I am very excited to now have the Washita Arkansas whetstones in store. These are have been long out of official production at Dan’s Whetstones Company USA; however I have requested a batch to be manufactured so those interested in Australia, can now enjoy them again.
Washita stones are labelled as approximately 400-600 grit. This makes them the coarsest of all Arkansas and natural stones in general. This coarser grit allows a faster cutting medium for real blunt knives. The more common Arkansassoft (medium) is approximately 600-800 grit and using this soft Arkansas after the Washita stones, makes a nice progression up to theBlackor Translucent.
Please note: at present I only stock the pocket size 10cm x 4cm and the 20cm x 5cm. These sizes are good for those who want one for the backpack when camping and one for the work bench.
My latest order from the Ardennes Belgian came with a nice surprise, with the Belgian stones all newly packaged.
These attractive boxes have a top cover/lid that slides off (which is more secure than the usual lift on/off), and also have a nice padded bed for the stones to recede into. This provides not only a safe package for shipping around the world, but also for storing at home once your sharpening has been concluded.
Here are some photos of the new packages. Please note, some of the small stones still may come as they are (without these storage boxes).
Are you looking for a whetstone to sharpen your knives, tools or razors? Belgian whetstones can offer a simple, yet effective solution for your sharpening needs.
To get the most out of your tools (regardless of what that maybe) you need to ensure they are well cared for and of course very well sharpened. Without these simple ingredients, they cannot perform at their highest level each and every-time. The more you use a knife, the more you should be sharpening it. They do not stay sharp forever (regardless of the steel type or cost). Simply, if you do not keep up on your sharpening routine, you will end spending more time when you finally do take the time to sharpen. Not only this, but a more coarse grit whetstone will be required so you can save time (using a fine grit stone to sharpen a very blunt knife is frustrating and time consuming).
Alternatively, if you sharpen on a regular basis, the ‘touch-ups’ will take less time and a higher grit stone is usually all that is needed to maintain your blades.
Simply, a regular sharpening routine is important!
If you are considering Belgian stones for your sharpening routine, but are unsure if they are right for you, here are few points that may help you decide.
A perfect choice for those looking for a natural alternative, to man-made synthetics.
Although still available and not considered rare just yet, consider the fact that these Belgian stones are only manufactured (hand-made) in the Ardennes Belgian, in one factory. Once that goes, the stones go forever….then like many of the Japanese natural stones, the costs will increase well out of range of the average person.
Belgian coticules and Belgian blue stones contain garnets. These garnets provide the abrasive cutting power. Coticules are said to have a higher concentration of garnets than the Belgian blue stones. In turn, this makes the Belgian blue stones abrasive power slightly less on average. Now, the best way to look at that statement is:
Belgian blue stones will give the same result as the coticule on average, just a little slower process. That is it, the only difference!
Unlike many stones, the Belgian stones don’t load up with swarf on the surface to the degree of other water stones (natural or synthetic). When you sharpen, the metal particles (swarf) from the blade embeds (clogs) into the whetstone surface reducing its abrasive power.
You will notice this by the black appearance over the surface. This in turn slows down the sharpening process considerably and unless you constantly lap (remove) this build-up, you get a poor cutting stone. Belgian stones only require a splash of water and this swarf washes away easily, making them very easy to work with.
Grit range: first up, there is no grit range to Belgian stones (like any natural stone). However, as a rough guide somewhere in the 6000 grit is on average estimate for the coticule and slightly higher for the Belgian blue (when both are used with water only). However, with a slurry stone you can decrease its grit rating and increase its cutting power.
A slurry stone (which is simply a small off-cut) is rubbed onto the surface of the coticule or Belgian blue (depending on which you own) with water, which in turn creates a mud. This mud, depending on its thickness (dilution), will create a faster cutting (more abrasive) surface. So if your knife is a little more blunt than usual, you can use this slurry to speed up the process. On your final passes you can use water only to get the higher grit finish.
