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Aug 6, 2011 05:16 PM

My First Whetstone

I've been sifting through a lot of CH opinions on sharpening stones, but still seem to be missing some information (if I missed it somewhere, feel free to link it).

Given that I own an 8 inch Wusthof Classic I am thinking of getting a 1000 and a 6000 grit (sidenote: do they make 5000?). My question here is: Should I go with a softer Japanese whetstone or a harder one? I'm leaning towards the Japanese because the Wusthof blades are supposed to be a little softer steel as well.

Also, brand recs for stones would be greatly appreciated.

Lastly, if StriperGuy is reading this, I'd love to hear your opinion because I've seen many of your responses to other posts on this subject.

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  1. "Given that I own an 8 inch Wusthof Classic I am thinking of getting a 1000 and a 6000 grit (sidenote: do they make 5000?"

    Yes, they do make 5000 grit stone. I have one. I don't know why most of the combined stone are of 1000/6000, but I always feel the jump from 1000 to 6000 is a bit big. For example of 5000 grit stones here are two very famous ones:

    Suehiro Rika 5000 is a very famous stone mostly because, in large, expert knife sharpener Dave Martell loves this stone.

    Naniwa Super stones are famous for producing mirror like polished surface and they require no soaking.

    "My question here is: Should I go with a softer Japanese whetstone or a harder one? I'm leaning towards the Japanese because the Wusthof blades are supposed to be a little softer steel as well."

    Softer stones do not really mean the abrasive particles are softer. It means the particles are held together more loose. I would still recommend Japanese waterstones, but that has nothing to do with Wusthof blades being softer.

    1. I have separate 1000 & 6000 grit stones that I, like you're considering now, bought as my starter stones:
      I like the feel of working with these two stones, so I also like recommending them. Especially for less than $50 for the pair of them!

      But I tend to agree with Chem, it is kind of a big jump, especially for beginners. If I were going to buy again, I'd narrow the gap a bit. Maybe a 1200 & 6000, or a 1000 & 4000 (with 6000 later).

      I can also now say that I've become decent at sharpening softer German knives using a pair of Spyderco ceramic bench stones, medium & fine grits. It took me a little more practice than using the water stones, but I've found a method that works very well:
      1) run the ceramic briefly under the faucet to wet the surface
      2) place the ceramic on a piece of waffle-rubber rug underlayment (on a cutting board or something else to contain the runoff
      )3) occasionally splash additional water on the ceramic as you work

      IMO, the softer steels "offset" the lack of feedback from the much harder ceramics. The biggest advantages over water stones is that the ceramics will hardly wear at all over your own lifetime, & the setup & cleanup times are shorter. The biggest disadvantage is that they're slightly smaller than many waterstones, so there's less working/cutting surface. Using these two ceramics, I was able to put an edge on a Wusthof Culinar santoku that could easily push-cut paper.

      5 Replies
      1. re: Eiron

        Thanks a bunch! I think I have a good direction to head in terms of buying a stone.

        Now I'll throw you a curveball. I've read some people that say a few (maybe 6-10) swipes on each side of the blade is sufficient, where others say it can take up to half an hour to truly get a knife sharp. Any tips on that? Or just do it and test when I get a nice edge?

        1. re: schoenfelderp

          The full answer is it how long you take depends on the steel of the knife, how dull it is, your skill, amount of pressure used, general technique, what stones/grits you're using, and your standards for sharpness/burr removal. In other words, a lot of factors.

          The more useful answer: if you're a sharpening novice, forget ever hearing that you only need 6-10 strokes/side. With coarse stones, focus on creating a detectable burr along the entire edge, sharpening the opposite side of the knife evenly, then removing that burr before moving to a finer stone. On a finer stone, This will certainly take you more than 6-10 strokes per side at first. On the finer stone, the magic marker trick can help; or you can create a burr like you would with the coarser stone (this can take a while); or you can eventually get a feel for when you're done on a finer stone by a combination of sound and feel and knowing how a polished edge feels to your fingers or when cutting through paper. (I realize there are probably bits of that advice that you may not understand - it's easier to clarify any parts that are over your head than to explain every little bit in advance).

          Alternatively, you can just take a coarse to medium stone and sharpen both sides until the knife feels significantly sharper to you. I still recommend deburring, in that case. Either way, it will take you more than 6-10 strokes/side until you have more experience.

          1. re: schoenfelderp

            I agree with what cowboy said. Here is an article on knife sharpening which I found to be very helpful. It may seem long at first, so you can just focus on "Section Four: Sharpening Basics" for now. It explains what is a burr and the reason for getting a burr and removing it.

            To specifically answer your question, I would said 6-10 swipes on each side of a blade is sufficient if your knife is relatively sharp already and you just want to maintain the edge by doing so on a weekly basis. Had you left the knife un-attended for months, then I would think 6-10 swipes probably is not enough for most cases -- using light swipes on a regular 1000 grit stone.

            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

              Yar! Another point I would like to add, is that it will take you longer than 6-10 strokes, especially on your first try because, like it or not, you're not a perfect machine -- your angles WILL be different from time to time and particularly from the factory. This isn't a big deal (what's the practical difference between 19* and 20*? not much...) but when you're sharpening, that small difference will (in simple terms) be causing you to re-create the bevel on your knife, or set the bevel.

              This is one main reason why really experienced knife nuts will often "test" a factory edge just to have fun when they get a new knife, but then hit the stones immediately, because they want to set their own bevel -- which is often expected with high-end knives.

              1. re: mateo21

                "it will take you longer than 6-10 strokes, especially on your first try because"

                Good point.

        2. I've always had the feeling my wushof steel was harder than my others. I'd go with a 1000 and 4000, that'll get you pretty damn sharp...if you find you like the chore, spring for the 6000 later

          3 Replies
          1. re: BiscuitBoy

            I read that the newer Wusthof knives are indeed harder than the older Wusthof knives (I am not entirely sure). In addition, Wusthof has also changed its edge grind". I like the fact that it calls it the "PEtec (precision edge technology) when in fact it changes from a convex grind to a straight flat grind.


            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

              Glad to hear this actually since my Wusthof is new as of March '11 and was made with the PEtec.