8 Best Whetstones | March 2017
- secure rubber base
- good choice for home use
- narrower grit range than others
- available in gray or orange
- included silicone pad adds safety
- soaks up water in just 5-10 minutes
- plastic base resists mold
- good price for a quality item
- 6000 grit option
- preferred choice for fine cutlery
- soaks up water in 10 minutes
- user's guide included
- nonslip bamboo base
- no oil required
- 1000 and 6000 grit options
Whetstones, Meet the Whetstones
A whetstone is a sharping tool used by many consumers and professionals alike to sharpen and hone a blade. They may be used on kitchen knives, shears, or even hatchets and machetes. The whetstone's abrasive surface scrapes against the blade to remove the dull edge and give it a new, clean finish.
Contrary to popular belief, the whetstone is not called so because it is soaked in water prior to sharpening. To whet an object means to sharpen; the soaking step aids in priming the stone for sharpening. The process of sharpening a blade with a whetstone is aptly called stoning. The water combines with the small particles in the stone to create an abrasive surface to grind the blade.
Your whetstone will most likely be double-sided with a coarse and a fine grit. The grit is determined by the number of sand-like particles in the stone. The coarse grit will have fewer particles, whereas the finer grit will have more grains. Both sides are utilized to effectively sharpen a blade. The coarse grit, usually a deeper color; red or gray, will pre-sharpen the blade and remove any burrs or discrepancies in the blade. The finer grit is then used to hone and polish the blade, creating a finished edge.
The grit is labelled by a numbered system from 240-8000. The low end is a very coarse grit and it should reflect the type of blade you will sharpen; a dull camping utensil for instance. A finer grit should be reserved for high end kitchen knives or specialty blades such as a straight razor for shaving.
At the end of the day, you are simply purchasing a rock. However, manufacturers who want your business will entice you with add-ons, such as a stable base for the stone, a wide range of grit sizes, and claims of unparalleled durability.
A base for your whetstone should be included in any model you purchase. Considering you are using your whetstone after its been submerged in water; the stone tends to slide on most surfaces when you sharpen. The base, usually a rubber silicone anchor, will ensure that the stone does not move around. A slippery stone can be a hazardous situation. The goal is safety, however, some companies will take liberties to present a decorative base and forgo the safer option.
The grit range is important only in regards to the type of knives you will sharpen. It is entirely up to the consumer and how they utilize their knives. Obviously you want a stone that is capable of sharpening all your blades to the appropriate sharpness. As a rule of thumb, the higher the grit, the more you will be able to get the finest razor's edge. However, this might mean several more swipes back and forth along the stone, which can be quite time consuming.
The stone should be durable: avoid knockoff models that are chipped or cracked. This is a serious concern when purchasing online, especially overseas. A quality whetstone should last a lifetime, and the price offered is a steal compared to the value. You may never have to replace expensive blades if you can simply sharpen a dull edge, and the stone pays for itself after only a few uses.
I must mention that there is a difference between natural and synthetic stones. Consumers tend to gravitate towards natural stones which are usually higher quality and beautiful to behold. The Belgian Coticule is seen as the gold standard for natural whetstones.
A Sharp Beginning
The history of sharpening blades goes back as far as the first rudimentary tools and weapons in ancient times. The concept of sharpening a blade on a stone dates back to Roman antiquity. The Belgian Coticule stones were the preferred choice of the Roman army, and today it is still seen as the highest standard of natural whetstone.
Any stone with a flat surface was a perfect candidate for sharpening blades. A sword, however, was sharpened on a circular stone that was rotated by a handle. As you can see, knife sharpening has not undergone a huge technological shift in history. The method of sharpening has stayed consistent, while the materials improved; from flint rock to stainless steel.
The emergence of high quality synthetic stones has begun to replace their natural stone counterparts. This is in part because of the limited resources of natural stones in the current market. The synthetic models boast a consistent particle size and high quality to rival the natural stone. The advantage of natural stones are their natural beauty and their rarity, which make them collectors items and they are usually handed down from one generation to the next.