Belgian stones work with other stones very well (natural or synthetic). Due the higher/finer grit range of these stones, they are not the best stones (like any high grits whetstone) for knives, tools or razors that are extremely blunt or have damage that needs repair (i.e. chips). For this initial stage of sharpening, a good coarse grit synthetic is needed to be most efficient. Once that part of the process is complete, you can jump to the Belgian stones (1000 grit stone to a Belgian stone is fine). If you wish to move up the ladder higher after your Belgian stones, a 12000 grit plus whetstone or loaded strop (with compound or even bare) is next to finalize.
Keeping your Belgian stones level/flat is easy. You can use a diamond plate with water, or wet/dry sandpaper with water on a level surface. A few passes and your water stone is level again. Like sharpening, do this on a regular basis.
Belgian stones are not the cheapest water stones on the market, however once you have used them, you are sure to be glad you did.
The Belgian blue stone is a natural whetstone millions of years old, mined in the Ardennes Belgium, alongside the more well-known ‘coticule’ (there is only one company left in the world that produces these stones).
The Belgian blue (and coticule) have garnets naturally embedded in the stone, making them effective natural stones for sharpening knives, tools and razors (the coticule is however the preferred razor hone of the two). As you continue sharpening (and slowly begin to wear down the stone) you also expose new garnets in the stones surface, which continue the cutting action throughout the stones layers. As with all natural stones, different layers of any one stone may have different concentrations of the cutting ingredient across the surface (and each individual stone may have different cutting characteristics to each other).
When used with a slurry stone (smaller off cut Belgian stone) and water, these BBW whetstones will give a more course sharpening surface to work on, in turn speeding up the sharpening process, replacing the need for using multiple synthetic stones of varying grits (e.g.: thick slurry equals a more course stone – watery slurry is more fine – water on stone only (no slurry) is ultra-fine/polishing stone. For this reason water alone is best used with the BBW in the final stages (if using water alone – you can also carefully use varying degrees of pressure during the sharpening process to speed up the sharpening speed if you do not want to use slurry – not as effective).
Keep in mind, even with slurry the Belgian blue whetstone is still a high grit stone (and like all high grit stones) should be used on blades with a decent degree of sharpness already. If you allow your blades to become to blunt and try to use the Belgian blue (like any higher grit stones), it can be a long process.
Natural stones do not come with grit ratings, however the BBW is usually labelled as around 4000 grit. My experience is that they are much higher grit than this especially with water alone (which feels like marble) and I do on occasion use them after the coticule with water alone to finish (before stropping).
Overtime, as they begin to wear/dish (like every whetstone in existence) it will need lapping (flattening). Having a nice flat surface makes the sharpening process more effective.
As these are natural stones (like all natural stones), they can be slower to produce results than the synthetic man-made stones which are designed to exact specifications (equal grit across all layers and surface). However natural stones provide a sharpening action preferred by many, not to mention using a stone from the earth that has been used by civilizations for centuries has it own rewards.
The sharpening stones listed in this post are not the only sharpening stones for kitchen knives, just a small selection available from this online store for those after simply one or possibly two stones (without it getting overly complicated).
Belgian Blue (BBW):
The Belgian blue stones give a very nice edge to knives and are long lasting natural stones making them a good option to consider for your kitchen knife sharpening needs. BBW stones come with a slurry stone. Using a slurry will allow this Belgian whetstone to work across a wider ‘grit’ range (than using just water alone which is more polishing) and using this slurry will assist in the sharpening process. You start with slurry and move down to water alone.
Coticules are mined alongside the BBW stones above, but are rarer. Like the BBW, coticules are very nice natural stones to work with. Coticules also provide on average a faster cutting speed (although they both have garnets embedded in the stone to produce the cutting action, the garnets are just more concentrated on the coticule giving it a faster steel removal rate). Like the BBW stones, the coticule uses a slurry to increase its grit range also.
Ordering any Belgian stone as a ‘one and only stone’ for your sharpening needs will only be effective for those who keep a regular sharpening routine and do not allow their knives to get too blunt. Like any stone (natural or synthetic, any one stone can only do so much).
Arkansas stones are both called oil stones and water stones. Unlike the above two Belgian stones, you can decide which you prefer to use. Arkansas stones are available in medium, fine and ultra fine. For newer harder steels, Arkansas can be a little slower than the Belgian stones when used with newer steels with a high Rockwell, other than that – they are also great to use and wear very very slowly (the slowest of all stones).
