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How to Use A Sharpening Stone

How To Sharpen A Knife With A Stone

Last updated on 2/13/2019

Nothing impacts the longevity of your knives, or their daily performance, more than regular sharpening and maintenance. A dull knife in the kitchen is more dangerous than a sharp one when employees must force their way through cutting meat and slicing vegetables. As a result, daily sharpening and maintenance is easy, and most importantly, necessary. We're here to show you how to use a sharpening stone, including correct techniques and maintenance.

Check out the video below to learn how to properly sharpen your knives with a sharpening stone:

Preparing Your Stone for Sharpening

Adding oil to a knife sharpening stone

The process of preparing a sharpening stone for use is similar no matter what type of stone you have, whether it's a crystolon, India stone, water stone, or oil stone. Follow these steps to ensure safe and efficient sharpening: 

  1. Place the stone on a damp cloth or towel, and make sure both of these are on a flat surface. This helps prevent the stone and towel from sliding during sharpening.
  2. Begin with the coarse side of the stone on top, as this is the quickest way to form the knife blade back into the correct shape.
  3. Lubricate the stone. Check the documents that came with your sharpening stone to see whether it requires oil or water.
    • IMPORTANT: Food oils such as vegetable and olive oil should never be applied to sharpening stones! Only use honing oils that are approved for sharpening stones.
    • Some options like diamond stones don't need any lubricant at all, so be sure to check the stone's instructions.
  4. Put a small line of oil or water down the middle of the stone. Gently massage and spread the oil or water evenly across your sharpening stone. Once this is done, you're ready to start sharpening!

How to Hold Your Knife For Sharpening

Perhaps the trickiest and most uncertain aspect for anyone new to sharpening stones is learning the correct angle for the knife. It's recommended that knives be sharpened at a 20-degree angle, and these simple steps will make it easy for you to find the correct angle.

  • Hold the knife with the blade down, at a 90-degree angle.
  • Move the knife to a 45-degree angle, halving the distance between the 90-degree angle and the table.
  • Once more, move the knife to half of the remaining angle, and now you have a good estimate of the appropriate sharpening angle. Adjustments can be made up or down as needed.
Hold the knife with the blade down at a 90 degree angle Move the knife to a 45 degree angle Move the knife down to roughly a 25 degree angle

How to Sharpen Kitchen Knives with a Sharpening Stone

Sharpening a knife with a sharpening stone

Once you've found the correct angle for your knife, you can begin sharpening. Here are the steps you need to follow to sharpen your kitchen knives:

  1. With your knife at a 20 degree angle, slowly draw the knife down and across the stone in a smooth motion, starting at the heel and finishing at the tip.
  2. Repeat this action 5 times. You may need to repeat this motion additional times, depending on the dullness of the knife.
  3. Flip the knife the other side and sharpen the reverse side using the same motion. You should sharpen this side the same number of times as the other side for consistency.
  4. Return the knife to the original side, but this time draw the knife from the tip to the heel. Repeat this motion 5 times.
  5. Flip to the reverse side, and sharpen from tip to heel five times.
  6. Turn your sharpening stone over to the fine side and repeat steps 1-5.

IMPORTANT: When sharpening knives with a sharpening stone, consistency is key. So, be sure that you're using the same angle each time, and that you sharpen both sides of your knife equally.

How to Know When You're Finished Sharpening Your Knives

When you sharpen knives, especially on coarser stones, you'll notice a burr form on the opposite side of the edge. It can be difficult to see, but easy to feel. Carefully feel for the burr by running your finger from the spine of the knife to the edge.

The burr will jump from side to side as you sharpen each edge, and once you've felt the burr move to both sides, you can move to the next finer stone. Once you get to the finest grit, the burr will become smaller and smaller, until it disappears.

How to Clean Your Sharpening Stone

To clean your sharpening stone after use, simply use a damp towel to wipe away any metal shavings and excess oil. There is no need to rinse or wash your sharpening stone after use.

After wiping down your sharpening stone, place it back in its box or store it in a dry place.

How to Use a Sharpening Steel

Using a sharpening steel

Sharpening steels hone the edges of your chef knives and help keep the edge straight. In addition to honing the edges of your knives, you can use them after sharpening your knives with a sharpening stone to smooth out the edge.

Here's how you hone your chef knives with a sharpening steel:

  1. Hold the steel vertically with your dominant hand and the tip of the steel resting on a cutting board or work table.
  2. Place your knife horizontally with the edge touching the steel at the top.
  3. Turn the knife until it's at roughly at 20-degree angle with the sharpening steel.
  4. Gently pull the knife down and back across the sharpening steel going from the heel to the tip of the knife.
  5. Repeat this motion five to ten times.
  6. Switch to the other side of the blade and steel, and repeat the same motions.

Not only does regularly sharpening your your chef knives with sharpening stones and steels make food prep easier, but it can also prevent accidents and injuries in the kitchen. So, be sure to routinely maintain your kitchen cutlery by following our directions.

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