How to Use Sharpening Stones

How to Use Sharpening Stones: A Detailed Guide

If your knives or scissors are not doing what they should, it might be time for some honing, but how do you do it? You can bring it to a shop for a professional sharpening job, but it might cost you a fortune. Alternatively, you can purchase a grinding stone and do it yourself, but do you know how to use sharpening stones?

Don’t fret because we’re here to help. We’ll also talk about what a sharpening stone is, as well as other essential information about it.

What a Sharpening Stone Is

A sharpening stone, or sometimes called whetstone or wet stone, is a device used to sharpen different kinds of steel blades through the process of grinding. It varies in materials used, shapes, and sizes. Some stones are made from natural materials, while others are crafted with human-made items.

Whetstones have different grades or grits, as well, which indicate the solidity of the particle. A higher number means smaller particles, which give a polished look to the steel. A lower number suggests bigger particles, which can provide a sharp edge on the sharpened tool.

Generally, you can use the sharpening stone for dull knives, scissors, razors, and other tools like chisels, scythe, or even an ax.


There are three common types of sharpening stones around, namely water, oil, and diamond stones. Each type has specific benefits.

1. Water Stones

Water stones are available in either natural or synthetic materials. The most common material used for artificial water stone is the corundum or aluminum oxide.

This kind of sharpening stone has many advantages. It can cut faster because fresh particles instantly replace the old ones during the sharpening process. Another good thing about water stones is that they don’t need any special oil or chemical for you to use them.

All you need to do is soak the stone in water for a few minutes before use, and it’s ready to do its job. Cleaning is easy, as well. Just wipe it with a damp cloth or rinse it with clean water and let it dry.

The only downside with water stones is that they wear down quickly because of their fast cutting ability, which tends to make the surface uneven. When that happens, you need to flatten the water stone out before using it again.

2. Oil Stones

Oil stones are the traditional sharpening stones known to many in the Western world. They are more affordable than water stones. They are also harder, sharpen well, and do not need constant flattening.

As the name implies, it uses oil to remove the metal filing left by the sharpening process. Aluminum oxide, novaculite, and silicon carbide are the three most common materials used to make oil stones.

  • Novaculite

Oil stones made from novaculite are the most traditional and familiar. The materials come from and processed in Arkansas; hence, the name Arkansas stones.

They separate the stones into different grades according to their density. The roughest stone is the Washita, but because of its softness, they don’t use Washita that much.

On the other hand, soft Arkansas, hard Arkansas, hard translucent, and hard black Arkansas have more refined particles. These varieties give a polished finish but cut more slowly, which means longer sharpening time. Hard translucent and hard black Arkansas stones are harder to find, making them more expensive as compared to the others.

  • Aluminum Oxide

The oil stones made from aluminum oxide are human-made but popular among the users. They cut fast and give a sharp edge on knives and tools. It is called India Stone and is usually colored orange or brown and classified into fine, medium, or coarse.

  • Silicon Carbide

Oil stones made from silicon carbide are the fastest cutting among the three. They are called Crystolon stones and have the same grade labels as the India stones. This grey colored stone does not provide a sharp edge like the India stones.

3. Diamond Stones

These stones were given such a name because you can find small diamonds attached on the metal faceplate. They are harder than the other sharpening stones but do not provide a consistent result as each stone is different.

The most common type of a diamond stone is the one with holes on the surface where the metal filing goes. The other type is the one with a continuous surface, which is used when sharpening pointy tools.

The monocrystalline diamond stone tends to last longer than the one made from polycrystalline. Overall though, diamond stones sharpen fast, and the flatness of their surface remains intact.

How to Use Sharpening Stones

We will provide you with recommended steps on how to use a sharpening stone so that you can start sharpening those dull knives and tools safely and efficiently.

Step #1: Choose the Right Grit or Coarseness

Determine the status of the knife or tool to be sharpened so that you will know what kind of sharpening stone to use. For example, if you need to hone a very dull knife, then you need to use a coarse sharpening stone.

The roughness will give your dull knife an edge but not a sharp one yet. You have to use a smoother stone to get a sharp edge for your blade.

Step #2: Select the Right Angle

You have to know the angle by which you will sharpen your knife to get the desired result. The right slant will depend on the kind of blade and where you will use it. Most sharpening stones come with an angle guide to help you out.

Step #3: Use Water or Oil

This step would depend on what kind of sharpening stone you are using: water for water stones and oil for oil stones. You don’t need much to lubricate the sharpening stone. Just a few drops will do.

Step #4: Sharpen the Knife

As we have mentioned above, we have to start with the coarse stone then gradually change to a different grit until we reach the sharpness of the blade we are after.

Put the blade on top of the stone at the right angle. Using a slicing motion, slide the knife across the stone starting from the heel and ending with the tip.

Make sure to maintain the correct angle while doing it. Do at least ten strokes for each side and continue until you reach your desired edge.

After which, flip the sharpening stone and then put the blade on top. Using a slicing motion, slide the knife across the stone from the tip to the heel. Do this until the blade is smooth.


Sharpening your tools is easy as long as you use the correct sharpening stone. There are a lot of sharpening stones to choose from today.

What is best for some may not be the one you need. In any purchase, we always have to consider what we need and what will be useful for us. Nonetheless, the process on how to use sharpening stones is the same and that is: start with the rough side and end with the smooth surface.

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