If you want to use a progression, rather than a slurry on your stones, the Arkansas are a nice alternative.
As many kitchen knives are quite long, it is better (simply easier) to use a stone at around 20cm in length or longer. This gives a good runway length to use when making passes with your knife over the surface. If you are unsure if the size stone you are interested in is the correct size (for you), you can do a mock-up of the stone surface area (e.g: 20 x 5cm) with cardboard. This just allows you to see the size surface you will be working with.
If you find your kitchen knives get extremely dull or chips/nicks in the blade, a synthetic lower grit stone is always recommended to begin the process (more efficient – eg: 320).
An alternate option to naturals are of course water stones. The Shapton professional series range of whetstones which are a wonderful whetstone to use. Like the above natural stones, they are simply wet and go, no pre-soaking is required. These stones also come in plastic storage cases that double as stone holders!
The Shapton professional (and glass range (from Japan) works well on all steels. For general kitchen duty the Shapton 1000 pro or 1000 Glass is a good versatile stone suitable for those after one stone for their kitchen knives.
The 1000 grit will help bring a dull edge back (if chipped a lower grit will be needed e.g.: 320 or Kirschen) and keep it working sharp. The one benefit of synthetic stones is you can always add to your sharpening routine lower (more coarse) or higher (finer) grit stones if you feel it is necessary. If you wish to refine and polishe the edge further you can of course look into the 2000 and 5000 , 8000 pro series or 3000, 6000, 8000 grit glass series stones.
Yes, you can use a synthetic with a natural. If you want to use a synthetic course grit for initial sharpening then jump to an Arkansas, Belgian Blue or Coticule that is fine. You can also use the pro series with the glass series! See mixing whetstone brands .
Whether you select the natural or synthetic sharpening stones for your kitchen knives, for many kitchen tasks some knives may work best with some ‘teeth’ left on the edge. Moving up the scale to the higher grit stones (polishing) may not always be necessary for certain cutting tasks (your preference is however the decider).
Due to the wide range of tasks a kitchen knife may encounter and the variety of stones available, only these options are discussed here, however you can email me if you wish to get any further details. Again, if you wish to get a highly refined and polished edge on your knife, a finer grit stone should be considered (or the leather bench strop). Stropping (like the old-time barbers used) helps to remove those teeth on the edge giving a more polished and in turn sharper edge. Stropping in itself does not sharpen steel like the stones do!
Before ordering – please read over this post to ensure you understand he product your are purchasing.
The range of Shapton professional/traditional series (Ha-No-Kuromaku) ceramic whetstones are for those after quality synthetic sharpening stones for their knives, tools or razors. These stones will cut all types of steel, are very consistent in results (technique holding) and make good stones for those with harder steels, making them a great choice for Japanese and German made kitchen knives.
Unlike many water stones available that may require pre-soaking, the Shapton Pro series range are simply wet and go.
You do not need to soak them (and you shouldn’t be soaking them).
When finished sharpening always ensure to dry stones before storing them away in their box
Do not sun dry (this will crack them).
These stones are of high quality, but like all whetstones they will chip, crack or simply break if mishandled (e.g: dropped) – so use with care!
Shapton Pro whetstones are 210mm x 70mm x 15mm (thick) making them a very good size for all sharpening tasks. Due to their thickness, they should last many years with average regular use.
As an added bonus and saving, each stone comes with its own protective plastic case which also doubles as a whetstone holder, so you don’t need to order a dedicated holder (unless you wish to). The top side of the plastic box has guide rails for which the whetstone will sit neatly within while sharpening duties are being done, while the base has four rubber feet to reduce sliding while in use.
Like all whetstones, Shapton stones will overtime need to be lapped (surface leveled) to ensure the best sharpening results, or dishing will appear.
What Is Dishing?
Dishing is simply the process of a whetstone slowly wearing away at the point of most contact with the blade (most common area on a whetstone for dishing is right in the centre, the place we usually focus our passes most). Over a period of time all whetstones / oil / water stones will begin to get dishing. Whetstones break down overtime – this we cannot avoid!
What is Swarf? Overtime as your tool / blade begins to wear down from the sharpening process; you will notice a black build-up on your whetstone. This is called swarf.
