Sharpening Stone Basics

A question that’s often asked is “What is the best sharpening stone to use?”
The simple answer is, you’re going to need more than one. The basic purpose of a stone is to restore the proper shape to the knife and to establish a new edge. In order to do that, you’re going to need an aggressive stone that’s going to remove stock quickly. Using to fine of a stone will take much too long and wear the stone prematurely.
After the edge has been established and you are satisfied with the shape of the knife it’s time for the next stone. From this point it becomes a polishing process. The coarse stone you started off with is going to leave deep scratches in the knife and you need to polish them out. The finer the polish the sharper and stronger your edge will be.
The best practice is to not wait until the knife has turned into a butter knife. Try to keep up with it. If you can reestablish the edge with a 1000 grit stone the rest of the process will go much faster. We often use a 1000 to 5000 to 8000 grit combination.
If you are just starting out don’t expect perfection right away. It takes practice. Start with an old knife you don’t care too much about and use light pressure so you don’t wear out your stone. Develop your technique and build up muscle memory. Consistency is the key to sharpening. If you can maintain the same angle throughout the process you’ll get good results.

Martin Petlicki

6 thoughts on “Sharpening Stone Basics

  1. Gary says:

    Hi Marty,
    I currently use a belt sander, but am thinking maybe I should use stones. I finish with a leather strop, what equivalent grade would that be?

    • Marty Petlicki says:

      The key to using a leather strop is getting the edge fine enough for the strop to be effective. A typical progression for us is 1000, 4000, 6000 and 8000 grit stones. That’s a lot of stones but you spend less time with each stone which means less wear and longer life for each stone. After the 8000 stone we use a Diamond Paste on a wood block, usually 1 or .5 micron. We often finish knives on a strop after using a fine belt but for that we apply a polishing compund to the strop. You can get a 16000 or 30000 grit stone, which people do, but i dont think they will replace the strop.

  2. Steve Ames says:

    Are you guys making razor blades? I use 600, 1200 and 4000 diamond plates for 16 degree Shun knives with great results. I do go to 8000 grit for my woodworking planes but then again woodworkers are a funny breed.

    • Marty Petlicki says:

      We do sharpen razor blades and when the previous post mentioned he used a strop I tried to explain the steps we would take in order for the strop to be effective. We do not go that far unless it’s a razor. Although, drawing a knife across a block of would with 1 micron paste a few times does give the knife a little something extra. Sorry for the confusion. I hope I was able to add some clarity.

  3. Sandra says:

    Hi, Marty. I also use King Two Sided Sharpening Stone with Base which has 1000 & 6000 grit. That’s work so good and I’m satisfied.

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