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A knife is only as good as its ability to nimbly slice and dice through ingredients. A sharpening and honing tool is essential to maintain that edge. Electric and manual knife sharpeners are good, but a whetstone is the gold standard when it comes to fine, razor-sharp blades. Though sometimes mistaken as having to do with water, whetstone comes from the word "whet," which means to sharpen.
Whetstones come in a variety of materials from oil stone to diamond stone to water stones to ceramic stones. They also have a range of grit levels from coarse at the lower end to fine at the high end. Generally, you want a coarse and fine grit whether that comes in separate stones or a two-sided option. Whatever choice you make, a whetstone is a solid investment for the best knife care—they allow ultimate control over the angle and refinement of your blade. No more worries about slicing through that ripe tomato when you rely on a whetstone for home sharpening and honing.
Whether you're looking for your first whetstone or are expert enough to handle one with a diamond surface, these are the best sharpening stones for all your knives.
Best Overall, Water Stone: Sharp Pebble Premium Whetstone Knife Sharpening Stone
What We Like: Sharpening guide included, affordable, double-sided, easy to clean
What We Don't Like: Fine side grit is a little soft, needs to soak in water before use
Water stones use water as a lubricant to enhance sharpening and to carry away residue. This budget-friendly water-stone option from Sharp Pebble has the optimal two-sided grit. The 1000/6000 grain allows you to repair and sharpen seriously dull blades, and hone edges to pointy perfection all in one stone. And, the rubber base affixes the stone to a nonslip bamboo outer base for extra stability during processing.
Versatility is another bonus with the Sharp Pebble. You can sharpen everything from kitchen knives to garden shears, and the generous 7.25 x 2.25-inch surface allows plenty of area for even larger blades. The included angle guide will give beginners a sense of ease since it helps you find the exact angle effortlessly. This is a water stone so be prepared to soak it for approximately 15 minutes prior to use and keep a bowl of water nearby to maintain moisture level during processing.
Grit: 1000/6000 | Design: Two-side grit with base | Material: Aluminum oxide
Best Overall, Oil Stone: Norton Combination Oilstone
What We Like: Good for repair work, durable, no presoak necessary
What We Don't Like: Honing oils can be messy
Oil stones are longer-lasting in comparison to their softer water stone counterparts. The Norton double-sided oil stone is made of aluminum oxide, known to be tough and wear-resistant. With a 100/320 split, this stone is more for repairing and sharpening, so you may want to add a high-grit stone for refining and polishing.
The Norton Combination Oilstone requires no presoaking, and it is prefilled with oil to keep the surface lubricated during processing. This tough model promises to last a long time, but cleanup can be messy. It's recommended you clean this with kerosene and a stiff brush, and let it dry completely before soaking it in mineral oil.
Grit: 100/320 | Design: Two-sided grit, handheld | Material: Aluminum oxide
Best Budget: Whetstone Cutlery 400/1000 Dual-Sided Sharpening Stone
What We Like: Durable, no need for honing oil
What We Don't Like: On the smaller side
Though this whetstone comes in at an affordable price, it does not fall short on durability. The silicon carbide construction withstands a great deal of use before showing any wear. And, the ample 7 x 2.25-inch size ensures you can work even large blades without worry.
This Whetstone Cutlery sharpening stone is double-sided, offering a coarse 400 grit for repairing damaged knives, and a still-coarse 1000 grit for effective sharpening. The thing this model lacks is the higher, finer-edge polishing ability, but it is a basic stone that will keep your knives useful. Be sure to soak the whetstone in water for 10 minutes prior to use, and for best results, lay it on a wet towel during use to keep it from sliding around, and protect your counters. This will also keep the other side of the stone from being marred during use.
Grit: 400/1000 | Design: Two-sided grit, handheld | Material: Silicon carbide
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Best for Beginners: King Whetstone Starter Set
What We Like: Versatile, sturdy base, comes with an angle guide
What We Don't Like: Needs soaking, requires air drying
This Japanese-style, dual-sided whetstone will transform your dull knives into razor-sharp works of art with its 1000/6000 grit combination. It is crafted from ceramic specifically designed for stainless steel and carbon knives by trusted sharpening stone manufacturer King.
