It’s a dilemma if you think sharpening your knife with a stone requires expertise. In reality, even a 12 year old can do it.
I was just like you before I got inspired by Burr Smith’s knife sharpening techniques. Sharpening your knife is also cheap and requires less effort, if you do it with the right technique. You do not need to spend extra money on buying a new stone to sharpen your knife.
In this guide I will teach how to sharpen your knife with stones that are affordable, I will equip you with easy knife sharpening techniques to master for life, and a step by step guide of the process.
4 Types Of Stones to Sharpen Your Knife
Sharpening stones, often referred to as whetstones, get their name from the word ‘whet,’ meaning to sharpen. Contrary to popular belief, they don’t require soaking before use.
There are four main categories for you before learning how to sharpen a knife with a stone:
1. Oil Stones
These stones are man-made, featuring abrasive particles bound together with a bonding agent. To use them, you’ll need oil for lubrication. They come in two common materials:
Aluminum Oxide: These stones are popular for their effectiveness in creating sharp edges on knives. They are available in coarse, medium, or fine grits, typically in orange or brown colors. Aluminum oxide ranks high on the Mohs Hardness Scale, boasting a hardness rating of 9.
Silicon Carbide: Known for their speedy sharpening, silicon carbide stones usually come in coarser grits. While they can’t produce edges as sharp as aluminum oxide or novaculite, they are excellent for initial coarse and understanding how to sharpen a knife with a stone.
Oil stones are very affordable, with prices ranging from $6 to $25 and grits typically falling in the 100-600 range.
What is the Grit Range?
“Grit range refers to the coarseness or fineness of a sharpening stone’s surface. Lower grit numbers indicate coarser stones that remove more material, while higher grit numbers represent finer stones that provide a smoother and sharper edge to your knives or tools.” – Burr Smith
2. Arkansas Stones
Arkansas stones stand out as they can be used with both oil and water. Quarried in the Ouachita Mountains of Arkansas since the early 1800s, they are known for their quality. There are four grades:
Soft Arkansas: The coarsest of the four, with grit equivalent to 400-600, typically marbled in various colors.
Hard Arkansas: This fine-grit stone offers a range of 800-1000 and appears mostly white or off-white, sometimes with hints of orange or reddish hues.
Black Arkansas: Exceptionally fine, with a grit equivalent to 2000, these stones are black or blue-black in color.
Translucent Arkansas: Another extra-fine stone with a grit range of 3500-4000, often appearing in light gray or white shades.
3. Water Stones
These can be natural or synthetic stones, both requiring water for lubrication. Natural waterstones from Belgium and Japan have a long history. Belgian whetstones come in two types – the 7000 grit Coticule and the 4000 grit Belgian Blue Stone (BBW). Japanese whetstones range from 700 to 10,000 grit and are highly sought after.
Synthetic water stones, favored by chefs and woodworkers, offer a range of grits from 130 to 35,000, with prices between $40 and $170.
4. Diamond Sharpening Stones
The fastest-growing type of sharpening stone, diamond stones feature man-made diamonds electroplated onto a metal plate. They are known for their speed, durability, and versatility in sharpening various types of knives, including high carbon, stainless steel, and ceramic.
Be cautious of cheap diamond stones with thin steel mounts; quality ones typically range from $45 to $65 for a 3×8″ stone.
4 Popular Methods Used To Sharpen Knives
Learning how to sharpen a knife with a stone is an essential skill to keep for a lifetime, and it doesn’t require expertise. When it comes to keeping your kitchen blades in tip-top shape, you have main methods to choose from.
Method 1: Electric Sharpeners
Some might suggest using electric sharpeners, but I strongly advise against it. While they offer convenience, they tend to remove a substantial amount of material from your knife’s edge.
After several rounds of sharpening, you’ll notice a significant reduction in blade width, disrupting the knife’s balance. This method is not suitable for high-end forged blades with bolsters.
Moreover, electric sharpeners provide just an adequate edge. If you don’t mind frequently replacing your knives and settling for a mediocre edge, they might suffice. However, there’s a much better alternative.
Method 2: Sharpening Stones – The Best Method
Without a doubt, using sharpening stones is the most effective method. It not only yields the finest edge but also removes the least amount of material from your knife.
With a fine-grit stone, your knife should be able to shave hairs off your arm when you’re done. What’s more, understanding how to sharpen a knife with a stone helps you develop a deeper connection with it, resulting in better performance.
This process can be more smooth if you do exactly what I did as a beginner. My friend alex costa suggested to me burr smiths guide for knife sharpening. I had alex and I am for you,
Method 3: Bench Stones for Precision
For those seeking the highest-quality knife polish, bench stones are the way to go. Sharpening manually on water stones or diamond plates allows you to create a geometrically correct cutting edge.
You start with a coarse grit and gradually refine the edge with finer grits, finishing with a polished result. This method offers a smooth cut and extended edge life, but it does require some practice.
Method 4: Water-Cooled Sharpening Machines
Water-cooled sharpening machines offer the benefit of preventing overheating caused by the rotating grindstone. They can precisely reproduce cutting-edge angles with suitable grinding guides.
Machines that sharpen on the flat side of the stone or grinding wheel are recommended for high-quality Japanese knives. To complete the sharpening process, honing on a leather disc or manually on a honing stone is advised.
