How To Use A Sharpening Stone

If you have a knife, for kitchen purposes or for outdoor use, sharpening it can be one of the most important things. A knife that is dull is fairly useless and can be annoying to use.

If you are outdoors and using your knife for more than cutting vegetables, the last thing you want is for your knife to be dull.

This could seriously affect your survival time as well as the time it takes to use the knife for your specific application.

While sharp knives are dangerous they are effective, as long as they are wielded by a skilled user. Learn to sharpen your knife today with this guide.

Knife Sharpening Implements

There are many ways to sharpen a knife. In the outdoor setting, many people opt to use a sharpening stone, or ‘whetstone’, as they are smaller and not as heavy as other implements and they can effectively be used in a n outdoor setting. 

Here is a particularly useful whetstone to use outdoors. It is small, lightweight, and effective.

How To Use A Whetstone Or Sharpening Stone?

Using a sharpening stone is pretty straight forward but requires you to understand a few fundamental concepts to implement them effectively.

First things first, unlike a honing rod, which are common in kitchens, the whetstone requires a mastery of pressure rather than angles. In any case, here is a breakdown of how to use a whetstone or sharpening stone.

Soak The Whetstone Or Sharpening Stone

This may seem strange to a novice but this is an effective way of removing sediment that you sharpen from the knife, stopping the sharpening channel being clogged up.

Soaking the whetstone can also help the knife glide across the stone more cleanly, hitting a bump could cause your sharpening to be wasted and could even break the knife’s blade in the worst cases. Soak for around 10 – 15  minutes.

Find A Surface Or Something To Put Under The Stone

You don’t want the stone to slip from under your knife. This is for safety precaution but also saves your knife from hitting any surface.

This also allows you to apply pressure without fear. The surface could be as simple as a tea towel, or a silicone pad, essentially something that causes friction enough to stop the stone moving.

Place Your Stone Coarse Side Up

If you have a whetstone, they often have a coarse side and a soft side. They should be used simultaneously, but the coarse side is always the first one to start on, and turn to the softer side to really buff the knife out after material has been removed, the same steps apply.

Place The Blade At An Approximate Angle Of 20 Degrees To The Whetstone.

Angles can be important but this is something you get used to. The most important thing is to make the strokes consistently at the same angle, this is key to a good sharp knife.

If you do want to find approximately 20 degrees with ease, one way to practice is to place your knife at 90 degrees, half this to 45 degrees,

and if you half it once again you should be at around 20 degrees, and is a good estimate of what angle your knife should be. Moreover, some knives could require specific angles, research your own style of knife to find out.

Place An Even And Consistent Amount Of Pressure On The Knife

With your knife at around 20 degrees to the whetstone, it doesn’t matter what side you start just remember to alternate, you should make long strokes from the tip to hilt. 

Here are two tips on how to figure out how much pressure to put on the knife.

One way is to get a sharpie and run your knife through it, what should occur is that you get a small black mark on the very edge of the knife.

With this method you can literally see how much metal has been removed from the knife simply by looking.

Or, another method is to get a digital scale. WIth a digital scale you can figure out how much pressure you are applying by weight.

Ideally you want around 4 – 8 oz of pressure, depending on how sharp your knife is, the more dull the more pressure you apply.

Once You Feel You Have The Pressure Down, Simply Repeat The Last Step On Each Side Of Your Knife. 

You need to make sure that the pressure you apply happens evenly on both sides of the knife otherwise a sharp point will not be reached. You also want to make sure that your strokes go from hilt to tip to prevent the knife being duller in a certain area.

Test Your Knife For Sharpness

Hold on, don’t use your finger or hand to do this, which is everyone’s first reaction. There are many ways to actually check the sharpness of your knife. One way is simply to cut something, like an apple or an orange, something you plan to eat, ideally.

Another way to test how sharp your knife is, is to use what is called a paper test. Get a flat sheet of paper and attempt to put it at an angle with one clean stroke of your knife.

If your knife can cut through the paper without ripping then it is sharp. If your knife is dull it will start to rip the paper rather than slice through it perfectly.

The Final Stroke

There you have it, a seven step guide on how to use a whetstone or sharpening stone. This should be achievable for anyone and with the right practice it should become an easy maintenance activity you do along with the rest of your gear.

Whetstones are loved by hikers, hunters and many other outdoors people as they are small, don’t weigh too much, and can easily be used in many situations.

So long as you have water you can use a whetstone properly, and even dry the whetstone can still work. Happy camping!

George Alexander
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