Preparation and Proper Use
Begin with the whetstone. They are
generally made of carborundum or another abrasive and are available
in three densities, coarse, medium (for all-purpose sharpening) and
fine. Coarse is the all-purpose stone, good for Chef's Knives, while
fine is good for slicing or boning knives.
There are two basic types of whetstones
- oil or water. An oil whetstone is prepared by lubricating it with
a few drops of oil which is smoothed to a light film across the stone.
A water stone needs to be soaked in water for 10 to 15 minutes to absorb
moisture. When either stone is prepared, place it on a non-stick surface
(a tea towel is good to steady the stone) and begin.
Place the blade at a 20 degree angle
and lay the heel of the blade on the stone. Steady the extended tip
of the knife with one hand to guide it, and draw the blade toward you,
sweeping across the stone in an arc. Turn the blade over and repeat
the process on the other side. Always go in one direction - NEVER NEVER
NEVER go back and forth. You will repeat this sharpening gesture 10
to 20 times on each side. Test for sharpness, then move on to the honing
The Honing Steel:
The whetstone may have left a few
minuscule pieces of jagged metal. Now you use the second implement -
the honing steel. This is the familiar steel stick with grooves in the
steel. The purpose of the honing steel is to remove any nicks or jags
and make the knife smooth. Hold the knife at the same 20 degree angle
and draw it across the steel with the same sweeping motion that you
used on the whetstone. Repeat on the other side. Do this five or six
times. Once again, always work in one direction only.
Sharpen your knife on a honing steel
before you use it. Do this EVERY TIME you use a knife. Honing removes
small burrs and maintains the edge in between sharpening on a whetstone.
A whetstone is generally needed every two to three months.