A Step-by-Step Guide to Sharpening Your Knife
This guide is inspired from the ebook ‘Burr Smith’s Guide to Knife Sharpening’. It is easy to learn, keeps updating, and very affordable helping you save time and expensive cost. Let’s learn how helpful it turns out to be for you:
Step 1: Gather Your Materials
To begin, you’ll need a few basic items:
- Sharpening Stones (a 240/1000 grit water stone works great, but you can use what you have)
- A Sharpie Marker
- A Container of Water
- A Towel
- A Cutting Board
- A Leather Strop (or the backside of a leather belt)
Step 2: Examine Your Knives
The second step in your process of how to sharpen a knife with a stone is to assess its condition. Take out the knives you want to sharpen and evaluate how dull they’ve become. One simple way to check is by slicing through a potato or a piece of fruit.
Pay attention to the resistance you feel while slicing; the more resistance, the duller the knife. It’s also worth considering how frequently you use your knives. Daily use tends to make them duller faster than occasional use.
Step 3: Choose the Right Stone
Now that you’ve assessed your knives, it’s time to select the appropriate sharpening stone. You have a few options here: natural stones, synthetic stones, or diamond stones. Natural and synthetic stones can be used wet (soaked in water), with oil, or dry.
Diamond stones, on the other hand, feature small diamonds attached to a metal surface. Soaked stones are softer and allow for quick sharpening, but they wear down faster. Oil stones are budget-friendly and durable, though they can be a bit messy. Diamond stones are the most expensive but offer longevity.
Step 4: Soak the Stones
Place your sharpening stones in a container of water and let them soak for at least 5-10 minutes. This ensures they’re properly saturated and ready for use.
Step 5: Mark the Knife Edge
Take a Sharpie marker and mark the edge of your knife. This will help you gauge the correct angle as you sharpen, which varies depending on the knife style.
Step 6: Pick the Correct Grit
Sharpening stones come in various grit sizes, including fine, medium, and coarse. Your choice depends on the condition of your knives. If they’re very dull, start with a coarse stone followed by a fine grit.
For knives that are relatively sharp, a medium grit should suffice. Aim for a grit level ranging from 325 (coarse) to 1200 (extra fine). Some stones even feature different grit levels on both sides for added versatility.
Step 7: Prepare Your Workstation
Before you begin the process of sharpening a knife with a stone, it’s crucial to prepare your workstation. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions that came with your stone, as different stones have different requirements.
Some may need soaking in water, while others may require oil. Ensure your stone is properly lubricated or wet, as a dry stone can damage your knife blades.
Step 8: Master the Angle
To sharpen your knife effectively, practice holding it at a 20-degree angle. For most straight blades, this angle works well. Imagine your knife standing straight up and down in front of you, representing 90 degrees.
Tilt it halfway toward the table for a 45-degree angle, and then tilt it halfway again to achieve a 20-degree angle. Larger or thicker blades may require a slightly different angle, while a shallower angle is suitable for coarse stones to prevent over-sharpening.
Step 9: Begin Sharpening
Hold the knife against the stone at the desired angle. With one hand, maintain the angle, and with your other hand, place your fingertips on the flat part of the blade near the sharp end.
This hand positioning allows you to control the pressure and direction of the blade as you sharpen it. Slowly slide the blade down the stone, sweeping it in an arc motion from heel to tip. Repeat this process until the first side of the blade feels sharp.
Step 10: Flip and Sharpen the Other Side
Turn the knife over and repeat the sharpening process on the other side. Move the blade from heel to tip across the stone until it feels sharp when touched with your fingertips.
Remember to keep the same number of strokes on each side to maintain blade balance.
Step 11: Polish the Edge (Optional)
If your knives were very dull and you used a coarse grit, consider polishing the edge with a finer grit stone.
Repeat the sharpening process with a fine grit stone, both on the first and second sides of the blade. This step ensures a razor-sharp finish.
Step 12: Test the Sharpness
Once you believe your knife is adequately sharpened, wash and dry it. To test its sharpness, hold a piece of paper and try to slice through it with the knife.
A properly sharpened knife should cut through effortlessly. If it doesn’t, you may need to sharpen it a bit more.
Step 13: Clean Your Tools
After sharpening, remember to wash and dry your knives and the sharpening stone. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for cleaning and maintenance. Proper storage of your knives, such as in a knife block, on a magnetic strip, or with knife guard covers, will help maintain their sharpness.
Sharpening your knife with stones is a skill that, once mastered, can save you money and ensure your knives stay in top condition. With the right technique and a bit of practice, you’ll be able to keep your knives sharp for a lifetime.
Learning how to sharpen a knife with a stone is not a daunting task that requires expertise; it’s a skill that anyone can acquire. Burr Smith’s knife sharpening techniques can easily equip knife sharpening skills for a lifetime.
You don’t need to invest in an expensive new stone when you can use what’s readily available around your house.
Whether you opt for oil stones, Arkansas stones, water stones, or diamond sharpening stones, each has its unique advantages. Sharpening stones offer precision and control, ensuring your knives maintain their balance and deliver razor-sharp edges.
Electric sharpeners, while convenient, can be detrimental to your knives over time. The key is to choose the method that suits your needs and, with a bit of practice, master the art of knife sharpening.
Remember to always prioritize safety, maintain your tools, and store your knives properly for a lifetime of sharp, efficient cutting. Click here to check out more Burr smiths knife techniques.