New Packaging For Belgian Water Stones

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).

La Pyrenees + Belgian Blue Combo Stone
Belgian Blue
Belgian Coticules

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Belgian Whetstones / Water Stones For Your Sharpening Needs

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.

Some of the nicest stones to work with!

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!

BBW (Belgian Blue Whetstone) is the coticule’s brother.

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.
    Metal particules (swarf) on the stone surface can build up overtime.

    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.

Still unsure? Email your question.

Belgian Blue Natural Stones

View Belgian Blue Whetstones

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.

Sharpening Stones For Kitchen Knives

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).

Natural Stones:

The Belgian Blue Whetstone

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:

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:

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).

Synthetics:

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.

Glass Series

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!

More on sharpening grit progression and suggestions here: Sharpening Stones

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Shapton Professional/Traditional Series Whetstones (Made In Japan)

Any Whetstone Listed ‘In Stock’ On This Online Shop Is In Australia – Ready To Post! View: Shapton Pro Series Whetstones

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.

Lapping (flattening):

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!

Synthetic stones can be hard stones and need a quality lapping product to do the job well. Shapton have produced a dedicated diamond glass lapping plate – the DGLP for the job.

The DMT 325 / 600 diamond plate or the Ceramic Lapping Stone are cheaper alternatives as understandably, not everyone can afford the former.

Lapping Also Removes Swarf Build-Up!

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.

Swarf on the stone
Swarf on the stone

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).

Grit Sizes:

Available grit sizes in the Shapton Pro series (Ha-No-Kuromaku) range are:

120, 220, 320, 1000, 1500, 2000, 5000, 8000, 12000, 30000.

Each stone has a specified colour related to the grit size:

Example:

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 20005000 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!

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Coticule Bouts – Any Different To Rectangles?

slurry-stones
Here are some very small bout 1’s

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.

bout-10-coticule
Bout No. 10

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.

bout-9
Bout No. 9

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.

bout-10-with-razor-(not included)
The perfect width for a straight razor

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!

Good luck with your sharpening…

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New To Sharpening? What Grit Whetstone Do I Need For My Pocket / Kitchen Knives (Sharpening Grit Progression)?

A Basic Guide For Choosing Whetstone/s (Natural Or Synthetic).

I have created this post to provide general answers for those visiting the store, that maybe looking for a whetstone or whetstone set to sharpen and maintain their kitchen or pocket knives, yet are unsure where to start. More detailed answers can be provided to suit individual customer needs; however this is a good overview to get you started.

Whetstone brands, sharpening mediums (diamond, oil or water stones – natural or synthetic) and grit progression (from 180 up to the finest 30,000 grit), may lead to confusion as to which stones to buy for your sharpening needs. Understandably with all those options it can be confusing and could leave you wondering if this process is worth the hassle. Well don’t worry; this post will try to provide some basic guidance.

Regardless of the whetstone/s you do purchase, your technique will dictate the result 90% of the time (i.e. blame the technique not the tool).

To make this process of selection easier, I only stock high quality whetstones. Where there is an option to do so, I always select the professional version, 1st grade or select (highest grade option) over the standard or economy version from the manufacturer. This helps to ensure that these whetstones will do their part in helping you to keep your knives sharp. Yes, you will pay a little more but the difference is very little when you consider the years of use you will get out of each stone (course grit stones can wear more quickly).

Secondly, when it comes to whetstones, you should not base your selection on the cheapest stone you can find, quality does count. A whetstone is just as important to a knife as petrol is to a car (in my opinion). There is no point in buying expensive Japanese or German kitchen knives if they can’t be maintained. A four hundred dollar knife teamed with a cheap $15 whetstone may not offer the best result. As the old saying goes, a cheap tool will be the most expensive tool you will ever buy!

Kitchen or Pocket Knives:

Pocket knives and kitchen knives are utility tools born to do certain tasks that will in turn impact their ability to stay sharp for long periods.

