I'm looking to start sharpening my own knives (Wusthof's) what grit whetstone would I need to do so? Recommendations on any specific brand or is each whetstone is as good as any? I'm under the impression that to get a good finish, I'll going to need more than one grit and work up

  • There's also a method using an old-style mousepad + sandpaper : zknives.com/knives/articles/sandpapermousepad.shtml . You can also find videos of the technique. – Joe Mar 25 '15 at 15:25
  • @Joe IME (wooddorker) granite is better than a mousepad (look up "scary sharp" for the method) – Ecnerwal Mar 25 '15 at 15:28
  • @Ecnerwal : it'll give you a less durable edge, though. The mouse pad trick is also easier on beginners, as it'll conform a little to deal with your angle. – Joe Mar 25 '15 at 15:39
  • Unless a knife has been misused or damaged you will not need to use a whetstone to re-shape the edge. A ceramic steel & a smooth steel will get you close enough, a small amount of powdered Aluminum Oxide on a post-it note pad will produce a mirror finish. Be careful, once polished you may cut yourself and not know it. Angles are important, keep the original angles. – Optionparty Mar 25 '15 at 23:54

What stones you get depend on the current condition of the knife and how regularly you plan on sharpening it. If you are bringing the edge back on a dull knife, you will need to start with a relatively coarse stone (say, 240 - 600) to start the edge off. If the knife is still in pretty good condition, you can use something like a 1200 once a week to maintain the edge. You can also look at a very fine stone for polishing, like a 3000-5000. You can then use a standard issue leather belt for stropping/honing.

I would recommend you practice on cheaper knives first (and I mean a considerable amount), because improper sharpening can ruin a knife in short order. If you curl the edge there is little that can be done to fix it short of grinding off a lot of steel.

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    People say you can ruin your knife but it won't really will it? As you said- it will just require grinding away more metal which will leave you with a narrower but still perfectly functional knife right? It's not like you're going to detemper the steel. – Sobachatina Mar 25 '15 at 16:18
  • yea @Sobachatina you're really just adding/creating a new edge to the knife. – Chef_Code Mar 25 '15 at 19:15
  • You can certainly cause a lot of (temporary) damage, rendering your attempt at sharpening counter-productive. And of course, at some point you can grind off so much steel with repeated sharpening that you ruin the shape of the blade. – logophobe Mar 25 '15 at 19:53
  • Detempering is not an issue with whetstones. It is definitely of concern when using power tools to sharpen, which I addressed in the answer I posted. – Derpy Mar 27 '15 at 1:37

As a whetstone sharpener I don't want to turn anyone away from the practice. However, I am going to suggest an alternate approach. Whetstone sharpening is hard work and takes a good deal of practice. It is also more costly than people think. I've tried to teach a few friends and they were all crying by the end of their lesson in frustration.

If I had to make a suggestion to a friend, I would recommend buying a belt grinder along with a series of different grit belts. I would start with a relatively rough belt to form the burr (120 grit). Then move to a finer belt to refine the edge (I use 120 micron). Then use a leather belt loaded with some stropping compound to polish. Nothing is as good as a professional level stone sharpened edge, but the technique I've described is much better than the factory edge that came on your knife.

CONS: Overheating a knife on a belt grinder will cause the steel to soften or detemper. You will know if this happens when the steel turns a different color. The knife is not permanently damaged, just the outer steel which has discolored. Using light pressure or dipping the knife in coolant (water) between passes will eliminate the issue.

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