It can begin to clog the whetstone and will also need to be removed regularly. Water flushed over the stone throughout the sharpening process, will not always be enough to stop this swarf build-up overtime (it can get into the surface).
Available grit sizes in the Shapton Pro series (Ha-No-Kuromaku) range are:
Each stone has a specified colour related to the grit size:
120 = White
220 = Moss
320 = Blue Black
1000 = Orange
1500 = Blue
2000 = Green
5000 = Dark Red
8000 = Melon
12000 = Cream
30000 = Purple
Interesting Gear Australia presently stocks Shapton pro series of: 320 grit, 1000 grit, 2000 grit, 5000 grit, 8000 grit and 12000 grit (all depending on stock levels at any one time). These grit whetstones are more than enough to accomplish any sharpening duties required, from initial bevel setting, chip removal to general sharpening and ultra fine polishing duties.
If your knives are already decently sharp and you maintain a regular sharpening routine:
The Shapton pro series 1000 – 2000 – 5000 grits are an excellent 3 stone set, regardless of whether it is a kitchen knife or pocket knife.
However for just general sharpening duties the 1000 – 2000 are good choices alone (those with extremely blunt knives or small chips on the edges should look into the 320 or the coarser stone to begin).
There are no set rules and each knife depending on condition / tasks and of course how polished you wish to take it will dictate the stones necessary (e.g. those who wish to get the highest sharpness and polish out of their knives or those with straight razors will need to look into the 8000 grit and 12000 grit stones to further refine and polish the edge).
The great benefit of such a large range of whetstones is they are like building blocks, you can order the whetstone/s initially needed and later further add lower or higher grit stones to increase the grit range of your sharpening set-up (if/when needed).
If you have any questions on which Shapton professional stones may suit your needs best, contact me!
What are they? Coticule bouts are simply off-cuts from the manufacturing process, which are of irregular size and shape. Like all coticules, bouts will come glued to a piece of slate (although literally a rock, coticules can be fragile and can break, crack or shatter if dropped/handled too roughly, so the slate becomes a good stabilizer).
Like all coticule stones available there are two options regarding quality control: standard or select grade.
What is the different between select and standard grade? The only difference between the two is that standard grade can have visible marks, small cracks or inclusions on the surface or sides, or possibly be very thin (i.e. all in all just cosmetic faults, not issues that can alter its performance). Otherwise the stone ‘in itself’ is the same quality and can provide the same sharpening results.
Due to the cost of coticules and to make my job easier, I never-the-less choose to only offer the more ‘perfect looking’ select grade stones where imperfections are at a minimum. This way customers can be confident upfront they are purchasing and will receive the best graded stones possible for their money, graded by the experts in Ardennes Belgium (please note: slurry stones can be select or standard grade – however this does not affect their job as slurry makers).
In the below photos you will see two bouts that recently landed on the site (both select grade).
One is a bout no. 10 (84-102 cm2) which equates to a longest length of 15cm and a widest length of 7cm.
The second stone is a bout no. 9 (70-84cm2), which equates to 15.5cm at the longest point to 7.5cm at the widest point.
Although slightly wider and longer than the bout no. 10, the bout no.9 is a more irregular (odd) shaped stone and also weight’s less because of this.
The bout no.9 would make a very nice small kitchen / fixed hunting knife or pocket knife sharpening stone.
The bout no. 10 with its more regular shape will also be a good knife sharpening stone but will make a very good straight razor stone also.
The shape of the whetstone itself plays no part in its performance or the result it can achieve (this is up to your technique). The deciding factor here as to which stone may suit, is quite simply based on whether you prefer to work with a rectangle or odd shaped stone (for the sake of splitting hairs on this point, those just beginning/learning to sharpen their straight razors on a coticule, ‘may’ find the rectangle coticule slightly easier to use).
So if you’re considering a whetstone and like the look of these odd-shaped bout whetstones, don’t let the concern of their performance be the stumbling block. Allowances for all individual natural stones of any kind aside, stone for stone they are just as good as the rectangles and should not be overlooked as a possible solution for your sharpening needs.
As mentioned in this post, the only real issue here is if you like working with their shape. Don’t judge a book by its cover and don’t judge a stone by its shape!