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Water stone(s) for a beginner sharpening a really dull knife

My father has kitchen knives (Chef's knife, boning knife, etc.) that he has used for well over 30 years that for some reason he is indignant to sharpening. As a result some of them are dull and some have minor knicks in the blade.

I cant afford the edgepro, so as a beginner with a limited budget I would like to try free hand sharpening with something that would really help me in putting a sharp edge on these knives. What types of stones and stone number grits should I look into?

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  1. I planned on sharpening the butcher knife, the chef knife, the boning knife, and maybe possibly the bread and fillet knife.

    I plan to use the knives for general meal preparation but MOSTLY for minor butchering (like cleaning a chicken breast, or maybe deboning, or separating drumettes from the wingette, etc.)

    1 Reply
    1. re: achilles007

      If the knives are in really bad shape,might I suggest taking them to a Pro sharpener(someone you can trust with a good reputation) first,otherwise you might end up buying 2 or 3 stones and spending a lot of time to get the job done right(400 grit 1k grit and maybe a 4 to 6k grit.I'm not trying to talk you out of buying stone and learning to free hand sharpen,but some jobs are best left to the pros.

    2. Yeah. It sounds like your knives are in pretty bad shapes. You can take it to a professional, and then take care of the knives on your own later. In truth, you can sharpen dull knives with low grit stones. However, it does not seem like a suitable job if you are new to knife sharpening. I mean, if you cannot get the knife edges as sharp as you like, then you won't know if it is because of the knives or because of your skill.

      For normal home knives, a ~1000 grit (Japanese scale) stone is most useful. It is aggressive enough to work on minor chips and refine enough as a finishing stone.

      Because your knives sound dull, you may need a ~500 grit or lower stone.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

        Totally agree.
        My daughter brought home her knives for me to sharpen. They were terribly dull.

        A few minutes on a 1000g stone and I was chasing the burr. Deburred and a couple swipes on my strop and it was sliding through paper. Because these were softer Euro steel no further refinement was done

      2. Here are a few excellent resources for you: sharpeningmadeeasy.com and bladeforums.com

        It sounds like you would need at least 2 stones, perhaps 3. That would get pretty expensive. There ARE alternatives that will still allow you to freehand your knives, and do it on a VERY reasonable budget.

        You can use sandpaper - or - 3M abrasive films. Or both. 3M has grits of extreme fineness. WIth just a few pieces of sandpaper from home depot or lowes or an auto parts store, you can put a very good edge on a knife.

        If you are open to a guided system, I can recommend what I use - a DMT Aligner. For $40 it's a great little system and comes with grits of 320, 600 and 1200. I also like the additional xx-fine stone (8000 grit), but it's not "necessary" per se. I use it on my better knives.

        1. My take:

          You may need to reprofile or thin behind the edge some.

          An overview of sharpening systems and how to sharpen is in Chad Ward's book "An Edge in the Kitchen" or at least see his online article at: http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?/...

          Check your library before buying or buy from online used book vendors like Half.com.

          One of the more cost effective ways to get into hands on sharpening is with sand paper and a mouse pad.

          A tutorial is here: http://www.knivesshipfree.com/pages.p...

          and a description: http://zknives.com/knives/articles/sa...

          I use a $30 1x30 belt sander with about $40 of multiple grit sanding belts followed by a leather belt with white compound.

          A smooth steel between sharpennings is recommended. There is a recent thread on this.

          1. I say just get a 1000 grit stone (maybe a king) and go from there. Getting a coarse stone when you have no experience tends to amplify problems. So it may take you a bit longer to get the knife sharp, but you'll be better off for it. Also, there are a number of freehand sharpening videos online. I've made some, but there are plenty out there that are good. Here's a link to mine:

            You may also want to look at a stone flattening system as some have mentioned. Wet/dry sand paper inverted on a flat surface gets the job done cheaply. Diamond plates are more expensive, but work better/faster.

            when i started really learning about sharpening, my chef in japan gave me a 1000 grit stone and told me not to use anything else. I used it for a year before i used another type of stone. My next stone was a coarse stone (for repairs) and then after that, a finishing stone. Now i've got about 100 stones or so ;)

            1. If you do decide to go about this yourself, you'll definitely want a waterstone with a grit of 500 or below.

              Possibly the single best budget coarse stone that I know of is the bester 500. It is very aggressive for a 500 grit stone. It lasts a looooonnng time, and it seldom needs flattening, so you can get a big job done without interrupting your progress. Not the cheapest coarse stone on the market, but the price is quite good when you consider the size and longevity of the stone. Downsides: it needs a long soak to work best (~30 minutes), feedback isn't great.

