For both professional chefs and serious home cooks, owning sharp, well-maintained knives is very important. Not only can you work faster and more efficiently with a sharp knife, it’s also safer to use a very sharp blade because a dull one needs more force applied when cutting and has a higher chance of slipping.

The knives that a chef chooses to use is a very personal decision and it’s rare to find chefs sharing knives in a professional kitchen. That’s why all the chefs at Yardbird and RŌNIN have their own set. Likewise, the style of knife maintenance is also very personal, even though many chefs perform similar processes across the world.

Using a whetstone is not the only method of sharpening knives, but it is the preferred method among many professionals, including the Yardbird and RŌNIN chefs. While it can be time-consuming and takes practice, sharpening knives on a whetstone is very adaptable to a person’s preference and is relatively inexpensive. Whetstones can be natural or man-made and they range from coarse to fine, although chefs rarely use coarse stones as they would never let their knives get so blunt. We talked to the Yardbird chefs to learn some #SundaysProTips on the concept of sharpening knives – here’s what they had to say:

  1. It’s debatable as to whether or not you should flatten your whetstone before and after use. Some believe that the surface of the whetstone should be completely flat, so they grind it down with a flattening stone/plate before and after sharpening their knives. Others believe it doesn’t make a difference to how sharp your knives can get and don’t follow this practice because it removes a lot of material off the whetstone. The first step is finding what works for you.
  2. Submerge the whetstone in water for about five to ten minutes to soak. Continue to apply water whilst sharpening.
  3. Place the whetstone on a slip-resistant base, such as a rubber mat or damp paper towel, to make sure it stays in place.
  4. Everyone has their own style when it comes to the actual sharpening process, but essentially, you are building a burr (raised edge on metal) and removing it. Some draw the blade down the stone using wide, circular movements, never applying pressure in the opposite direction. Others move the blade back and forth (away from and towards the body) across the whole stone. It’s important to find your own style, but it’s essential to keep the angle of the knife as consistent as possible throughout the whole process.
  5. Work on the other side of the blade.
  6. Repeat the process on one or more finer whetstones until the knife is sharp. The finer the stone, the less pressure needs to be applied.
  7. Clean the knife and whetstone.
  8. Start slicing!

One thought on “#SundaysProTip: How to Sharpen Knives with Whetstones

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