Of the two knives, a pocket knife on average will get the widest ranging and edge damaging tasks (and will usually be the most abused). From cutting rope, string, cardboard boxes, parcels, household, workshop or outdoor duties of all kinds; compared to a kitchen knife which will (or should) only come into contact with food (which makes kitchen knives a little more predictable to how often they may need maintenance).

Cutting cardboard for an example is a quick way to dull an edge on a pocket knife; as is slamming a kitchen knife down on a hard surface when you slice and dice. Through daily use they both will dull sooner or later and will need touch-ups to maintain their working edge (even high quality steels). This is the exact reason why we should have our own whetstone/s on hand to keep our knives in ready working condition. The fact is, letting any tool get too dull (blunt) not only makes them less efficient as tools; but also increases your maintenance time when you do finally get around to sharpening them.

Regular maintenance is the key!

One more point on this: if you keep a regular sharpening routine and care for your knives (not abuse them with tasks they were not intended for), you can get away with literally one stone for most tasks. One of my favourite sharpening stones can help: The Coticule

Natural Stones:

Have You Considered Looking At Natural Stones For You Sharpening Needs? If Not, You Should!

dans-8-x-2-extra-fine
Black Arkansas – A Great Finishing Stone (polish)
Coticules - my favourite!
Coticules – my favourite!
Belgian Blue - the coticules brother (taken from the ground with coticule
Belgian Blue – the coticules brother (taken from the ground with coticule

La Pierre Des Pyrénées  – Belgian CoticulesBelgian Blues (BBW)Arkansas Novaculite

Natural stones do not come with grit ratings like the below discussed synthetics. That is not how their cutting ability is judged. Overtime as a reference only, most naturals have never-the-less been given approximate grit ratings to help a buyer get an idea. These should be taken as estimates only.

There are four natural stone options available in this store, that can provide you with a great cutting edge for your knives:

Belgian Stones: Natural stones like the Belgian Blue and Coticule will use slurry to increase their ‘grit’ range.

slurry-1
Slurry stones are odd-shaped off-cuts of the larger stone they are used on.

What is slurry: slurry is created when rubbing a smaller stone (of the same type called a slurry stone) onto the surface of the larger stone (with water) to create a light muddy liquid (a slurry).

Using the slurry method, as we progress in our sharpening, we slowly add more water to the mixture, diluting it down to just pure water alone at the final stage (the slurry is gone).

Slurry stones create a milky muddy liquid
Slurry stones create a milky muddy liquid -this white liquid mud is coticule slurry

This slurry makes these whetstones quite versatile allowing them to provide a wide range of sharpening duties. You do not need to use slurry of course, but using slurry simply increases the range they can perform. Using varying degrees of pressure with just water alone can also be done.

The Stones:

A Belgian blue is a very dense stone and with water alone is a polishing stone, a slurry stone is needed to ensure good cuttgni action

Belgian coticules are can be between 4000 – 8000 (range when slurry is used).

Both are more than capable at gaining an edge on pocket and kitchen knives and keeping an edge on those knives. Will the edge be sharp enough for me? I can’t say. These are natural stones and there can be slight variance in result, however your technique will be the deciding factor.

How do they work? Both the Belgian blue and coticule whetstones have garnets naturally impeded within the stone which provides the cutting material. These garnets remove steel quite easily and leave a nice polished edge. The only difference is the BBW has less % of garnets across the stone compared to the coticule, which makes the BBW a slower cutter – on average. Of the two, the coticule is the preferred stone; however the BBW is much cheaper (size vs size).

If you are looking for only one stone for your pocket or kitchen knives (and do need stones that will repair chips or re-profile edges), these are a great place to look and will last for many years of duty.

La Pierre Des Pyrénées : The La Pierre Des Pyrénées is a natural stone from Saurat France. It has a grit of approx. 1000. This makes the La Pyrenees a great stone to use up front when more steel removal is needed for knives on the real blunt side. La Pyrenees comes glued to a piece of BBW (Belgian Blue), so you can use the La Pierre Des Pyrénées first, then jump to the Belgian Blue (BBW) next.

If considering Belgian stones for your sharpening needs, here are a few possible selections:

Coticule + slurry stone (only this stone is needed for most tasks).