              Unfortunately, you'll probably want to finish at a higher grit than 500. You can either get an affordable stone in the 1k range (and there are many options) or you can look instead to a combo stone to cover your bases for both a coarse and a medium grit stone:
              I had this stone as well.

              - Price is excellent.
              - Feedback is decent, feel is soft-medium
              - 240 grit side cuts quite fast
              - Only needs about 5 minutes of soaking
              - Sort of small and narrow - doesn't last anywhere near as long as the bester
              - Both sides wear away fairly quickly and can need flattening in the middle of big jobs

              1. Gotta agree with the others that from that description it may be time for a pro.

                Sharpening is art and science. The science is what to do and the art is when to stop.

                I wouldn't suggest learning with beat half to death blades. That would be like trying to run a marathon before you have run a mile.

                Know the make or have pics of them? Some are easier to sharpen than others.


                2 Replies
                1. re: knifesavers

                  "I wouldn't suggest learning with beat half to death blades. That would be like trying to run a marathon before you have run a mile." Very well put. I wanted to say something like this, but couldn't come close. Again, it can be done, but it is much tougher to learn knife sharpening from a very dull knife.

                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                    This is true. It is better to learn with a knife that:
                    a) isn't super dull
                    b) you KNOW is capable of forming a sharp edge. And...
                    c) is at least moderately long and has a heel

                    That said, if the OP has some knives to practice on and is a quick learner, [s]he could still theoretically sharpen those dull blades in a month or two. I don't know whether it was ideal or not, but I started off with a coarse stone and a medium stone, and it wasn't too long before I was working on some pretty dull knives. It wasn't always the most efficient way to work, but it was always instructive and I don't think I picked up too many bad habits or ruined too many blades along the way.

                2. What about the Lansky sharpening system? The Lansky looks like a poor mans edgepro. I don't own one but I like the idea.


                  3 Replies
                  1. re: unprofessional_chef

                    Yes that is correct. There are a few choices out there are are all reasonably priced and are small guided rod systems like this. They are made by DMT, Lansky, Gatco, and Smith, among others.

                    I went with the DMT version, the aligner, as DMT is very well known for their diamond plates and has more angles to use than the other systems. Many people use DMT plates to flatten out their waterstones - so that's a good indication to me of their quality.

                    The basic deluxe kit is 3 stones with the aligner itself - 320, 600 and 1200 (coarse, fine and x fine). If one has GOOD knives, I would also recommend the xx-fine also - 8000 grit - it's only $15 more. I do also have the x-coarse, 220 grit, but this is pretty much only desireable when doing full reprofiles. Technically, it isn't needed but can save a bunch of time vs using just the coarse stone for a reprofile.

                    Once my knives have been sharpened, I rarely touch them up with anything other than the x-fine and xx-fine.

                    1. re: jkling17

                      "I went with the DMT version, the aligner, as DMT is very well known for their diamond plates and has more angles to use than the other systems."

                      I was about to buy a Lansky kit before you mentioned DMT. I like the how their clamp also works as a guide with other stones.

                      1. re: unprofessional_chef

                        I hope that you like it. I admire people who can freehand sharpen but that's just not me. I really like knowing what my angles are, and that they are maintained.

                        Just remember - let the diamonds do the work for you. Use only light pressure or no pressure at all. The weight of the knife itself is quite adequate.

                  2. Take'em to a pro, and maybe maintain them yourself from there. A coupla good stones and accessories is going to run you close to the entry level edge pro...plus you have to like doing this kind of thing or it'll be frustrating. I had the lansky and tried the gatco...nice idea, but not fun to use, for me anyway, always had better results with a traditional stone

                    1. Here's another article that you may find of interest: http://zknives.com/knives/articles/sa....

                      There are loads of ways you can go. I have to admit that if money was no object that I'd buy an edgepro or a wicked edge. But, I'd rather save the extra $125 and get another 1-2 Japanese knives instead!

                      1. achilles007 -

                        Are you still out there? Somewhere?

                        Too many good replies already, but here's where I'd start:

                        REALLY dull knives -
                        This should take off rounded edges quickly, & allow decent finish sharpening. (Use VERY light strokes on the finer stone when you're done sharpening; that will provide a more refined scratch pattern.)

                        Pretty dull knives:
                        Either this one: http://www.epicureanedge.com/shopexd....
                        Or this one: http://www.epicureanedge.com/shopexd....
                        These two choices won't take off metal as quickly as the first combo stone I suggested, but they'll both allow you to get a better-finished edge.

                        I haven't used any of these stones, so take my suggestions as only suggestions.