Japanese Knife Sharpening Whetstones

Every knife, no matter how good it is, will eventually dull. A Japanese workman’s tools will dull as well. For professionals, they all have their own stones. In old neighborhoods three would be a professional sharpener who you could bring your knife to have it sharpened. Since there are less neighborhoods and more apartments, these services are rarer. Now a days, it is more and more common for people to learn to sharpen their own knives. Once you learn the technique it gets easier to do, especially for those who use Japanese knives overseas.

Whetstones are the best way to grind, sharpen and hone an edge. This is the method used by the factory or workshop where the knife was originally made.

Stones come in a variety of grades, from rough (low number of grits) to ultra-fine (high number of grits). The grits themselves also have different shapes - nipple nodule, cone shape and shard shape – varying in performance in that order. These grits are all man made (silicon carbide or aluminum carbide) and then used to create a stone using clay or ceramic as a bonding agent to create a ‘brick’.

Soak the stone in water and Hold the knife in your right hand (or left) with your index finger along the spine of the knife and be comfortable, hold it tight enough so it doesn’t move as you sharpen but you don’t need a death grip on it. Wear shoes and if possible stand on a mat that will absorb the impact of the knife if you drop it.

The height of the spine of your knife off of the stone below it will determine the angle. A typical sharpening angle for a typical chef knife is 19 or 20 degrees per side. For the sake of removing confusing obstacles that could hinder your progress, let’s just sharpen your knife at 20 degrees per side. You can determine exactly how high off the stone that knife should be held by measuring the height of your blade at the heel and then dividing that number by 3 for a 20 degree angle.

It is best to consult the shop where you buy your knife about what stone they recommend for the knife. They should also teach you about knife sharpening techniques.

If you already have experience sharpening knives and see the stones that we have.

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