In addition to optimal grit levels, this model comes with an angle guide for precise sharpening and refining of your blades. And, the sturdy base will keep it secure during processing. The wide range of grit offers the convenience of sharpening more than just kitchen knives. Use this model to put a good edge on pocket knives, ax blades, or even gardening tools. Be sure to soak this ceramic water stone for about 5 minutes before use.
Grit: 1000/6000 | Design: Two-sided grit with base | Material: Ceramic
Best Japanese: Kota Japan Dual Sided 2000/5000 Grit Diamond Knife Sharpener
What We Like: Versatile, no oil required, angle guide included, bonus instructional eBook
What We Don't Like: Bamboo base can develop mold, fine grit can get very slippery
When rapid sharpening is what you are looking for, Japanese whetstones are the choice. They tend to be softer than other whetstones, which makes for quick sharpening and honing of your blades. The Kota two-sided water stone is no exception. The 2000 grit side removes dullness, while the 5000 grit side hones a razor-sharp edge with a polished shine.
The wide range of grit equals versatility. Use this model on kitchen knives, hunting knives, pruning tools, and razors. The included angle guide will keep you in the sweet spot of knife angles while processing and the nonslip rubber base will keep everything secure while you are working. The polished bamboo box is a beautiful display piece for your kitchen.
Be sure to soak the stone in water for five minutes prior to use. Because of the softness of the stone, you may want to add a flattening stone to your cache. The bonus instructional e-book will guide you through the effective care of your Kota whetstone.
Grit: 2000/5000 | Design: Two-sided grit with base | Material: Aluminum oxide
Related: The Best Knife Sets
Best Diamond: DMT 8-Inch DuoSharp Plus Bench Stone Fine/Coarse Sharpener with Base
What We Like: Sharpens fast, uniform sharpening surface, durable
What We Don't Like: Needs a break-in period
The DMT Duo Sharp’s monocrystalline structure offers a uniform diamond surface that has been engineered flat to ensure even contact between your blade and the whetstone. The generous 8-inch surface area can accommodate a wide variety of tools with ease, and the stone can be used dry or wet offering convenience and versatility.
This double-sided model has a coarse and fine grit side, but as with all diamond surface whetstones, you must use extreme caution when sharpening and honing. Diamond is a very sharp material, and without the proper attention can damage knives. This also means it is a very fast choice if you need a quick touch-up and razor-sharp edge. The DMT DuoSharp comes with a locking bench base to keep everything in place while sharpening. The diamond surface is highly durable and will last a long time with little need for flattening.
Grit: Dual grit (25 microns and 45 microns) | Design: Two-sided grit with locking base | Material: Diamond-plated stone
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If you are looking to equip your kitchen with a tool that can not only sharpen and polish your knives but also offer a good range of grit and ease of use, we recommend the Sharp Pebble Premium Whetstone Knife Sharpening Stone (view at Amazon). If you're new to using whetstones and need everything to sharpen, hone, flatten, and maintain a wide range of blades, choose the King Whetstone Starter Set (view at Amazon).
What to Look for When Buying a Sharpening Stone
Oil Stones: Oil stones tend to be the traditional whetstone people grew up using. They are durable and require very little flattening because of their hard material. They do require oil to lubricate the metal during processing and can involve messy cleanup. They come in a variety of grits, but their hard surfaces generally require more swipes in the sharpening process.
Water Stones: Like oil stones, water stones come in natural and synthetic materials. Water stones tend to be softer and require more flattening than other varieties, but this also means faster sharpening and honing, requiring fewer swipes, a clear advantage. Unlike oil stones, water stones are easier to clean up, but they also require initial soaking, as well as constant moisture during sharpening.
Diamond Stones: The hardest of all surfaces, diamond provides fast results. They come in two varieties: a surface dotted with holes to capture the swarf, or metal debris, or a continuous diamond surface that helps when sharpening tools that might catch in the holes. Diamond surfaces are available in two versions, mono-crystalline and polycrystalline. Mono-crystalline tends to be more durable and last longer. Diamond stones tend to be expensive because you know diamonds, but they also require little if any flattening and last a long time.
