The Cooking Tool You Didn’t Know You Needed: A Whetstone to Sharpen Knives

Keep your knives sharp for easy cutting and to avoid injury.

byEdmund Torr|
The Cooking Tool You Didn’t Know You Needed: A Whetstone to Sharpen Knives
A sharp knife is a happy (and safe) knife. Getty Images

One of the worst, and potentially most dangerous, mistakes a home cook can make is using a dull knife. Dull knives require extra force and can slip off of whatever they’re cutting onto an unprotected finger. A sharp knife, though, will stay where you want it to—and make things pretty and uniform. Whetstones are a classic way to keep your kitchen cutters on point.

This kit sharpens, hones and flattens—and comes with a guide for how to do all three.

The normal use of a kitchen knife will wear down the blade, making it dull. Professionals will sometimes use a spinning stone grinding wheel, but that’s not practical for home use. There are also instant sharpeners, which you slide your knife through: though they are easy and fast, they can remove more metal from your knife than is necessary, shortening your knife’s lifespan. That’s why many home cooks who’ve invested in good knives prefer a whetstone.

This double-sided sharpener has two coarseness grades and can be used on almost any kind of knife.

A whetstone is simple to use after a bit of practice. Lower-grit whetstones should be soaked in water for a few minutes, while higher-grit ones just need a few drops on top. Hold your knife at an angle—usually around 20 degrees, though some knife manufacturers specify what angle to use—and scrape the blade in a circular motion against the whetstone. Then, if appropriate, flip and do the same to the other side.

This eight-piece set is comprehensive and versatile: Use it on cooking knives, chisels, axes, razor blades and more.

The most important thing a whetstone can do, aside from having a consistent grit, is to stay put. Under no circumstances, ever, should a whetstone move while you’re sharpening a knife. The best whetstones will have silicone feet or a base to keep them stable while in use. You can use your whetstone for all sorts of blades, from chef’s knives to pocket knives to scissors to lawnmower blades.