Or

Belgian Blue + slurry stone (only this stone is needed for most tasks – a little slower in cutting action than the coticule)

Or

If you find your knives are quite blunt, consider the La Perennes as a first option to speed up the process. It will get the job done quicker before you start on the Belgian stones (and you get a BBW with it!).

As follows:

La Pierre Des Pyrénées/BBW combo -> Coticule (this set will give you the widest range of cutting ‘grits’ in the natural stone range). As the BBW is so smooth and dense, it can with water be used after the coticule to polish also if needed.

If you find you need something even courser (repair chips, re-profile) you will need to look into the lower grit synthetic whetstones. Alternatively, if something extra is needed after the coticule, you could consider the Leather strop.

Arkansas – Novaculite: is another natural stone and is from the Ouachits Mountains in Arkansas USA. The stones I offer here are 1st grade. There are lower grades, but if you want the best result, you get the best stones!

They are available in three ‘grit’ sizes (medium, fine and ultra-fine). Rather than using slurry to create variances in ‘grit’ like the BBW and coticule, the Arkansas simply come in three levels to accomplish the same task (more like the synthetics).

So the process is simply:

Medium FineUltra Fine

*The only downside to Arkansas stones is they can be slow cutters on newer / harder steels.

If you have overly dull or damaged blades, course grit Kirschen or 3201000 is recommended to begin the process before any natural stone is used (only to make the process more efficient).

Synthetics:

When Deciding On Which Synthetic Stones To Use, How High A Grit Do I Need To Go?

There is no set rule (however 30,000 grit is the highest grit available) when it comes to sharpening your knives.

A few very simple questions may help you decide:

  • Your budget? (the finer the stone, the more expensive)
  • Your tools usage? (what are you using it for, some tasks just don’t need ultra-refined edges)
  • How often are planning on sharpening? (regular is best and reduces the stones you may need to maintain them)
  • And regardless of the above, simply how far you wish to go in your sharpening process? (some love the idea of using multiple stones and don’t mind the extra work of adding the finer stones; while others only want to do the minimum amount of sharpening and get out of there asap!)

So before we go any further, I wanted to make it clear you can buy from 180 to 30,000 grit stones and use them for your knives. The issue here (and why I am doing this post) is to show that is not always necessary for the average user to do so (there is a difference).

So As A General Guide Rule Only: If you are looking to sharpen and maintain a pocket or kitchen knife, as a general rule you can stop at the 5000 synthetic grit stone. This will be more than adequate for most uses. Above 5000 grit and you are getting more into the polishing stages and moving away from the actual sharpening stages (there is some, but you are removing very little steel).

Simply, the added benefit of using higher/finer grit stones over 5000 for pocket or kitchen knives becomes less noticeable as you progress up the ladder. It is however a personal choice – again there is no rule!

What If Overtime 5000 Grit Is Not Enough?

One great benefit of whetstones is you can always add another stone to your progression until you reach the level you are satisfied with (so they are versatile like building blocks – just add one either side of the grits you already own to extend their range). If you find 5000 is short of what you want, you can always add the 8000 and 12000 later – easy!

This is why it is better to select up to 3 stones to begin. More times than not – that is all you will ever need for most tasks!

Can you use naturals and synthetics? Yes – read more?

Ultra-Fine – Polished Edges: Depending on your cutting tasks, an edge that is too polished may not be the better edge: e.g. like certain food prep duties. Some tasks are actually easier if there are some ‘teeth’ or ‘a bite’ still left on the edge to help the cutting action.

Another point to remember when putting a highly polished ‘razor edge’ on a utility blade, is that those ultra-sharp edges can dull more quickly.

You may have seen barbers use a leather strop on their straight razors in between shaves? The reason this is done is to maintain that ultra-sharp polished edge necessary for shaving and to help keep the edge aligned (can get misaligned easily). These polished glassy edges necessary for the task of shaving are actually quit fragile and without constant stropping and regular sharpening on a stone, will lose that ultra-sharp edge relatively quick.

