The 10 Best Whetstones
This wiki has been updated 26 times since it was first published in April of 2016. Properly sharpened knives are generally safer, more effective, and easier to use than dull ones. Whether you're slicing vegetables, building a shelter in the woods, or dressing game in the field, you'll need a good sharpening stone to keep your blades in tip-top shape. One or more of these whetstones will keep your tools of choice in peak condition and ready to use at a moment's notice. When users buy our independently chosen editorial recommendations, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
November 27, 2020:
If you're planning on fixing up your hunting knives, consider something like the DMT 6-Inch, DMT Dia-Sharp, or DMT DuoSharp. DMT's diamond-infused products are great for getting razor-sharp edges on the most durable blades, but they're not meant for use with culinary knives. Similarly, the Arkansas Tri-Hone is a good choice for smaller pocketknives, and the included oil means it doesn't take a ton of prep before you can start using it. The Black Arkansas Surgical is similar to that 3-piece set, but wider, longer, and finer - it's also one of the few stones that is actually very well known and has a decent following among hobbyists and professionals.
If you are working with culinary blades, you'll want to get a stone that is certain to leave them in good shape. A lot of dedicated sharpeners swear by the Naniwa Chosera and Shapton Glass, and if you have extremely high standards, they are really excellent choices. In reality, though, it takes a while to learn just how to sharpen properly, and something like the Razorri Solido S2 set contains everything needed for a true beginner to start learning and practicing.
November 29, 2019:
Different knives require different techniques and tools to keep the perfect edge on. If you're working with culinary knives, be forewarned that achieving that edge will take a lot (and I mean a lot) of practice. The King KW65 is a good starter option, but if you'll be doing a lot of sharpening, you'll probably need a 1,200-grit King Deluxe or a 1,000-grit Naniwa Chosera. Once you've developed your skill, you'll be able to graduate to the Shapton Glass, which is less messy and never requires flattening. The Best Black Arkansas is a timeless classic, but unlike the first ones we mentioned, is designed for use with oil rather than water.
If you're focusing on pocketknives or other tools that may not be as sensitive, you have some very different options. The DMT DuoSharp, DMT Dia-Sharp, and DMT 6-Inch use synthetic diamonds to remove considerable amounts of metal; they never wear down and work more quickly than almost anything else. The Tri-Hone by Dan's Whetstone is especially nice for pocketknives as it includes a stable base and all three grits needed to do a good job. All in all, though, it's hard to find a more functional choice than the Lansky Deluxe System, which has 5 stages and an easy-to-use clamping system and should last at least as long as your knives. Alternately, there are some slightly different tools made for easier knife sharpening and even some highly convenient electric models, although we must implore you not to use an electric one on any high-end culinary knives, because it's just not good for the blade. And you will definitely need to consider a good honing rod in order to finish the job and ensure it stays sharp as long as possible.
Chef Knives To Go Mark Richmond's Chef Knives To Go website is a repository of some truly high-quality culinary blades; so many, in fact, that browsing the massive selection can be a little intimidating. There are quite a few sharpening stones and tools to choose from, as well, so if you're interested in becoming a master sharpener, this is a good place to start. chefknivestogo.com
Whetstones, Meet the Whetstones
Your whetstone will most likely be double-sided with a coarse and a fine grit.
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.
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.
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.
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.