Introduction: Knife Sharpening: a Culinary Cornerstone

This will show you basic skills and tips of sharpening with a stone and keeping your knife sharp for beginners.
(The same skills can be applied to substitutes for stones if you don’t have any such as sandpaper glued to a wooden board, bricks, and smooth river bed rocks. Not kidding, those all work if you have the time)

First thing to sharpening and edge maintenance is to understand your tools and what they are used for. It’s fairly simple to research these items, so I will only give a briefing.

Honing rod: used to realign edge, not sharpen.

Strop: similar to honing rod but for a rolled edge.

Sharpening stones come in three main varieties: wet, dry, and oil (do not use cooking oils. Mineral oil is a good option). Research your stone for proper use. Typically normal whetstone (whet does not refer to water or liquid but means sharpen/sharpening) can be used with any option. If using them dry, wear face covering to prevent fine dust inhalation.
They come in different grits. The lower the grit the rougher it is. The higher the grit the finer it is. Stones be worked from low to high until reaching desired sharpness.

Knives: all can be sharpened basically the same way. Edge angle alignment and technique change depending on the blade shape. Some will require sharpening more often depending on steel quality.


Suggest at least three grits of stone:
~200 for heavy removal
~500 for sharpening
~800 for a good edge (anything higher is not necessary as most blades will hold that sharpness for very long).

For one knife:
~1/4 cup of water
Or ~ 2tbs mineral oil
(These numbers will change depending on the stone)

1 honing rod
Strop or strop replacement
Strop alternative materials:
Leather strip
Leather scrap
Leather patch
Leather belt
Old rag
Jean material
Work pants
Most fabrics
And other things of that nature
(Leather is the best option as it tends to last longer and is usually more effective)

Knife or knives of choice

A open space and surface where the stone won’t slide when used.

Damp rag to place under stone if it slips on surface

Optional: gloves to keep hands clean
(You can use protective gloves, but they make it harder to use the stones)

Step 1: Work Space/set Up

Grab rubber gloves if you don’t want your hands to get dirty.

Get plenty of water, oil, or wear a mask.

Find an open space that you don’t mind getting dirty to place the stone.

If the stone slips on the surface, place something under it like a piece of leather or a damp rag/towel.

Place the stone closer to the edge of workspace if that feels better.

Get your knife or knives ready!

Step 2: Identify Edge

This will tell you what stone to start at.

Chipped edge: use the lowest grit stone until all chips are removed.

Dull edge: start above your lowest stone ~300-500 depending on how dull, but starting low won’t be bad, it’s just extra work.

Rolled edge: start with the strop (shown after sharpening steps). However, you could just start low and work back up. (You can feel a rolled edge of it catches your fingernail when you scratch up the side of the edge)

Bent edge, not straight, windy: use honing rod (shown after sharpening and strop). Once again, you can start low and work up instead.

Step 3: Stone Choice and Wetting

According to the edge identified choose the appropriate stone.

~200: chip removal

After chips are gone, move to your next lowest grit stone.

~300-500: sharpen dull blade

Once the blade is sharpened (could take 30 passes each side. The edge will be shinier than it was previously) then move to your finisher.

~800: touch up

If you really want to go higher.

~1000-1200: super sharp

Work your way up from the lowest grit stone, depending on situation, to the highest you desire/have.

Before using the stone apply a generous amount of water or oil to the stone and spread along the surface. The stone will not be evenly covered but that’s fine.

Apply more water or liquid when you no longer see any more droplets of water and mud begins to clump, if any, as shown in second image.

Step 4: Edge Alignment

This is the most important step.

Take a good look at your edge’s angle.

Make sure when you place your edge on the stone it runs parallel with the stone surface.

You will know if you edge is too shallow if your edge starts to look larger than it was before or you can see two different angles.

This usually isn’t a very bad thing, except with specialized knives.

You can catch this beforehand if you see that the edge isn’t flush. You can also feel if the edge is flush before beginning by placing your finger half on the edge and half on the stone, but it takes practice.

