utility sharpener will suffice. Chefs, butchers and sushi chefs require a really sharp edge and whetstones are better. However, they take a bit of time to learn how to use and sometimes just when you think you have a knife you can shave with – you go wrong and you’re back to square one.

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  9. Whetstones are much different from the “knife sharpener” — assuming you’re referring to a steel honing rod — because the steel will only re-align a blade that has been bent due to improper/over-use. But no material is actually being ground away with a steel. With a whetstone, you’re actually grinding away bits of the knife, to re-create the original blade edge.

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  10. In the same way that the sharp facets of the tiny stone grit on an emory board shaves away fingernail or sand paper removes wood or paint, a whet stone removes tiny amounts of metal from the blade. The coarser the grit the more metal is removed and the deeper the gouges caused by the sharp facets of the stone. By stepping down from coarser stones to smoother stone the gouges are removed and the edge becomes finer and more polished. The angle of the edge and the final finish are all controlled by the operator.
    A cheapo sharpener has a preset angle and offers only one finish. Some have super hard tungsten carbide edges that literally scrape and tear away material from the edge. Others have ceramic rods, set in the same ‘V’ configuration, and they rub the sides of the edge as the knife is drawn between them. The sharpeners will wear and a step will form at the lowest point of contact. That step ends up rubbing on the cutting edge, doing more harm than good.
    Another factor is the orientation of microscopic gouges left by the sharpener. A whet stone creates lines relatively perpendicular to the edge, yielding a sawtooth effect, micro-serrations that in many cases enhance the cutting ability of the blade. The cheapo will make fine ridges parallel to the edge that will weaken the finest part of the edge, making it easier to roll over, chip, or ding.

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