No matter how often you hone a knife with a steel, eventually the blade edge will become folded over and need more aggressive work to reshape it. Sharpening stones, or whetstones, are used to do just that. Depending on how often your professional cutlery is used, the blades will need to be sharpened anywhere from once a month to once a year.
Most sharpening stones have two different textures, one on each side. Use the coarse side first to reform the blade shape then follow up with the finer side to polish it off. Here are some basic steps for using a sharpening stone:
- Place the stone on a damp cloth or towel. Put the towel on a flat surface. This will keep the stone and towel from sliding when sharpening.
- Start with the coarse side up. The coarse side of the sharpening stone will form the blade back into the correct shape.
- Start at the heel of the knife. You should always start at the heel of the knife and draw the knife towards your body. This allows more control.
- Coat the stone with mineral oil or water. This lubricates the stone and reduces the friction between the blade and the stone during the sharpening process.
- Hold the knife in your dominant hand. Since you will be drawing the knife across the stone, hold the knife at the handle in your dominant hand for the most control. You can use your other hand to stabilize the blade.
- Angle the knife at 15 – 20 degrees. This is the ideal angle for shaping a knife.
- Start at the heel. Draw the knife down and across the stone in one smooth motion, starting at the heel and finishing at the tip. Simply drawing the knife perpendicularly across the stone will damage the blade edge.
- Alternate sides of the knife. Do a couple of passes on one side; then flip the knife over and do the other side. Alternating sides ensures a straight, balanced edge.
- Switch to the fine side of the stone. Turn the stone over to the finer side and repeat steps 2-6.
- Consider a finishing with a sharpening steel. Depending on the coarseness of your sharpening stone, it may help to use a sharpening steel to finish off the process.
- Rinse and dry everything off. Rinse and dry the knife off to remove any metal dust. Be sure to rinse off the sharpening stone and allow it to dry before storing it, too, because the stone can crack if stored wet.
Special Note: Be sure to check the owner’s manual for proper sharpening procedure for your particular knives. Some knives may require special sharpening tools and will need to be sharpened by a professional.