You can tell if your edge is too steep because it will look and feel like you’re shaving the surface of the stone off.

If it’s not corrected the edge angle won’t be good for cutting nor will it get very sharp.

Step 5: Technique 1: Simple Body Rotation

This is fairly simple

Place your feet in roughly an L shape with one foot spacing between each foot with the lower part of the L as the back foot.

To hold the knife, have one hand hold the handle firmly and place your index near the base of the edge. The other hand should rest at least three fingers spread out along the side of the knife where it feels the most comfortable. This is the same for each technique.

Place the blade perpendicular to the stone and apply light pressure downwards.

Check if edge is flush.

Making sure you’re in a good place, rotate your hips in the direction of the edge making a partial circle. While doing this, lean toward your back foot just a little pulling the blade with you. Do not move your arms while doing this.

In the end you should have a rotational motion and a slight pull back motion. Smaller stones will require more pull back motion. If your stone is big enough, no pull back is needed.

Give it about ten passes before switching sides.

To do the other side of the knife, simply move to the other side of the stone and hold the knife in your other hand. It can be difficult but that it the easiest way to do it for starting.

Step 6: Technique 2: Tilt

(Angle of tilt in first image is exaggerated)

A more advanced technique

Footing doesn’t matter as much, but the L stance is quite effective.

Getting edge alignment with the stone can be hard with this one.

First stand -45° From the stone (I find that easiest, but by all means experiment for yourself)

Then place the edge flush with the stone like step 4. Look at the angle and keep it the way.

Next place the tip of the knife near the stone end closest to you and lift the handle side up while maintaining the original edge angle. Make sure the the tip edge is also flush so it doesn’t dig in.

Push forward, using your legs and arms, and let the handle side down at the same degree as the blades curve until you reach the flat part of the edge. While doing this you should move the blade the length of the stone to utilize the whole surface.

You should rock back and forth with your whole body while pushing/pulling the blade along the stone with your arms.

Give it about ten passes before switching sides.

To do the other side flip the blade over and repeat the process.

You can repeat the same motion backward when mastered for a quicker sharpening.

Step 7: Flat Edge Knives

These knives are among the easiest kinds to sharpen.

You can use the same rotation technique as step 5 or this way.

Make sure the edge is flush with the stone and aligned perpendicularly.

Push the knife in the direction of the edge and pull down at the same time making sure you include both the base and the tip of the edge. You can reverse the action for a quicker sharpening.

Give it about ten passes before switching sides.

To do the other side of the knife, flip the knife over, or stand on the other side of the stone and switch the hand that holds the knife then repeat.

That simple.

Step 8: Stropping

This is probably the easiest step.

After sharpening moving you strop the knife to remove the roll put on the edge by the stone so that the edge is sharp as possible.

Grab your stropping material of choice or an actual strop.

If wide or stiff: place on a flat surface.

If thin and flexible: hold between two points securely.

Place edge of blade a little steeper than flush (accuracy isn’t that important).

While holding material down, push/pull the blade in the opposite direction of the edge either rotating or tilting the blade to properly strop the curve of the edge if any. While doing, this apply downward force so the material will grab the rolled edge and straighten it.

Do three times one side and switch back and forth until your fingernail doesn’t catch the edge when carefully scratching up the side of the edge on either side.

Step 9: Honing

The honing rod straightens an edge. After use an edge can become wavy and cause decreased efficiency.

A homing rod should be used before every use of the knife and ideally afterward as well.

Hold honing rod and knife firmly.

Keep all fingers behind the guard at all times.

Align the edge semi flush with the rod and pull or push the edge from base to tip while at the same time moving it the opposite direction of the edge.

Do at most three passes before switching to the next side. Doing at least 12 passes total should be fine if done before every use.

There you have it! A nicely sharpened knife ready to cut whatever you need it to! Wash it up and it’s ready to go.

If your knife gets chipped or dull, you now know how to fix it right up! Have a good day, evening, or night.