Ceramic Stones: If lubricating your whetstone is a dealbreaker, ceramic might be the right choice. Most ceramic whetstones require no water or oil to use, so no messy cleanup is required. They are generally very durable and require little resurfacing. And, the material they are made from is almost as hard as diamond whetstones so they will last a long time. The downside is they usually come with a hefty price tag.
Basically, the higher the grit number, the finer the stone. Coarse grits are effective sharpening or repairing tools and fine grits are better for refining edges and angles.
When looking at grit numbers, it is good to keep in mind the lower the number (100–900), the better it is on rough knife edges, even those with chips. Once you get in the 1000–3000 grit, you are still going to get effective sharpening, but think of a knife that is duller rather than damaged.
Grits between 4000 and 8000 are most effective for honing an already sharp knife—think of this as a polishing grit level rather than sharpening. The higher the grit number, the more control you have over transforming your edges, but that also comes with a hefty price tag.
Diamond stones use microns to indicate how fine or coarse the grit is, but the same rule applies: low number equals coarse, high number equals fine.
Most whetstones will come in either a one-sided or two-sided grit. A one-sided grit can be effective for touch-ups, but often you will need a second grit for polishing and refining. The two-sided grit offers both options in one stone. Usually a coarse, low number grit on one side, and a finer, high number grit on the other.
The other consideration in design is whether a stone is secured with a base or handheld. The free-standing or pocket varieties offer portability but make getting a stable angle difficult. The base-secured models offer more precision, but you need a solid surface to set it on for processing.
How do you use a whetstone?
Depending on the material you purchase, you may have to soak your whetstone before use. Be sure to refer to the manufacturer's label for full instructions.
Water stones require some contact with water whether that is submerging before use or just a sprinkling of water on the stone’s surface. With diamond stones, water can be used to prep the surface, but there is also an option called lapping fluid, which will prolong the effectiveness of a diamond surface. An oil stone needs a bit of mineral oil on the surface prior to sharpening.
Whatever material you purchased, here are the basic steps to utilize your whetstone. First, soak your stones and set up your station. If you are using a whetstone that requires water, keep water beside you to ensure you have enough moisture on the stone to complete sharpening/honing.
Starting with the coarse-grit stone or side, hold the blade at a 20-degree angle, securing the heel of the knife to the far edge of the stone. Maintaining even pressure, drag the knife slowly over the stone toward you while keeping it at the 20-degree angle. Finish the stroke and repeat, approximately 10 times.
Switch to a fine-grit stone or side, and repeat the process. Then you clean up and test the blade. This can be messy. I suggest designating a dishtowel you will always use for this task because it will probably stain.
How do you take care of a whetstone?
The answer depends on the stone. Water and diamond surface stones require simple rinsing with hot water, maybe a scrub to remove metal particles, and thorough drying. Oil stones need an application of mineral oil to maintain their surface. You can also use a little hot water and dish soap to remove any debris from your oil stone. Just be sure to dry and rub with oil.
For tough cleaning jobs, break out the Bar Keeper’s Friend under your sink. Like stainless steel, it can remove hard-to-clean debris from whetstones. Be sure to rinse and dry the stone after.
My personal tip is to keep a little sandpaper on hand to flatten your whetstone. Every time you sharpen and hone, the process creates high and low spots, also known as dishing, on your stone’s surface. To keep the stone level and at optimal performance, take a few swipes with a piece of 400-grit sandpaper. Water and oil stones are most susceptible to dishing.
Why Trust Simply Recipes?
Carrie Honaker is a food writer who has wielded many knives over the years. As a restaurateur and avid home cook, she knows the importance of caring for your knives to maintain steady, sharp edges. She loves her Kota Whetstone to keep those edges razor-sharp and functional cook after cook. Her work has appeared in many publications including Bon Appetit, Allrecipes, and Wine Enthusiast.
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