There are many different grades of whetstones but the sheer amount of information may dissuade some people from ever sharpening knives themselves. But for the average chef we’d recommend 3 basic whetstones. The 3 types of whetstones you should have is 1000, 3000, and 8000 grit stones. Ideally, we suggest using a 1000 grit first and then finishing with the 3000 grit and then the 8000 grit finish. The 1000 grit stone is a must-have stone and if you don’t have a large budget, it would still work. However if you are only using a 1000 grit stone, your knife’s edge may be a bit rough but your knife would still be usable. A 400 grit stone is also recommended if you need to repair your knife. A 400 grit stone excels at grinding off metal material which is what you want if repairing a chip, broken tip, or resetting the edge on a super dull knife. Then after using a 400 grit to reset the knife, you would want to move to 1000 grit and then 3000 and then finishing up with 8000. For chefs who desire an extremely sharp knife, we suggest using a 10000 grit stone. A 10000 grit stone can be used for an extremely fine edges and mirror polishing but is recommended for individuals who are highly skilled with whetstone sharpening.
An important accessory for whetstones is the Nagura Stone. The Nagura Stone is used on finishing stones only (3000-10000 grit). The purpose of a Nagura Stone is to clean metal debris or small scratches on your whetstone surface. In addition to this usage, you can also use the Nagura Stone to make a slurry on the finishing stone which results in a better sharpening and polish.
Once you have used your whetstone 2-3 times you may notice your stone becoming hollow in the center. If you continue using the stone for sharpening, your knives may not touch evenly and will result in an uneven knife. The reason why is because you tend to use the center of the stone much more than the surrounding edges. This means that your knife needs to be cut in order to make your stone perfectly flat again. This sounds scary but there is an easy trick we like to use when flattening our whetstones.
Scratch your whetstone surface with a pencil and then use our Stone Fixer to grind off the uneven portions of the stone until all of the pencil markings are gone and that means the whetstone is perfectly flat. We have an example of this technique in our Stone Fixer Video. There is a reason why whetstones is literally pronounced “wet stone” and is a clue on how you should keep your whetstones at all times. Keep your whetstones in very wet or damp conditions. Do not store your whetstone nearby heat sources (ovens or stoves) or in direct sunlight. If you do not store your stone in wet or damp conditions, your stone will become dry and you may see cracks appearing in the stone. We store our stones underwater, and is what we recommend as well but a wet towel wrapped around your stone works just as well.