Now imagine that same ultra-sharp (fragile) edge for food prep (hard vegetables) or outdoor use (cutting rope)? It just wouldn’t last long at that high level when used on harder objects and would begin to come down to a lower grit edge very fast. This is also influenced by the angle of the bevel to be fair.

What Is The Lowest Grit Stone To Start? It Depends On The Condition Of Your Knives To Start.

As mentioned above, if you don’t abuse your knives with tasks they were not intended for and keep up to a regular sharpening routine, grits under 1000 are rarely needed:

Whetstones Under 1000 Grit (most steel removal): If you have a blade with chips, blunt as a butter knife with no life whatsoever or you wish to change the angle of the bevel (say from 20 to 10 degrees) then stones under 1000 grit will allow you to achieve those tasks most efficiently and most quickly. Trying to achieve these tasks on finer stones can be done if you have some-time to spare, however as the saying goes – right tool for the right job!

Remember:

  • Ensure you take care with any course grit stones, as these stones can scratch the surface of the blade if you angle is too shallow.
  • You will lose steel quickest on these stones, so work smart.
krschen-water-stone
Kirschen 180/400 Grit

The lowest grits under 500 (180, 220, 320, 400) will remove the most steel quickest, and are only needed for the above tasks (chip removal, excessively blunt knives or re-profiling). The Shapton 320 grit Pro  or Glass are both suitable for these tasks.

Unless you find your knives in these before mentioned predicaments, these low course grit stones are not necessary for average knife use and really only a recommended purchase if/when needed (you may never need them).

1000 Grit Whetstone: Once you use a 1000 grit stone, your knife will be sharp – real sharp, but it will not be overly polished or ‘super’ sharp. Many knives out of the factory can be at around this level and for many duties this is a perfectly good working edge and for some duties all that is needed.

The 1000 grit provides enough steel removal to help in restoration jobs and fine enough to make a knife working sharp. The 1000 grit is a great stone on its own for those after one simple synthetic stone to cover two bases and who are not looking for the ultimate sharpness. You can easily add stones either side of the 1000 grit if/when needed. This makes the 1000 grit a very versatile stone. The 1000 grit is most popular for these reasons.

1000 Grit To 5000 Grit Whetstones (where the bulk of sharpening happens): This is the area where most sharpening stones are purchased. In this area you have stones that can revive blunt knives (1000) and take them to an extremely sharp edge (2000-5000).

A good synthetic 3 stone set to consider for knives is:

10002000 5000

5000 – 8000 Grit Whetstones: It is from 5000 grit we begin to get a polished edge and less steel is being removed. From here you will see less and less noticeable advancement. However, don’t think this means you are not getting a sharper edge, you are. However about 80% of your sharpening is done up to 5000 – not over.

Although stones from 5000 on-wards remove less and less steel, you will be slowly gaining that glassy edge (if your technique has been correct), which in turn makes it sharper. The very factor that makes broken glass so sharp is the same element we are looking for post 5000 (an edge free of any inconsistencies, micro teeth and a perfect polished glassy edge).

So following on the above 3 stone set would be:

(Under 500 only if serious grinding of steel is needed) 1000 – 2000 – 5000 – 8000

Finishing on the 8000 grit will give 95% of user’s satisfaction. Only extremely minor advancements on the edge will be gained from:

10,000 – 30000 Grit Whetstones: Stones over 10,000 are purely polishing stones with near no steel removal. They are the area straight razor users go to get all they can from an edge. Every % counts and is the reason these stones are used by many.

For knife users, these high grits may not be needed or necessary at all – unless you really want the last % of perfection your knife can give! Many do, and this is why they are available at this shop

If you are unsure which whetstones maybe most suitable for your needs, please email for a more detailed answer specific to your request. 

Disclaimer: this post is only a basic guide for those looking to purchase whetstones at Interesting Gear Australia, yet are unsure where to start. It is not intended in anyway to be used as a reference for whetstones that are not sold on this site (other brands); as I can only give recommendations on stones I have used (the stones on this site). This post is to be strictly used as a guide only. There is no guarantee given or implied to any whetstone performance for any knives, nor does this post try to answer every possible question on whetstones and their use with knives.

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